Palma is the biggest city on Mallorca which features both Moorish and European flavors. Palma is dominated by La Seu, a wonderful Gothic cathedral and has its main sights situated within the old city walls. Visitors can enjoy a half-day walk around the old city, visit Palau de l’Almudaina and the ancient Moorish baths, and then stop by at the outdoor cafes on Placa d’Espanya for a cup of coffee.
While Mallorca has plenty of rural mountain villages to explore, the picturesque town of Valldemosa is arguably it’s finest. Nestled among the mountains, Valldemosa is famous for being the birthplace of the patron saint of Mallorca, Catalina Thomas. While here, visit the Reial Cartoixa Monastery where you can delve into the past and see artworks by Picasso and Miro.
Mallorca also has a magnificent castle that you must see during your visit. Castell de Bellver is found in Palma and features a 700 year-old fortress that houses an interesting museum, while offering spectacular views over Palma Bay. The castle dates back to the 14th century and is steeped in history and legend.
Soller is a town situated on the north western coast of the island inside a valley surrounded by olive trees and orange groves. For a pleasant day trip, take a train ride up from Palma to Soller. You are certain to enjoy the vintage mahogany and brass train carriages dating from 1912, which transport you back to the old days. This journey certainly beats driving down.
Serra de Tramuntana is a mountain range covering the entire northern coast of Mallorca. Ideal for a pleasant walk, the mountain-scape offers changing scenery, from rugged peaks and forests to pine covered rocks, as you encounter a couple of goats and sheep along the way. Bring a picnic along.
La Seu is an amazing building constructed out of sandstone, which rises above the ancient city walls of Palma. Construction started in 1230 but the structure was not finished for another 400 years. Before going near, stand on the seafront and gaze at the cathedral’s golden sandstone exterior that has for centuries stood out from its surroundings in a show of might to all who arrive by sea.
One of the great European playgrounds, Mallorca is a popular travel destination, beloved for its beautiful landscape, sunny climate and Mediterranean setting. The traditional spelling of the island is Mallorca, although it is spelled as “Majorca” sometimes. Either way, the pronunciation is the same: my-yor-ka, and no matter how you choose to write it, Mallorca caters to everyone, so be sure to visit soon.
1. La Seu
Situated in Palma de Mallorca, La Seu is the stand-out landmark building of Mallorca. Regarded as the fourth most beautiful church in the world, La Seu is today the second highest Gothic cathedral in Europe. Overlooking the harbor, this magnificent Catalonian cathedral lies in the oldest part of the city and was built in dedication to San Sebastian, the patron saint of Palma de Mallorca.
Enter the cathedral and head for the western portal and then gaze down at the long nave. The columns you see are ringed by wrought-iron candelabra. Walk around to the southern front which faces the sea. Here you can admire the Portal del Miradon, a door from the 15th century that features scenes from The Last Supper.
Upon entering the cathedral, you will quickly realize why many call it the “cathedral of light”. There are a total of 61 stained-glass windows inside La Seu, the most spectacular being the central rose window that harnesses the morning sun, flooding the structure with beams of colored light.
This rose window is the world’s largest Gothic rosette which measures about 12 meters across and contains 1,236 glass pieces. The way in which the sun’s rays penetrate this window twice a year to play on the cathedral’s interiors is a famous spectacle worldwide. The rays of the sun shine through the window in such a way as to cast 2 rosettes of light into the interiors.
The cathedral’s tall central nave is supported by wide buttresses, as well as a double row of flying buttress arches, and covered by a cross vault. Its central vault is 144 feet high, while its columns rise to a height of 65 feet.
Its 14 octagonal pillars are a true feat of architectural engineering, creating an extensive interior of over 6,600 meters squared. The slender pillars that support the roof are some of the slimmest load-bearing pillars in the world, although the sturdy ornate buttresses are what keep the structure standing.
Visitors can take a peek at the large wrought iron canopy over the altar which dates from 1909. A large ceramic mural was recently added to the church interiors which you can view. The cathedral also houses an interesting museum that’s worth a peek.
