Palma de Mallorca is the largest city in the Balearic Islands, nestled dramatically between the azure Mediterranean Sea and the tree-covered mountains of Serra de Tramuntana. The city is full of historic charm, while also being the perfect launchpad for exploring the rest of the island. Do you have one day in Palma to spare and want to make the most of your time? Begin your planning here as we take a look at the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca.
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Things to do in Palma: sightseeing
Mallorca is so often associated with sun and sand, but Palma showed us that the island is in fact a place of fascinating history and mesmerising architecture as well. Here are some of the sightseeing highlights we recommend visiting around the city.
1. Visit the stunning Palma Cathedral
Without a doubt, Palma Cathedral (also known as Le Seu) is the architectural masterpiece of the city. It looms majestically over the seafront on the edge of the old town, visible for miles around.
We couldn’t miss the sight of the imposing sandstone structure from our plane window as we were about to touch down at Palma de Mallorca Airport. It is one of the tallest Gothic buildings in Europe.
The building’s origins hails back to the 13th century, when James I of Aragon arrived to conquer the Balearic islands and promised to construct a massive cathedral. He was successful in his mission, and construction began in 1230.
Legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the man behind the dazzling Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, also played a role in the cathedral’s development. He directed some renovation works in the early 20th century, which included a huge illuminated canopy hanging over the altar.
Perhaps the most striking features of the cathedral are its 61 stained-glass windows, and in particular the colourful 13.8-metre-wide central rose window know as the “Eye of the Gothic”.
Visiting Palma Cathedral is a must while you’re in the city. If you’re short of time, then it’s well worth investing in a skip the line ticket to get ahead of the crowds.
2. Get lost in the beautiful mazy old town
Whenever we visit a new city, it usually takes us a couple of days to get our bearings and navigate the main areas. After eight days around Palma’s old town, we still found ourselves getting lost in the maze!
The old town is where you will find most of the city’s most beautiful architecture, as well as a scattering of quirky shops, tapas bars and cafés.
The cobbled streets, hidden alleyways and charming squares laced around the old town are a delight to wander. Every corner brings a new surprise. The variety of architecture reflects the changing influences in the city over the centuries, from the Romans through to the legacies of the Moors and the Christians.
Some highlights to look out for include Palma City Hall, Basílica de Sant Miquel and Plaça d’Espanya. Make sure you also see the artificial lake of Parc de la Mar, shimmering beneath the cathedral by the seafront.
3. Walk through the forest to Bellver Castle
Looking towards the hillside across the bay to the west of Palma city centre, the turrets of a castle poke out above the trees. This is Bellver Castle, which stands some three kilometres away from the old town.
Bellver translates literally as ‘beautiful view’, which is an appropriate name, as from its vantage point you can enjoy an incredible panoramic vista of the city, the bay and backdrop of mountains.
The castle itself dates back to the 14th century. It is the only circular castle in Spain, and over the centuries has served as a royal residence and a prison, as well as a defence fortification.
To visit the castle and its on-site museum you can walk from the city through the pine forests that slope up the hillside. It’s a bit of a walk, but well worth it for the rewarding views.
There are car parks by the castle, so you can drive up if the walk is a stretch too far. Check out RentalCars to find and compare the best hire cars in Mallorca.
4. Take the hop-on hop-off bus
An alternative way to reach Bellver Castle is to take the hop-on hop-off bus service that navigates the city’s highlights. The castle is one of the 18 stops covered on its route, and you also have the benefit of an audio guide on board to explain the historical background.
We like taking hop-on hop-off bus tours, as they allow us to explore at our own pace. The bus in Palma has an open-top deck, which lets you absorb the city’s surroundings throughout the journey. The full circuit takes about an hour and 20 minutes.
5. See Edifici Casasayas, Palma’s unmistakeable Gaudí building
While we were walking around the middle of Palma’s old town, we suddenly looked up to see a peculiar but beautiful building with extravagant curved balconies and windows.
The design instantly reminded us of the architectural designs of Antoni Gaudí we had seen in Barcelona. When digging deeper it became clear why – this building was Edifici Casasayas, built by Gaudí himself!
