Palma is the sole major city in the Balearic Islands and, as the capital, boasts an array of historical sites, landmarks, and cathedrals that reflect its Roman, Moorish, and Christian heritage. The name Palma can be traced back to its Roman origins, although human settlement on this land dates back to the Bronze Age. Over the centuries, Palma transitioned between Arabic and Catholic rule, and today it stands as a tourist-friendly city where modern cafes, hotels, and shops coexist within ancient architectural marvels. When you visit Palma, you can delve into its rich history at numerous sites, museums, and landmarks.
Plaza de España, Palma
If you are arriving by bus you will start off here, the main terminus.
The Plaza de España or Placa d’Espanya is a beautiful square located in the heart of Mallorca. It provides you with unparalleled scenic views and a relaxed, calm atmosphere. A favourite with locals and visitors, this square is ideal for a walk or just to sit back and take it easy on one of the numerous benches. It features pretty fountains that by night turned into a visual wonder. Eclectic music and vibrant lights give such an effect that the fountains seems to be virtually dancing.Read more about Plaza de España, Palma
Leave the square at its most southerly exit and turn right down Carrer Convent Caputxins.
Mercat Olivar embodies the essence of a traditional Spanish market on a grand scale. Every day, it welcomes visitors, inviting them to wander through its corridors and purchase fresh food and products directly from the producers. The first floor boasts a wide variety of fresh produce, while the second floor is dedicated entirely to meat and cheese. Along the way, you’ll encounter vendors serving delectable tapas at affordable prices—truly representing the pinnacle of street food quality.Read more about Mercat Olivar
Leave the market using the west ext onto Plaça de l’Olivar, turn left. Walk along La Casa de Valentina and follow the road as it turns left into Carrer d’En Vilanova. You will pass a small square and the Església de la Mercè – Pares Mercedaris, a Catholic Church, belonging to the Order of Mercy, built at the beginning of the 17th century. Turn right into Carrer de Can Martí Feliu until you reach Plaça del Banc de l’Oli. Leave the square (oval) at its south west exit and walk towards to archway entrance to Plaza Mayor.
Plaça Major serves as the primary square in Palma, characterized by its rectangular layout and framed by traditional yellow buildings adorned with green shutters. Over the centuries, it has remained the vibrant heart of city life.
This square occupies the site where the San Felipe Neri convent once stood and later became the headquarters of the notorious Spanish Inquisition in Mallorca, a role it held until 1823. The present square, as we know it today, took shape during the 19th century, with construction spanning from 1825 into the early 20th century.
The attractive edifices surrounding Plaça Major feature arched colonnades on the ground floor, providing sheltered walkways where shops could showcase their wares. Nowadays, these buildings house a diverse array of cafes, bars, and restaurants, many of which offer terraces that spill out onto the square. Here, street artists and musicians often entertain passers-by.
Plaça Major also hosts a craft market catering to tourists seeking souvenirs. This market operates throughout the year and is especially lively in July, August, September, during Easter, and at Christmas.Read more about Plaza Mayor, Palma
Plaza de Cort
Leave Plaza Mayor at the large exit in the middle of the south side. Walk down Carrer de Colom until you reach Plaza de Cort.
The delightful and petite Plaza de Cort or Plaça Cort, nestled in the heart of the city, is renowned for its ancient olive tree known as the ‘Olivera de Cort,’ which proudly graces its centre.
The square earned its name ‘Cort’ because it once served as the gathering place for the feudal court. Dominating the plaça is the town hall, a structure crafted between 1649 and 1680 by local architects Pere Bauçá, Miquel Oliver, and Bartomeu Calafat. Its façade is adorned with a blend of Mannerist and Baroque architectural elements.
At the heart of Plaça Cort lies the famous ‘Olivera de Cort,’ a six-hundred-year-old olive tree that was transported to Palma from the Pedruixella Petit estate in Pollença in 1989, symbolizing peace. This remarkable olive tree stands at a height of seven meters and is a popular attraction for visitors, many of whom enjoy searching for intriguing shapes on its trunk, such as an ear referred to as the ‘Orella de Mallorca.’
