You’ve probably already heard of Palma- if you are not going there already! One of the first things that come to mind when speaking about Mallorca’s capital is its pleasant weather, its aquamarine water, and its beautiful beaches. But Palma has so much more to offer. The city is full of interesting cultural and historical anecdotes, has a burgeoning gastronomic scene, and, on top of that, is a fantastic destination for sports lovers. So keep reading to discover everything you didn’t know about this cosmopolitan city. We bet you’ll save some of the best things to do in Palma for your next trip!
1. La Seu, Mallorca’s Cathedral, a masterpiece full of History and stories
When you arrive in Palma, you can’t miss its cathedral, La Seu. From the top of its 43 metres, Mallorca’s Cathedral overlooks the city and the bay. You’ll surely be impressed by La Seu, one of the most spectacular Gothic cathedrals in the world! But did you know it actually stands on the foundation of a Moorish-era mosque?
Once you enter the cathedral, the eye is immediately catched by the main rose window. With its 13-metres diameter, it’s the largest original rose window of all European Gothic cathedrals! And on the 11th of November and 2nd of February, an extraordinary spectacle happens! A beam of light from the rising sun pierces the main rose window. The main rose window is reflected just below the opposite rose window creating an 8 of dazzling colours and lights. This phenomenon is known as Espectáculo del Ocho or Spectacle of Eight.
Another story about the cathedral is that Gaudí, the famous catalan architect, made some changes at the beginning of the 20th century. The most dramatic addition was the monumental crown-of-thorn illuminated above the altar.
As you see, there are a lot of interesting anecdotes about the Cathedral! So definitely put it on your (best) things to do in Palma!
2. Palma is the second-largest bay in Europe for water sports
If you are coming to Palma, one of the best things to do is probably enjoy the beach and its aquamarine waters. Because of the warm weather all year round, you can appreciate it even in winter! And if you are a water sport lover even more! Indeed, did you know that Palma’s bay is the second largest bay in Europe? Add to this the pleasant weather and the perfect wind conditions and you’ll get the best spot for water sports. If you want to practice (or even take up!) windsurfing we suggest you visit Palma Beach or Playa de Palma.
If you’re more a water skiing, kayaking, kitesurfing type of person, you then need to go to Can Pastilla. And the crystalline waters are of course divine for diving and scuba diving. Several companies and clubs offer to hire equipment and various classes. We are sure you will feel like a fish in the water!
3. Palma is a unique mix of cultures and legacies
Palma is a really cosmopolitan city. It harmoniously combines Roman, Moorish, Christian and Jewish legacies. One of the best things to do in Palma is to take some time to wander in the old town looking at the different architectural styles and discovering hidden gems. The historic centre is a true cultural marvel with its mediaeval streets, its courtyards belonging to old mansions mixed with modernist buildings and art galleries.
You’ll be able to see the Cathedral, the Palace of La Almudaina (which we speak more in detail in point 7). Be sure to make a stop at the Baluard de Sant Pere from where you have the best view of the wall surrounding the city. Another must see is Casal Balaguer, one of the best preserved courtyards open to the public of the city.
You also must pay a visit to the Arab baths, one of the greatest legacies of Moorish architecture in all the island. Although relatively small in size, the central room surrounded by columns, the caldarium and the tepidarium are well preserved.
The Jewish legacy is also very present in Palma. You can still see a commemorative plaque at the old entrance of Call Major, the former Jewish neighbourhood (together with Call Menor). From there, continue to the Iglesia de Montesión (Mount Zion church). The church used to be a synagogue. And if you look closely, you can see few remaining features of the synagogue on the foundations of the current church. In between the stones belonging to the original synagogue, you’ll be able to spot little pieces of paper with wishes written on them!
4. You can visit one of the only circular castles in Europe
You’ve probably already visited a lot of different castles but what about a circular castle? You might not know but the Bellver castle in Palma, is one of the only circular castles in Europe and the only one in Spain! Perched on top of a wooded hill overlooking Palma’s Bay, it offers a unique 360-degree panorama on the sea and on the bay of Palma. The castle in itself is also worth a visit with its Gothic architecture and arches, its 3 three original towers from the 14th century and the Torre del Homenaje built later. A mandatory visit on any trip to Palma.
And if you are interested in Palma’s unique mix of legacies, you must visit the Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat (City History Museum) housed in the castle.
