With a population of over 400,000 the cosmopolitan city of Palma de Mallorca is largest in the Balearic Islands. It is home to one of Spain’s most beautiful Gothic Cathedrals, a Royal Palace and a circular castle overlooking the Mediterranean. The city is located close to some lovely beaches, is a popular foodie destination and has a lively nightlife. With so many things to do in Palma de Mallorca it’s no wonder it has become a popular city break destination.
Getting to Palma de Mallorca
Mallorca’s Son Sant Joan airport lies just 5km east of the city of Palma de Mallorca. It welcomes more than 23 million annual passengers and is Spain’s 3rd busiest airport. There are many budget flights to Mallorca from all over the continent which makes the city very popular for a weekend city break.
Airport Transfers: On arrival you can take a taxi into Palma from the taxi rank outside the arrivals lounge or pre-book a shuttle transfer to your hotel. Alternatively, you can take the A1 Airport Bus from the arrivals area into the city centre. There are departures every 9 minutes. Car hire is not recommended if you’re just taking a city break to Palma de Mallorca as you can easily get around on foot or by public transport.
Getting Around: Taking a self-guided walking tour of the main sights is one of the best free things to do in Palma de Mallorca. Begin by making your way to the Cathedral (La Seu) then visit the Royal Palace of La Almudaina which is right next to it. From here you can wander through the historic streets of Palma, losing yourself in the narrow, medieval streets of the historic centre. The Banys Arabs and Placa de Cort are two of the highlights of this district. Now make your way to the Plaça Major which is one of the city’s liveliest spots where you can take a break at one of the terrace cafés.
From this main square you should head for the elegant Passeig des Born which is lined with historic buildings, cafes and shops. At the end of this boulevard is Parc de la Mar which stands next to the Cathedral where your walking tour began. If this sounds too much like hard work there’s a hop-on, hop-off bus service which is a good way to see the city’s main attractions.
Where to Stay in Palma de Mallorca
Here are some hotels which are highly recommended for weekend city break visitors to Palma de Mallorca:
Palacio Ca Sa Galesa: For super luxury in the heart of the city of Palma take a look at the incredible Palacio Ca Sa Galesa. Located in the Gothic quarter near the cathedral it has only 12 rooms most of which have whirlpool baths in their luxurious bathrooms. It is the only hotel in the city centre which as a pool, heated in winter and cooled in summer. This is a true gem of a hotel which you should book well in advance.
Saratoga Hotel: A more affordable city break option is the Saratoga Hotel which is located in the centre of Palma close to the main sights. Many of the rooms have a harbour view and there are two outdoor pools one of which is on the roof with excellent views of the Cathedral and the old city walls.
Hotel HM Jaume III: The airport bus stops right outside the Hotel HM Jaume III which is no more than a ten minute walk from the cathedral. Nearby there are plenty local bars and places to eat. There’s a spa in the hotel with Turkish baths and sauna.
Catalonia Majorica Hotel: Located on the outskirts of Palma is the Catalonia Majorica Hotel which is about a 35 minute walk from the city centre. It is up a hill but the advantage of this are the fantastic views that you get of the cathedral and the harbour. Taxis and buses to the centre are readily available.
Hotel Zurbaran: A nice budget option is the Hotel Zurbaran which is located in the suburbs of Palma up a bit of a hill. It doesn’t have a pool but is near the beach. All of the rooms have balconies some with sea views and some overlooking the patio.
Hotel Born: And a final budget option is the charming Hotel Born which is housed in an old building at the top of The Born in Palma city centre which is a perfect location for exploring the old part of the city. When booking be sure to ask for a room overlooking the courtyard as these are lovely and quiet whereas the others can be a bit noisy.
Things to See in Palma de Mallorca
Most of the main sights of Palma are contained within the city walls and it’s easy to explore on foot. If you can be there after nightfall it is a spectacular sight to see the floodlit Cathedral and the Almudaina Palace from the waterfront. As well as the historical interest of Old Palma there is also good shopping for the day visitor and a pleasant café culture to enjoy.
The Main Sights of Palma De Mallorca Are as Follows:
Cathedral of Palma: As is the case all over Spain, Palma’s Cathedral, Sa Seu, was constructed on the site of a former Arab mosque. According to legend, whilst sailing to Majorca in 1230 to recapture it from the Moors, Jaime I’s fleet was hit by a major storm. He prayed to the Virgin Mary and vowed that if he survived the storm he would build a church in her honour.
