Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners – Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

Palma is a stunning city. It’s a city that has everything – beautiful gothic architecture, winding narrow streets full of bars and restaurants and beautiful white sandy beaches and mountains a short drive away. It’s perfect for a long weekend (I was here for 3 days) but you could also very easily spend a week here as there are so many things to do in Palma.

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

After arriving with a particularly raucous hen do who felt the need to run as fast as they could yelling at the top of their voices to get to passport control, we got our first glimpse of the wonderful gothic cathedral (La Seu), dominating the skyline. It’s honey-coloured stone exterior was beautifully lit at night when we arrived, but looks just as stunning during the day against a deep blue sky. It’s spires are so intricately designed and the scale is unimaginably huge.


Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

Quirky Cafes and Boutique Shops

Radiating out north-west from the cathedral are the winding, narrow streets of the old town, filled with quirky cafes, tapas bars, jewellery (particularly pearls) and boutique shops as well as magnificent renaissance buildings and monuments. It’s a lovely area to wander round, we managed to while away a good few hours doing just that. We had lunch at a lovely little tapas bar called S’Olivera (we couldn’t not go there, it being virtually my sister’s namesake) with fresh and modern decor. They do a great deal – at the time of writing, 5 tapas dishes, bread, olives and 2 glasses of sangria for €23.50 – and it was very tasty 🙂

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

As soon as you head in a more north-easterly direction from the cathedral, the throngs of people soon thin out, especially on a sunday. You’ll find yourself on quiet, charming streets, popping up in pretty squares every now and then. From here, it’s another 5-10 minute walk to Palma’s main beach, an impressive long, sandy strip with beach clubs at either end. We went to the Amina beach club which is at the end nearest the city – it was a little on the small side but had reasonably priced drinks, impressive views and chilled-out music. We managed to get a table (all the sunbeds were full) but in peak season I’m pretty sure you’d have to book ahead. It was a mixed crowd and there seemed to be only one hen do – the bride-to-be and her friend had swimming costumes with the groom-to-be’s face on. Brilliant. I’m so doing that for mine.


Booking.com


Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

We stayed at the Hesperia Ciutat de Mallorca hotel, a 5 minute drive (or a 45-minute walk) to the west of the city centre. We walked it a couple of times but there’s also a bus stop right behind the hotel which was handy (and cheap) to get into the centre or a taxi rank right next to it. On the first night we went for a wander from the hotel and walked past a great little bar called Garito Cafe – it seemed to attract quite a young, hip crowd and was really pumping. However, when we tried to return the next night, all the tables and chairs (which we’d thought were permanently there) had mysteriously disappeared and it was eerily quiet. Strange for a saturday night…..we were beginning to think we’d imagined it but it’s definitely marked on google maps!

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

Further on from Garito’s was Tito’s, Mallorca’s oldest nightclub that once played host to the Hollywood stars from the 1950s. It was their opening night – the red carpet was out and there were a lot of bright lights and (probably) z-list celebrities. Pacha is actually very near to our hotel and we were looking forward to having a night there but it turns out it’s been mysteriously closed down and the name removed….hopefully not a permanent move.

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

A Bar Full of Flowers and Fruit…

We declined an invitation to Club de Mar from a man we met on the street the night before named Frank (very spanish) – even with the promise of free entry and a free drink, we were suspicious that it might actually be a not very fun night and they were in desperate need of some guests. Instead, we went to Abaco, a bar full of flowers and fruit in an opulent 17th century style house behind huge old wooden doors. It’s definitely one of the most unusual bars I’ve ever been in with a vaulted ceiling, oversized furniture, candelabras, statues and delicious cocktails. We walked in to the sound of powerful classical music, cementing it’s regal, mysterious feeling.

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

We ate a few doors down at Koa, a Hawaiian-inspired restaurant and bar serving gourmet pizzas with grassy moss on the walls. There was yet another hen do but this lot were very refined 😉 We ended up on Sant Magi street which was full of lively bars – in one there were two men who must have been in their 70s, dressed in full suits and ties and carrying mysterious leather satchels, having a whale of a time.

Gothic Inspiration

Our hotel was near Castell de Bellver, the medieval castle which is one of only a few round castles in Europe and gothic in style. It was a short walk, up a few steep and pretty residential streets to reach one of the entrances to the park surrounding the castle. It was another 10 minutes or so to get to the top.

