Insider's Guide To Palma, Mallorca

A Mallorca Native Reveals Palma’s Treasures And Island-Wide Discoveries
Isabel Mairata, CEO of Es Princep, discusses the hotel’s culinary program with chef Felipe Moreno, right, and Arnau Amorós.
Isabel Mairata
CEO, Es Princep

As a member of a family involved in hotels and hospitality, Isabel Mairata was keen to create the company’s first luxury property in the heart of Palma, capital of the Balearic Islands. Working closely with Mallorcan architects Duch-Pizà, she oversaw Es Princep’s design and construction, which included fascinating elements of the site’s medieval past, to produce contemporary accommodations of gracious comfort. The intimately-scaled hotel takes full advantage of its singular location—next to ancient city walls—with a terrace that offers a panorama of rooftops and the Mediterranean Sea. Dining in its restaurant, a showcase for one of Spain’s culinary talents, Fernando Perez Arellanos, is one of many experiences that promise to delight, alongside exceptional service that anticipates guests needs and requests at every turn.

One of Es Princep's airy guest rooms.
Es Princep

Located on a prominent corner above the fortified walls of Baluard, Es Príncep in the historic center of Palma, Mallorca, Es Príncep creates a feeling of ethereal airiness from its formidable perch. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow sunlight to flood the guestrooms and common areas, while its elevated position on the Baluard offers sweeping views of the city and sea, particularly from the rooftop terrace, Almaq, which promises breathtaking panoramas at any time of the day.

Local Recommendations

Explore Mallorca with Isabel Mairata

After initial studies in psychology, Isabel Mairata turned to tourism, studying at the University of Felipe Moreno in Mallorca. Her thorough education in the field came through working in every department of her family’s hotel in Puerto de Andrax on the island’s western coast. Mairata is steeped in the island’s culture, its special type of hospitality, and possesses deep knowledge of Palma and Mallorca about which she is passionate to share, from small specialty shops to hidden beaches. Read on for her top picks.

Mallorca's Art Scene

Art In A Fortress And City Palace

Art, like history, abounds in Palma. Es Baluard (10 Plaça de la Porta de Santa Catalina; +34-971-90-82-01), an expansive museum which is set within the bastion walls of Palma’s fortress, has a collection that extends from the late nineteenth century to the contemporary. From the museum, one can walk along the city walls and take in views of the cathedral and Almudaina Palace. On a different scale, is the Gerhardt Braun Gallery (10 Carrer Sant Feliu; +34-971-717-493). Housed in a 17th-century palatial house, its beguiling patio might be reason enough to step inside. It mounts exhibitions by contemporary painters and provides an atelier for emerging and young artists. Plaça Chopin, Gallery Red (4 Can Puigdorfila; +34-971-718-787) sells modern and contemporary art by international figures—Calder to Warhol, Basquiat to Kaws—an emerging group of Spanish artists, and, perhaps unusually, vintage handbags and accessories, including those by Hermès and Fendi.

The patio of the Gerhardt Braun Gallery, set in a 17th-century mansion. Photo courtesy of Gerhardt Braun Gallery.

Restaurants In Palma

Classic Spots And Sea Bounty

For meals that take one to the essence of Palma’s food tradition, Mairata recommends Bodega La Rambla (6 Carrer Via Roma; +34-971-721-190) a classic tapas bar, renowned for variats, the small, mixed plate of tapas that is a Mallorcan specialty. Elsewhere, Bar Rita (13 Llorenc Bisbal; +34-661-362-830) remains celebrated for another local specialty, the llonguet, a crusty roll with a fluffy center typically filled with sausage or cheese. Located on one of Palma’s most beloved and characteristic squares, Rita’s terrace seems a discovery even during the busy summer months. Among the array of purveyors, shops, and food stands at Palma’s central Mercat de l’Olivar (4 Plaça de Oliver; +34-971-720-314), is Bar del Peix, which serves some of the city’s freshest fried fish, grilled seafood, and fritto misto.

One of the many temptations at the Mercat de l'Olivar, Palma's central food market. Photo courtesy of Mercat de l'Olivar.

Shopping In Palma

Delectable Chocolates and Timeless Toys

Walking in Palma’s old town, one encounters the city’s lively past, an aspect which is also reflected in its specialty shops. Mercería Àngela (33 Carrer de Jaume II; +34-662-277-933), a haberdasher and accessories shop that dates back to the late 17th century, specializes in ties, handkerchiefs, and hosiery, but also in ribbon, lace, and thread in every imaginable color and an endlessly varied—and fascinating—inventory of buttons. By comparison, Paraguas (22 Carrer de Jaume; +34-971-716-108), established in 1910, is a veritable newcomer. It offers a collection of finely made umbrellas and walking sticks and canes, many embellished with silver grips. Some of Palma’s most enticing windows are at La Pajarita (2-4 Carrer San Nicolás; +34-971-711-844), a fine food shop and confectionary. Inside, casual shoppers and gourmands alike find an abundance of house-made chocolates, candied fruit, and turrón or nougat, a Spanish specialty. The store La Industrial (8 Carrer Quint; +34-971-714-620) has selections of toys—from wooden tops to kites—that just might draw a child’s attention from the screen of a mobile device.

A rooftop view of Palma's old town, with the cathedral in the distance. Photo courtesy of Ajuntament de Palma.

Mallorca's Best Beaches

Tranquil Waters And Beach Hideaway

Like the Tramuntana range, Mallorca’s varied beaches define its topography. Among them, Es Trenc is perhaps the best known and most visited—and for good reason. Close to Palma and running for a mile and quarter along the south of the island, Es Trenc is distinguished by its natural beauty, turquoise waters, and sandy beach. Its shallow and calm waters make it especially popular with families with children. Restaurant bars are an amenity for visitors of all ages as are beach palapas and umbrellas. A distinctly different experience is found at Sa Calobra, on the northwest part of the island. Its two beaches are set along a cove and are part sand, part pebble. They lie at the end of a gorge created by the stream Torrent de Pareis. Reaching the beach requires travel by boat or car and passage through an appealing tunnel. It is worth the effort. One emerges amidst a setting surrounded by rocky cliffs and blue-green waters.

The calm waters of Es Trenc beach. Photo courtesy of Ajuntament de Palma.

Day Trips From Palma

A Vintage Railway And Sóller Surprise

The Serra de Tramuntana mountain range is a UNESCO World Heritage site. For hikers, there are three routes to explore, along old stone walls and terraces, that offer remarkable panoramas of valleys and sea. The historic train from Palma to Sóller provides an enchanting alternative. A narrow-gauge, 1912 railway, with wooden train cabs, travels along a 16-mile route up the Tramuntana range—surmounting more than 1,600 feet in 4.2 miles—passes through 13 tunnels and several bridges to reach Sóller and its Art Deco station. The beautiful Sant Bartomeu church lies at the picturesque town square adjacent to pleasant cafés and bars. Another delight awaits visitors: the Ca’n Prunera Museum (86-90 Carrer de la Lluna; +34-971-638-973), a meticulously restored Art Nouveau building with an impressive collection of modern art. From Sóller an electric tram descends to the Port of Sóller, on Mallorca’s west coast. Its wide horseshoe-shaped bay has a pleasant seaside promenade, a vantage point to enjoy of the some of the island’s most beautiful sunsets.

The vintage 1912 train that connects Palma with Sóller in the Tramuntana range. Photo courtesy of Tren de Sóller.