Palma, Spain

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Discover the Best of Palma, Spain

If you come to Palma (the capital of Mallorca) expecting a sleepy beach town, you’ll be disappointed. The 12th-largest city in Spain, Palma is a frenetic metropolis with a beautiful historic core. The upscale main streets of the center are geared toward wealthy tourists, but if you wander through the side streets, you’ll find plaza after plaza of shaded calm. The enormous Catedral and neighboring Palau de l’Almudaina both tower over the waterfront, serving as reminders to beach-goers that this city’s got culture, with monuments ranging from the medieval Castell de Bellver to the artwork of illustrious resident Joan Miró. Mallorca is a nice break from Barcelona: it’s a bit less intense, and the number of sights and things to do is more manageable. But that won’t stop you from partying along the shore until 6am, leaving the clubs only as the sun rises over the Catedral.

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Get to Know Palma, Spain

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Get Oriented

The historic center of Palma can be incredibly confusing to navigate without a map; be sure to stop by one of the tourist offices to grab one. The Passeig Marítim (Avinguda Gabriel Roca) follows the waterfront; Avinguda d’Antoni Maura leads up from the water to Plaça de la Reina. With your back to the water from Pl. Reina, a left takes you to Pl. Llotja and Pl. Drassana, a right takes you uphill to the Catedral and the Palau de l’Almudaina, and heading straight brings you to the Passeig des Born. At the end of Pg. Born is Plaça del Rei Joan Carles I; to the left, upscale shops line Avinguda de Jaume III, while to the right lie the very touristy Carrer Unió, Plaça Mercat, Plaça Weyler, and Plaça Major. From Pl. Major, Carrer Sant Miquel takes you to the transit hub of Plaça d’Espanya, while the store-lined Carrer del Sindicat leads to one of the prettiest parts of old Palma.

West along the harbor (to the right as you face the water), the waterfront of the newer neighborhood of El Terreno is lined with nightclubs and bars. Uphill from the clubs is the Castell de Bellver, while a bit farther away from the center along the water is the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró.

See & Do

What to do in Palma de Mallorca

You’re on a Mediterranean island—chances are you’re going to want to hit the beach at some point. The closest beach to the center (and, therefore, the most crowded) is the Platja de Can Pere Antoni. Hidden in a small cove and a short bus ride away from the center in the other direction is Cala Major, a short but lovely beach under the royal auspices of the Marivent Palace. A bit farther afield and packed with German tourists, Platja de Palma is the largest beach in the area. Aside from sunny beaches, you can find yourself admiring art at Mallorca’s Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró or walking through its grand Catedral.

Top Attractions in Palma de Mallorca

The beautiful sites of Palma de Mallorca await you! Check out these top picks. Click the links to explore and book tours or local guides.

Eat & Drink

Meals in Spain are nothing to joke about. The Spanish eat late, and they’re serious about their food. Given the schedule that Spaniards keep, breakfast is rarely eaten at home and is hardly considered a meal. To make up for it, lunches and dinners are practically small holidays. Expect constant conversation and a lively atmosphere. Like everything else Spanish, the cuisine depends largely on what region of Spain you’re in. So sit back, pour yourself some tinto, and prepare to drool at the best that Spain has to offer.

Mallorcan restaurants are as international as the tourist population they serve. Traditional Mallorcan dishes include mallorquí (fried offal, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions), vegetable trumbet (eggplant, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions), toasty pa amb oli (bread topped with tomato and cheese, fish, or meat), and savory sabrosada (pork and pepper pâté).

Favorite dishes

You’ve probably been to a tapas bar, but you might not have known that tapas is not a type of food—it simply refers to the way the food is presented. The bite-sized portions served at the bar are not to be mistaken with appetizers. Spaniards eat tapas most commonly after work, well before dinner, or while just out drinking. Pinxtos, the Basque equivalent, are served on toothpicks.

If you’re in Spain during the summer, you will most likely end up getting gazpacho, a chilled tomato soup. One thicker variety of gazpacho is salmorejo; think of it as the delicious lovechild of normal tomato soup and traditional gazpacho.

Spanish peasants had years to try and make their measly amount of ingredients taste good—cue paella. Common at village festivals, this rice-based dish can be flavored with pork, seafood, veggies, snails, and whatever mystery meat is found in the freezer that week—it really doesn’t matter. Just cook up some rice, let it marinade for forever (at least all day) with whatever flavoring suits you best, and you’re done!

A must-try is jamón ibérico; in simple terms, it’s Spanish ham. But there is so much more to it than that. The ibérico pigs are treated like royalty, allowed to roam the countryside stuffing their fat faces with acorns for two years. After being butchered, the ham is salted and cured for two years, during which time it loses at least 20% of its weight and gains about 400% of its monetary value. Make it your life goal to find some of that thinly sliced piece of heaven.

Drinks

Wine

Sangria is Spain’s drink much the same way that a vodka Red Bull is America’s—it gets you drunk, and most people would never drink it in the light of day. It’s made by mixing wine with fruit juice and whatever cheap liquor one can easily acquire. Usually it’s rum, bourbon, and whiskey. Yes, we meant to say “and,” not “or.” Think of it as the Spanish version of frat boy punch. Another way to utilize bad wine? Tinto de verano—“red wine of summer.” Just take the old/cheap/bad-tasting wine you have/found/made and mix it with some lemon soda. Mix it with Coke, and you have a kalimotxo. The hotter the day, the more mixer you use, and you’ve got yourself a refreshing summer drink.