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

The castle was the residence for the kings of Mallorca up until the 18th century, after which it was used as a military prison. It’s been in civilian control since the mid 20th century and is one of the main tourist attractions on the island – we met all the tour buses when we got to the top! The 360 views from the top were gorgeous – although not quite as peaceful as we were hoping with a woman shouting repeatedly at her husband for not being able to use their camera properly. He kept videoing her by mistake.

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

Mixing with the Locals

Sunday nights in Palma definitely seem a little more subdued and a lot of the restaurants close so we asked the girl on reception for a recommendation of a fish/seafood restaurant. She couldn’t do enough to help us which was lovely – she phoned the mysterious Antonio for his recommendations and booked us a table at Sa Ronda in the Santa Catalina area of the city. We got out the taxi and the waiter came to the door to meet us and knew exactly who we were which was a nice surprise! We were the only tourists in the restaurant which was brilliant (and meant we got free glasses of prosecco) – it was buzzing and full of locals. The menu was fairly small which was also a good sign – we knew the food would be good when we received bread accompanied by the most delicious garlic sauce I think I’ve ever had. We ordered a mixed plate of typical Mallorcan tapas to start which consisted of all sorts of rich and tasty (and in some cases unidentifiable) bits of meat and fish.

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

The mains were a bit more of a mystery, despite reading off the english menu. I ordered prawns which the waiter explained were grilled with garlic – fine by me. Sarah ordered sea bass but unfortunately they didn’t have any so the waiter recommended a local fish (which I’ve forgotten the name of). Two dishes turned up, neither of which had prawns on – it turned out they’d done their translation wrong and I’d actually got squid. Which I was just as happy with as I love all seafood – however, I don’t think I’ve ever had it served whole before. I had great fun creating my own squid rings. And I have to say, it was the most delicious tasting squid I’ve ever had. Sarah’s fish was also incredibly tasty. Afterwards, we headed to Ginbo (catalan for good gin) which was a great little bar with gin cocktails all named after songs. This fact made it difficult to choose as I felt I had to love the song as well as like the sound of the cocktail, haha. We sat at the bar listening to the jazz soundtrack and chatting to the barmen.

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

Crystal Clear Waters

On our last day, we decided to walk the other way along the coast from our hotel. It only took 15 minutes to reach the stunning white-sand beach of Cala Major with its crystal clear waters, so we grabbed two sunbeds and a parasol and settled in. There’s a cool little surf cafe called Kokomo right on the beach where we had lunch – finally, I got my garlic prawns 😉 It was nearing 3.30pm by the time we’d finished our sangria, so we reluctantly packed up and headed back to the hotel to catch a taxi to the airport…..

Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners - Things to do in Palma, Mallorca

If you would like more suggestions for hidden gems of Mallorca, this book is a great place to start:

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20 Replies to “Hidden Gems and Gothic Stunners – Things to do in Palma, Mallorca”

  1. Oh my goodness! That place looks beautiful! Thank you for sharing your pictures as well 🙂 Though, I’m sure as most people state, “pictures don’t do it justice.” … Those pictures are still gorgeous! It’s amazing, all the wonderful places in the world.

    Hahaha… I actually can relate to your “mis-translation” story. As I was travelling Thailand, I had ended up with a squid on my plate! I don’t mind light seafood – but I was unable to take the texture of squid tentacles on my tongue! LOL!

  2. WOWZA. My oh my. What a gorgeous review of Mallorca. I want to take the love of my life, Karen, here. No doubt about it. Half of her heritage is from Spain.

    I love your pictures and descriptions. Stunning and amazing. I’m so jealous of you getting to go hah.

    Definitely a hidden gem I wouldn’t have heard or known about without your write up.

    Thanks!
    Tim

    1. Hi Tim,

      It certainly is a gorgeous island and Palma is a beautiful city. I’m sure Karen would be very happy if you took her here!

      Glad you enjoyed my post 🙂

      Louise

  3. Louise
    I’m impressed with this post!
    Palma looks like the type of place my wife and I would love to visit. We both enjoy the “Hidden Gem” environment. Small shops, restaurants and sandy beaches. This place seems to have it all.
    When is the best time to visit Palma?
    Scott

    1. Hi Scott,

      Yes, it really does have everything and is easy to fly to from Europe. I would say just before and after the peak summer season would be best – so late April to the start of June or mid September to mid October.

