It says a lot for a location when it can put a smile on your face even when the sky is grey. Although my trip to Palma de Mallorca was spotted with unseasonable clouds and patches of rain, the natural beauty of the island and the stories it had to tell made up for it tenfold.
While some might head to Mallorca for a relaxing week by the sea (and you’re in a stunning place for it), you’d be missing out on delicious food and unique sights if you didn’t venture elsewhere across the island. The winding streets of Palma de Mallorca remind me of La Rambla in Barcelona, far busier than the quiet coastal city I had expected.
The few days I spent in Palma and the rest of the island left me wanting more. For every story you hear or delicacy you sample, there are two more around the corner waiting to be discovered.
A city of two sides
The history in Palma de Mallorca is baked into the cream-coloured stones, but it’s far from a city stuck in the past. The towering cathedral serves as a reminder of Palma’s rich culture stretching back centures, but tucked into the cobbled side-streets and stretching down the main avenues is plenty to entertain the modern-day tourist.
The streets are bustling with independent shops and picture-perfect eateries, making it a city that’s ideal for both beach-seeking holidaymakers and history buffs to explore. Whether you’re looking to pick up a pair of Palma’s signature leather shoes or browse wares at one of the many street markets dotted throughout the city, there’s something to suit every visitor’s tastes.
Escape the city
Perched above the city with stunning views over the centre of Palma and the stretches of sandy beaches below, sits what the locals call the Beverly Hills of Mallorca: the neighbourhood of Son Vida. Here you’ll find where I stayed during my exploration of Mallorca, in the recently-renovated Hotel Castillo Son Vida, just a 10-minute drive from the island’s capital of Palma, and 15 minutes from the Son Sant Joan Airport.
In a reflection of the city below, the hotel has artfully blended the rich history dating back to the 13th Century with all the modern creature comforts you could need. Every feature in Castillo Son Vida has a story to tell, from the tower built in an expression of love from a husband to his wife, to the the founding family that gave both the hotel and the neighbourhood its name.
The Castillo offers 164 rooms and suites in all, including 77 Classic double rooms, 75 Deluxe and Grand Deluxe rooms (some with butler service), and 12 Suites. Most notably, the 132-m2 Royal Suite enjoys a panoramic view, Jacuzzi and large terrace.
Both of the restaurants in the hotel make the most of the views of the island, with Es Castell offering gourmet dining next to floor to ceiling windows, while the terrace restaurant, Bar Armas allows you to eat and drink outside on the sweeping terrace.
Further down the coast you can find Hotel Castillo Son Vida’s sister hotel, St Regis Mardavall. While Castillo Son Vida is adult-only, St Regis Mardavall offers the same exquisite accommodation and service for the whole family, with a dedicated kids’ club and suites or adjoining rooms large enough to host families of all sizes. With that in mind, the 125 rooms is made up of as many as 78 Junior Suites and seven Family Rooms, alongside two Deluxe Single Rooms, 28 Grand Deluxe Double Rooms, six Ocean Suites, two Blue Oasis Suites, and two Diamond Suites.
Mardavall’s Michelin-star restaurant, Es Fum, is well worth a visit on its own, offering seasonal cuisine meticulously designed by chef Miguel Navarro, enjoyed in the intimate 42-seat dining room.
Hidden delights of the island
When not enjoying the spa facilities of Hotel Castillo Son Vida, there is plenty to explore across the island of Mallorca. A must-visit is Bodega Ribas, the oldest family-run winery in Spain. From their 180,000 vines, they make just 180,000 bottles. By making just one bottle per vine, Bodega Ribas sorts the grapes by hand, to make sure only the finest make it into the final bottle.
While much of their wine is aged in barrels, bottled, and sold in restaurants, hotels, and shops throughout Mallorca and further afield, you can also buy a litre of pressed wine for as little as €2.75 at certain times of the year. While it may not have the rich flavours that their signature wines have, it’s a charming offering, born from a desire to reduce waste.
For foodies, Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc is another unmissable stop, where you can walk amongst the salt deposits where Mallorca’s Flor de Sal is harvested by hand. With flamingos observing you from the horizon and the sound of the ocean not far off, you can’t imagine a more natural way of gathering salt. Be sure to sample the delicious results in the white-washed buildings afterwards, washed down with a glass of perfectly-paired wine.
Getting to Palma de Mallorca
There are regular direct flights on a number of airlines from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as the majority of other major UK airports. The flight time from Edinburgh is just under three hours on average.