So, my travel companion Teea and I booked a room for two nights in a guesthouse close to Bellver Castle which turned out to be a perfect base for our short city break in Palma. We were able to park our rental car on the side of the road for free, the nearest restaurants and the beach boulevard were literally a stone-throw away and, as we love to walk everywhere, the distance to the city centre didn’t feel too long either.
But how about the city itself? What does Palma de Mallorca have to offer in the middle of the winter season when one can only dream about sunny and hot beach holiday?
Winter season definitely has its benefits, and the city isn’t completely dead in November and December. When I gave it another thought after our trip, I was able to put together 15 tips for Palma de Mallorca (with a few extras). But who counts, right?
Attractions near the Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca
If you click yourself on any website listing things to see and do in Palma de Mallorca, the gothic-style cathedral La Seu will be number one on the list (or at least in the top three). And why not; standing at the best possible spot next to the promenade, Catedral de Mallorca is a real eye-catcher for anyone visiting the city.
#1 Take a tour in Catedral de Mallorca
The opening times of the Palma Cathedral vary depending on the season, so the safest bet is to check the times on their website before the trip. We didn’t, and that’s why we missed the interior of La Seu completely; in winter the cathedral closes already at 15.15.
Another minus for winter season is the lack of the rooftop terrace tour. The regular entrance fee (7 euros in 2017) includes a visit to the cathedral and the museum with an audio guide. Some visitors criticise the cathedral for high ticket prices, but most travellers praise the stunning interior saying it’s money well spent.
The Palma Cathedral La Seu zoomed from Bellver Castle.
#2 At least see the cathedral from outside
If the entrance fee makes you shiver, admiring the cathedral from outside warms you up. While doing it, think of the fact that building La Seu took almost 400 years. Once it was finally finished in 1601, the cathedral stood proudly for some 250 years until a disastrous earthquake hit Palma de Mallorca in 1851. Fifty years later the most famous Spanish architect ever lived, Antoni Gaudí, was invited to take over the restoration project of the cathedral. Even if Gaudí’s work is mainly visible in the interior, standing next to the majestic La Seu create a different kind of shivers.
#3 Go there once more; La Seu is stunning after dark
If you’re planning to walk up to Palma Cathedral only once during your visit and you’re not planning to step inside, do it after the sunset. La Seu with its lights against the night sky is a breathtaking combination – from any angle.
#4 The royal palace Palacio Real de l’Almudaina
The Royal Palace stands right next to the cathedral. The entrance fee is 7 euros, but you should know that there are several options for deducted or even free entrance; for example, twice a week the EU residents will gain free entry with a valid passport. You can find the guidance for free admission here (if the page appears in Spanish, you’ll be able to change it from the top right corner). If you’re not interested in the royal interior, have a little break in the beautiful gardens decorated with bubbling fountains.
#5 Casco Antiguo a.k.a the old town of Palma de Mallorca
The narrow and mostly car-free cobblestone streets of the Palma old town are winding right behind the cathedral. While wondering these cute little streets, you can admire the adorable boutiques, pop into Museu de Mallorca that is said to be the best museum in Palma (plus it has a free entrance!) or visit the ancient Arab Baths Banys Árabs.
#6 Walk, bike or roll along the Palma promenade
The beach promenade of Palma de Mallorca, locally known as Paseo Marítimo, is such a peaceful passageway in winter. You can take a stroll under the palm trees and admire the fancy boats at the harbour without needing to mind any beggars, hawkers, pickpockets or even other tourists. The promenade stretches for more than five kilometres allowing you to spend a good hour or two just walking, biking, rollerblading or skateboarding along the beach – and perhaps enjoying some lovely tapas and cañas on the way.
#7 Visit the museum of modern and contemporary art – or at least their massive terrace
The museum of modern and contemporary art Es Baluard would be another great stop along the promenade even if you didn’t feel too artsy. Their enormous terrace with its viewing platform is an excellent spot for admiring the landscapes and taking shots of the cathedral from another perspective. The regular entrance to the museum costs 6 euros (in 2017), but as it seems to be a trend in Palma de Mallorca, also Es Baluard offers discounts and free entrance within some limitations.
Fall in love with Palma de Mallorca from above
The best tip I can offer to any city is to climb up anywhere where you can admire the place from a bird’s-eye view. Besides the rooftop terraces of Palma Cathedral and the viewing platform mentioned above, this is how you can do it in Palma de Mallorca:
#8 The best in Palma: Bellver Castle
There’s no doubt; Bellver Castle with the surrounding park on the Southern side of the city was definitely the highlight of our 2-day visit in wintery Palma de Mallorca. There was barely a handful of other tourists at the end of November, and we were lucky to explore the castle museum entirely on our own. Thanks to the round shape of the castle, you can literally admire a panoramic view of Palma on the top.
