Palma de Mallorca is a major tourist destination for beach goers in the millions. Germans, Russians, even the Spanish come here to luxuriate in the the beach resorts that line vast sections of the island’s coast. But for a more serious tourist there is art, architecture and history, plus a neat one hour train to Sóller, a small, charming and tourist-overrun village in the mountains, in vintage wooden cars. There are galleries for the upscale buyer and for Miró fans there’s his museum and studio on high with fine views of the coast.
After the the Iberians came the Phoenicians and Greeks. The island was ruled from Rome no later than 123 BCE. Then the Arabs arrived, whose fleet moored in the harbor and convinced the islanders to submit to Islamic rule while allowing residents to maintain their religious preferences. Piracy was a significant source of wealth in the Islamic era, most likely largely due to the strategic location of the island. The city was reconquered in 1229 by Jaume (James) I of Aragon. His son built Bellver Castle and started the Cathedral. In 1391 anti-Jewish killings were widespread. Those who did not leave the island and survived were forced to convert. Two gangs ruled the island in the 17th century, when piracy was again widespread, while the Jews suffered tremendously thanks to that lovely chapter of Spanish history, the Inquisition.
The city became a tourist destination in the 1950’s. In 1960 there were 500,000 visitors, in 1997 more than 6,739,700, in 2001 more than 19,200,000 came by air and 1.5 million more by sea. This is an amazing number given how tiny the island is, and the small permanent population: Palma is the largest city with a population of a mere 400,000.
The Cathedral, called La Seu, was started in the 13th but not finished until the early 17th century. It is a Gothic structure and by no means is its exterior among the most attractive of that style. From the sea it features plain bulky buttresses, just small ‘flying’ ones reaching out to support it’s magnificent height. Inside is another matter, is sprinkled with light from the magnificent stained glass windows. The rose window is the largest of the Gothic world. The graceful interior lines make for an amazing visit.
For a resume of Gaudi’s work on the Cathedral, see http://www.gaudiclub.com/esp/e_vida/mallorca.asp In Spanish.
There are some Modernismo buildings in Palma. Modernism is the term given to the version of Art Nouveau in Spain exemplified by Gaudi.
For a change from the narrow streets of the old town and the Gaudi architecture, a common destination is the town of Sóller. It is just 30 or so kilometers from Palma by car. We took the train. The hour long journey takes you through some lovely mountain scenery, passes above and around the town then descends practically to the center.
But what’s there to eat and drink?
This was a rather tasty dish, which we had at La Botana, Career de Can Brodo (see photo below). That’s an alioli (garlic mayo) sauce on top. It covers layers of thin pork and potatoes. We had some excellent local wine, Tentacion Tempranillo 2015, a reasonable 12.50 euros a bottle. It’s a strong wine, at 14.5% (the max you can get in wine is 15%, after which the alcohol kills the yeast). Strong cherry notes after 4 months in the oak.
Want a quick bite? There’s always these empanadas, beef, chicken, veggies, sometimes with peas. They seem to like peas on the island. I’m so glad!
Then there’s “arros brut,’ their rice dish, which we did not try. And tumbet, which we really liked
Here’s a link to a much longer list, and far more than we could try in a few days.
Mallorca is much more rainy than Valencia. Winter is a good time to visit unless you want to swim. Summer is often hot and humid, depending on the direction of the wind. If from the east it is cooler.
I would not put this island on the top of places to visit. If you are down to second or third tier locations, however, it has enough charms to make it worthwhile. It is a short 45 minutes by air from Valencia, and a 20 minute ride to town from the large airport.