Needless to say, he did survive and later that year he laid the first stone of the church he had promised to build. The building of the Cathedral took over 400 years to complete and and more recently had some controversial touches added by the Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. The Cathedral is one of the most important Gothic structures in Spain which should be top of your things to do in Palma de Mallorca.
Passeig Maritim: From all along the Passeig Maritim there are fine views across the bay to the magnificent Sa Seu Cathedral and up to Bellver Castle which looks down on the city from the west. These are two of Palma’s most visited tourist attractions. The tourist highlights of the city are all within a short stroll of the 14th century Gothic cathedral on which Gaudi added some finishing touches to the interior.
Bellver Castle: Bellver (meaning “beautiful view”) Castle dates from the 14th century and is unique amongst Spanish castles thanks to its circular design. Built originally as a royal fortress located above the city, it attracts many visitors these days thanks to its magnificent views across the Bay of Palma towards the airport and beyond. The easiest way there is to take a taxi or to walk up through the woods behind the El Terreno part of town.
La Llotja: Take a look at La Llotja just west of the cathedral which is a fine building which was formerly Palma’s stock exchange. The Bar La Lonja in the adjoining square is well worth a visit then wander east through the small streets with interesting bars and restaurants until you reach Placa de la Reina at the bottom of Passeig des Born. Look out for Abaco (c/ Sant Joan 1) which is probably the city’s most unique bar which is worth a visit even without buying a drink.
Palau de l’Almudaina: Placa de la Reina is near the entrance to the beautiful Palau de l’Almudaina, the former home of the Mallorcan kings and to the cathedral. This whole area is packed with interesting buildings. Es Parlament (c/ Conquistador 11) is a lovely old restaurant for lunch or dinner in this historic area.
Passeig des Born: A stroll along Passeig des Born will bring you to Bar Bosch which is one of the city’s most popular spots for people watchers. Nearby Jaume III is one of the main shopping streets. Head east along La Unió and you’ll come to the Plaza Mayor with its numerous open terrace cafés. There’s plenty shopping in the surrounding streets.
La Rambla: La Rambla is a lovely tree lined avenue running northwest from Plaza Mayor which is often filled with stalls selling flowers. If you get this far around lunch or dinner time you must go to my favourite Mallorcan restaurant called Celler Sa Premsa (Placa Bisbe Berenguer de Palou 8). Look on your map and it’s just over to the right near the end of La Rambla.
If you have the time there are also many other things to see in Mallorca which can easily be reached from Palma.
Eating and Drinking in Palma de Mallorca
Restaurants in Palma de Mallorca
Celler Sa Premsa (Plaça del Bisbe Berenguer de Palou, 8): This popular restaurant is located in the heart of Palma’s old town and is known for its traditional Mallorcan cuisine. With a cozy rustic ambiance, Celler Sa Premsa offers dishes such as suckling pig, lamb and sobrasada (local sausage), all cooked to perfection.
Forn de Sant Joan (Carrer de Sant Joan, 4): Located in a beautiful 17th-century building, Forn de Sant Joan is a fine dining restaurant that offers a modern twist on Mallorcan and Mediterranean cuisine. With a focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, the dishes are both creative and delicious.
Marc Fosh Restaurant (Carrer de la Missió, 7): This Michelin-starred restaurant is helmed by renowned chef Marc Fosh and offers innovative Mediterranean cuisine with a focus on flavors and textures. The tasting menu features a variety of dishes that highlight the best of local ingredients and the wine list is extensive.
Restaurante Sa Roqueta (Carrer de la Sirena, 11): This charming restaurant specializes in traditional Mallorcan seafood dishes, with a menu that features fresh catches of the day and classic recipes. The cozy and welcoming ambiance makes Sa Roqueta a great spot for a leisurely seafood meal.
Restaurante Ca n’Eduardo (C/ Contramuelle Mollet, 3): Located in Palma’s historic centre, Can Eduardo is a popular traditional Mallorcan restaurant known for its warm ambiance and delicious food. They offer classic dishes such as paella, roast lamb and grilled fish, all made with fresh local ingredients.