Palma has strong Catalan links, and you can find more examples of Gaudí’s influence dotted around the old town.
6. Look out for the windmills!
Before visiting Palma, we had no idea how integral windmills are to Mallorca’s heritage. There are over 3,000 windmills scattered around the island, many of them built between the 16th and 19th centuries.
Windmills have provided various uses in Mallorca, most commonly for grinding grain and pumping water. Many of the old windmills have disappeared, while others stand in varying states of disrepair as stony monuments to the island’s past.
You can find some of these windmills around the streets of Palma. When I wandered beyond the old town to visit a coworking space, I stumbled upon a row of several windmills on Carrer de la Indústria.
Other windmills have been repurposed for modern hospitality. When walking from our accommodation in Es Molinar towards the old town, we passed a restaurant called the Seamill, set by a pair of old windmills buildings on the seafront. Beyond Palma, we had lunch in a winery at a historic windmill at Mesquida Mora.
To explore more about this facet of the island’s history, you can take a self-drive tour of Mallorca’s villages and windmills.
7. Walk along the 400-year-old Torrent de Sa Riera canal
The western threshold of Palma’s old town is demarcated by Torrent de Sa Riera, an old canal that has been intrinsic to the city’s history. This picturesque canal was completed in 1613 as a means of preventing floods, which had previously caused devastation to homes and lives in the area.
The canal flows from the Puigpunyent area outside Palma down towards its old town, where it runs alongside Passeig de Mallorca and out into the harbour. Lned with a variety of trees and plants, it is a pleasant walkway and cycle route.
8. Take a stroll along the promenade and beach
A visit to Palma would not be quite complete without taking some to enjoy the beach. After all, many people visit Mallorca just to bask in the golden sand and sun.
Palma has a pretty 750-metre-long beach stretching along the coast to the east of the old town: Platja de Can Pere Antoni. This is a clean, white sandy beach that’s ideal for relaxing with a book or just sunbathing, with an excellent view of the cathedral.
A wide promenade with a walkway and cycle path runs behind the beach. You can follow this all the way out to the neighbourhoods of Portixol and Es Molinar, where we stayed during our visit.
The walk out to Es Molinar and back into town comes with some lovely seaside views, wonderful fresh air, as well as a wide choice of seafront bars, cafés and restaurants. We took a particular liking to Bar Molinar, a seafront wine bar where the owner told us about how it had been run by his family for decades.
Things to do in Palma: tours and activities
If you want to go beyond simple sightseeing and really get underneath the skin of Palma and its culture, there are a range of tours and experiences you can enjoy in the city. Here are a few that caught our attention.
9. Learn about Palma on a free walking tour
Whenever we arrive in a new city for the first time, we always like to begin our visit with a free walking tour. They are offered in most major European cities, and Palma is no different.
Mallorca Free Tour runs three different guided tours in Palma. One explores the highlights of the old town; another delves into the mysteries and legends of Palma at night; and a third focuses on the cathedral.
As with all walking tours of this kind, they are indeed free, but tips are very much welcomed to show your appreciation. The guides will be happy to give you more insider tips on the best things to do in Palma and places to eat during your stay.
10. Try a sightseeing segway tour
A popular alternative to walking tours in Palma is to take a guided city segway tour. The added bonus of touring on two wheels is that you can see some places that it wouldn’t be possible to reach on foot.
The sightseeing segway tour weaves around the attractions of the old town, including the cathedral, Plaza Mayor and La Rambla of Palma. Being on a segway adds an extra layer of adventure too. They take a bit of getting used to, but it’s lots of fun once you get going!
11. Discover contemporary art at Es Baluard Museu
Palma is home to many museums and galleries that allow you to explore the city’s cultural heritage. Es Baluard Museu, a showcase of contemporary art, is one of the shining examples.
The museum has 2,500 square metres of dedicated exhibition space that bring together some 700 works of modern and contemporary art, mostly by artists from the Balearic Islands.
Opened in 2004, the museum’s building is integrated into the city walls, layered over three storeys in a maze of ramps and balconies. It’s worth checking out even if only to see the interesting structure and layout.
Check out the museum website for information about upcoming exhibitions.
