Mallorca, also known as Majorca, is one of Spain’s Balearic Islands and forms an archipelago with Ibiza, Menorca, and Formentera. Its mountainous landscape and over five-hundred kilometers of coastline put Mallorca at the top of the list for island adventure and coastal living. The capital itself, Palma de Mallorca, lies on the Bay of Palma in the southern region of the island and is outfitted with cycling paths and hiking trails. Following my week in Spain’s Andalusia region exploring Málaga and Seville, I flew to Palma where I would wrap up my first solo backpacking surrounded by sandy beaches and sunny hills.
Discovering the Port and the Old Quarter
There’s no better way to kick off an adventurous trip to Palma than by exploring the port and the historic center on foot. My very first morning in Palma was spent strolling along the seaside promenade and then disappearing into the narrow streets of the old town. From impressive landmarks and peaceful courtyards to raw vegan cafés and vintage clothing stores, I weaved between the maze of buildings and took in the sights and smells of the city. I peeked inside La Lonja de Palma, a former meeting place for merchants and an architectural jewel, and then grabbed lunch at the Mercat de l’Olivar, a fresh food market in the heart of the city. A handful of restaurants sit on the second floor of the market hall and I even saw one with the sign ‘you buy we cook’, encouraging customers to purchase fresh produce from the market and leave the cooking to experienced chefs… how awesome is that?
Running around Parque del Mar
Lying directly between the Old Quarter and the Bay of Palma, the nine-hectare Park of the Sea is lined with palm trees and contains a manmade sea-water lake displaying a magnificent fountain. I laced up my running shoes to explore this recreational area and surrounding sights, namely the Catedral de Mallorca known as La Seu, or the Palma Cathedral. After the construction of the main coast road Paseo Marítimo de Palma robbed the cathedral of its seafront location, the city decided to bring the sea to the cathedral and recreate its beautiful reflection in the clear blue water. The plan was executed to perfection and the 13th century Gothic-style cathedral now provides a magnificent backdrop to the park and is well recognized as one of Mallorca’s architectural landmarks. Opposite the cathedral, the Palau de l’Almudaina known as L’Almudaina, or the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, is a former Islamic fort that was converted into a residence for the royal family. The palace is only used for occasional ceremonies today, so step right in to discover the unique blend of Islamic and Gothic architectural styles.
Cycling along the Bay of Palma
Don’t quote me on this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are just as many bicycle rental shops in Palma as there are Starbucks locations in Manhattan. If you’re not much of a runner or just want to switch up your physical activity for the day, rent a bike and take it for a ride from the city of Palma to the beach resort of Playa de Palma. Pedaling along the two-way cycle lane, I passed through the former fishing village of Portixol and the trendy area of Ciudad Jardin before reaching the four-and-a-half-kilometer Blue Flag beach that stretches from Can Pastilla to S’Arenal. The Blue Flag is awarded to beaches with an environmentally friendly profile and high water quality, so pick a spot to enjoy the clear water and white sand before cycling back to the city.
Swimming in the Balearic Sea
It may be winter, but a refreshing swim in the salty water is difficult to resist… especially when you know you’ll be returning to snow and sub-zero temperatures in a couple of days. Ca’n Pere Antoni is the closest beach to the city of Palma and also holds a Blue Flag award, making the seven-hundred-fifty-meter stretch a convenient option for a quick morning or afternoon swim. The stray cats may have looked at me like I was crazy, but I promise I wasn’t the only one going in for a dip!
Hiking to the Castell de Bellver
Along the western coast of Palma, the city backs up into a lush mountain range that is crowned by the Bellver Castle. This well-preserved fortress has been standing for nearly seven-hundred years and offers spectacular views of the city and the bay. I climbed several stone staircases through the wooded hillside, stopping at every viewpoint along the hike. When I reached the castle, I first entered the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat, City History Museum, on the ground floor which details Palma’s development from the prehistoric Talayotic civilization through to the present day. Then I followed the stairs to the main floor where I wandered through the San Marc Chapel and the Throne Room before climbing the final staircase to the terrace. Standing on top of the only circular castle in all of Spain, I admired the serene island landscape down below.
As you can see, my time in Palma was full of island adventures, but there is one more adventure that I haven’t mentioned. On my last day in Palma, I took a day trip to the island’s mountainous west coast to explore the ‘Valley of Oranges’. A separate blog post detailing that excursion will be coming to the blog this weekend, stay tuned!