10 of the best things to do in Palma

April 22, 2022

As the capital of Majorca, pretty Palma is the jumping off point for holidays across the island, but it also makes a fantastic destination all on its own.

With endless streets of ancient architecture to admire, a sandy city beach for sunbathing and a fantastic foodie scene to embrace, you could easily spend a week in Palma and not run out of things to see and do. Equally, when you’re short on time, Palma packs a mighty punch – it’s ideal for a quick city break, too.

No matter how long you’ve got to see the Majorcan capital, we’ve rounded up the city’s best bits.

1. Gaze up at La Seu cathedral

Palma’s sights don’t get more impressive than the massive La Seu cathedral. Set on the banks of the Parc de la Mar lake and overlooking the Bay of Palma, the majestic sandstone building rises some 44m (144ft) high, making it even taller than Paris’ Notre-Dame.

The original gothic architecture is wonderfully ornate and features stained glass windows, flying buttresses and vaulted ceilings. Antoni Gaudí, the renowned architect behind many of Barcelona’s most famous structures, even had a hand in its design, adding a dramatic canopy over the altar in the 20th century.

2. Get lost in the old town

The cobbled streets of the old town (El Casco Antiguo) are at the centre of the action in Palma. It’s here that you’ll find many of the best tapas restaurants and bars, boutique shops, and sweet-smelling bakeries – all scattered around scenic squares and along narrow medieval streets.

Many of the main architectural sights, such as La Seu cathedral and the Royal Palace of Almudaina are found here, too. In fact, you could spend days discovering the hidden joys of the old town. Leave your map behind and embrace getting lost – you never know what you’ll stumble across.

3. Take the train to Sóller

It’s all about the journey when you board the charming vintage train from Palma to Sóller (although Sóller does happen to be lovely, too). Take in the sights and sounds as you pass through forests, rise high on viaduct bridges and trundle across rugged country hillsides.

When you reach Sóller, explore the quiet town for an hour or so, and then hop on the tram to the beach in nearby Port de Sóller, passing fragrant orange groves as you go.

4. Make a beeline for the beach

Few capital cities can also lay claim to a beach, but the soft sandy shores of Can Pere Antoni make Palma one of the lucky ones. The palm-lined beach is right at the heart of the city and has stunning views of nearby La Seu cathedral and the lush mountains beyond.

On the beach itself, the water is clear and safe and there is a choice of two beachside restaurants as well as toilets, a lifeguard tower, and showers. The trip from the beach to the old town takes less than 20 minutes.

5. See the city from up high at Bellver Castle

Head up the pine-clad hill to 14th-century Bellver Castle for sweeping panoramic views of Palma. The walk is fairly steep, but worth it for the spectacular vistas at the lovely hilltop viewing deck.

Once you’ve wandered through the leafy courtyards, head into the castle museum to discover more about its unusual circular shape and its past lives as a royal residence and a prison!

6. Eat everything in sight - and shop to your heart's content - at Palma's markets

Credit: Gabriel McCallin | Unsplash

When hunger strikes, you can’t beat a trip to one of Palma’s food markets. Discover Palma’s answer to stylish street food inside Mercat 1930, where you’ll find 13 different food stalls selling everything from cava and cheeses to oysters, dim sum and tartare.

You’ll find a more traditional market vibe at both Mercat de l'Olivar and Mercat de Santa Catalina, where tiny tapas bars are wedged alongside colourful fresh food stalls selling seafood, veggies and baked goods.

Looking for souvenirs? Head to Mercat Artesanal in Placa Major - it’s open throughout most of summer and autumn.

7. Explore the Santa Catalina neighbourhood

If you have time on your hands, step off the beaten track and explore one of Palma’s more under-the-radar neighbourhoods – the lovely and lively Santa Catalina. Found just west of the old town, the area is best known for its electric evening atmosphere, the huge Mercat de Santa Catalina food market, plenty of arty shops, and contemporary restaurants.

Join the locals in this part of the city and wander past brightly coloured fishermen's houses, pop into a stylish interior design store or stop for a cold beer in a cute cafe.

8. Admire the art at the Joan Miró Studio

Famous artist and sculptor Joan Miró may have been born in Barcelona, but he spent most of his life living and working in Majorca.

Just before he died in 1983, Miró achieved a lifelong dream of having his own studio on the island, and today it is open to the public. Spend an hour or so admiring the huge array of work on display, from surrealist sculptures in the gardens to colourful paintings and emotive educational pieces inside the studio.

Thanks to the studio’s location on the outskirts of the city, there are also fantastic views of Palma and the Mediterranean beyond.

9. Wander along the seafront promenade

If you’re feeling active, make the most of Palma’s long, flat promenade and do some exploring along the coast. The walk from the old town down to the promenade and then along to Portixol Marina is around 3km (1.9 miles), so give yourself about half an hour.

If you have more time, take it slow and stop for lunch or a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants that line the seafront. When you arrive, there’s a beach for a swim, or you can choose to carry on the coast, or head back into Palma.

10. Get cultured at The Royal Palace

After the La Seu cathedral, the Royal Palace of La Almudaina is probably Palma’s most famous landmark. The history of this ancient palace, which is thought to date back as far as the 10th century, is a real mixed bag, and the site has been adapted and influenced under Arab, Roman and Christian rule, resulting in a striking amalgamation of architectural styles.

Today the palace is still regularly used by the Spanish monarchy when they visit Palma, but tourists can also explore inside the palace and its gardens with a ticket.

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