If you need proof that there's more to Mallorca than sun, sea and sand, then Palma is it.
Home to world-class art galleries and exquisite cuisine, the capital is a destination in its own right. Of course, Palma is also the entry point for the rest of Mallorca, so if sun, sea and sand tick your boxes then you're in the right place.
Arriving at Palma de Mallorca Airport
Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) is located five miles (8km) east of the city centre. The airport – the third-largest in Spain – is modern and well-equipped, with four terminals, free Wi-Fi available, VIP lounges, and a variety of shops and restaurants.
The city bus is an easy and affordable way to access central Palma from the airport. Take bus number 1 to the city centre; it runs about every 15 minutes from 0600 to 0110, stopping at central Plaça d’Espanya before heading on towards the Estació Marítima ferry terminal. The number 21 bus runs in the other direction between the airport and Arenal every 30 minutes from 0700 to 2130. The cost of a single ride is €5 for visitors and €1 for residents. Buy your ticket on board from the driver. There are also intercity buses heading to destinations around the island, including Magaluf (take the A11) and Alcúdia (A32).
The bus is convenient, but there's also an official taxi rank just outside the airport. The official city taxis that stop here are certified and will charge a metered fare. The ride into the city centre should cost around €20.
A half-day in Palma de Mallorca is best spent soaking up the sights in Old Town. Start at the fascinating La Seu cathedral, which dates to the 13th century. Part of the Gothic interior was revamped by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, with a more recently added mural by contemporary artist Miquel Barceló.
Step outside for some fresh air before tackling the next architectural sight. Take a loop through the beautiful Parc de la Mar for a seafront stroll with views of the cathedral. Then step back into the past with a visit to the Palau de l'Almudaina, just next door. The palace was an Islamic fortress until it was converted to a residence for the King of Spain in the 13th century. Take a tour and learn about its blend of Moorish and Gothic architecture.
Head inland and prepare to be charmed by the streets of Old Town. Walk through the buzz of Plaça Major, Palma’s main square. When it’s time for a snack, head to Mercat Oliver, the famous open-air market. Wander through, tasting local pastries, cheeses and meats along the way, and pick up a souvenir or two.
Now that you’re refuelled, loop back around to make a final stop at the Museu Fundación Juan March, also known as Palau March. The small museum houses an impressive collection of works by Spanish big-hitters like Picasso, Miró and Dalí.
With a full weekend in Palma, there’s no need to see all the sights at a breakneck pace. On your first day, visit La Seu Cathedral and the Palau de l'Almudaina for an essential overview of Palma’s past. This is Spain, so siesta is taken seriously. Spend your first afternoon relaxing on Can Pere Antoni beach and swimming in the turquoise waters. Once it’s time for dinner, head to the nearby Portixol harbour for freshly grilled seafood and waterfront views.
The following day, start your morning with a trip to the Old Town’s charming central market, Mercat Oliver. Wander the lanes and pick up some provisions for a picnic. Hop on the bus to Castell Bellver, a striking 14th-century Gothic cathedral that’s perched on a hill and surrounded by pine trees. Climb to the top and reward your efforts with an alfresco lunch with a view. After lunch, head inside the circular castle for a look around.
From there, walk or take the bus back to Es Baluard Museu d'Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma, just next to the bohemian Santa Catalina neighbourhood. Set inside a 16th-century fort, Es Baluard holds a stunning collection of works by artists who have spent time in the Balearic Islands, including Picasso and Mirò. Be sure to visit the rooftop for a drink or a quick look at the sweeping view of Palma.
From there, walk through the pretty Parc de sa Feixina and venture into Santa Catalina. Start with a stroll through the Mercat de Santa Catalina. The market is surrounded by many excellent, authentic tapas bars. Stop at one that catches your eye for a quick bite or settle in and make a night of it. Santa Catalina is home to some of the best nightlife in Palma, and it’s fun to watch the neighbourhood come alive as the sun goes down.
On your last day in Palma, head to the fabulous Museu Fundación Juan March museum to pay respects to greats Spanish artists. From there, rent a bike to cycle along the seaside promenade for one last look at the sea and the unforgettable La Seu Cathedral.
Days one and two
Spend your first two days in Palma exploring the Old Town’s architectural sights, the bustling market and the scenic waterfront. By night, venture into Santa Catalina for evenings of tapas- and sangria-fuelled merriment.
On the third day, hop a bus out of town. Head west to the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, housed in the artist's former studio. The museum is home to an enormous collection of over 2,500 works by Miró. The hilltop setting also gives sweeping views of the coastline.
If you fancy some time in the sun, you’re already halfway to some of Mallorca’s best beach clubs, so it would be a shame to turn back. Hop back on the bus heading west and get off at H. Guadalupe. This beautiful cove is home to four beach clubs; choose whichever piques your interest and lull the day away sipping wine with your toes in the sand.
Now that you’re ready for a real road trip, hire a car and head out to Cap de Formentor on the northernmost tip of Mallorca. The drive can be hair-raising, but the views are well worth the adventure. Cap de Formentor is a dramatic, rocky outcropping with spectacular vistas of the coastline. Be sure to see the pretty lighthouse called Formentor lighthouse. After snapping a few photos, drive on to Formentor beach, one of the most pristine on the island.
Now that you’ve got a handle on the roads, drive north to Fornalutx, one of Mallorca’s most charming towns. This scenic drive will take you through the mountainous centre of the island, past bucolic vistas and rustic villages. Fornalutx is one of the prettiest, with cobbled streets, 17th-century buildings and endless views. From Fornalutx it’s possible to hike to neighbouring Sóller, another of Mallorca’s many winning towns. The hike takes about three hours and takes you on a route over a cobbled bridle path, past crumbling farmhouses and alongside lemon and orange groves.
It’s always smart to save the best beach for last. On your last day on Mallorca, head towards Mondragó Natural Park, a sprawling, 766-hectare reserve that encompasses wetlands, forests and beaches. Birdwatchers say this is the best place for bird sightings on the island, but the beach is the true star. Cala Mondragó is graced with stunningly blue waters, fine sand and calm, swimmable waters. The area is not very developed, but there is a bar and restaurant so you can stay until the sun goes down.
Spend your last morning in Palma stocking up on souvenirs at Mercat Oliver. For a final sweep through this beautiful seaside city, rent a bike on the promenade and cycle all the way to the harbour at Portixol. Treat yourself to a grilled seafood lunch for one last taste of Balearic Island life.