Popular Palma de Mallorca Shore Excursions
Sa Seu: This is a vast, gothic cathedral in Placa de l'Almudaina. The cathedral dominates the skyline of the city. Whether lit up at night or standing in the sun during the day, it is an imposing building well worth a look around. Inside, the building is an amalgam of influences. Famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi partly redesigned the cathedral's interior, and in 2007, Spanish architect, Miquel Barcelo transformed one of the 20 small chapels in the building into a gothic cave, complete with skulls, monsters, fish and crashing waves. Entry costs about six euros, but visitors can enjoy walking around the outside and exploring the various gardens, courtyards and ponds around the outside for free. (Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday)
La Rambla: Like its Catalan namesake in Barcelona, Palma's La Rambla (officially Rambla de los Duques de Palma de Mallorca) is a great place for shopping, dining and soaking up the general atmosphere. One of the most beautiful parts of the city, La Rambla is home to an unofficial flower market open from Monday to Saturday. You'll also see a number of interesting shops and restaurants in the vicinity.
Plaza de Cort: Visit Plaza de Cort outside the Town Hall, where you can savor a drink at a street cafe and enjoy the mix of modernist and classic architecture above the shop fronts. The small square is also home to one of the symbols of Mallorca: a giant olive tree, reputed to be 600 years old and representing peace. The tree grows in the center of the square. This particular specimen was dug up and transported to its spot in 1999. The tree still produces fruit every year.
Palau de l'Almudaina: Across the square from the cathedral, this was once the royal Moorish palace and a summer palace for the Spanish monarchy. Much of the building's interior is intact, highlighting unique architecture and art. Interesting areas include the Hall of the Fireplaces; the terrace, which has clean lines and a panoramic view; the Queen's and King's rooms, with their tapestries and period furniture (down to the inkwells on the desks); and the Chapel of St. Anne and its Romanesque portal and delicate interior. The museum is large, not often crowded and allows visitors time to explore and linger. The excellent audio guide, in English, is a must. (Carrer Palau Reial; open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday)
Bellver Castle: It sits atop a hill on the outskirts of the city. Built in 1309 by King James II of Mallorca, the castle is one of the island's major tourist attractions. Its distinctive round shape and castellated battlements provided refuge for the king and noblemen escaping the plague in 1395 and, after 1717, was used as a military prison. Today, the castle is open to the public. It also houses Palma's municipal museum and the Despuig collection of classical sculpture. (Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday from November to February, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in March, April, September and October and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from May to August)
Shopping: Almost every main street and side street in the old town area contains wonderful shopping. Many shops are grouped in and around Passeig des Born and Avinguda Jaume III. The latter is a chic street filled with designer brand shops; it's also home to one of Palma's two El Corte Ingles department stores. Unique boutiques include Antiguedades (Placa de la Almoina 4) for locally crafted jewelry and Arte-Facto (Cerrer Sant Pere 8) for regional handicrafts, including unusual umbrellas. Diego Villamediana maintains a workshop and gallery at Carrer Guatemala 2 and offers his original oil paintings and sculptures for sale. Be warned: He doesn't accept credit cards. La Gerraria neighborhood used to be an important center for traditional handicrafts, and this tradition has been revived in Passeig de l'Artesania, a great place to buy locally made souvenirs.
Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro: It's a short taxi ride from the downtown area. The famous surrealist abstract painter and sculptor Joan Miro spent most of his life in Barcelona, but both his wife and mother were Mallorcan, and he always longed to return to the scene of his childhood holidays. The museum, which is built around four of Miro's workshops from his years living on the island, holds documents, drawings and sculptures. Special exhibits complement the central theme. It is a simple yet elegant grouping of buildings that provides interesting insights to this popular artist. (Joan de Saridakis 29; open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday)
Fundacion Juan March: Mallorca's landscapes have inspired artists who have gone on to become some of the best-known names in contemporary art. Juan Miro spent his childhood holidays there, and Catalan painter Antoni Tapies had an enduring connection with the island, as did the famous surrealist Salvador Dali. The Fundacion Juan March is a great place to see a good selection of these works, all inside an 18th-century modernist palace. (Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday)
Valldemossa: Set in the hills a short 30-minute cab ride from Palma (excursions are also available), this is the island's most beautiful town. A lovely place to stroll, the village is not crowded and is filled with attractive small shops and cafes. The monastery complex is the main feature of the town and incorporates a palace, the municipal museum (Museu Municipal de Valldemossa) and a neoclassical church. The complex also contains cloisters with several cells (rooms) used for displays, one of which contains memorabilia from musician Frederic Chopin and writer George Sand. (They stayed there together in 1838.) The old town is surrounded by thousand-year-old walls and farming terraces.
Closest to City Center: Ca'n Pere Antoni is a small sandy beach just beyond the city's cathedral. The beach has won a blue flag award for cleanliness, making it a safe and convenient place. It's a popular haunt of residents and visitors alike.
Best for Water Sports: Playa de Palma is a long, sandy beach east of Palma. The beach is a friendly place for children and families. It's also a good spot for water sports, with jet skiers and water skiers heading to the area to enjoy the clear water.