Mention that you are going to Mallorca and most folk raise an eyebrow; assuming that you are off for a few days of debauchery in Magaluf – and aren’t you a bit old for that kind of thing …
I should know better, but I am always startled by this attitude; Mallorca has always been much more than it’s famously naff beach resorts, but now, even the worst of those has been transformed.
Many visitors to Mallorca miss out on Palma, heading instead for the beaches. This is a mistake, as it’s an ideal city for a long weekend or short break. There are plenty of hotels with both gardens and pools within a few minutes walk of the centre; giving you the best of both worlds: relaxing for a few days and city break combined. Add to this a 2 hour flight and a 10 minute taxi transfer and you can see why I like it.
For the short term visitor, the city divides into 3 basic parts: the old town, Avenida Joan Miro and Santa Catalina. The old town is where all the shopping is and also the biggest selection of bars and restaurants (day and night), Avenida Joan Miro (along the west side of the bay) has late night bars and a few restaurants, the only reason I mention this area is because some guide books refer to it; it was always seedy but now it has gone seriously down hill – I would not like to be in the area after dark.
Santa Catalina is the new trendy area between the former two. Actually; there is nothing new about it; it was, and in many parts still is, a very working class part of town – it”s just that some of the main thoroughfares have been yuppified by the opening of some expensive bars, restaurants and snacketerias. Wander off the main roads and you will still find families sat out on the street, kids playing etc, probably not for much longer though judging by the property prices.
New and fashionable always come with a certain amount dread in my mind; and this is partially the case with the Santa Catalina offerings.
There are not many reasonably priced places in the area and nearly all are obsessed with fusion cuisine – the art of combining foods from different parts of the globe – fine as far as it goes, but fusion cuisine requires a bit more imagination than just putting lemon grass on everything. Foamed, sliced, pureed, whatever; you can barely walk the streets for tripping over the stuff.
As an aside; one of the best meals I ever had was fusion cuisine; some drunken sod spilt a vodka and tonic in my chicken jalfrezi; thereby giving it a Russian twist and a whiff of the Raj in one fell swoop. But I digress …
The menus in Santa Catalina are of course terribly fancy, with long florid descriptions of the food and not a photo in sight..
The other thing that comes with fashionable is attitude: I was treated like a moron for imagining that I might be able to get in without a reservation – on a Tuesday; this was just before the waiter disappeared up his own arse, leaving only a whisp of lemon grass and I think – toasted ginger.
Actually, most staff were perfectly pleasant…
Other places to visit
On the tourist trail but worth a visit is Abaco (Carrer Sant Joan 1), fantastic setting in an old palace, huge cocktails and prices to match. A slightly more budget version is available at Cafe Idem (Sant Magi 15)
A reasonably priced tapas bar in the centre of town is Lizzaran, on Carrer de Can Brondo, one of the alleyways off the top of Born. More like a tavern, you help yourself and pay at the end.
A good bar is Sa Faxina (pronounced fachina), draws a good local crowd, very well run and a bit like being in a Spanish ”Cheers”… Being at the top of Av Argentina it”s handy for town or Santa Catalina.
La Lubina is Palma”s most traditional fish restaurant. It is located right on the harbour. Address: Mueller Vie jo, s/an, 07012 Palma Tel.: +34 971 72 33 50
Cacao Sampaka: part of a Spanish chain owned by pastry chef Albert Adria (brother of Ferran Adria – he of El Bulli fame), is a haven for chocolate lovers. Poshly packaged, delicious, additive-free artisan chocolates, infused with spices, herbs and some downright weird flavours… Located just off the Plaza Major in the centre of town.
I stayed at the Hotel Araxa (pronounced Aratcha) and it was just fine – good rates, facilities and location. Use the Booking.com link on the Travel – Accommodation page to check rates.
Other places to stay
Hotel Born, Sant Jaume 3
Hostal Ritzi, Apuntadores 6
Overall Palma is a great place to visit for a short break or longer. It is expensive compared to other Spanish resorts and cities but the standards are universally high and that is worth a small premium.
Palma side trips
The Soller Train – originally built to bring oranges down from the orange groves, this train now offers very pleasant trips over the Tramunta mountains; to the pretty town of Soller. The service is operated by this old train on Sundays.
On arrival grab a coffee and then get the tram down to the port (Puerto Soller) – about 10 minutes away – for lunch.
Puerto Soller was one of the original Mallorcan holiday destinations (1950’s), and after having been overshadowed by larger resorts has regained some of it’s popularity thanks to the tunnel under the mountains; reducing the journey from Palma to about 40 minutes. The train/ tram is still the best way to arrive.
Fundació Joan Miró – For about 30 years this was the home of the Spanish artist Joan Miró. Now comprises the house, his studio and a gallery space. Very close to Palma on the west side of the bay, go by taxi.