Casa Julio (Carrer de la Previsió, 4): This family-run restaurant has been serving traditional Mallorcan cuisine since 1959. With its cozy interior and friendly atmosphere, Casa Julio is known for its homemade sobrasada, grilled meats and traditional desserts like gató (almond cake).
Tapas Bars in Palma de Mallorca
Bar España (Carrer de Can Escursac, 12): This iconic tapas bar has been serving traditional Mallorcan tapas since 1928. With its lively atmosphere and extensive selection of tapas, Bar España is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Try their sobrasada, croquettes and ensaimadas for a true taste of Mallorca.
Bar Bosch (Plaça Rei Joan Carles I): Located in the heart of Palma’s old town, Bar Bosch is a historic tapas bar that has been serving locals and visitors for over 80 years. With its cozy interior and bustling atmosphere, Bar Bosch is known for its traditional Spanish tapas such as patatas bravas, jamón ibérico and croquettes.
La Bodeguilla (Carrer de Sant Jaume, 3): This hidden gem is a favorite among locals and offers authentic Spanish tapas in a cozy setting. From fresh seafood to succulent Iberian ham, La Bodeguilla is known for its quality ingredients and excellent service.
Taberna Bóveda (Carrer dels Remolars, 7): Located in a historic building with vaulted ceilings, Taberna de la Boveda is a charming tapas bar that offers a cozy atmosphere and delicious tapas. The menu features a variety of traditional Spanish tapas, including jamón ibérico, pulpo a la gallega (Galician-style octopus) and more.
Bar Flexas (Carrer de la Llotgeta, 12): This hidden gem is tucked away in a narrow street in Palma’s old town and offers a laid-back atmosphere and authentic tapas. Known for its generous portions and friendly service, Bar Flexas is a favorite among locals for its traditional Spanish tapas such as albóndigas (meatballs), calamares (squid) and more.
Top 4 Things to Do Palma de Mallorca
Enjoy Some Beach Time
There are some lovely beaches within close proximity to the city of Palma de Mallorca. These include:
Playa de Palma: This is the closest beach to Palma de Mallorca city which is just a short bus ride to the east. It’s a long stretch of sandy beach with shallow waters which makes it popular for families with children.
Cala Mayor: Located in the opposite direction and also accessible by bus, Cala Mayor is a popular beach known for its crystal-clear waters and fine sand.
Illetas: A little further west, beyond Cala Mayor, Illetas is a charming spot which is a good spot for swimming and its popular beach bars are a great place for lunch.
Take a Vintage Train Ride from Palma to Sóller
One of the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca is to take a vintage train journey to Sóller. This narrow gauge train has covered this route through the Serra de Tramuntana mountains since 1912. The train leaves Palma from the rail station in Cala Eusebi Estada near the Plaça de Espanya and slowly winds its way through 28km of beautiful countryside to the town of Soller. The journey is particularly beautiful in the spring when the orange, lemon and almond trees are in blossom.
The journey time is about one hour to the town of Soller where you can board Mallorca’s first electric tram which transports you at a snail’s pace to the Port of Soller 5km away. There are taxis at the tram stop in Soller if you’d rather get down to the port quickly and avoid the sometimes overcrowded trams. Different summer and winter timetables are in operation for this service so check the Soller Train Website for details.
Take a Day Trip to Valldemossa
In 1838 Frederic Chopin and George Sand arrived in Mallorca to continue their love affair in this idyllic town in the Tramuntana mountains just 18km from Palma. Today in Valdemossa you can still buy the book “Winter in Mallorca” which George Sand wrote there in spite of the fact that it has little to say of a positive nature about their stay on the island.
Apart from the natural beauty of the town, the principal architectural attraction is the Royal Carthusian Monastery which contains a selection of interesting museums dedicated to a variety of themes as well as the monk’s cell where Chopin and Sand spent their brief time here.
Watch a RCD Mallorca Football Match
For football fans visiting the island, one of the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca is watch a La Liga game at the city’s Estadi Mallorca Son Moix. Its capacity of 23,142 means that you can usually buy RCD Mallorca football tickets on match day provided that the opposition isn’t FC Barcelona or Real Madrid. The stadium lies 3km outside the city centre and is best reached by taxi from the centre of Palma.