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Palma de Mallorca
The Almudaina Palace (left) and La Seu (right) dominate Palma's seafront

The Almudaina Palace (left) and La Seu (right) dominate Palma’s seafront

Getting In

Most cruise ships dock at either Estacio Maritima or the nearby commercial terminal of Porto Pi. Either way, it’s a long hike into town (6-8 km), so your best bet is either a 4-passenger taxi (€10-15 to Old Town) or the ship’s shuttle bus. You can also get into town via the EMT Company’s Bus #1, which takes you from either terminal to Plaça d’Espanya. Buses run every 15 minutes and cost €2.50

Another transportation alternative is the Palma City Sightseeing Bus, which also stops at the two terminals. The price is a little steep for a hop-on/hop-off, but if you factor in the cost of getting into the city center on your own, it may be worth it. This is also the only bus that will take you to Castell de Bellver. The Bus runs every 20-25 minutes, and includes an audio tour. Visit http://www.city-sightseeing.com/tours/spain/palma-de-mallorca.htm for information on discounted on-line bus tickets, route map and schedules.

Walking Tours

Once you’re in town, you might want to take one of the guided walking tours organized by the Palma City Council. The tours are organized around various themes, cost approximately €10, last about two hours, and must be pre-booked by calling +34-971-720-720. This site provides some information on tour themes: http://www.mallorca-spotlight.com/palma/city_tours.htm

If you prefer a self-guided tour, this site offers four different downloadable itineraries in Palma, along with route maps: http://www.seemallorca.com/mallorca/palma/walks.html

You can also download a free or low-cost version of an audio tour at: http://www.gpsmycity.com/apps/palma-city-centre-landmarks-tour-palma-de-mallorca-141.html

Palma’s Must-See Sights

Although Palma was occupied for centuries by the Moors, most of its culture, institutions and architecture date from 1229, when Jaume I of Aragon conquered the Balearics and created the Kingdom of Mallorca.

In the King's Garden

In the King’s Garden

The beautiful King’s Garden adorns the western side of the Palau Almudaina (Av Antoni Maura, 24), a former Moorish fort converted into a royal residence by Jaume II. Today the Almudaina, which is just across from the Cathedral,  houses the National Heritage Museum, although it is still used for official functions when the King is in residence. Six bare ground floor rooms, the terrace and the lion fountain in the Patio de Armas are all that remain of the original Arab citadel; the rest of the building dates from the 14th century, and is divided into the King’s and Queen’s Palaces. A three-room suite of Arab Baths is located between the two Palaces, with access from both sides. The two-storey Great Hall was divided horizontally after a fire destroyed the roof in 1578; the lower part is known as the Salo del Tinell, and served as a banqueting/reception hall, while the upper chamber, now used as a royal audience chamber, is known as the Salo Gotic. The lavishly furnished royal apartments are reached via the Royal Staircase, and showcase some notable Flemish and Spanish tapestries. The jewel of the Palace is the Gothic Chapel of St. Anne, entered by means of a pink and white marble Romanesque portal. (Open Summer Mon-Fri, 10am-6:30pm, Sat 10am-2pm, Closed Sun; Winter Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm, 4pm-8pm, Closed Sat & Sun – Admission: €3.20)

Legend holds that Jaume I ordered construction of La Seu (Plaça Almoina) in gratitude for his fleet’s surviving a storm en route to the invasion. Built on the site of the main mosque, this imposing Gothic Cathedral is oriented to face Mecca rather than Jerusalem. The Cathedral’s interior pales in comparison with the impressive exterior, but it does hold one of the largest rose windows in the world (almost 12 meters across, and composed of 1,236 pieces of stained glass). Antoni Gaudi had a hand in the Cathedral’s 20th century renovations, and is responsible for the wrought-iron candelabra that encircle the columns and for the controversial – and still unfinished – “Crown of Thorns” altar canopy. Entrance to the Cathedral is via a door in the north façade, where the chapter room and vestry have been outfitted as the Museo Catedralicio. The Museum exhibits religious paintings, manuscripts, altarpieces and other sacred objects. (Open Mon-Fri on the following monthly schedule: Apr-May & Oct, 10am-5:15pm; June-Sept, 10am-6:15pm, Nov-Mar, 10am-3:15pm; Sat 10am-2:15pm, all year – Admission: €6)

If you’re looking for a quick overview of Mallorcan history, visit the Museu de Mallorca (Calle Portella, 5). Housed in the 17th century Ca la Gran Cristiana, which was built on the foundation of an Arab house, the Museum showcases exhibits on archaeology, ethnography, fine art and decorative and industrial arts. (Open Mon-Fri, 11am-6pm; Sat, 11am-2pm; Closed Sun & Holidays – Admission: Free)

Courtyard of the Banyas Arabs

Courtyard of the Banyas Arabs

The 10th century Banys Arabs (Ca’n Serra, 7) is one of the few remnants of Palma’s Arab past, and is only partially preserved. Judging from the construction of its double floor, one small square room was probably the former caldarium; twelve columns of varying styles hold up a domed ceiling, and were probably scavenged from Roman and Byzantine buildings. A second small room holds a model of the baths as they must have looked when in use. A small garden courtyard and the two rooms of the baths are open to 10 people at a time. (Open Apr-Nov, 9am-5:30; Dec-Mar, 9am-6pm – Admission: €2)

Guarding the harbour from the crest of a hill is the 14th century Castell de Bellver (Calle Camila Jose Cela), one of the few circular castles in Europe (and the only one in Spain). Over the centuries, the fortress has served many purposes, from royal residence to prison to tourist attraction; today it houses Palma’s City History Museum on the first floor. Accessible via local Buses # 3, 46 and 50, which leave you at the base of the hill – about a 15 minute climb away. Fortunately, Bellver is also a stop on the City Sightseeing Bus, and can be visited en route to the pier. (Open Tues-Sun, 8:30am-5pm; Mon, 8:30am-1pm – Admission: €2.50, Free on Sunday)