      It’s not too hot to walk or cycle then and you can still find space on the beach and at the restaurants! Do let me know if you decide to go, I’d be happy to help you out with more suggestions 🙂

      Louise

  4. Hi Louise!

    Thanks for the awesome pics. In fact, after reading this post, I want to make Palma my next destination. I’ve never been to Spain and if I had to visit, Palma, Mallorca would certainly not be on my list. Your beautiful review has changed my mind…but first, permit me to ask a few questions. For a couple, how much do you think we should budget for a 5-day stay at Palma? How about the local people? Do most of them speak English? My spouse and I also speak French, so we tend to visit countries where the local people speak mainly English or French. And finally, judging from the photos you probably visited during summer. Does it get really hot during the day?
    Thanks again and sorry for the many questions. Your post has really pique my curiosity.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Princilla, I’m happy to answer your questions! I can’t recommend Palma highly enough 🙂

      visited during May which is just before the peak summer season. It’s warm enough to lie on the beach but not too hot to walk or cycle around. I would say it got up to around 25 degrees in the day so not too hot. It’s a fairly touristy place on the whole so most of the locals spoke at least a bit of english, some of them extremely good english – and most of the restaurants have menus in english too.

      In terms of budget, it depends what you like doing – there are really top-notch expensive restaurants but you can also find some brilliant deals like the one we had at S’Olivera. The hotels in the city centre were very pricey (we couldn’t find one for less than 120 euros a night) so we stayed slightly outside at the Hesperia. There were quite a few hotels around ours that were all a similar price. Accommodation still isn’t cheap though, especially in the summer peak season. I think I spent 300 euros over 3 days for everything except accommodation but that included money on shopping too.

      I hope that helps. And please let me know if you decide to visit, I’d be happy to give you more information and suggestions 🙂

      Louise

      1. Thank you, Louise. It’s very kind of you to provide these details.

        My spouse and I are planning to take a short break at the end of next month. We are seriously looking at this now and thinking of visiting Palma instead of Bamberg, a small city in Germany. We had put aside about 2800 euros, and it looks this would be enough if we keep it simple.

        Thanks again!

        1. Hi,

          Glad I could be of help to you! 2800 euros should be enough for the two of you for 5 days 🙂 The end of next month will still be a good time as it should’t be too hot and it’s before the school holidays so prices shouldn’t be sky high. Please let me know if you do end up going, I’d love to hear about your visit!

          Louise

  5. Great post. Thanks for sharing, I love the old feel of this place especially the castles. Definitley going to use this if I ever get to Spain. It’s making me want to chase the sun right now.

  6. Looks like you had a great time! I´d love to have some prawns with garlic, seafood is always so good at the seaside! In May it seems it is not as touristy as I imagine it gets during the summer…

  7. What a beautiful place! I can’t get over the gorgeous color of the water in your beach photos! I love destinations that are perfect for long weekends or short breaks because that’s normally about the length of all of our trips. Palma looks perfect for a nice, relaxing 3-day weekend!

  8. That bar with flowers and fruit looks super interesting! And I didn’t know they have beach clubs in Palma as well. I wish I had gone on my trip there.. oh well, I guess I just have to go back 🙂

  9. What a great place for a short break! I’ve never visited Palma, but now it’s on my list for a European short break. I would totally want to try out the restaurants and definitely the gin bar!

  10. Palma is one of my favourite cities in Spain and I think it’s completely underrated and overshadowed by the rest of the island. You’ve written a great post about it. Thanks for sharing!
    PS. Abaco bar is incredible! 🙂

  11. I love visiting new cities, especially ones where the colors are so brilliant, the architecture so non-western (European/Spanish… love it!), and the food so delicious! Your pics make me want to hop on a plane right now. I could totally use a “get lost in a gorgeous city” weekend!
    I actually had to google where Palma, Mallorca is, I admit… which I think perhaps is what makes it such a hidden gem! It’s not all that well know, perhaps? I’ve been all over Europe (although granted, not Spain), but I couldn’t place it. Is it a popular holiday spot for Spaniards or Italians?

    1. Hi Marlaine! It’s actually very popular with the British and other Northern Europeans – its only a 2 hour flight and has the wonderful weather that we lack here in the North! It seems to be fairly popular with the Spaniards as well – it’s only a short hop from the mainland and actually we met quite a few people from the mainland studying or working on the island.

      The whole island is beautiful, you can easily hire a car and explore a bit more, I can definitely recommend it!

      Louise

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