48 hours in Palma de Mallorca
With its thriving arts scene, top-notch restaurants, access to Blue Flag beaches and Gaudí-inspired architecture, Palma de Mallorca is the Barcelona of the Balearics. Overlooking a crescent-shaped bay, Palma’s characterful centre has been shaped by Romans, Moors and Christians and at its heart is an imposing Gothic cathedral and a maze-like Old Town. If you can’t decide between a city break and a beach escape, Palma provides the best of both worlds and offers plenty to see and do in 48 hours.
Here’s how we’d spend two days in Palma de Mallorca.
Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) is just five miles east of the capital. A shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes from the airport to the centre of Palma and the journey takes around 18 minutes. Popular stops include the Port de Palma and the city’s main transport hub, Plaça d’Espanya. Tickets cost 2€, each way. A taxi will set you back around 17€.
Start the day on a sugar high with a trip to Ca’n Joan de S’Aigo (below), an atmospheric cafe that dates back to 1700. Make like a local and order an ensaïmada, a flaky Mallorcan sweet bread that’s either dusted with powdered sugar or filled with custard and dunked into thick hot chocolate. Artist Joan Miró was a regular here.
Wander the labyrinthine streets of Palma’s Old Town to see some of the city’s top sights including its Gothic cathedral, La Seu. There’s no greater example of Palma’s rich and diverse heritage than this 13th-century masterpiece that was built on the site of a Moorish-era mosque and partly restored by Antoni Gaudí in 1901.
Opposite the church you’ll find the Palau de l’Almudaina, an Islamic fort turned palace where the Spanish royal family used to spend their summers. Inside you’ll see historic paintings, tapestries and lavishly decorated rooms.
While the Old Town is a maze of cobbled streets and narrow alleyways, Passeig des Born is a wide tree-lined avenue flanked by designer boutiques including Louis Vuitton and Mulberry. Kick back in the shade with a cerveza from one of the many pavement cafes.
From here, head to the harbour for some fresh sea air before dinner. Stroll along the promenade between Parc de la Mar (don’t miss the colourful mural by Joan Miró) and the glitzy marina lined with sail boats and megayachts.
The pick of Palma’s restaurants and bars are located in Santa Catalina, an artsy neighbourhood to the west of the Es Baluard gallery. This former fishermen’s district is home to a bustling food market, hip tapas joints and plenty of alfresco dining options. Popular spots include Taberna de la Bóveda for traditional tapas and Nuru for fancy Mediterranean-Asian fusion dishes.
For the best views of Palma, head a couple of miles west to Bellver Castle (below). This Gothic-style fort was built for King James II of Mallorca in the 14th century and is one of Europe’s few circular castles (it’s the only one of its kind in Spain). From its hilltop position you can enjoy spectacular views across the woods into Palma and out to sea, especially if you climb up to the roof. You can trace the origins of the city at the ground-floor museum of municipal history.
Back in town, explore the city’s art galleries and see works by some of Spain’s best creatives. The Museu Fundación Juan March’s permanent collection features pieces by the likes of Picasso, Dalí and Miró, all housed in a 17th-century mansion with a modernist exterior. More than 20 paintings by Spanish surrealist Dalí are on display at the Palau March (below) where you’ll also find sculptures by modern greats including Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Es Baluard is a contemporary gallery built into the city’s medieval walls and features work by artists synonymous with the Balearic Islands. Don’t leave without checking out the impressive views from the terrace.
Ditch the walking shoes and feel the sand between your toes with an afternoon trip to the beach. The city’s closest stretch of sand is the Blue Flag Ca’n Pere Antoni. It may be small but there are bars and restaurants at the eastern end of the beach and its urban location offers stunning views of the cathedral. Active types can try their hand at watersports and the beach promenade is great for cycling, rollerblading and jogging.
Fill up on Mallorcan specialities at the Mercado Gastronómico San Juan, Palma’s first gourmet food market. This foodie hotspot is located in the city’s former abattoir and features around 20 stalls selling Spanish treats including fideuá, a paella of sorts made with noodles, and Basque-style pintxos. There’s also a patisserie, a cocktail bar and a dedicated croqueta stall.