Palma de Mallorca: General Overview
Palma de Mallorca, often known simply as “Palma”, is both the capital city and major city of the Balearic Islands in Spain. It’s located towards the west on the southern coast of the island of Mallorca, on the Bay of Palma, which is found just off the eastern coast of mainland Spain. As well as being home to almost half the total population of Mallorca, Palma is also a thriving tourist destination, with 22 million people passing through its Son Sant Joan airport each year.
Palma de Mallorca History: From the Bronze Age to Today
The name “Palma” comes from “Palmeria” – the original name given to the town when it was founded by Romans in 120BC whilst they were expanding across the Mediterranean. Even though there might not be any impressive Roman forts or aqueducts to admire within the city, Roman architectural discoveries are still regularly being made whenever excavations take place underground.
Although the Romans might have been the ones to name Palma, they weren’t the first people to discover it – during the Bronze Age, the area was already home to a Talaiotic settlement.
In 902, the Moors arrived in Palma and continued to develop the city, but it wasn’t until Jaume I of Aragon stepped foot in Palma in 1229 that the real expansion of the city began. As well as implementing the construction of several impressive buildings throughout the city, Jaume I of Aragon is also known for being the one to lay the foundation stone for the Gothic cathedral of
Sa Seu – one of the most symbolic buildings in Palma today.
From the 1950s onward, tourism has continued to drastically change the face of not only Palma, but the island of Mallorca, too. These ongoing changes are transforming both places into attraction hotspots for international visitors, as well as for Spanish workers from the mainland. Each year more and more people choose to vacation in Palma, with some even opting to make their vacation permanent and turn Palma into their new home in the sun.
Best Things to See and Do in Palma de Mallorca
Since Palma de Mallorca has welcomed tourists every single day for over six decades, it’s not surprising that the city is brimming with fascinating things to see and do. Whether you prefer to spend your vacation chilling out at the beach, getting lost in the city’s winding streets, exploring the famous sites or mixing with the locals, Palma de Mallorca offers such a great number and variety of sights and attractions that you’ll never be stuck for something to do.
Explore the Serra de Tramuntana
The Serra de Tramuntana is a mountain range which runs from the south west to the north east of Palma, forming the backbone of Mallorca. In 2011, this natural attraction was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a status which continues to attract thousands of visitors each day who come to enjoy the surroundings and soak up the views.
The mountain range is around 31 miles long and 4.5 miles wide, reaching its tallest peak at Puig Major, where it stretches almost one mile into the sky. This part of the site isn’t open to visitors, but there are plenty of other places to explore. You can follow the hiking and cycling routes, drive along the scenic roads, stop off at the small villages for a coffee in a local café or browse the stalls on market day, to name a few.
Admire the Sa Seu Cathedral
Sometimes known as “Le Seu Cathedral”, Sa Seu Cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in Palma, visible from the sky whenever you fly over the city
. The cathedral is built on the site where an Arab mosque used to stand and is almost 145 feet tall, 400 feet long and 180 feet wide. It was originally designed in a Catalan Gothic style, but was slightly altered by Gaudi with 20th century touches which were added between 1901 and 1914 as part of a restoration project.
The purpose of the imposing building was to show anyone entering Palma the immense power and might of the Christian conquerors – a task it still does well to this day. The exterior of the cathedral is decorated with soft yellow sandstone buttresses and statues whilst the interior is even more magnificent.
On a sunny day, the inside of the cathedral is lit up as sunlight shines through the beautiful stained glass windows onto the floor and walls of the building. The rosette-shaped stained glass window is made up of 1,236 separate pieces of glass and measures almost 40 feet across, making it one of the largest in the world.
Relax at Es Trenc Beach
When it comes to soft white sands, lapping aquamarine waters and complete tranquility, it doesn’t get much better than Es Trenc Beach. Often referred to as “Mallorca’s answer to the Caribbean”, this pristine bay is located in the centre of the city’s coast and stretches on for around 1.25 miles. Despite being more than long enough to enjoy a leisurely stroll across, the beach is very narrow – only measuring 66 feet at its widest – so make sure you arrive early if you want to bag a good spot.
In addition to the picture-perfect sands, swaying palm trees and gentle, shallow waves which brush the shore, Es Trenc Beach also provides a number of sun beds and parasols which are available to hire, lifeguards who patrol the area, ramps for disabled access and numerous beachside restaurants which serve local food and drinks throughout the day. Although it is completely unofficial, the beach has been popular amongst nudists since before the Franco era, so be prepared to see some natural sunbathing during your visit.
Take a Trip on the Soller Railway
As unusual as it might sound, the Soller Railway is widely regarded as one of the best attractions in Palma de Mallorca. This famous railway has connected the city to the tiny town of Soller since 1912 and travels along a 17 mile journey, passing through all sorts of beautiful, natural scenery along the way. The train is powered by electric locomotive, a unique characteristic which makes it the only one of its kind still used today.
From the centre of Palma, the train journeys northward through the city and then across a gap in a farmer’s field before it begins to wind up into the hills and through the breathtaking Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, passing through 13 tunnels, before reaching the sleepy village of Soller. As well as the marvelous scenery, the charming train itself, with its sash windows and polished wooden coaches, adds to the atmosphere and makes this trip of the best short railway journeys in the world.
Wander around the Fundació Pilar I Joan Miró a Mallorca
The Fundació Pilar I Joan Miró a Mallorca (or “Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation in Mallorca” in English) is an art museum based in Son Abrines, just outside Cala Major. The museum was built in 1981 as the result of Joan Miro’s last will and is home to a vast collection made up of a great number of works donated by the artist himself from the four Mallorca-based workshops he owned.
The collection mainly comprises of drawings, collages, sketches, paintings and graphic works, amongst a selection of other fascinating pieces. As well as the impressive artwork, the Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation in Mallorca also features a very important collection of documents and a small number of sculptures which you’ll find in the attached gardens. In 1992, a second building was opened, featuring various temporary exhibits from up-and-coming artists alongside a series of paintings, sculptures and drawings created by Miro.
With such a superb assortment of natural beauty, tourist hotspots, historical sites and cultural attractions, Palma de Mallorca provides you with everything you need to enjoy an amazing and memorable vacation, whatever you’re into.