A visit to Mallorca cannot exclude the capital, La Palma, the jewel of the Balearic Islands.
La Palma is a big city with almost 400,000 inhabitants and on the streets of the modern city, frankly, I didn’t feel anything different from other cities of the same size in southern Spain. As soon as I went out, I felt like I was in Malaga for example, for those who have ever been to Andalusia.
La Palma is known worldwide, primarily for its long beaches and especially for the hundreds of hotels lined up in the southern bay of La Palma around Arenal Beach.
But what I think individualizes the city more than anything else is its old centre, with its medieval masterpieces preserved intact.
The pièce de résistance of the old town is the Cathedral of Mallorca or La Seu as the locals call it for short. It is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Spain.
I recommend you start your visit in the old city centre with the cathedral, starting from the Parc de La Mar park. There you will also find a spacious underground car park, where you can leave your car and visit the streets of the old town at your leisure.
The view of the cathedral and the Royal Almudaina Palace next door from the Parc del Mar is superb.
Access to the cathedral and the beautiful streets of the old centre is by climbing several flights of stairs, La Seu being built on the high cliff of the harbour.
The cornerstone of the cathedral was laid in 1230 by King Jaume I, after the liberation of the island from Arab rule, and was built over the Arab mosque and completed 400 years later.
To visit the cathedral, I recommend you to buy tickets online, with the time of entry, from the official website and select the ticket that includes the visit of the terrace. Worth every penny. Here is a direct link.
The interior of the cathedral is spectacular, the central nave being 44 metres high. The central stained glass rosette is composed of 1200 pieces of coloured glass and measures almost 11 metres in diameter.
The visit to the cathedral terraces is unique.
It can only be climbed at fixed times in groups, as only one person in a row can climb the spiral staircase, which has no less than 137 steps. Of course, the ladder is not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia.
Access is allowed on the terraces of both side aisles of the cathedral from where you can admire both the panorama of the old town, with its narrow streets and tiled roofs, and the superb La Palma harbour with the masts of dozens of yachts moored.
Getting off the terrace is a new adventure, as you have to wait for one group to get on until another is allowed to get off.
Security guards are everywhere and their coordination is admirable, considering the large number of visitors.
Across the road from the cathedral is the Royal Almudaina Palace, the official residence of King Juan Carlos on the island, which can also be visited every day of the week, except Mondays, when all museums are closed. Here are the details if you want to book a ticket online.
Another landmark in the old town are the former Arab baths, located in a shady courtyard near the cathedral.
But after having visited years ago the Arab baths of Granada, “El Banuelo”, at the foot of the Alhambra, they seemed to me a pale shadow of them.
In general, it must be said that, unlike in Andalusia, where the remains of the Arab heritage can be found everywhere, surviving the times and even being a source of pride for the locals, in Mallorca, they have been almost completely removed.
I also enjoyed visiting St. Francisc, an absolutely special monastic complex, which had a special meaning for me.
As we visited La Palma in June, when the school year had not yet ended in Spain, we were surprised to find all the halls of the monastery full of students. Because the Franciscan monastery is at the same time a general school and a university, besides the religious activity that takes place as in any other establishment of this kind.
We left the monastery and sought the coolness of a terrace to catch our breath a little more in the heat of the day.
By pure chance I discovered one of the most beautiful places I’ve stayed in Mallorca, which I recommend to you.
This is the terrace of the Hotel Cappuccino Palma, located right across the street from the town hall, on Placa de Cort street.
Don’t stay on the street, enter the place and there, in an enclosed courtyard with Moorish influences, perfectly restored, linger over a glass of sangria and a tapas. It will be a unique experience.
And don’t forget, if you’re in La Palma you should visit Castell del Bellver.
Located in a park, on a hill, probably in the most stylish district of La Palma, the castle offers, as its name suggests, a superb view of the city.
A journey by Train de Soller
The journey from La Palma to Port de Soller by historic train and then by vintage tram is pleasant entertainment on a day when you want to transport yourself back in time, away from the hectic present.
The experience of driving a kind of mocanita from La Palma to Soller is very pleasant and takes about an hour. The “vintage” tramway, which is more like a sort of titicar, from Soller to Port de Soller is not as pleasant.
We also didn’t like the fact that when you get to your destination, as soon as you get off the tram, you feel as if you were thrown into the arms of the various “you-know-what” vendors and the crowded terraces of the port, as if the purpose of the trip was just to bring you to them.
We still tried to enjoy the otherwise beautiful harbour scenery.
It is advisable to buy your reservation online, as the number of seats is limited, both outbound and return.
Go to trendesoller.com and remember to book the combined route, train + tram, round trip. Don’t leave yourself more than an hour in Port de Soller because there’s not much to do there, especially if it’s hot.
Here is a video of the road to show you what and how:
A visit to the streets of Valldemossa
A tourist landmark not to be missed is the beautiful village of Valldemossa, located in the north-west of the island just 25 kilometres from La Palma.
Famous for the famous artists such as George Sand and Frederic Chopin who lived and created here, Valldemossa is probably the most beautiful example of traditional local architecture.
A stroll along its narrow cobbled streets, bordered by red-walled stone houses with green shutters, will immediately win you over.
Arta – Caves of Arta – Canyamel Tower – Castell de Capdepera
The route to Art and Castell de Capdepera reveals the beauty of the north-eastern part of the island. Here is the route we followed, starting from Port d’Alcudia.
In the first part of the route, we set as our landmark the Coves d’Arta or caves of Arta, located somewhere on the eastern shore of the island in the village of Canyamel.
The road meanders through cultivated fields and in its last part, to Canyamel, through golf courses and luxury villas.
The caves of Arta are usually less visited than the Cuevas del Drach. However, they are just as spectacular.
Although it doesn’t include an underground lake like the Cuevas del Drach, the route is punctuated by natural and visual surprises.
Each tour is conducted with a guide who presents the most important parts of the cave in four languages. Entrance to the cave is allowed in guided groups every half hour.
Here are a few images that may spark your interest in this lens.
On the way back, passing by the Torre de Canyamel tower, we made a detour to Capdepera, where a beautiful medieval castle is worth visiting.
The village of Capdepera is impressive due to the excellent preservation of the medieval buildings. They are still inhabited today and keep on their facades the traces of archaic building techniques, with perfectly preserved terracotta drainage systems.
Castell de Capdepera, situated somewhere on the hill overlooking the village, preserves an authentic, medieval atmosphere, forgotten by the world. Worth a visit.
The city of Arta is famous for the local fairs that are organized here.
The Church of Art and Sanctuary of St. Salvador located at the top of the hill, near the cathedral.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Mallorca is an island that offers something for everyone who visits it: bars, clubs and crowded beaches, to the tourist who enjoys a dynamic and noisy holiday but also secluded beaches, mountains and dreamy landscapes to those looking to load up with beauty.
The biggest mistake is to let yourself be influenced by travel agency advertisements. They capture only that part of the Balearic Islands that is characteristic of industrial, mass tourism, which is, of course, loved by a large proportion of visitors to the island.
But we discovered a totally different island, full of challenges and breathtaking landscapes. With a fabulous history and perfectly preserved remains.
Last but not least, we discovered the local gastronomy, somewhat related to the Maltese one. I recommend the rabbit with onions, their traditional food and Mallorcan wine, excellent and quite cheap compared to other overrated varieties.
Don’t miss at least a picturesque local fair, where everything from live animals to agricultural and household products are sold.
And yes, if I ever go back to Mallorca, I will definitely go again to Cala Figuera which has remained in my heart as a dreamland.
Last modified: 17 September 2022