Around the square, you’ll find several charming bars and cafes, many of which offer inviting terraces that extend across Plaça Cort. Additionally, there’s an ice cream parlor known as Giovanni’s, which is notable for its royal patronage, as they deliver their delectable ice creams to the Spanish Royal House. Treat yourself to one of their ice creams and savor it beneath the shade of the ancient olive tree.Read more about Plaza de Cort
Leave by the south east exit to Plaça de Santa Eulàlia and the Església de Santa Eulàlia (Church of Santa Eulalia). Walk down Carrer de Can Fortuny and Carrer del Call. The juction is the locaton of the entrance to the old Jewish Quarter, look for a symbol on the floor. Turn right onto Carrer de Santa Clara and first left. At the junction you can either head directly down Carrer de Can Serra to get to the baths or buy some nougat from the Nuns at the Convent de Santa Clara.
These 10th-century baths are one of the few remaining vestiges of the Arab city of Medina Mayurqa, known today as Palma.
Dating back to a period spanning the 10th to 12th centuries, the Arab Baths were constructed using antique elements and recycled capitals from earlier epochs, including Muslim, Byzantine, and Roman capitals. These baths are seamlessly integrated into the gardens of the former orchard of the Can Fontirroig manor house.
They likely formed part of a nobleman’s residence and are akin to similar structures found in various Islamic cities. The tepidarium, a warm room, features a dome resembling a half orange and is illuminated by 25 circular openings to admit sunlight, supported by around a dozen columns.
One remarkable aspect is the unique character of each column, suggesting that they were salvaged from the remnants of diverse Roman edifices—a testament to early recycling practices. Hammams, such as these, served not only as places for bathing but also as social gathering spots. The courtyard, adorned with cacti, palm trees, and orange trees, would have provided a pleasant area for cooling off after a soothing bath.Read more about Banys Arabs (Arab Baths), Palma
Museu de Mallorca
Continue down Carrer de Can Serra turning right and right again to reach the Museu de Mallorca.
This museum offers a first-hand journey through the history of the island. Housed within a building erected on the grounds of a former 16th-century Baroque palace, it still preserves a significant portion of its original architecture. Within its walls, visitors can explore a wide range of artefacts spanning from prehistoric eras to the 19th century. The museum also boasts a notable collection of ceramics, showcasing various styles and historical periods, including the Modernist creations from the La Roqueta factory.Read more about Museo de Mallorca
Jardí del Bisbe
Walk up C/ de la Portella and turn left and walk down Carrer de Sant Pere Nolasc. The Ornate entance to Jardí del Bisbe is on your left.
The Jardí del Bisbe, or Bishop’s Garden, is situated behind Palma Cathedral, providing an exclusive and refreshing vantage point for viewing the cathedral’s rooftop and the rear façade of the Episcopal Palace. To enter the gardens, visitors pass through an impressive gate constructed in the mannerist style.
Once inside, you’ll encounter a layout reminiscent of the gardens that adorned the “Casals” or mansions of Palma. The design features meticulously trimmed hedges arranged in geometric patterns, an orchard, and a pond known as the “safareig.” During the spring and summer, the pond boasts blooming water lilies, adding color and fragrance to the surroundings.Read more about Jardí del Bisbe (Bishop’s Garden), Palma
Leave the Bishops gardens turning left and left again.
This compact museum, housing a collection of religious and historical artifacts, is situated within a section of the former episcopal palace situated discreetly behind the cathedral.
The bishop’s palace, originally constructed in the 13th century, boasts a primarily Gothic architectural style, though it has seen numerous renovations over the centuries, altering its initial appearance.
Within the museum’s exhibits, you’ll find an array of items such as paintings, pulpits, and prayer books. Notable highlights include exquisite Arab tapestries, a diverse collection of ceramics spanning five centuries, and a 17th-century painting depicting baby Jesus carrying a cross. Be sure to keep an eye out for the portrait of St. George (Sant Jordi), set against the backdrop of medieval Palma.Read more about Museu Diocesa de Mallorca
Royal Palace of La Almudaina
Walk alongside the Cathedral on the aptly named Carrer del Mirador or Street of the view. The entrance to the Royal Palace is in front of you.
