Mallorca’s Gothic cathedral in Palma faces the sea. // © 2012 Mindy Poder
Strolling from shop to shop — cooled by a sea breeze, the shade of tall trees and pitchers of sangria — might be the perfect way to spend a day in Palma, the primary port of Mallorca, the capital city of the Balearic Islands and a long-time favorite of the fashionable. Here are some other recommendations to round out your day with a bit of culture and history.
Leave behind the modern and luxurious yachts for a morning in Valldemossa, located about nine miles northwest of Palma by bus in the mountainous interior of the island. Valldemossa is the location of Real Cartuja de Valldemossa — a former palace that was converted into a Cartusian monastery in 1399 and stayed that way until the monks were expelled in the 1800s for having too much power. Visitors can tour the monks’ library, chapel, pharmacy and cells and can view mementos from famous visitors, namely Polish composer and pianist Frederic Chopin, who composed the 24 Preludes here, and author George Sand, who penned “A Winter in Mallorca” about her visit. After enjoying a piano recital, stroll the grounds as well as the surrounding cobblestone village, where vendors sell Valldemossa’s famous sweet potato cake, coca de patata.
Make your way back to Palma de Mallorca, a cosmopolitan city that is the capital of Mallorca and all of the Balearic Islands and home to nearly half of the residents of Mallorca.
After walking from the water to the city, even those who are supremely focused on shopping will become sidetracked as the Palma Cathedral (La Seu) comes into view. You don’t need to be an expert in architecture to appreciate the grandeur of the Gothic structure, which took nearly 400 years to complete. The interior of the church, accessible for approximately $7, features some restoration work by celebrated Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi as well as high ceilings and stained-glass windows. It is, however, easy to remain outdoors — all views and angles are fascinating. At the surrounding lake of Parc de la Mar (Park of the Sea), the cathedral’s size is easy to appreciate, and climbing to the top of the cathedral’s outlook provides aerial and expansive views of the Bay of Palma. Fans of the artist Joan Miro, who lived in Palma for nearly 30 years before his death in 1983, will not want to miss his mural, which faces the cathedral. If it gets too warm, sit under the shade of the cathedral’s flying buttresses.
Passeig des Born
After a morning and afternoon immersed in culture and history, it’s time to have that sophisticated Spanish island vacation you imagined. Passeig des Born is an outdoor, car-free, tree-lined promenade, with shops on either side. Giant trees provide shade, but it’s likely that travelers will be drawn indoors. Plentiful here are mid- and high-end shops, from Zara to Louis Vuitton. Shopping on this street is reminiscent of other luxurious boulevards, such as Rodeo Drive and Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, without the stress — perhaps due to its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s easy to end up here — despite the many other tapas restaurants lining the street. Bar Bosch attracts the biggest crowds, with ample seating at the top point of the boulevard. It’s a natural stopping point before venturing out to the other streets as well as a chance to embrace the relaxing and luxurious atmosphere, shaded from the sun. Tapas and beverages are relatively inexpensive and are served quickly, and the large menu ensures that everyone can cool off and indulge in his or her own way. My friend and I opted for a pitcher of sangria and olives (olive and almond trees are plentiful on the island), while the family adjacent to us preferred a beer for dad, a beautiful strawberry sundae for mom and cookies for the kids.