The island of Mallorca is known for its beaches and rocky swimming coves where you can spend hours drenched in the sun and the Mediterranean Sea. However, its capital city of Palma de Mallorca should not be overlooked. If you are visiting Mallorca, you need to make time to see Palma, even if only for one night.
Palma de Mallorca is the capital city of the Balearic Islands located south of Barcelona. Founded by Romans, the port city has a long history under different civilizations including the Byzantines, the Moors and the Christian reconquest. Today, the city is a popular tourist destination for its warm Mediterranean climate, cultural attractions, architecture, boutiques, beaches and restaurants.
In this quick travel guide to Palma, I’ll share how to get there, where to stay, things to do and a few shops and restaurants you can’t miss.
*This post contains affiliate links which mean I could earn a small commission at no cost to you. I was a guest at Hotel Cappuccino. Thank you for your support!*
How to get there
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was shocked as I made my way through the never-ending Palma de Mallorca airport. It is enormous with hourly flights arriving from all over Europe and the UK. In 2019, almost 30 million people traveled through it. It dwarfs the Naples airport that serves 4 times the population. With this in mind, leave extra time to get to and from your gate.
From the airport, the city center is easily accessible by the EMT A1 bus (4.50 euro) or a 15-minute taxi ride (25 euro depending on traffic).
How long should I stay in Palma?
I only stayed in Palma de Mallorca for one night, and easily could have stayed longer. Thanks to a late check out and evening flight, I still had almost two full days to see the main sights. Two nights would be ideal for a city break with some extra time to hit the nearby beaches.
Where to Stay
I remember when I first saw a photo of the rooftop pool at Hotel Cappuccino when it opened in 2018. I instantly wanted to teleport there. There is just something about the small pool, the Santa Eulalia church in the distance and the charming red umbrellas. Naturally, Hotel Cappuccino was the obvious choice for me from the start so I could not have been more excited when they hosted me as a guest.
The hotel was designed by French interior decorator and AD 100 Hall of Famer Jacque Grange. (You’ll also want to read this fascinating Architectural Digest article about how he lives in Colette’s former apartment in Paris).
It took three months for artists from the University of Milan to hand paint the ceiling, pillars and other details throughout the hotel. Hotel Cappuccino also pays homage to Mallorca with furniture made on the island and hand painted Mallorcan tiles in the elevator. From the logo to the complimentary welcome drink, every detail has been carefully thought out.
When having breakfast in the courtyard, you would have no idea that two floors below lies a small cinema and spa. During construction of the lower floors, they discovered historical arches and made that space into the spa treatment room. Although the exact time period is unknown, you can bet that getting a massage under historic arches is a unique experience.
Located in Plaza de Cort, the hotel also offers a prime position to see the many things to do in Palma by foot. If you book a room facing the plaza, you’ll also have views of the 17th century building home to city hall on the opposite side.
Things to do in Palma
Construction began on the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (also referred to as La Seu) in 1229 on the site of a previous Moorish mosque and took almost 400 years to complete. With the central nave even taller than Notre Dame in Paris, this church is one of the largest in Europe. It is also one of the more expensive to tour at 8 euros for just the cathedral and another 12 for the terraces.
The centuries old Cathedral simultaneously boasts the modern work of Antoni Gaudí. He was hired as part of the restoration in the early 1900s.
One of the more unique parts of the cathedral is the smaller chapel to the right of the central nave. In 2004, Mallorcan artist Miquel Barceló (who has also spent time in Naples, Italy) redesigned the chapel with imagery from the Gospel of John in a contemporary style.
Right next to the cathedral you’ll find the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, a 14th century structure that is still the official residence of the King and Queen of Spain when they visit. General admission: 7 euros. Free admission on certain days of the week for EU residents (check hours and ticket prices).
La Llotja was built in the 15th century and designed by architect Guillem Sagrera (who also spent time in Naples working on the Castel Nuovo and eventually died there). The building was home to the School of Merchants who maintained the port of Palma and controlled commerce in what was once one of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean. With trade shifting to the Atlantic in the 16th and 17th centuries, the building was later used as a grain warehouse. Let me know if you’ve ever seen a more beautiful warehouse. Closed on Mondays. Free to enter.
Complete with a tree lined avenue and sidewalk cafes, Passeig del Born is the main shopping street akin to a miniature Champs-Élysées with big box retailers, high street fashion and designer shops. Stop in the Castañer shop to pick up a pair of the iconic wedge espadrilles made in Spain (also available online in the States).
Passeig del Born is definitely worth a stroll, but you also can’t overlook smaller shops like Bazaar Palma just one street back. You’ll find a small shop filled with small vases, fine linens and tableware. With limited room in my piece of hand luggage, I left with a wooden tapas plate and a tiny gold spoon for salt. For a peek inside, check out my “Mallorca” highlight on Instagram.
Another shop that absolutely can’t be missed and really had me regretting not bringing a checked bag was Mimbrería Vidal (find it here on Google Maps). This shop has every kind of basket, straw hat and bag you could imagine.
I unfortunately had to miss Castell de Bellver because it was closed during the day I was in Palma. However, if you have the opportunity, seeing one of the few circular castles in Europe is absolutely worth a visit. General admission: 4 euros.
Where to Eat
Ca’n Joan de s’Aigo – At the recommendation of Miss Katy English who grew up in Mallorca, this pastry and ice cream shop was my first stop after dropping my bags at the hotel. I loved the old-world interior and the quality ice cream to match. Get the hazelnut or almond ice cream with a sidecar of espresso for a DIY affogato.
Ombu – This tapas bar is one of the most popular spots in town. I saw many people turned away without a reservation. So be sure to make one if you want to try innovative fusion tapas.
Cappuccino Grand Café– We had a wonderful breakfast looking out onto Plaza de Cort, but you can also eat at Hotel Cappuccino’s restaurant for lunch or dinner. The restaurant group has 18 restaurants located in Palma, other towns in Mallorca and mainland Spain.
With just a little over 24 hours in Palma, I could only physically eat at so many places. Plus, a lot of restaurants are closed on Sunday and/or Monday. These are a few other places I have my eye on for next time: Patrón Lunares for paella, El Camino for tapas in a gorgeous interior, Manataco for Mexican, and Can Joan Frau for traditional tapas in the Mercat de Santa Catalina.
Since Mallorca is so close to Cádiz, I hope to make it back to see more of this wonderful island and its capital city.
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