The historical centre of Palma contains a huge monumental legacy. Below is a small guide of essential visits for soaking up the singular beauty and history of this Mediterranean city.
A visit to the historical city centre can start at Plaça de la Reina. From here, we access the gardens of S’Hort del Rei, a former royal garden adorned with water features and sculptures following the line of the Renaissance city wall. Through it, we come to the foot of the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the Seu, a Gothic church with interventions by the architect Antoni Gaudí and the artist Miquel Barceló; its huge rose window is known as the “Gothic Eye” because it is one of the largest in Europe in this style.
From the outside, one can contemplate the Parc de la Mar and the enormous bay of Palma, most of which has a cycle lane. The cathedral is flanked by the Almudaina palace and the Episcopal palace. In Carrer del Palau Reial we find the Palau March —which houses a contemporary sculpture and ancient cartography exhibition—, the parliament and the Consell Insular, the latter both local government bodies. The road leads into Plaça de Cort, presided over by an olive tree that is several hundred years old.
From Cort, we come to Plaça de Santa Eulàlia, with its Catalan Gothic-inspired church, and Plaça de Sant Francesc, containing a church that houses the tomb of Ramon Llull and a cloister where time appears to have halted. Cort is also where the shopping streets of Colom and Jaume II converge, leading to Plaça Major, where a craft market is held. The square provides access to Carrer Unió, site of the Gran Hotel, a Modernist building and Mallorca’s first luxury hotel, now an exhibition centre.
Standing in the same street is the Casal Balaguer cultural centre, a visit to which enables one to see the inside of a stately palace, with its characteristic covered yard, a singular architectural element of the palaces of Palma. And at the top of Passeig Born is the Casal Solleric, an exhibition centre which contains another beautiful cobbled courtyard.
Heading towards the sea we come to Sa Llotja, a Gothic building with slender columns that simulate palm trees. Crossing Plaça Drassana —former home of the royal boatyards— we reach the church of Santa Creu, with an early 14th-century crypt dedicated to Saint Lawrence (Sant Llorenç). Nearby stands Es Baluard, the contemporary art museum, with a terrace affording views of Bellver castle, the city’s Gothic custodian.