The Royal Palace of La Almudaina is located just opposite Palma’s imposing Cathedral ‘La Seu’. It’s elevated position overlooking the Bay of Palma lent it great strategic importance throughout the ages. Today, it’s one of the capital’s main attractions. If you are staying in Palma, it’s a short walk or public bus ride to the palace. There is also ample parking in front of the Cathedral along the Paseo Marítimo. The word ‘Almudaina’ comes from the Arabic for ‘fortress’. However, long before the Moors arrived in the 10th century, the site had already been used by Romans, and even further back, by the Talaiots. When the Christians took possession of the island in the 13th century, the Moorish features were largely demolished. Under King Jaume II, the palace adopted the Levantine Gothic style. Visitors can wander through its numerous rooms, soaking up its history. There are a series of three grand rooms where you may notice the bricked-in Gothic arches cut off in the middle. These rooms, which are furnished with period pieces and tapestries, would have once been double their present height and formed a vast hall.Read more about Royal Palace of La Almudaina
La Seu cathedral
Turn left out of the palace and right along the north side of the Cathedral.
The monumental La Seu cathedral is an immense structure situated by the sea, and its construction spanned several centuries. Its origins trace back to around 1230, at the command of King Jaume I of Mallorca, following the conclusion of the lengthy Moorish rule over the Mediterranean island. This grand church was erected on the site of an ancient mosque. The construction process endured for over 350 years, culminating in the completion of the nave and the main entrance in 1601.
Upon closer inspection, the colossal dimensions of La Seu cathedral become apparent. The building spans nearly 110 meters in length and boasts a width of 33 meters. Its nave reaches a towering height of 44 meters, ranking among the largest of its kind in Europe. One of the cathedral’s remarkable features is the Gothic rosette window on its eastern facade. With a diameter of 12.55 meters, this window comprises over 1,200 vibrant stained glass fragments. When the sunlight filters through, it conjures mesmerizing kaleidoscopic patterns within the interior, captivating all who behold it.Read more about La Seu: the Cathedral of Palma
Leaving the Cathedral head back to the Palace and turn right to get to Palau March.
Situated within the Palau March, a residence constructed between 1939 and 1945 for Majorcan banker Juan March Ordinas (1880-1962) in Palma, this museum is a splendid testament to architectural and historical elegance. The project was skillfully crafted by architect Luis Gutierrez Soto of Madrid, incorporating a historical design language enriched by influences from Majorcan and Italian baroque palaces.
Notable features of the Palau March Museum encompass the grand courtyard of honor and its meticulously adorned façade. The latter showcases intricate ornamentation and an open gallery, now transformed into the museum’s cafeteria, which serves as an outstanding vantage point offering panoramic views of the heart of Palma.Read more about Palau March Museum
S'Hort del Rei (Royal Garden), Palma
Walk down the steps of beside the Palace which you will walk anticlockwise around.
The gardens, originally dating back to the medieval era, were once an integral part of the Royal Palace Almudaina. These lush grounds were adorned with fruit trees, vegetables, medicinal plants, and ornamental flora, which is why they were often referred to as the orchard of the Royal Palace or the king’s orchard. These gardens were encompassed by a lofty wall, and the Cavalry guarded the area on the seaside and northern fronts, with a gardener’s residence present.
In 1834, the wall surrounding the garden was replaced with a wooden fence, which, in turn, was substituted with an iron fence in 1882. However, as the early 20th century dawned, the orchard gradually disappeared, making way for the construction of the Lyric theatre (1902), La Alhambra (1918), and other structures like a barber shop, a photography shop, a bike shop, and more.
It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that a decision was made to undertake a revitalization project in the heart of Palma, aimed at preserving the city’s historic sections and architectural heritage. Beginning in 1966, efforts commenced to dismantle the buildings occupying the site of the Royal gardens and to restore the gardens themselves.Read more about S'Hort del Rei (Royal Garden), Palma
Cross over Av. d’Antoni Maura and walk along the Passeig de sagrera until you reach the Palm trees of Plaza La Lonja.
With its twin turrets and a guardian angel gracing the entrance, this 15th-century waterfront edifice bears the appearance of being part-castle and part-church. However, it is, in fact, neither.