In addition to the usual saintly relics, including one said to be a piece of the “True Cross”, the cathedral houses the Royal Chapel which in turn contains the tombs of past Mallorcan monarchs.
Construction of the cathedral started in 1229, but it would take another four centuries for the structure to be completed. On New Year’s Day in 1230, the foundation stone was laid on the site at which the main city mosque stood originally, such that the cathedral faces Mecca instead of Jerusalem.
The cathedral was rebuilt following an 1851 earthquake that destroyed its western front. Additional touches were added during the 20th century, including the enormous crown-of-thorns illuminated canopy, which hangs above the altar.
The cathedral stands in the heart of the city of Palma, as the most emblematic building in the capital of Mallorca. It’s impossible to miss the imposing golden sandstone building which is perched above the Parc de la Mar, offering a superb sight for those arriving by sea. La Seu is accessible to visitors with disabilities and also has a gift shop.
The popularity of Mallorca as a tourist destination got a boost from an unusual source. In 1838, world famous classical pianist Frederic Chopin and his lover, the writer George Sand, rented a former monk’s cell at the Royal Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa.
The couple’s illicit affair had been the subject of such intense gossip in Paris that they decided to find refuge the Mallorcan town of Valldemossa in a bid to escape the 19th century’s equivalent of today’s paparazzi.
Today, the former monastery of Valldemossa remains a favorite among visitors to the island. The Royal Carthusian Monastery boasts beautiful gardens and cloisters. Visitors can sit in a small café inside the monastery.
Just as interesting is the ride from the harbor to the mountain village of Valldemosa which will take you through almond and olive trees as the elevation increases from the coast. The village is quite charming and its ancient monastery is well-preserved.
Beside the cells occupied by Chopin and Sand, the pharmacy and church are also interesting. Some of the potions and drugs in the pharmacy look like they did over a hundred years ago. After the tour, visitors can enjoy a Chopin piano concerto. Is there a more perfect setting than this?
On your way out of Valldemossa, drive on the northwestern coast of Mallorca. This drive is magnificent and remarkably scenic, with glimpses of beautiful villas and the sea below the cliffs.
3. Playa d’es Trenc
Fairly isolated with a wild and natural feel, Playa d’es Trenc seduces with the glitter of its white sands and crystal clear waters. Often dubbed as Mallorca’s answer to the Caribbean, the beach has shallow waters with unique turquoise shades that give it an almost tropical look.
Es Trenc is arguably one of the most beautiful spots in Mallorca. In fact, it is widely considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in the Balearics and is often touted as one of the best naturist beaches in Spain, Europe and even the world.
The distinguishing feature of Es Trenc is that it is non-urbanized, which means that it remains unspoiled by urban developments. No hotels or apartment buildings have been permitted to be constructed along its coastline. The beach is therefore secluded, bounded within the confines of a nature reserve that comprises of protected sand dunes and vegetation.
Declared a protected area and saved from urbanization, Es Trenc is characterized by 2km of fine-grained, bright golden sands and clean and quiet waters. Algae will often gather where the waves gently break on the sand.
Inside its waters are often found yachts, sailboats and catamarans of all sizes at anchor, calmly rocking on the waves. Playa d’es Trenc is ideal for windsurfing and for taking in the wild natural beauty.
This is a fantastic beach to take a loaded cooler and some trempo, the typical Mallorcan salad. There are bars and restaurants, parasols and sun beds for hire, lifeguards on duty as well as toilets and ramps for the disabled.
Long an unofficial nudist beach, even during the puritanical era of Franco, the beach is more peaceful and less commercial in comparison to some of the others on Mallorca’s coast. The most popular naturist beach in Mallorca, Playa d’es Trenc has a number of sections marked for naturists. However, majority of the visitors to this beach wear swimsuits.
Behind the beach are some lovely sand dunes and wetlands that are home to marine vegetation and migratory birds. The coast holds more than 170 bird species hovering over this natural wonder. The beach derives its name from the opening of the saline area that divides the coastal barrier of dunes.
Visitors to Playa d’es Trenc can take a bus or drive from the tiny town of Ses Covettes through the salt flats to the south. Despite the relative remoteness of this beach, its beauty makes it quite popular.
