Holidays in Mallorca/Majorca: where to stay in Mallorca, what to see & do in Mallorca, language in Mallorca
Mallorca/Majorca Holidays
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All you need to know to have a great holiday in Mallorca/Majorca

 


Sightseeing and culture in Mallorca

Contrary to many people’s opinion, there is tons of culture in Mallorca and loads of interesting places to visit. Here are a few suggestions for some great days out.

Palma

If you’re not staying in Palma, take a day off from the beach and have a look around the capital city. It’s got a great deal to offer, in all sorts of ways.

Parking can be tricky so it’s probably best to head straight for a car park, rather than trying to find a place on the street. Alternatively, come in on the train from Sóller.

Palma Cathedral

While obviously much smaller, Palma has a lot in common with Barcelona, and just wandering around it is a feast for the eyes. Although it was originally a Roman city, the Gothic influence is prevalent, as manifested particularly by La Seu, the cathedral. Check out also the Castell de Bellver and a couple of museums/art galleries: Es Baluard and the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró.

There is a wide range of interesting shops in Palma. You’ll find stylish clothes and shoe shops, department stores, gift shops, delicatessens, artisan studios and factory outlet shops. For a rest between sights and shops, there are lots of nice cafés and, for lunch or dinner, some excellent restaurants. The night life is plentiful and cool, so, if you’re able to stay for the evening, pace yourself!

La Granja de Esporles

In a village called Esporles, about ten miles from Palma, there is a stately home called La Granja, which has been made into a museum of traditional Mallorcan life. Beyond the static exhibits, you can see various craftspeople at work – blacksmith, potter, weaver, cobbler, candlemaker, olivepresser – and they put on regular folkdancing shows. The grounds are beautiful and, because it’s actually a private farm as well as being a museum, you can see lots of animals too. Oh, and there’s a marvellous restaurant that serves all sorts of traditional Mallorcan food.

Sa Dragonera

Off the south-west corner of Mallorca is the Dragonera island nature reserve. Particularly if you’re interested in bird-watching, this trip is a must.

 

Valldemossa

In the mountains between Palma and Sóller, you will find Valldemossa, made famous by the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the French authoress George Sand (real name Armandine Dupin-Dudevant), who spent the winter here in 1838/39. It’s a picturesque and quite sophisticated town, with upmarket shops and many nice cafés. You’ll need to park in a public car park and pay a few euros for the privilege.

La Real CartujaThe former monastery where Chopin and Sand stayed is called La Real Cartuja and it’s well worth a visit. It’s a beautiful place with marvellous views (of course!) and, even if you’re into neither classical music nor French literature, it’s interesting to see the cells that Chopin and Sand rented. There is a lot of information about them both, as well as some of their effects and manuscripts. You can even see the piano Chopin used, since his own piano took such a long time to arrive from France by donkey. The composer and the writer had a sadly difficult time here, partly because he was increasingly ill and partly because they didn’t really fit in, it seems.
 

Winter in Majorca
by George Sand

Sand wrote a book about the experience of spending a winter in Mallorca and was pretty scathing about the local people – although she had high praise for the island’s natural beauty.

Click here to buy this now from Amazon.

 

Castell d’Alaró

In the triangle between Palma, Sóller and Inca, there are masses of fantastic things to see and do. If you like walking, you will enjoy the climb to the Castell d’Alaró (though you will not be the only one doing it; it’s a well known and popular walk). You can start from the village of Alaró or from another village called Orient and, either way, it takes about two hours. The view from the top is truly spectacular. The castle itself is ruined but there is a little chapel there – and a restaurant.

Binissalem

If you like wine, you might be interested in visiting one of Mallorca’s vineyards. The area around Binissalem is renowned for producing very good wine. Most of the wineries have shops where you can buy their wines.

 

Deià

Deia mountainsNot far from Valldemossa is the lovely village of Deià, where the English poet and novelist Robert Graves (1895-1985) lived for many years. The village is popular with artists, musicians and writers and it’s easy to see why they find it so inspiring. It’s very beautiful in itself and is perfectly situated between the mountains and the sea.

While you’re there, do visit Ca n’Alluny, the house that Robert Graves built and in which he lived for two long periods, first with the American writer Laura Riding and later with his second wife, Beryl. I had heard of Robert Graves before I went but I knew very little about him and just thought it might be interesting to see how an Englishman had settled in Mallorca. The house is just a little house (turned into a museum), there’s a nice garden and another building where you can find out a lot more about Graves and his life. It doesn’t sound that exciting but for some reason I found it spellbinding. I spent the whole afternoon there and loved it.

At the top of the hill opposite the house is the cemetery where Graves and Beryl are buried. It’s a beautiful, peaceful little place, with wonderful views of the village, the mountains and the sea.

Robert Graves is probably most famous for his novel bringing to life the Roman Emperor Claudius. He had eight children, four with his first wife and four with Beryl. Several of them went on to write books and Mallorca is a strong influence in their writing.

 

I, Claudius
by Robert Graves

A fantastic book, written as the autobiography of the fourth emperor of Rome. Graves was a master story-teller and this novel is as gripping as any modern thriller.

Click here to buy this now from Amazon.

 

Goodbye to All That
by Robert Graves

Another of Graves’s most famous books is this (truly) autobiographical one, chronicling his upbringing and his experiences in the trenches of the First World War.

Click here to buy this now from Amazon.