Designed by Guillem Sagrera, the same architect responsible for the cathedral’s Portal del Mirador, this building served as the city’s exchange during Mallorca’s heyday as a major maritime trading hub in the 15th century.
As the tides of trade ebbed over the centuries, Palma’s commercial significance waned, prompting the building to adapt to changing needs. It served as a storage facility for goods and weaponry during the War of Independence and transformed into a fine art gallery in the late 19th century.
The rectangular hall features octagonal towers at each corner, complemented by ten smaller towers functioning as buttresses. Standing amidst the spiraling pillars, gazing upward at the ribbed vaults, one can attempt to envision the Mallorcan merchants from 500 years ago engaging in negotiations over silk, spices, and silver.
Today, La Llotja serves as a cultural center, hosting temporary exhibitions and fostering a vibrant artistic atmosphere.Read more about La Llotja (The Market), Palma
Passeig del Born
Walk along Carrer de Sant Joan and turn second right into Carrer dels Apuntadors. The roundabout at the end is called Plaça la Reina, or square of the Queen. Turn left to walk along Paseo del Borne.
Paseo del Borne, known as ‘Passeig des Born’ in Catalan, stands out as arguably the most refined avenue in Palma. Not surprisingly, it has become a magnet for luxury brands like Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Carolina Herrera, and Sandro, earning it the nickname of the “Golden Mile.”
This avenue seamlessly channels the flow of traffic from two bustling thoroughfares, Avenida Jaime III and Carrer de la Unió, which leads to Las Ramblas. Despite this constant stream of activity, the broad promenade somehow manages to retain a sense of tranquility amid the hustle and bustle.
Along the pedestrianized section, you’ll find restaurants and cafés with inviting terraces, perfect for indulging in some people-watching. Numerous stone benches line the avenue, encouraging visitors to pause and immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of the city’s pulsating heart.
Tall trees generously provide shade during the summer months, while in winter, their trunks come alive with sparkling Christmas lights. Paseo del Borne is flanked by two charming squares, Plaça Joan Carles and Plaça de la Reina, adding to the overall allure of this captivating promenade.Read more about Passeig del Born
Walk along Carrer de Jovellanos and turn left into Carrer dels Paraires until you reach Plaça del Mercat.
The Casasayas building and the Pensión Menorquina are exemplary structures showcasing the Modernist ‘art nouveau’ style, distinguished by their original symmetry and dynamic design. These two buildings, identical in execution and symmetrically positioned with Calle de Santacília between them, rank among the most significant and distinctive edifices in Palma.
Commissioned by Josep Casasayas Casajuana, the proprietor of the Can Frasquet pastry shop, these buildings were designed by Francesc Roca, who supervised the initial phase of construction. Completion of the project was overseen by Guillem Reynés.
The ground floors emphasize structural elements, prominently featuring metal columns. As you ascend to the upper levels, you’ll be captivated by the undulating designs and finishes that infuse the facades with remarkable dynamism and plasticity. The balconies showcase intricate metalwork, and the windows exhibit exquisite wooden craftsmanship, contributing to the overall effect. The openings assume various forms, including parabolic arches, marking the pronounced plastic and dynamic treatment characteristic of the Modernist ‘art nouveau’ movement. While decorative elements are not overly abundant, you can spot elegant representations of ferns, acanthus leaves, and butterflies, particularly adorning the iron capitals and wrought-iron details of the balconies.Read more about Can Casasayas
Juan March Foundation Museum
Turn to the right and walk along Carrer Unió taking the steps to reach Plaza Mayor. Leave by the north exit and walk along Carrer de Sant Miquel.
The Museu Fundación Juan March is housed in a building that originally served as a private residence, with its origins dating back to the 17th century. However, in the early 20th century, it underwent a significant renovation overseen by architect Guillem Reynés i Font. Since 1990, this historical structure has been the home to a portion of the art collection belonging to the Fundación Juan March.Read more about Juan March Foundation Museum
Continue along Carrer de Sant Miquel until you return to Plaça d’Espanya.
This website uses affiliate links which earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.