Mallorca, Spain

Palma forever

In the 1990s, supermodel Claudia Schiffer pledged her eternal love to this destination, and she wasn’t alone. The abundant charm of Palma de Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands, seduces even the most reserved.

Text: ARANTXA NEYRA    photo: LORENZO MOSCIA
       
Excursiones-31

Mallorca in spring: breezy afternoons at a local tavern.

 

Luisa looks at the clock. She turns off her computer and mentally puts up the “closed” sign for the day. This interior decorator and event planner has a hard time disconnecting, but today is Friday, so she’s spending the evening at one of her favorite restaurants with some old friends from college. Patrón Lunares is near her office, in Santa Catalina, a neighborhood in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest of the Balearic Islands. This old neighborhood establishment has been transformed into a modern cantina, decorated with fishing nets turned into lamps and other nautical elements that provide a backdrop for fun, well-prepared dishes. There are also some portraits of popular local figures, including the well-loved fisherman from whom the restaurant takes its name.

Patrón Lunares aims to be a reflection of its surroundings, and it succeeds. Santa Catalina is now the hippest part of Palma, home to most of the city’s alternative shops and bars. It’s quite a transformation for what was once a working-class neighborhood filled with the small homes of laborers, rope makers and bakers (some of the original wheat mills are still standing). They sold their wares – and bought each other’s products – at the neighboring Mercat de Santa Catalina.

 

Capital Flavors

Built in 1920, the Mercat de Santa Catalina is the oldest market in this Mediterranean city. It’s still going strong and – all apologies to the modern, new San Juan Gastronomic Market – it’s a fabulous place to find everything from fresh-baked bread to the very best sobrassada (a delicious fresh sausage made with pork and paprika). You can ask for your recently purchased fish to be cooked for you, or try local specialties at bars like the famed Joan Frau, which has attracted such esteemed visitors as Ferràn Adrià.

 

Restaurante Patrón Lunares en el barrio de Santa Catalina, la zona más divertida de la ciudad.

The restaurant Patrón Lunares in the neighborhood of Santa Catalina, the the hippest part of the city.

 

The market is a great start for a tardeo: extending your midday aperitif into the evening with a few gin and tonics or vermouths at nearby bars, in the company of Mallorca’s thirtysomething crowd. One good option for quality cocktails and music is Cuba Colonial on Avenida Argentina. This street marks the border between Santa Catalina and the Old Quarter, the best-known side of Palma (and the one most popular with tourists): the stately Paseo del Borne with its elegant shops windows; the lovely town hall, famous for its wooden cornices, on Plaza de Cort; the stone façades and hidden patios filled with plants of Can Bordils, Can Vivot and Can Solleric; wonderful, modernist façades like those of Almacenes L’Agula or the old Grand Hotel, a highlight on thematic walking tours; and the Club Náutico, packed with yachts and sailboats. Palma de Mallorca is a worthy capital of one of the most beautiful and glamorous islands on the Mediterranean.

 

Hidden Treasures

La medieval catedral, junto a la bahía de Palma, es el mayor ícono de la ciudad.

The medieval cathedral is one of Mallorca’s most famous landmarks.

Palma de Mallorca’s cathedral is its classic icon, a landmark that everyone recognizes and that leaves visitors stunned. Your first and most spectacular image of the city, when you arrive from the airport, is this great, golden, medieval construction with its enormous rose window peering over the city’s protective walls near the bay.

Ismael, a resident of Palma for nearly ten years, enjoys this same view from his rooftop terrace. In fact, it’s why he chose this house when he moved here from Madrid. Surrounded by orange rooftops, blue skies and plenty of other church towers in the downtown area and the Sa Gerreria neighborhood, Ismael admires the cathedral every morning as he has breakfast. When he first arrived, the neighbor wasn’t the best, but today, many of the façades that were hidden beneath cheap plaster and countless flyers have been restored, welcoming visitors to fresh and pleasant places like La Sifonería, a small establishment where locals hang out, sitting on colorful plastic boxes and drinking vermouth.

Bike shops co-exist alongside traditional retailers, like artisanal basket weavers and neighborhood kiosks, while new restaurants and boutique hotels are popping up all over the place. And don’t miss the Tuesday tapas circuit called the Ruta Martiana (a quirky play on words that evokes a religious pilgrimage): several local bars offers beer plus a tapa for just two euros. It has been both a cause and effect of the neighborhood renaissance, wakening the locals from the winter lethargy between November and February, when the city shuts its blinds and hibernates.

In Ismael’s opinion, the winter is the perfect time to visit all the spots you missed during the summer: the magnificent collection at the Fundación Joan Miró and the Fundación March – named after a famous local businessman and banker who was a great patron of the arts – or check out the new exhibit at the Es Baluard, a museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art.

 

Cosmopolitan Core

Temperature won’t be an issue when you plan your visit to the Costa Tramuntana, a mountain chain bordering the northwest end of the island and its greatest treasure. UNESCO granted the region Cultural Heritage status for the interesting interaction between the landscape and its populace. Indeed, the sierra offers the concentrated dose of the Mediterranean essence that one expects from the Balearic Islands: towns hanging from mountainsides; cozy, welcoming coves and dizzying cliffs; olive trees growing on drystone terraces (where gravity, not mortar, holds the rocks together); lemon trees and Bougainvillea vines.

 

Los pueblos y pequeñas bahías situados en el noreste de la isla, merecen una visita. Como el puerto de Valldemossa, en la foto.

Well worth a visit: the towns and small bays on the northeastern part of the island, like Valldemossa, pictured here.

 

Spring is the perfect time for trekking: climb to the top of the hill known as Calvary in Pollença without overheating or take in the sunset on Cabo de Formentor. Summer is ideal for diving into the warm and welcoming waters or dining al fresco in the town of Alcúdia. The winter chill invites you to explore the most romantic towns – Pollença, Deià, Sóller and Fornalutx – and take refuge near the fireplace in old stone mansions, blanket in lap and mug in hand.

The island’s illustrious guests have included Winston Churchill and Lady Di, not to mention several generations of Spanish royalty. No wonder Mallorca is the most international province in all of Spain, and why, in the small town of Deià, nearly half of the 750 inhabitants came to visit from abroad and never left, charmed into staying by the views of the Mediterranean and the aromas of orange trees in the morning. in

 

Featured Articles

Articles by country