The beautiful city of Palma de Mallorca was the third stop on our sailing trip around the Balearic Islands. If you don’t know, the Balearic Islands are an archipelago off eastern Spain in the Mediterranean. The four largest islands are Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera and we visited them all except for Menorca. Though I had visited Ibiza last year (click here to discover why Ibiza is more than just a party destination), it was my first time in Formentera and Mallorca. The moment we pulled into Palma de Mallorca’s harbor and I got a glimpse of its majestic cathedral, I had a good feeling about this city. From strolling through palm-lined avenues to discovering its fascinating history and browsing its charming boutiques, there’s much to see and do in Mallorca’s capital. If you only have one day in Palma de Mallorca, here’s how to make the most of it…
Begin your day with breakfast at the city’s oldest cafe, Can Joan de S’Aigo in Palma’s Sa Gerreria neighborhood. You’ll feel transported to the 17th century as you feast on its famous ensaïmadas (a pastry from Mallorca) and delicious homemade ice cream. Afterwards, walk off your breakfast by exploring the narrow cobblestone streets on your way to Plaza de Santa Eulália.
Take a minute to admire the lovely church on Plaza de Santa Eulália before continuing to the nearby Plaza de Cort. Here you will find the Baroque-style City Hall, colorfully painted buildings, and a spectacular, ancient olive tree.
After a five-minute walk along the street Palau Reial, you’ll arrive at Palau March. Once the residence of the phenomenally wealthy March family, today it is open to the public as a museum. Its beautiful courtyard offers a stunning view of Palma’s Cathedral as well as an impressive collection of modern and contemporary sculpture. Inside, you’ll find an extensive nativity scene collection and medieval navigational maps displayed in the stately rooms. In the Middle Ages, Mallorcans were among the most renowned mapmakers in the world so this is well worth checking out.
La Seu, Cathedral of Palma
Just steps away from Palau March is La Seu, Palma’s grand cathedral. First a bit of history: Palma was originally founded as a Roman camp, then conquered by the Byzantine Empire, colonized by the Moors, and, in the 13th century, reconquered by James I of Aragon. Soon after his victory over the Moors, King James commissioned a massive cathedral to be built on the site of a former mosque. Construction began in 1229 and it took almost 400 years to complete.
In the early 20th century, La Seu underwent some changes at the hands of the Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. One of his most dramatic additions was the enormous crown-of-thorns illuminated canopy that hangs over the altar. Gaudi’s unexpected Modernist intervention in a classic Gothic cathedral makes Le Seu all the more memorable. Today, Le Seu is by far the most emblematic monument on the island and is not to be missed.
Next door to Le Seu, you’ll happen upon yet another impressive sight – the Royal Palace of La Almudaina. Originally a Muslim fortress, Mallorca’s Christian rulers rebuilt it into a palace in the 14th century. The result is a beautiful, and very interesting, conflux of architectural styles. Over the centuries, various Iberian monarchs held court there. In modern times, it is the official summer residence of the Spanish Royal Family.
After a morning spent soaking up Palma’s rich history, you’re bound to be hungry. If you want traditional Spanish food, go to Bar España. This local’s-favorite is known for their delicious tapas and is located right in the center of Palma.
Palma de Mallorca is not all cathedrals and museums – it’s also a vibrant, cosmopolitan, Mediterranean city with a wealth of trendy boutiques to explore. While you can find designer brands and high-street stores in Palma, shopping in the local boutiques is more fun. Luckily, the area surrounding Bar España is a great place to discover them.
A few of my favorite shops in Old Town Palma are:
La Principal– A brand built around Mallorca’s laid-back Mediterranean vibe. Offers mostly menswear but also has a small selection of womenswear. I took home one of their staples, a chic, gray raincoat.
0039 Italy– A German womenswear brand that plays with colors, patterns and shapes. Fun, print blouses are at the centerpiece of every collection.
Braez– An Amsterdam fashion label that blends comfort, convenience and style into all of their designs. You’ll find simple, easy-to-wear pieces for both men and women in various soft colors. I left with a soft-as-butter white hoodie dress with the perfect amount of stretch.
Óptica Toscana– Among the numerous sunglass shops in Palma, Óptica Toscana stands out. It offers a unique selection of young brands and caters to people who care about their vision just as much as their look.
Carmina– Founded in Mallorca in 1866, Carmina has been crafting tailor-made shoes for the past six generations. Today, you can find this fabled shoemaker in major cities around the world. Nevertheless, Carmina continues to use traditional shoemaking techniques, resulting in extremely comfortable and durable leather footwear.
Rialto Living- If you only go to one store while in Palma, go to Rialto Living. Located in a sprawling 15th century building, Rialto Living is pure heaven for those who love fashion, decoration, and design. Wandering through this spacious, luxurious store, you’ll discover everything you never knew you needed from clothing to furniture, books, gifts, accessories, and art. There’s even a charming café where you can rest and enjoy your surroundings.
After an afternoon of shopping, head to Hotel Mamá on Plaza de Cort for coffee or cocktail break. Designed by renowned Parisian designer Jacques Grange, this five-star hotel is a feast for the eyes. With its flamboyant and colorful décor, you’ll feel as though you just walked into a Wes Anderson film.
Palma is full of excellent dining options so I’d recommend using this carefully curated list of best restaurants to choose wisely. We dined at Italian restaurant Ribello in an area known as La Lonja. Located in Old Town Palma, La Lonja is the best place to go after dark, with a great selection of restaurants, bars and clubs.
Before or after dinner, save time to wander down Passeig des Born. This pleasant boulevard is lined by beautiful plane trees (similar to the American sycamore tree) and is surrounded by restaurants, cafés, and designer boutiques. Sit on a bench and enjoy the warm Mediterranean evening while you let your wonderful day in Palma sink in.