The beach is situated in the southern part of the island and is the most famous beach in Mallorca. It is also the last large natural beach that has not been spoilt by the big hotels and numerous restaurants. The beach is currently situated inside a national park, which makes it unlikely that hotels will be built close to it in future.
4. Castell de Bellver
Situated about 3km away from Palma, Castell de Bellver rests on a hill that rises 140 meters above sea level. The castle is Spain’s only round castle and was built during the 14th century as a rather grand fortress. Architecturally, the castle is a Catalan Gothic masterpiece. During its long history, the castle served briefly as a royal summer residence.
“Bellver” is Catalan for “lovely view” which is certainly true when you take into account its commanding hilltop position to the west of Palma within the surroundings of scented pine woods. The 360 degree panorama at the top of the summit includes views of the Bay of Palma and the mountains of Serra de Tramuntana. Go here to enjoy the views that captivate so many visitors to Palma de Mallorca.
What makes the castle’s construction so unique is the circular part of the building that offers a good example of Spanish style architecture. The perfectly preserved castle has a moat and drawbridge, 3 defensive towers and a round central courtyard.
Inside the castle are 2 rows of arches that overlook the circular court to create a fascinating effect. The courtyard is 2-tiered with the lower tier comprising Catalan Romanesque arches, while the upper tier features Gothic arches.
Construction of the castle was ordered in 1309 by the monarch of Mallorca, and completed in 1311. The castle initially served as the seat of the monarchy, along with the Almudaina Palace, but was later used as a military prison, and thereafter as a mint. Today, the castle hosts the Museum of History of Mallorca.
This interesting museum displays artifacts from the Arab, Roman and Spanish periods that help to give a picture of Palma’s history. The museum takes up 8 castle rooms, 6 of which cover diverse periods in the history of the island. Also visit the castle chapel and the old castle kitchen with its smoke-blackened walls.
If you’re into history, old castles and taking photos of spectacular views, Castell de Bellver is an absolute must on your Mallorcan itinerary. The castle also hosts music concerts within its impressive courtyard, underneath the star-studded skies during balmy summer evenings.
There’s just so much to see and do in Palma, Mallorca’s largest city, that you’ll be spoilt for choice.
The district surrounding the La Seu cathedral is home to numerous interesting shops and boutiques. Glassware, perfumes and linen are popular purchases in this area, along with the Spanish leather goods that are of a high quality. Lladro porcelain is another good buy, while the Mallorcan pearls available here are far less expensive although just as lustrous as those originating from the South Pacific.
Souvenir hunters may consider getting a siurell, which is a clay whistle that’s been made in Mallorca since the Arab times. The siurell is typically brightly painted in white with green and red trim. Visitors can also shop for woodcarvings and other handicrafts.
As you stroll away from the Almudaina Palace area back towards Placa d’Espanya, you may want to take the Passeig des Born, a tree-lined boulevard that’s viewed by many as the heart of city life. Another site worth seeing on your walking tour is the old Gran Hotel which is today a museum of modern art known as the Fundacio la Caixa. The museum’s trendy café-bar is a great choice for a snack or lunch.
Museo de Mallorca features an interesting collection of Moorish, medieval, and 18th-19th century art. Basilica de Sant Francesc is a large church made from sandstone that dates from the thirteenth century. La Lloyjs is a fifteenth century seafront structure that once served as Palma’s merchant’s exchange. The Arab baths are also worth a look.
Mercat Olivar is a market that’s covered and filled with fish, fruit, flowers and an abundance of local color. A popular park, Parc de la Mar is situated close to the La Seu cathedral. Poble Espanyol is a Spanish Village theme park which functions as a showcase of Spanish architecture.
There are many other sites in Palma that are well worth a peek. But if you choose to venture away from Palma de Mallorca, you will find some of the most dramatic landscapes at Cabo Formentor on the island’s northern end. The road to the end of this narrow peninsula is itself long and winding.
There’s also a colorful market that takes place in Inca, a town close to Palma. The market is one of the most vibrant bazaars of the old world and is well worth a detour during your trip to Palma.