12. Visit Palma Aquarium (and dive with sharks!)
Being a seaside city, it’s no surprise that Palma has a brilliant aquarium. Its most impressive feature is a 33-metre-wide shark tank, which is the largest in Europe and contains some 3.5 million litres of saltwater.
What’s more, if you are a PADI-qualified scuba diver, you can dive in the tank with four different species of shark! Elsewhere at the aquarium you can encounter over 700 different species of marine life, and it also features a tropical rainforest rooftop garden.
Book your entry ticket for Palma Aquarium here.
13. Experience the famous Arab baths
We were fascinated to learn about the Arab history and influence in Mallorca as we explored the island. For example, when we took a day trip to the market town of Inca, we heard about how Arab settlers between the 10th and 13th century had improved agriculture on the island, built windmills and expanded orange-growing.
In Palma, the legacy can still be seen at the site of the city’s ancient Arab baths. Also dating back around a thousand years, the remains of the baths complex are a fascinating insight into a bygone time, with roots stretching back further to the Roman period with its circular columns and architectural dome.
You can relive the experience of Arab baths in Palma by indulging in a relaxing session at Hammam Al Ándalus, just outside the old town.
14. Try a traditional Mallorcan cooking class
Discovering local cuisine is always one of our favourite things about travel. In Mallorca we were blown away by the quality of the local food wherever we tried it.
The island has food traditions that have developed over centuries. The cuisine is very much driven by two things: its magnificent orchards, and the Mediterranean Sea. The fish is always fresh and always delicious.
Organic olive oil in Mallorca underpins many of the classic national dishes. For example, it forms the basis of pa amb oli, a concoction of Mallorcan bread topped with tomatoes, salt and olive oil (and sometimes other toppings).
You can learn about the secrets of Mallorcan cuisine and try your hand at making a three-course meal in Palma at a traditional cooking experience.
Things to do in Palma: shopping
15. Shop for local delicacies
While walking around Palma’s old town you will often encounter quaint little food shops with bunches of chillies hanging from the doorways. We loved spending time exploring the array of local produce inside these establishments.
If you have a suitable space where you are staying in Palma, then you could pick up some local meats, cheeses, breads and oils for a little afternoon feast. With a bottle of local wine, of course! (Look out for bottles from Vins Nadal in Binassalem – we visited their winery, and the reds were to die for.)
16. Hit up the ‘golden mile’ of the Borne
Paseo del Borne, which has come to be known as the ‘golden mile’, has developed a reputation as Palma’s premium high-end shopping street.
The broad, tree-lined road has the feel of an elegant French boulevard. In recent years it has attracted designer store brands, including the likes of Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari and Hugo Boss.
The street runs through the heart of the city centre. In addition to the fashion stores you will also find boutique cafés, restaurants, fountains, statues, and a department store built into an old cinema.
17. Explore quirky art at Taller de Arte Onírico
Of the many eccentric shops sprinkled around the old town in Palma, one in particular caught my eye. The yellow facade of Taller de Arte Onírico stands out boldly on a quiet backstreet between La Rambla and Plaça d’Espanya.
This little shop-gallery hybrid specialises in masks and sculpture, and you can see some of its characterful specimens on display outside the front. Venture inside to see the full creative range, and there are also art classes hosted daily.
Things to do in Palma: food and drink
We’ve already mentioned how Mallorca’s food traditions are an intrinsic part of the local culture. Now, let’s take a look at a few ways you can enjoy the best of it in Palma.
18. Enjoy Mallorcan café culture at a Palma coffee shop
One of Mallorca’s best-kept secrets is that the island has a thriving coffee scene. Palma is at the heart of this, with a whole spate of cafés and coffee shops having opened in recent years, many of which have their own roasters.
The café culture that has arisen in Palma is very well aligned with the leisurely Mediterranean pace of life. One of our most relaxing afternoons in the city was spent meandering slowly around the old town, interspersed with a couple of coffee breaks. Simple, yet highly rewarding!
La Molienda on the outskirts of the old town is the pick of the bunch when it comes to the quality of coffee in Palma. A sign outside proudly proclaims that you will find the best coffee in the city here, and there is certainly some weight to the claim!
