Palma de Mallorca Guide

Sights, shopping and late summer sunshine - Mallorca's super-stylish capital is a year-round enticing proposition...

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Where to Stay in Palma de Mallorca

About a 20-minute cab ride from the centre of town, Portixol offers a stylish home-from-home away from the crowds. 50s-style maritime decor, beautiful bay views and a warm welcome from the Swedish owners make this more than a hotel – it’s a chic hangout in its own right. With a seafood restaurant and terrace cocktail bar as popular with locals as it is with guests, Portixol’s pulling-power has even rejuvenated the surrounding port of El Molinar, turning it into the colourful, boutique-strewn corner of cool it is today. Oh, and there's a very scene-y pool, too.

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Where to Eat in Palma de Mallorca

What do you eat in Palma? Tapas, tapas, tapas… anywhere you can get it where the menu’s chalked up in Spanish, rather than in a plastic portfolio in five different languages. This bite-size Palma staple’s undergone a bit of a revival in the past few years, with traditional bars now rubbing shoulders with trendy, upmarket newcomers.

For a taster of a new gourmet twist on the stuff, grab a table on the terrace at Aquiara (Paseo Maritimo 3). A tap-in to the tapa craze from chef Koldo Royo (who held a Michelin star for his previous restaurant on the same site), this modern joint offers an ever-changing menu of fresh treats like juicy skewered prawns, fried mullet with black olive puree and salmon with guacamole, all washed down with homemade bread and a copa de vino (or two). You’re right on the main strip overlooking the marina, so it’s prime people-watching territory, as well as being perfect for a dose of sea-sparkle, sunshine and salty air – always the best accompaniment to seafood.

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Where to Go Out in Palma de Mallorca

If you’re looking for cocktails in a grand setting, Abaco (Carrer Sant Joan 1) holds the rare honour of being an established-wisdom institution that doesn’t feel like a dusty old museum. Housed in a 16th-century coach house, once you’ve got past the imposing, discreetly-marked doorway the subtlety ends: both bar and garden are decked out with piles of fruit and flowers, chandeliers, candles and statues of muscly blokes, turning it in to a grotto of delight that’s just the right side of kitsch. Cocktails are pricey but worth it for the chance to drink in old-school splendour done right.

Head down to the Paseo Maritimo for Palma’s main strip of bars and clubs – if you don’t fancy the aggressively-marketed good times on offer it still makes for a nice night-time stroll, with the swaying masts of the yachts in the bay to one side and the lit-up cathedral looming above. If you insist on the superclub experience then Tito’s is the place to be – an experience made in the large part by a flash disco elevator that takes you 50m up the cliff-face to the dance-floor. Music nowadays is a chart-friendly mix of house and R&B, but Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles were regulars in the 60s.

Where to Shop in Palma de Mallorca

Palma’s small size and pedestrianised streets, matched with a navigable knot of Old Town alleys, make shopping a pleasant way to wander the city. The leafy Passeig de Born is a first-stop for home-grown high-street hunting in Zara, while Spanish fashion house Loewe’s outpost just north on designer drag Avinguda Jaume III lets you pick up signature leather bags and belts at (relatively) deflated prices.

For that 'aah, Spain!' feeling, meander the boutique-stuffed alleys just east of Born – find beautiful locally-made tablecloths and napkins at Casa Bonet (Plaça Federico Chopin 2) which has been going since the 19th century, and check out the 100-year-old shop fronts around Carrer Colon near the Plaça de Cort – the most impressive being music shop Antigua Casa Banque. During any given stroll you’ll stumble across sniff-the-air emporiums devoted to local cheese, chocolate, cured meat and olive oil, which your taste buds will thank you for later (even if your love handles won’t).

You also can’t mention shopping in Palma without touching on the Mallorca pearl stores, which rival general souvenir shops in their numbers. The artificially-made pearls don’t come cheap, but match the natural alternative in look and feel and are far more resilient to damage. For the best deals, don’t be tempted to buy in Palma itself – get out of town to the pearl factory outlet on the edges of Mallorca’s second city Manacor.

Don’t Leave Without...

…seeing the Cathedral. Known as Le Seu, it’s Palma’s unavoidable star attraction. Sitting on the edge of the Parc de Mar looking out on the great blue vistas of the Bay of Palma, Le Seu matches Gothic splendour with a fortress-like masculinity on the outside, reverting to pure beauty within: the world’s largest stained glass window (12m across) throws rainbows across the ceiling’s brickwork (an effect mirrored across the length of the roof by smaller windows) and a canopy chandelier by Gaudi hangs over the Royal Chapel alter. In a macabre touch, to exit you walk across the glass ceiling of a cellar-level tomb.

To jump from a mega-sized architectural symbol of Palma’s history to a micro one, visit the Arab Bath House (Calle Can Serra 7). One of Palma’s few remaining Moorish structures, dating to the 13th century when the city was called Madina Mayurqa, the tepidarium (or ‘hot’ chamber) is all that’s left of a more elaborate set of baths in the ruin of a merchant’s mansion. Enter via an arched doorway from a garden and you’ll find yourself within the crumbling beauty of a column-ringed room with a cupola cut with star-shapes (to vent the steam). A closer look shows the columns are mismatched, probably salvaged from Roman ruins – it goes to show, reclamation’s always been in style.

What to Wear in Palma de Mallorca

The Spanish-cool uniform for sunshine can be followed to a tee in glam Palma: dark colours just don’t work, so use translucent white cotton and linen basics as a foundation and add a tan, sandals and statement jewellery on nights out. NB: Palma’s designer-clad super-yacht crowd up the bling stakes considerably over summer, so make your bag is suitably ‘it’ and your sunglasses Chanel or Ray-Ban.

Beauty SOS – Where to Go for Pampering in Palma de Mallorca

Santa Clara Hotel and Spa (Sant Alonso, 16) marries whitewashed Mediterranean simplicity – all rough-stone walls and high, beamed ceilings – with the minimal sensibilities of an ultra-modern spa. A centrepiece is a sunken Jacuzzi beneath a huge and gleaming silver-framed mirror. Along with the sauna and steam bath, there's an extensive menu of massages, tinting and Ginseng and vitamin C facials available.

Like our Palma de Mallorca guide, but fancy a trip to mainland Spain? Check out our Barcelona guide. Or see all our travel guides.

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