6. Cala Figuera
While Mallorca has many beautiful nooks and crannies, Cala Figuera is special, even to Mallorcans themselves. A photograph of the past, this small fishing port is where the sea forms an intricate part of the residents’ daily life, thanks to the beautiful canals that reach back to their houses.
Easily the “Venice of Mallorca”, Cala Figuera is situated approximately 60 miles outside of Palma de Mallorca on the southeastern coastline, which is roughly one hour’s drive from the city. It is characterized by a very long and narrow natural harbor that has been in use for a very long time.
More than anywhere else on Mallorca, Cala Figuera retains the atmosphere of a working fishing port. White painted houses reach down to the edge of the water as fishermen sit on steps mending their nets. If you go here early enough in the morning, you may even see the catch come in. A path follows around the small harbor and onto the cliffs, offering great views of the bay.
Cala Figuera immerses you in the most authentic side of Mediterranean life. Pretty village houses populate the steep slopes that lead down to the water’s edge. The houses with direct access to the harbor feature large green doors that face the water.
Its port, houses and boats, in particular the traditional Mallorcan sailing vessels bear witness to the essence of life in Cala Figuera. Here you can still find numerous traditional fishing boats that moor at the foot of the houses of fishermen.
Perched on the coastal cliffs of Mallorca, Cala Figuera was once a modest fishing village and small natural harbor. Today, it is one of the most picturesque towns that has maintained its whitewashed houses and colorful boat houses. Because there are no public beaches or easily accessible parts on the coast, the village has managed to maintain its quiet touch.
Go here for the amazing views of the clear waters that you can enjoy along coastal paths that wind along the hillside and cliffs. Coves, beaches, a lighthouse, the turquoise sea and rock and sand formations are all visible from relatively flat walking paths.
The main cove is surrounded by dramatically steep mountains, while the waters surrounding this part of Mallorca are crystal clear and perfect for snorkeling or diving.
It is recommended that you take a pleasant walk around the edge of the port, take some memorable photos or enjoy an ice cream on a terrace overhanging the waters of this magical cove. Walk right around the harbor inlet, then walk back away from the harbor to explore the few shops and restaurants there.
Cala Figuera’s restaurants offer tables that overlook the harbor and a great setting for having coffee with cake, so be sure to sample the traditional Mallorcan almond cake. As you may expect from a seaside town, there is also a great choice of seafood restaurants in Cala Figuera. Seafood is a specialty in the restaurants of this still operational fishing town.
The undeniable beauty and charm of this port has for a long time served as a source of inspiration to singers and painters alike. As evening falls, the arrival of fishing boats with their catch makes for an authentic spectacle that’s well worth witnessing.
Plan your visit in July to attend the festivities surrounding Cala Figuera’s celebration of its patron saint, on the day of the Virgin of Carmen. During this festival, a number of cultural events are held including religious events, games and entertainment which culminate in an animated marine procession during which the residents decorate their boats hoping to win the title of the best decorated boat.
7. Placa Major de Palma
There’s an old saying in Palma that “all roads lead to Placa Major” and if you’re wandering through the old town of Palma de Mallorca, you will quickly confirm this to be true.
Placa Major is Palma’s main and largest square. Placa Major is characterized by a large rectangular and sunny open space that’s lined by a colonnade of bars and restaurants, outdoor cafés, galleries and old Spanish architecture. Typical of the plazas you will find on mainland Spain, Placa Major is a popular thoroughfare in Palma that’s filled with market stalls and street entertainers.
Situated almost halfway between Catedral de Palma de Mallorca and Parc de les Estacion, in the old town of Palma, the plaza was erected during the 19th century. It soon became one of the landmarks of Palma de Mallorca, and a veritable cultural and social hub where tourists and locals alike go to enjoy tapas and drinks as they watch the world go by.
The headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition once stood at the western end of the Plaza, and for 300 years served as the center of this dark period in Spanish history.
The true epicenter of Palma, this square is where all the excitement of old town Palma is generated. Upon entering the square, the very first thing you will notice is its imposing size. The enormous square is framed by old arcaded Spanish buildings dating from the 14th century. Today, the area is referred to as the artists’ quarter with its selection of galleries that showcase some of the local talent.