Beer

If beer is more your thing, Spain isn’t famous for its selection. Most bars will just have one beer on tap, and it will most likely be a Mahou, though Cruzcampo and San Miguel are also popular. In Catalonia the standard is Estrella Damm, which is by far PlacePass’ favorite.

Arts & Culture

Festivals

Most of the events held in Palma are music and art festivals. However, one of the most popular is the Fira del Ram in March and April, which brings the newest, most high-tech amusement park rides to the city. The most historical event of the year (in fact, one of the most historical in all of Spain) is the Festa de l’Estendard, or Banner Day, which honors King Jaume I’s conquest of the island in 1229. The Ajuntament publishes pamphlets and also has an online calendar detailing the city festivities, with a special calendar for the Festa de Sant Sebastià.

Festa de Sant Sebastià Palma

This annual festival is Palma’s biggest party of the year. It honors the patron saint of the city, Sant Sebastià, who took on his honorable role as the plague ended in 1524. Millions of people were suddenly no longer dying—there has to be someone to thank, right? Taking over all the city’s major plazas, including the Placa Major, Placa del Rei Joan Carles I, and Plaça d’Espanya, this celebration consists of concerts and performances, bike and foot races, guided tours, and—of course—parties. Festivities begin on January 16 with bonfires, barbecues, and the procession of dancing devils through the streets and culminate on January 20th, the day good ol’ Sebastià was actually made a saint. A grand mass is held in the Catedral, major artistic and musical awards are presented at the Teatre Principal, competition brews at the diada cycling race, and a spectacular fireworks display is set off in the evening.

La Tomatina

The food fight to end all food fights, La Tomatina, in the nearby town of Buñol, draws locals and travelers from around the world for a 1hr. no-holds-barred tomato-pelting free-for-all. It all starts at 10am with the palo jabón, as participants try to climb a greased pole to snatch the ham on top. We don’t really get that part, but it’s important because once someone succeeds, the trucks filled with 150,000 cheap, poor-quality tomatoes grown especially for La Tomatina start to make their way into the Pl. Pueblo. At 11am, a shot is fired and the hour-long squishy red chaos begins (don’t forget your goggles.) When it’s all over, juice and pulp-drenched participants lay down their tomatoes and are hosed down by the fire department. After a quick change of clothes, reward your exertions with a nice glass of gazpacho, or scoop an improvised glass from the street (please don’t actually do this).

Nightlife

You’ll find a few mellow bars around the streets of old Palma, near the main plazas and city center, but the city forces most of them to close at a relatively early hour. The real nightlife is concentrated down the coast toward El Terreno, along the Passeig Marítim (Avinguda Gabriel Roca). Take a stroll along the water and about 15min. away from the Catedral things will start to heat up; the entire waterfront is lined with club after club (with some drunk-food places interspersed). Pro-tip: early in the evening (around 1:30-2am) promoters outside the bars and clubs along the water will often offer Tfree shots to get you to come to their establishments.

Customs & Etiquette

When in Spain… be late

When it comes to this category, it’s probably best to fully adapt to “Spanish time,” or you might end up missing out on most of what Spain has to offer. Besides the little things, like being 15-20min. late for meetings or events, the Spanish basically overhaul their entire day’s schedule to better fit their night-owl lifestyle. A prime example: meals. Lunches don’t happen before 1pm; most occur often around 2pm and are usually followed by a siesta, during which most businesses will close. As for the evening, Spain is not constrained by any of the Puritan influences that Americans have to deal with—nothing closes at 2am (looking at you, Boston). How does this work, you might wonder? Let us walk you through a normal day. Wake up around 9am and eat a light breakfast. Work until lunch around 2pm, take a siesta, then head back to work from around 4 or 5pm until 8 or 9pm. Dinner is usually around 10 or 11pm. For the younger crowd, the bars only get interesting around midnight or 1am. Go drink for a few hours, until the bars kick you out around 3am and the nightclubs open. Dance until 5 or 6am, stumble home, and get ready to wake up at 9am to do it all over again.

How to avoid getting punched

You’ve probably realized by now that Spain is a pretty divided country, meaning that Spaniards have a huge sense of pride in their home neighborhoods and provinces. In fact, many of them would probably be pretty insulted that we keep writing “Spaniards.” Consider them Catalans/Basques/Andalusians/Romani/Madrileños first and Spaniards second. Another tip? Avoid discussing the Spanish Civil War unless you know for sure which side the family of the person to whom you are speaking was on. The wrong comment could bring up some relatively fresh wounds. Same goes for soccer. Unless you know with certainty that your audience is full of Barca supporters, you might want to hold off on describing the team’s most recent goal in excruciating detail.

Don’t pack your sweats

Spaniards are very clothing-conscious: don’t expect to see anyone out in old sweats doing their errands. For tourists, these guidelines might not matter as long as you don’t mind being pegged as an out-of-towner. Proper church attire is a must. Wearing shorts or miniskirts while visiting churches and cathedrals is often not allowed and is always just plain rude. Women must have their shoulders covered, which may be the only real reason to ever wear a shrug. As a rule, keep it classy.

Dining Etiquette

Meals in Spain are nothing to joke about. The Spanish eat late, and they’re serious about their food. Given the schedule that Spaniards keep, breakfast is rarely eaten at home and is hardly considered a meal. To make up for it, lunches and dinners are practically small holidays. Expect constant conversation and a lively atmosphere. Like everything else Spanish, the cuisine depends largely on what region of Spain you’re in. So sit back, pour yourself some tinto, and prepare to drool at the best that Spain has to offer.

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