 

Wild Olives: Life in Majorca with Robert Graves
by William Graves

The oldest son of Robert’s second family, with Beryl, tells us about life in Mallorca and what it was like to be Robert Graves’s son. If you’re English and you want to understand Mallorca, this is a good book to read.

Click here to buy this now from Amazon.

 

A Woman Unknown
by Lucia Graves

This is William’s younger sister’s memoir. It gives us a lot of Spanish history and culture, written in an unassuming, accessible style. Lucia is primarily a translator and made a marvellous job, in my opinion, of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind.

Click here to buy this now from Amazon.

 

Tuning Up at Dawn: A Memoir of Music and Majorca
by Tomás Graves

And this is the youngest son’s view. He now plays bass in the Pa amb Oli (Bread and Oil) Band and is a staunch supporter of Mallorcan culture.

Click here to buy this now from Amazon.

 

Sóller

Wherever you’re staying in Mallorca, do try and take a ride on the Sóller-Palma railway so that you can enjoy the incredible views. Sóller itself is a prosperous little town, surrounded by orange, lemon, olive and almond groves. After exploring and drinking some freshly squeezed orange juice (a local speciality), you can take the Orange Express tram to Puerto Sóller and have a look at the harbour. This tram is so called because it passes through so many orange orchards.

While you’re in the area, you might also like to take a quick spin around Fornalutx and Biniaraix, which vie for the position of most beautiful village in Spain.

Pollensa

PollensaPollensa is an ancient town that has conceded remarkably little to the onslaught of tourism. If you feel like getting away from the madding crowds of the coastal areas, spend half a day in Pollensa. It offers some nice cafés, some good restaurants and a few interesting little shops.

Its most famous features are the Roman bridge and the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), a climb of 365 steps up El Calvari hill to a tiny chapel commemorating the crucifixion of Christ.

Just outside Pollensa to the south is the Puig de Maria, a bigger hill than El Calvari but perhaps even more worth the climb, particularly if you enjoy the peace and spiritual refreshment of a Christian place. It takes forty minutes to an hour to walk up this puig and – be warned – there seem to be an unusual number of mosquitos along the way. At the top you’ll find a santuari, with an open, friendly atmosphere. You are free to wander about inside but there are also grounds where you can eat your picnic and/or admire the view.

Puerto Pollensa

Puerto PollensaAbout four miles away is Pollensa’s port, which has a different feeling from the old town. The beach is very long (artificially extended) and sandy, a perfect place for children to play and older people to enjoy the sun and sea in the calm of a civilised resort. There are a lot of Brits here but they tend to be quiet and well behaved, not here for the sort of rowdy good time for which people go, for example to Magaluf.

The Bay of Pollensa provides safe and happy swimming, as well as the chance to try a few water sports, and there are usually a lot of smart boats moored at the marina.

Three miles or so out of town towards Formentor, up a steep and winding mountain road, you’ll come to the Mirador des Colomer, a popular ‘looking point’. The landscape up here is rocky, primeval and spectacular. If you can get away from the tourists (not always easy!), it has a sense of being the land that time forgot. This is one of the fascinating characteristics of Mallorca, it’s such a mixture of the modern and commercialised and the almost prehistoric.

Alcúdia

AlcudiaLike Pollensa, Alcúdia is an ancient town getting on with its life. Within its walls are narrow, tranquil streets and smallish, well kept plazas. There are some excellent, authentic restaurants and, on Tuesday and Sunday mornings, a good market. The Roman amphitheatre is also worth a visit.

During Roman times, Alcúdia was the capital of Mallorca – or Balearis Major - and even today Alcúdia, with its port, is second only to Palma in terms of economic activity. Confusingly, the Romans called Alcúdia Pollentia (meaning power) and you’ll see signs to the archaeological site of Pollentia just outside the city walls of Alcúdia. Gradually, the Romans migrated inland and founded the town that is now called Pollensa, transferring the name to the new place. The original Pollentia was destroyed by the Vandals in the fifth century; Alcúdia, in more or less its present form, was built by the Moors five hundred or so years later.

Artà

Artà is a traditionally Mallorcan, residential town, where not that many tourists tend to go. However, the walk up from the church of the Transfiguració del Senyor to the Santuari de Sant Salvador, the peace and the views from the hilltop make the journey worthwhile in themselves.

Amazing caves

Close by Artà is Capodepera, where you can find not only an ancient castle but also the cuevas de arta, some very special caves that are said to have inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. You can take a guided tour and experience a son-et-lumière show.

Further down the coast, near Portocristo, are the cuevas del drach, a phenomenal suite of caves containing an enormous underground lake. You can take a tour of these caves, which includes a classical concert and a boat trip on the lake.

Not far away are the cuevas dels hams, another set of caves lit up to extraordinary effect, also with a lake and also offering a concert.

Shopping and factory tours in Inca and Manacor

If you’re in Inca, look out for locally made leather goods. If you’re in Manacor, you’ll find pearls, made artificially but beautifully in one of the factories there, and also things crafted out of olive wood in another local factory. The factories offer tours for those who are interested, usually free of charge.

Markets

There are weekly (or more frequent) markets in most towns, where you can buy excellent comestibles and some nice crafts and souvenirs as well. These usually start around 8 am and finish at lunchtime but it’s worthwhile getting there early to find the best bargains. Remember that you’ll be expected to haggle, so don’t just pay whatever the stallholder asks of you the first time. If you can speak a bit of Spanish, you’re more likely to be taken seriously and to secure a better deal.

Activities and sports in Mallorca

 
 
©MGRobinson