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Why Palma should be your next city break

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

12 April 2024 | Updated 19 April 20246 min read

An aerial view of Palma city in Majorca, Balearic Islands

Think of Majorca and its balmy beaches probably spring to mind. We wouldn’t blame you. But while this beautiful Balearic is famed for its bounty of topaz-blue bays and sandy coves, you’ll find that Majorca has just as much pizzazz as a city break destination as it does a beach hotspot.

Often overlooked as a launch pad to the rest of the island, Palma is perhaps Majorca’s most underrated charmer, filled with buzzing plazas, happening restaurants and architecture as showstopping as its art.

And whether you like your cities to be all about sights, shopping or good times, Palma is sure to deliver. Here’s why it should be your next city break.

It’s got architecture as beautiful as its beaches

You don’t have to visit Palma to recognise its cathedral as one of the most spectacular in Spain. Standing 44m (144ft) tall, its gothic towers are an icon of Majorca’s skyline and make the cathedral one of the tallest in Europe. The interior is equally as impressive – its central rose window, known as the ‘Gothic Eye’, has over 1,000 pieces of glass and spans 13m (42ft) in diameter.

The Royal Palace of La Almudaina sits next door. Dating back to the 14th century, it beautifully blends both gothic and Moorish architectural styles and is still used as an official residence of the King and Queen of Spain.

Across town, don’t miss the majestic circular arches of Bellver Castle, perched atop a pine-clad hill.

Continental Palma Bordoyhotels

  • Palma De Mallorca, Majorca, Spain
  • 27 July 2024
  • Room only
  • From Manchester

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And an Old Town that'll charm your socks off

Castles and palaces aren’t the only enchanting places in Palma’s Casco Antiguo (Old Town). Cobbled pedestrian streets wind from the cathedral into the city’s historical centre where cafe-lined squares, renaissance and baroque buildings, artisan shops and boho hotels can be found around every corner.

Take a moment in the town’s main square, Plaza de Cort, home to Palma’s 17th-century Town Hall, to people watch from a café, or go in search for some ensaimadas (Majorca’s traditional sweet pastry) – those at Fornet de la Soca are well reviewed.

Beyond the streets and shops, Parc de la Mar lines the Old Town’s seafront, directly beneath the cathedral. Enjoy peaceful strolls along the glistening saltwater lake or pitch up under a palm for a picnic.

The food scene is worth a taste

A hub of exciting restaurants serving up everything from traditional Spanish tapas to experimental Asian fusion, Palma’s got gastronomy down.

It’s got four Michelin stars under its belt – the most in one place on the island – but you don’t have to spend big to eat well, with contemporary tasting menus, al fresco terraces and local fare all on offer throughout the Old Town.

If seafood is your dish, head to the harbourfront to dine on fresh fish, or for a lighter bite, join La Ruta Martiana – a weekly tapas trail around the Sa Gerreria neighbourhood where you can sample small snacks and a drink for a couple of euros at each bar.

Street food more your style? Take your pick from grilled meats, fish, paella and more at the San Juan Gastronomic Market.

It’s a shopper’s paradise

Whether your idea of shopping is hitting the high street from dawn until dusk or leisurely browsing for souvenirs, Palma has enough stores and outlets to satisfy any shopaholic.

For designer clothes, luxury brands and vintage buys, Passeig des Born is the place to be. Nicknamed the ‘Golden Mile’, this tree-lined avenue has become Majorca’s best shopping street, rivalling Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia. Check out the eye-catching window displays before refuelling with lunch at one of the trendy street cafes.

Elsewhere, Avenida Jaime III has high street shopping covered – it’s home to one of the city’s biggest department stores, El Corte Inglés. Smaller Via Verí is crammed with artisan homeware stores, independent boutiques and boho jewellery shops.

Continental Palma Bordoyhotels

  • Palma De Mallorca, Majorca, Spain
  • 22 June 2024
  • Room only
  • From Gatwick

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You can get a crash course in great art

It’s impossible to visit Palma and not appreciate its art – it’s said to have more art galleries and studios per capita than any other city in Spain!

The Es Baluard Museum of Modern Art is one of the Balearic Islands’ most impressive collections of contemporary art, holding over 800 works dating from the 19th century to the present day. See prestigious paintings by Picasso, mixed-media creations from local artist, Miquel Barceló, and check out the latest exhibitions showing pop art, futuristic sculptures and more.

There’s plenty of independent art galleries scattered around the city, too. Top picks include Gallery Red, Casal Solleric and the Joan Miró Foundation.

Art fans will want to coincide their city break with La Nit de L'Art – a public evening event in September where Palma’s galleries and museums fill the streets with free exhibitions.

It knows how to throw a festival

Spain is the homeland of fiestas and Palma isn’t a shy host of public celebrations, holding several national and local festivals each year.

Carnival, known as Sa Rua, is celebrated in true Spanish style in February, filling Palma’s streets with parades, concerts and general merriment. Move into March and Balearic Islands' Day brings further music, dancing and food stalls to the city.

If you’re visiting Palma in June, don’t miss the San Juan Night of Fire. The equivalent of Bonfire Night in the UK, crowds come together in the Parc de la Mar for an eclectic evening of fireworks, dancing demons and live music. It’s one of Majorca’s biggest annual events and the city’s celebrations continue well into the night with beach bonfire parties.

The nightlife is cool and classy

Palma’s nightlife keeps the party spirit going, but you’ll find a more laidback scene than its raucous neighbour, Magaluf. A cosmopolitan mix of cocktail bars, jazz clubs and dance venues mean there’s always somewhere to liven up your evening.

Hip Santa Catalina is the place to be after dark with local dive bars, music cafes and cocktail lounges that keep their buzz until the early hours of the morning. If you’ve packed your party shoes, dance the night away to DJ tunes at Social Club.

For a more low-key evening, sip on sundowners in the Old Town, or simply chill at one of Palma’s beach clubs on Platja de Can Pere Antoni.

Isla Mallorca Urban Hotel & Spa

  • Palma De Mallorca, Majorca, Spain
  • 8 June 2024
  • Room only
  • From Liverpool

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You’re still close to the beach

Spain’s got some brilliant urban beaches and Palma’s is up there with the best. Some 750m of sand stretching east of the cathedral, Palma City Beach (Can Pere Antoni) has all the makings of a proper seaside holiday, with sun-loungers for hire, watersports including kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, and beach volleyball.

Alternatively, split your time between Palma and one of Majorca’s best resorts (think Palma Nova, Magaluf and Santa Ponsa) for a beach holiday and city break in one – they’re no more than half an hour’s drive away and have plenty more sandy stretches to discover.

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