5. You can admire the second-oldest lighthouse in Spain
One of the best things to do in Palma, and you may not have known it, is Portopi’s lighthouse. It’s not a simple lighthouse, but the second-oldest functioning lighthouse in Spain and the third one in the world! It’s a real symbol of the city and its history. Inside the lighthouse, you can visit a permanent exhibition of maritime signals in Europe and more especially along the Balearic coastal areas. But be aware, you need to make a booking to visit it!
6. It’s the perfect family destination
Did you know that Palma is perfect for holidays with children? With its nearby beaches, family-friendly accommodation, nice weather and short flight time from the UK it is the perfect destination for a family getaway. Moreover, last year Palma was awarded the UNICEF ‘Child Friendly City’ seal. Palma offers a lot of children’s parks with games like Parque de Ses Fonts or Parque Pocoyó and Parque Barco Pirata. If you plan to visit with family, make sure to stop at attractions like Palma aquarium. Young and old alike will love it!
7. You can visit one of the official Royal Residences of the Spanish Royal Family
Just a few distances away from La Seu, Mallorca’s cathedral, is located the Palace of La Almudaina, one of the official Royal Residence of the Spanish Royal Family. A cultural and monumental landmark in Palma and an unmissable thing to do while in Palma. The building is a witness to the cultural and historical legacy of the city. Indeed, before being modified by the Moors and transformed into a fortress, it was actually built by the Romans.
You can visit the Palace, but of course, some parts are closed to the public. The visit will take you to the parade ground, the Gothic chapel of Santa Ana, the Arab’s bath, and the climax of the visit, the terraces that offer a spectacular view of the sea and the bay of Palma. After the visit, you’ll have no doubt why it’s one of the Royal Residences of the Spanish Royal Family!
8. You have the unique opportunity to enter a cloistered convent
Have you ever imagined what a cloistered convent looks like? Then, one of the best things to do in Palma for you is visiting the Purísima Concepción (Capuchin nuns). It’s a unique opportunity! The convent was founded in 1662 and preserves valuable historical, artistic and ethnographic legacy of the past of Mallorca. It also houses a remarkable collection of Christmas nativity scenes. And if you are visiting during the Christmas holiday, be sure to buy some home-made sweets sold through the turnstile window. It will make an original souvenir of Palma. The convent is currently under construction but should reopen to visitors next Spring!
9. It’s one of the best places to play golf
As said before, Palma enjoys a nice Mediterranean climate that makes the city perfect for all sorts of sportive activities. And playing golf is one of them. The city has 5 courses with 18 holes each and they are all situated very close to the city centre and Playa de Palma. But did you know that playing golf in Palma is following tradition and great names like Severiano Ballesteros or Jack Nicklaus?
By the way, his teaching method is used exclusively in the Golf Park Mallorca Puntiró. And if you need another reason to be convinced: is there anything better than playing with an impressive view? Enjoy a splendid view of Mallorca’s Cathedral above the green at the Son Muntaner and Son Quint courses or of the blue sea of Pama’s bat at Son Vida Golf. So, which one will you pick?
10. The city is a gourmet paradise
Last but not least, the city is a real paradise for gourmets. Palma has a rich gastronomic scene with a wide range of bars and restaurants where to have some drinks and dine. The choice is immense as Palma offers a really cosmopolitan cuisine mixing local products and traditions from all over the world. One of the best things to do in Palma during your holidays is definitely to try different kinds of cooking!
The city is also full of local product markets that will appeal to all your senses through their vivid colors and atmosphere and their delicious smells. Every market is encouraging local and kilometer-zero products, so you’ll be sure to taste only the best of what Palma has to offer. Markets are also the perfect place to try out tapas and feel like a real local. We suggest you visit the market de Pere Garau, the only market in Palma where living animals are still being sold.
The variety of stands from South America to Chinese restaurants or local tapas stands makes it one of the best places to discover local and worldwide gastronomy. Also, make a stop at the Mercat 1930, a gastronomic hub where Mallorcan cooking meets trends from all over the world especially Mexico or East Asia.
Our last recommendation: do not leave Palma without tasting the ensaimadas, a pastry that can be plain or filled with spaghetti squash jam, sobrasada sausage, figs, abricots etc. everything is a nice filler with it! We can taste them in various bakeries and pastry shops.
That’s it! Palma has no more secrets for you! Now that you know everything about the best things to do in Palma don’t wait anymore and book your next trip there!