Walking in old town Palma

Palma de Mallorca is a city rich in history, culture, and beauty. Located on the Bay of Palma, the capital city spreads along the coast and inland and includes a multitude of distinctive neighbourhoods with their own style. A mix of sea and sun and buzzing city-life, makes Palma one of the most attractive Mediterranean cities today.

The long history of this city is seen from its harbourfront. While Romans are said to have founded a city here around 124 AD, it’s the mediaeval and Renaissance structures that hold steady, including the impressive fortress (now part of the Es Baluard Museum) built to keep out invading forces, the Arab baths, which reflect the Moorish culture which once dominated the land, and of course, the city is anchored by the stunning La Seu Cathedral, built in the 14th century and which sits perched high on its pedestal overlooking the Bay. This historic atmosphere also underlines the old town of Palma, the central core of the city just inland from the waterfront. Tiny, cobblestone streets meander over soft hills, where gorgeous 16th or 17th century palaces are scattered throughout. Many of these old palaces have been renovated in recent years and transformed into private homes, art galleries, shops and museums, including Can Balaguer, Casal Solleric and Galeria Pelaires.

Within this old-town there are a few neighbourhoods to note: The Passeig del Born is an elegant, tree-lined avenue now lined with luxury boutiques and referred to by some as ‘the golden mile’, the Avenida Jaume III, which is a more modern street defined by its covered arcades on both sides of the street that are lined with shops, including the small El Corte Ingles outpost, La Lonja, a web of small streets filled with bars and restaurants and shops and Cort, near the city-hall and a mix of old and new buildings and many restaurants and shops.

Façade of La Seu
Hidden palacios of old town Palma

A dividing point between the old town and Santa Catalina is the contemporary art museum Es Baluard, opened in 2004 and built within a mediaeval artillery fortress.  Santa Catalina is an area which has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to a large number of Swedish expats who have opened businesses or developed properties. Once an old fishing community, it’s now one of the best food destinations on the island while trend-setters have opened small boutiques, bakeries and interiors shops. Along the coast in the other direction is Portixol, an old fishing community with tiny streets and lovely seafront boardwalk, Paseo Maritimo, home to the island’s largest port, and an entry point for cruise ships and ferry boats. Once the heartbeat of stylish tourism in the 1960s-70s, the frontline fell into disrepair in the 1990-early 2000s, but is now seeing a steady refurbishment. It’s an ideal location for its views and centrality and no doubt this will continue to rebound in coming years.

Other frontline communities in Palma include Son Armdams and El Terreno, both ideally situated between Palma centre, the sea and Bellver Castle and Bellver park, an attractive park for walking, yoga or picnicking, just outside of the city. Son Armdams and El Terreno were both popular tourist spots back in the day, and after years of decline, they are slowly emerging as interesting neighbourhoods for creatives and young families. Local city beaches and a popular shopping mall, Porto Pi, along with restaurants and bars, make this area worth exploring.