Although during the summer the island of Mallorca fills up with people looking for sun and beach, the truth is that it is a destination that has a lot to offer the traveller all year round. Starting with the many things to do and see in Palma de Mallorca, its capital, and continuing with the beautiful hiking routes offered by the Sierra de Tramontana or the magnificent protected natural park of the island Sa Dragonera.
I have visited Mallorca several times, and I have always done so in autumn and winter, when the island is calm and the Mediterranean sun gives you temperatures that seem more typical of spring.
It is especially quiet at that time in the capital city, which is a great time to enjoy the many things to do and see in Palma de Mallorca. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Visit the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca
No trip to Palma would be complete without a visit to its spectacular sandstone cathedral, known as La Seu de Mallorca. It is undoubtedly one of the best things to see in Palma de Mallorca.
This impressive religious building, whose beauty is highlighted and accompanied by the beautiful Parc de la Mar and the Almudaina Palace, began to be built in 1229, undergoing extensions and reforms over many centuries. Due to its size and location within the old city walls, it is a must for anyone who does not want to get lost in Palma.
It is worth paying the entrance fee to explore its interior (better if you help yourself with an audio guide) and enjoy, above all, one of the largest rose windows in the world. Some of the renovations of the 20th century were carried out by the famous modernist architect, Antoni Gaudí.
For a few days a year, the upper terraces and the cathedral’s bell tower can be explored as part of a one-hour guided tour.
2. Cycling along the Portixol promenade
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One of the most outstanding aspects of Palma is its wide promenade, which also has a cycle path that stretches for kilometres. This is one of the best places to see in Palma de Mallorca for those who want to enjoy exercising while breathing the salty Mediterranean breeze.
From the centre of Palma de Mallorca, a pleasant 10 minute bike ride – a half hour walk – eastwards along the coast, will take you to the small port of Portixol.
Portixol was once a quaint fishing village, but is now taken over by exclusive hotel and restaurant businesses, such as the elegant Portixol Hotel, a beautiful marina and a handful of excellent restaurants. There is also a nice little beach to sunbathe or take a quick dip, before returning to Palma or continuing on to the next beach.
3. Discover Bellver Castle and the surrounding forest
One of the few circular castles in Europe, this 14th-century fortress is located on top of a forested hill with pine trees that overlooks the city from its hundred meters of height and the sea beyond.
Originally a royal residence (and refuge from the plague), then a prison, Bellver Castle is now open to tourists and houses a museum dedicated to the history of Mallorca.
During the summer, classical music concerts and other events take place in its circular courtyard. There are parking lots around the castle, but if you like to walk, are in fairly good physical shape and it’s a nice day, I advise you to get to the fortress by crossing its pine forest. When you get to the top you can recharge your batteries in its cafeteria, while enjoying one of the most impressive views to be seen in Palma de Mallorca.
4. Visit the Fish Market of Palma de Mallorca
Another of the Gothic wonders to see in Palma de Mallorca, along with the cathedral of Santa Maria and Bellver castle, is the beautiful Lonja de Palma de Mallorca.
Built under the supervision of the great architect Guillem Sagrera, between 1420 and 1452, it was the headquarters of the Colegio de Mercaderes. Its interior, today, is really diaphanous, and although there are some temporary exhibitions, what stands out most are its beautiful columns and arches, which support the very high ceilings of the building.
Contrary to what many believe, the Lonja in Palma de Mallorca predates that of Valencia, and was imitated to create the latter.
5. Walking around the historical centre
One of the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca is wander aimlessly through the tangle of narrow cobbled streets of the old town. In doing so, you will soon lose track of all the elegant arches, grand historical palaces, medieval churches and charming squares you will come across.
Take a look at the beautiful shaded courtyards through the old gates, or take an official guided tour and learn about the district’s long and varied history. On the way, you can buy some traditional Mallorcan baskets in Mimbreria Vidal, one of the oldest basket shops in Palma. Also, don’t miss an ensaimada from any of the many local bakeries, or sit in a sunny square and enjoy a cold drink and tapas.
6. Discover the ancient Arab Baths
Discovered only 100 years ago in the gardens of a stately home in Palma’s old town, the Arab Baths date from some time between the 10th and 12th centuries, when Palma was an Arab city known as Medina Mayurqa.
It is believed that they were part of a private house rather than a public hammam – these Arab baths appear to have been built from the remains of other buildings from earlier periods. The columns (mainly Roman) in the tepidarium (warm bathroom of the Roman baths, heated by an underfloor heating system) with their vaulted ceilings are all different and clearly preserved from different places. In addition, when visiting the baths you will also be able to enjoy a beautiful secluded garden.
It is one of the most curious visits to make in Palma de Mallorca.
7. Enjoy the beach
Of course, one of the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca is to go to the beach.
If you need a break from tourism and you feel like spending a whole day on the beach without having to go too far, the beach of the city of Palma (Can Pere Antoni) has everything you need. You can walk to it from downtown.
This is a 750-metre long patch of sand, and has showers, toilets and a lifeguard (in high season), as well as a beach club at each end.
For an urban beach, Can Pere Antoni is quite clean, the sand is fine and golden and the water is clear and safe for swimming. The luxurious Nassau Beach Club, at the other end, has very comfortable loungers, waiter service and a popular (but expensive) restaurant. Closer to the city is the Anima Beach Club, with a more youthful atmosphere, in the style of Ibiza.
8. Learn about Joan Miró’s work
If you are an art lover, Joan Miró’s work will be, for you, one of the best things to see in Palma de Mallorca.
The mother and wife of the artist Joan Miró were Mallorcan, and Miró spent much of his childhood on the island. He moved to Mallorca permanently in the 1950s and achieved his dream of having his own studio, designed by architect Josep Lluís Sert.
The Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró (also known as the Miró Foundation Mallorca) was created by Miró and his wife shortly before his death and allows visitors to see the studios where he worked until his death in 1983. There is also a gallery, a sculpture garden and educational spaces. Moreover, its location, in the quiet hills on the outskirts of Palma, allows you to enjoy magnificent views over the city and the sea.
9. Family visit: Palma Aquarium
If you travel with your family, one of the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca is to visit the Palma Aquarium.
Inaugurated in 2007, the Palma de Mallorca aquarium is one of the best in Europe and houses the deepest shark tank on the continent, as well as 55 aquariums that are home to some 8000 specimens of 700 species from the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Here, you will be able to learn everything you need to know about fish, being the perfect place to make children aware of the importance of taking care of our oceans, a current hot topic in which the coming generations must undoubtedly get involved.
Palma Aquarium receives a whopping 400,000 visitors a year.
10. Try the Mallorcan cuisine at the San Juan Gastronomy Market
Whether you are a foodie or not, you should put the Mercado Gastronómico de San Juan high on your list of best places to see in Palma de Mallorca.
The San Juan Gastronomy Market is a true feast for the senses, both in terms of the elegant interiors of the venue and the wide range of delicious delicacies on offer.
It is housed in an old slaughterhouse, which gives the place a certain cavernous appearance, with high tables in the centre and almost twenty stalls offering, among other delicacies, freshly cooked seafood, oysters and champagne, skewers, mini-burgers, delicious hams and all kinds of croquettes. All of this washed down with an impressive range of wines.
Always lively, the San Juan Gastronomy Market is a great place to have a quick lunch or enjoy an evening with live music and DJs.
As you can see, Palma de Mallorca is a city that has something for every traveler. An ideal destination for a weekend getaway.
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