Emanating out of the square are labyrinthine streets and cobbled walkways that will take you on an enjoyable albeit confusing jaunt down the winding streets lined with cafes, boutiques and evening revelers. The square is typically filled during the day by street musicians, while the night is dominated by tourists and locals who gather to enjoy some evening cocktails and music.
The streets stretching out from the square include Carrer de Colom and Carrer del Sindicat, both of which are packed with beautiful architecture, lively cafes and a multitude of shops, mostly selling footwear. North of the square is Calle de San Miguel, a street that passes a church of the same name which was built on the site of a former mosque.
The square makes for a great alternative to the beach when the weather is not so good. Moreover, every week a nice artisan market is held in the square, with colorful vendors who offer an interesting choice of local handicrafts and produce, from traditional food items to the famous Mallorcan pearls.
8. Coves Del Drac
Coves del Drac or Cuevas del Drach are situated just outside of Porto Cristo, on the eastern coast of Mallorca. The caves were first mentioned in a written record as early as 1338 and appear on a legendary map of Mallorca which dates from 1784. The caves are quite spectacular and breathtaking if you enjoy the natural beauty of stalactites and stalagmites, as well as fables of the underworld.
The site comprises of four amazing caves in a very remarkable formation. This enormous subterranean expanse produces an imaginarium of strange formations against which delicate bouquets of stalagmites and stalactites glisten. The exquisite ornamentation borders the largest subterranean sea in Europe.
As if this weren’t enough to tempt every traveler, a spectacular multicolored light show has been mounted inside the caves that would put the wildest clubs in Ibiza to shame; while boats full of classical musicians perform Chopin among others, inside an acoustic shell that is unlike any other in the world.
Coves del Drac are notable for their massive size. The caves comprise of 2,000 meters of coves, along with 6 underground lakes, including Lake Martel, which is one of the largest underground lakes in the world. There are daily performances of classical music on this lake. Therefore visitors will be treated to music by musicians on the tour boat, which is the highlight of the tour.
The stalagmites and stalactites here are spectacular and cover the base and roof of the cave, surrounding a massive natural amphitheater. The stalagmites and stalactites look as if they were built like that rather than being formed over millions of years by dripping mineral laden water. Observing the illuminated stalagmite and stalactite clusters makes for an amazing spectacle.
Visitors to the dark and cool, the limestone caves will need to climb down a long staircase to gain access to and enjoy the undeniable splendor of the caves.
Once you have completed your descent, you will enter a massive natural amphitheater with rows of benches overlooking the lake. Once all are seated, the lights go off and you will be in total darkness. An announcer will tell the audience a bit about Coves del Drac before music begins to sound from the lake.
Several lit-up boats slowly come into view with musicians on board. The music they play is live and not recorded. The boats traverse the lake slowly before turning around to retrace their passage and eventually go out of sight. As the music fades, you will lose sight of the boats, which creates a rather magical and moving experience.
9. Serra de Tramuntana
There’s so much more to Mallorca than beaches and partying in the sun. The island also offers peaceful spots filled with natural beauty, especially within the privileged northeastern corner of Serra de Tramuntana.
A zone of great ecological value, Serra de Tramuntana is the highest mountain range, as well as the most extensive natural area in Mallorca. The range measures about 90km long, stretching from the cape of Formentor in Pollencor into the cape of Sa Mola in Andratx, with its average width measuring 15km. Mallorca’s highest peaks are found within the central section of this range.
The mountain range forms the backbone of northwest Mallorca and boasts a handful of peaks towering more than 3,000 feet into the sky, as well as the impressive caves of Cova de sa Campana with their depths of 1,000 feet. The abrupt mountainsides stud this side of Mallorca’s coastline, concealing beautiful beaches and cozy coves that offer a peaceful contrast to the other beaches of Mallorca.
The coastline along the Serra de Tramuntana is very rugged, with a handful of steep cliffs and coves. The most outstanding karst area on the island, this region has had a significant amount of its limestone eroded giving rise to deep torrents.
