Palma de Mallorca, a major port city on the island of Mallorca and the capital of Spain's Balearic Islands, has a delightful cross of influences, reflecting its checkered past of African and European control. It is the largest city on Mallorca -- a big, bustling place, with most of the tourist action in the old part of town around the landmark cathedral that dominates the oceanfront.
The architecture of this ancient Mediterranean port blends Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance styles. Palma's winding streets make way to grand churches, yacht harbors, beaches, fountains and old castles. Because there is so much history so close together, it's a perfect port to explore on foot. The snaking, narrow streets hold many surprises -- including the occasional dead end, especially passages around the cathedral.
This sun-kissed port is also an outdoors city, with much pedestrian traffic and the opportunity to eat or relax outside in myriad settings -- some free (parks and boulevards) and some in conjunction with visits to museums and historical sites (always look for interior courtyards, extra features of older buildings and the high door knockers that used to save horseback callers the trouble of dismounting to announce their arrival). For sun worshippers, the beaches are close by and the water is wonderfully clear.
A number of cruise terminals serve Palma. Ships visiting the city usually dock at the Poniente and Paraires quays at the Estacion Maritima. The Poniente quay is about a mile and a half southwest of Palma's center. Some cruise lines dock at piers on the Estacion Maritima's Dique Del Oeste (the western sea wall).
Keep an eye out for traffic along the busy stretch of road between the port and the city center. Vehicles move quickly along this highway, and it can be awkward finding a place to cross. It's also easy to catch too much sun while exploring some of the city's sights. Wear protective clothing and sunscreen when necessary. Some shops and restaurants, particularly those catering for tourists and visitors, remain open all day, but the majority observe a traditional siesta between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The euro is the main currency. Check www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for currency conversion rates. Money can be withdrawn or converted at any of several major banks in the city center.
The official languages of Palma are Spanish and Catalan. Though a lot of places cater to English-speaking visitors, visitors will find it useful to have a few Spanish phrases under their belts to get them through situations like buying food and drinks or souvenirs.
A lot of small antiques boutiques are located in the old town, where visitors can pick up interesting artifacts and bargain items. Mallorcan pearls have been prized by the rich and powerful for centuries, and many shops sell these valuable items. There's also a strong tradition of Spanish art in the city (and on the island of Majorca as a whole). Visit one of Palma's many galleries and pick up a memento of your visit, such as a Joan Miro-inspired fan or mobile.