Other Points of Interest

Diocesan Museum (Calle Mirador, 5) – Located in the former Episcopal Palace, this museum is devoted to religious artworks from the Byzantine, Gothic and Baroque periods. Of note is a Flemish-style painting by Pere Nisart which shows St. George slaying the dragon in front of the walls of 16th century Palma. (Open Tues-Fri, 10am-2pm – Admission: €3)

Basilica de Sant Francesc (Plaça de Sant Francesc, 7) – Entry to this, one of Palma’s oldest churches, is via a trapezoidal cloister filled with lemon and orange trees. Construction of the monastery began in 1281, while the church itself dates from late in the 14th century. Sant Francesc is notable as the one-time home of Fra Junipero Serra (of California mission fame) and as the burial place of Mallorca’s native son, the 13th century mystic, scholar and evangelist Roman Llull. (Open Mon-Sat, 9:30am-12:30pm & 3:30pm-6pm; Sun 9:30am-12:30pm – Admission €1.50)

Gothic vaulting - Interior of La Llotja

Gothic vaulting – Interior of La Llotja

La Llotja (Plaça de la Llotja) – Located on the waterfront to the west of the Palau Almudaina, this 15th century Gothic building started life as a Merchants’ Exchange. Today, it hosts temporary art exhibits. (Open Tues-Sat, 11am-1:45pm & 5pm-8:45pm; Sun, 11am-1:45pm – Admission: Free)

Fundacio La Caixa (Plaça Weyler, 3) – This cultural center hosts both temporary art exhibits and a permanent display of paintings by Hermen Anglada-Camarasa, founder of the “Pollenca School.” Even more interesting than the artwork is the building itself, the former Grand Hotel, a moderniste gem designed by Lluis Domènech i Montaner in 1905. (Open Tues-Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun & Holidays, 11am-2pm, Closed Mon – Admission: Free)

Can Marques (Calle Zanglada, 2) – If you have a hankering to see the inside of one of Palma’s mansions, Can Marques is for you. The building dates to the 14th century, but it was refurbished in the early 20th century by Don Martin Marques, a wealthy coffee baron. (Open Mon-Fri, 10am-3pm – Admission: €6, Seniors €5)

Palau March (Calle Palau Reial, 18) – Just steps from the Cathedral and the Almudaina, the Palau March was built between 1939-45, and now houses the collection of Bartolome March. Highlights of the museum include a contemporary sculpture garden (with pieces by Rodin, Moore and Chillida), a 1,000+-piece 18th century Neapolitan Nativity scene, and an impressive collection of books and maps. (Open Apr-Oct, Mon-Fri, 10am-6:30pm; Nov-Mar, Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm – Admission: €4.50)

Palacio Sollerich (Passeig des Born, 26) – Also known as Palacio Morell, this municipal exhibition center is located in an 18th century building with an elegant loggia facing Passeig des Born. (Open Tues-Sat, 10am-2pm & 5pm-9pm; Sun & Holidays, 10am-1:30pm, Closed Mondays – Admission: Free)

Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro (Carrer de Saridakis, 29) – The Foundation is located in the former home and workshops of artist Joan Miro, who lived on the island from 1956 until his death in 1983. The collection consists of 1900+ paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints by Miro, as well as works by other contemporary artists. Near the port, and accessible via taxi or Buses # 3 and 46. (Open Tues-Sat, 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-3pm – Admission €6, Free on Saturday)

Poble Espanyol (Calle del Poble Espanyol, 39) – A duplicate of Barcelona’s Poble Espanyol, located to the west of the city center, and accessible via the City Sightseeing Bus. Recent reviews indicate that the site is a little run-down, and that few of the workshops and cafes inside the village are in operation. (Open daily, 9am-5pm – Admission €5, Children €3)

Beyond Palma

Boats on Lake Martel – Coves del Drach

The Coves del Drach is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island. Located in Porto Cristo, 40 km to the east, the “Dragon Caves” are about 1½ hours from Palma by car or motor coach. The caves were known in the Middle Ages, but not explored until the 1880s; improvements, including electric lighting and pathways, were made in the 20th century. Tours last about an hour, and cover 1.2 km of pathways; included is a 10 minute classical concert and light show. It is also possible to take a short boat trip across the cave’s Lake Martel. The caves are NOT HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE. (Open Daily – Nov-Mar 15:  Tours at 10:45am, Noon, 2pm and 3:30pm; Mar 16-Oct:  Tours at 10am, 11am, Noon, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm – Admission: €14.50, Children €7.50 – CASH ONLY)

If scenery is your thing, then a trip on the Ferrocarril de Soller is for you. This narrow-gauge railway has been servicing the 27.3 km route between Palma and Soller since 1912, and still operates with the original rolling stock. This scenic route transits the Sierra de Alfabia mountain range via 13 tunnels (one of them nearly 3 km long!), several bridges and the snaking “cinc-ponts” viaduct. The same company also operates an electric tram (the first on the island) between Soller and the Port of Soller, some 4.9 km distant. The trip between Palma and Soller takes about 75 minutes; from Soller, it’s another 20 minutes to the Port of Soller via tram. Trains depart from the main railway station in Palma’s Plaça Espanyol.  Cost: Palma-Soller R/T: €19.50; Combination Train/Tram R/T €28. See the Railway’s website for schedule information – the trip may or may not be do-able depending on your docking and departure times: http://www.trendesoller.com/en/cms.php/Timetable_and_Prices

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