If you need to plug in and get some work done, there are power sockets inside. Indeed, many of Palma’s coffee shops are well set up for working remotely.
Nano Coffee Lab and Mistral Coffee Roasters are a couple more great coffee shops to try nearby.
Check out our guide to taking a workation in Mallorca for more insights into working remotely from Palma.
19. Eat at a local tapas bar
It would be a travesty to visit Palma and not try some of the local tapas. The small-plate tradition dominates the food scene in Mallorca, and you will find tapas bars all around the city.
Luckily, our time in the city coincided with TaPalma, a tapas festival that many of the city’s restaurants participate in, effectively creating a tasting route through the city. TaPalma takes place typically at the end of November.
We fell a little bit in love with pintxo, a delicacy consisting of local bread with a range of toppings, usually presented colourfully and artistically. Bar España in the old town has a great selection of them. Just outside the old town, we had some delicious pa amb oli plates at Blat Al Sac.
As you might expect, the further you venture away from the old town, the cheaper the tapas bars get – so it’s worth exploring further afield if you want to save the pennies and find some hidden gems.
20. Treat yourself to an ice cream at Sa Gelateria
The sunshine is part of life in Mallorca, and a major reason why many people come here. On particularly hot afternoons it can also get quite repressive! Thankfully, Palma is home to some of Spain’s best ice cream parlours.
Sa Gelateria is a branch of ice cream parlours you will find all around Mallorca, one of which is located in the heart of Palma’s old town. Tubs of irresistible gelato in many different flavours and colours are lined along a glass cabinet on the shop front.
Choosing which flavour to have is almost impossible! I eventually opted for the cherry and mascarpone, and wasn’t disappointed.
21. Have a delicious burrito at 7Machos
Not all of the best places to eat in Palma focus on local cuisine. We stumbled across a little gem of a Mexican restaurant and takeaway called 7Machos, which had only been open a few weeks when we found it.
We had been wandering around Palma with a small group of friends at around 7pm, only to find most places closed, and others beyond our budget. Just when we were about to give up, we saw a place that looked like a Mexican takeaway with its lights on, and went inside to investigate.
Inside the door of 7Machos, a narrow stairway leads down to a restaurant area in the basement. I say restaurant, but it has more the feel of a bar, plastered with various Mexican-style decorations, and with a screen playing music videos.
Between our group we ordered a banquet of tacos, burritos and ceviche. The tacos each came with a beer for just €4.50, amazing value in comparison to the typical old town prices.
I don’t exaggerate when saying this was one of the best burritos I’ve ever had. Make sure you’re hungry before ordering the large one though – it’s an absolute mountain of food.
22. Try a craft beer tasting set at Cerveceria Tramuntana
Mallorca’s drinking scene may be dominated by wine, but if you are more of a craft beer person then there are still some great places to go.
Cervecería Tramuntana is one such place. It’s a cool little bar that plays metal music and serves a brilliant selection of craft beers from all over Europe. Right up our street!
For €10 you can order a taster set, which allows you to select five beers to try from the menu. Your choices are then served up on a mini tray of five glasses, each about half a pint.
A word of caution: the majority of the beers on offer are extremely potent. Precious few on the menu are below 6% ABV, and three of my selection were over 9%! Tasty, but just a little bit lethal…
23. Treat yourself to a pastry from Anita Cakes
Just like the perfect meal, we finish off our set of Palma recommendations with something sweet. Anita Cakes is a pastry and cupcake specialist that has bakeries in Palma’s old town and across the other side of Mallorca in Port d’Alcúdia, as well as a pink street-food caravan that tours the island.
The pink-and-white outlet in Palma stands out among the crowd, with the look of a kids’ sweet shop. Not only will you find an array of sweet treats inside, but come early in the day and you can also sit down for a traditional breakfast.
Map of things to do in Palma, Mallorca
Check out the map below to see the locations of the various attractions in Palma we have highlighted in this article:
Looking for more ways to spend your time in Mallorca? Check out our tips on the best things to do in Alcúdia, a cute little old town on the other side of the island.
In Palma on a working trip? Check out our guide to coworking in Palma, which includes our review of two local coworking spaces we visited.