Mallorca’s isolated location, as well as the geography of the Serra de Tramuntana region, which can best be described as an island within an island, has aided in the preservation of an attractive array of endemic flora and fauna. In its highest areas, brushwood grows, while the lower zones have the most extensive holm-oak woods on the island.
During your walk on the mountain range, you will encounter fauna such as goats and sheep. There are also large sections of pine forest with weasels, genets and pine martens. The Mallorcan midwife toad is an amphibian that was believed to be a fossil before it was discovered during the 1980s. The animal’s small population inhabits the least accessible torrent and pools of Serra de Tramuntana.
There is a wide range of bird species which inhabit the Serra de Tramuntana, or simply pass through it during their migrations. There are birds of prey such as Eleonora’s Falcon, which comes to the Mediterranean, all the way from Madagascar. Also look out for the once endangered sea eagle or black vulture.
The mountains offer hikers attractive trails for exploration including the Ruta de la Piedra en Seco, a long 100 mile trek that offers a glimpse of masterfully built terraces, irrigation canals and other agricultural structures.
But if hiking is not your thing, you can opt for the route with defense towers that date from the 15th century. The towers abound in the low coastal hills and were originally built to monitor the shoreline during a period of pirate attacks. Today, the structures serve as exceptional viewpoints from which to behold the scenic mountain and coastal landscapes.
Nestled in the heart of the valley of oranges or valley of gold as it is sometimes called, Soller is a modernist town that offers plenty to both residents and visitors. Situated to the northwest of Mallorca, Soller became wealthy due to the valley’s abundance of citrus groves.
During the 19th century, this area was isolated from the rest of Mallorca by mountains, but its oranges found their way to France through the nearby west coast of Port de Soller. Many locals went to work in France, made their fortunes and returned to build some of the handsome Modernist properties you find gracing the town today.
Since the 1990s, Soller’s road tunnel has offered an easier route to Palma and the rest of Mallorca, which avoids snaking the mountain pass. Opened in 1912, an old narrow-gauge wooden train links Soller with Palma’s Plaza de Espana. This 28km train journey through thirteen tunnels and breathtaking scenery has become one of the best-loved tourist experiences on the island.
Plaza de la Constitucion is the main square in Soller, its beating heart. Lined by many cafes and bars, and dominated by the Sant Bartomeu church, a distinctive valley landmark, the splendid square is regularly crossed by a tram that links the port to the town.
Can Prunera is a sympathetically restored Art Nouveau building that houses a fine permanent collection of artworks by famous artists including Picasso, Warhol and Kandinsky, in addition to temporary exhibitions. A short walk from the center on the road leading to the port are the Balearic Museum of Natural Sciences and the Jardi Botanic, a garden that features numerous Balearic varieties of plants.
Soller’s market is held on Saturdays when traders and shoppers gather and create a real buzz. At Plaza 13 Couture, you will find a unique space selling local art and decorative items such as hand-painted furniture.
For those who enjoy hiking or walking, the Serra de Traumuntana’s long-distance path, the Dry Stone Route also passes through the town of Soller. Mountain bikers on the other hand will have a spectacular terrain to tackle.
Your visit to Soller is incomplete without sampling the rich bounty of the Soller valley: freshly squeezed orange juice and Angel d’Or, a delicious liqueur that was invented from local citrus. Soller is also known for its delicious ice cream with a wide assortment of yummy flavors.
The town is also famous for producing local gourmet goodies including extra virgin oil, local orange balsamic vinegar, pates, chutneys, charcuterie, jams and preserves.
Soller has charm and character, it boasts fine views and tranquility, and offers a unique feel that sets it apart from the rest of the island. Coupled with its mountains, sea and beautiful fertile valley, it’s no wonder then that Soller is one of the most desired residential areas in Mallorca.
While in the area of Soller, a visit to the Port de Soller is a must. Take the tram to see the beautiful beach and stroll along the promenade. Fornalutx is a picturesque village that’s situated close by and also well worth a visit. If heading south, take the coastal road to Deia at which you can explore the Robert Graves museum.