Teea exploring Bellver Castle. The first picture is taken from the cathedral.
Bellver Castle was built in the 1300s as a royal residence. Later the castle served as a prison for a good period of time. Today, the castle is housing a museum that describes the long history of Palma de Mallorca. The entrance fee to Bellver Castle is 4 euros, but on Sundays, you can access it free of charge.
Of course, we travelled to the castle by foot, but you can also take the bus if you don’t fancy a walk. Strolling to the castle from the cathedral takes approximately 45 minutes.
Palma de Mallorca photographed from Bellver Castle.
#9 Hike in the castle park
The pine forest surrounding Bellver Castle has a wide network of trails, which makes it a perfect place for a little hike, jog or just a green break from the vivid city life. You only need to pay for accessing the castle, the park itself is free to enter.
#10 Na Burguesa – The highest peak of Palma de Mallorca accessible by car
I found about this awesome tip only after our trip so, unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the place myself. Na Burguesa is the highest peak of Palma de Mallorca where you can drive by car. Besides the viewing spot, the Na Burguesa houses a restaurant called Kaskai – a restaurant with a view indeed.
Can you spot a building on the mountain in the background? That’s Na Burguesa. Too bad I didn’t know it yet when I took this picture in Bellver Castle.
Shopping and tasting Palma de Mallorca
I’m not at all such traveller who’d run from one shop to another but as we’re giving out tips for Palma de Mallorca, let’s do it properly, right? Here are a few top spots for shopping and tasting the local specialities:
#11 Shopping in the centre of Palma
There are a few streets you might want to memorise if you love shopping. Paseo del Borne is nowadays the most important shopping street of Mallorca. Borne is also known as ‘The Golden Mile of Palma’ thanks to its luxury shops like Luis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, etc. Another shopping street worth memorising is called Jaime III where you can also find one of the two El Corte Inglés of Palma de Mallorca. The fashion shops for younger travellers can be found around the main square a.k.a. Plaza Mayor.
Here you can find more tips for shopping in Palma. Oh, and don’t forget that Spanish people have siesta also in winter!
#12 Local markets full of traditional Mallorquin tastes
Exploring the local markets is my kind of shopping when travelling, and there are a few places in Palma to find them. The oldest one is located in the ‘foodie neighbourhood’ Santa Catalina. The traditional Mercat de Santa Catalina is open from Monday until Saturday between 7 am and 5 pm. You’ll also fall in love with the restaurants of Santa Catalina, so make sure you’re hungry when you arrive!
Mercat de Olivar is located in the heart of Palma. Like the one in Santa Catalina, also Mercat de Olivar is open from Monday until Saturday, excluding the local holidays. In the Northern side of the city, you can find gastro-market Mercado Gastronomico San Juan that opens every single day at 12.30 pm and stays open until late at night (yes, it houses a bar!).
#13 Pub crawl with tapas? Yes, please!!!
In case you happen to visit Palma de Mallorca on Tuesday or Wednesday, this is the best tip I can offer: Ruta Martiana is the local Tapas Trail that takes over the Gerreria district twice a week. On Ruta Martiana, the tapas bars in the area offer tapas and cañas (a small beer) or a glass of wine for only 2 euros. Tapas Trail was initially organised on Tuesdays to save the quietest night of the week, but it soon became so popular the tapas bars decided to extend it to Wednesdays, too. This is the cheapest a fun night in Palma can get!
A couple more tips from Palma de Mallorca…
#14 …to Sóller with a museum train
If you’re looking for day trip ideas from Palma, you can take the Ferrocarril to the city of Sóller. More than a 100-year-old museum train takes off next to the bus station and carries passengers to Sóller in an hour. While the journey is guaranteed to be atmospheric and beautiful, some budget travellers might get horrified by the price; one-way journey with the Ferrocarril costs 16 euros. To give you something to compare with, the fuel for our few-day road trip in the mountains cost 15 euros per person (and yes, we visited Sóller as well).
#15 …to anywhere you like with a rental car!
Renting a car in Mallorca in winter couldn’t get any cheaper. We rented our car for less than 5 euros a day, and as mentioned above, the fuel didn’t add too much to the total costs. Palma is pretty and quite lively in winter, but I wouldn’t stay there for too long. After all, Mallorca is full of stunning landscapes and interesting nature attractions you don’t want to miss, so my best tip is to rent a car and explore away!
Stay tuned – on the next Mallorca-themed post I’m going to share with you my opinion on what is best in Mallorca.
Did I forget something? Do you have more tips for Palma de Mallorca to share with us in the comments?