Palma is the capital, not only of Mallorca but of the Balearic Islands. It is an eclectic mix of old and new, bustling and tranquil, conservative and modern urban. There are very defined areas in Palma with a characteristic all of its own. Although it is the largest city in Mallorca it is condensed and very manageable on foot. Saying that, the local tourist “hop-on-hop-off” bus that you see in all major tourist destinations, is a brilliant way to get your bearings.
In my opinion, the centre is defined by Paseo Borne. This is a long street which has (if your back is to the sea) the cathedral and the Kings residence to the right and the old part of La Lonja to the left. The Paseo (or boulevard) is a glamorous mix of high-end shops, such as Louis Vuitton and Carolina Herrera, and small cafes with seating outside to relax and people watch. La Lonja has some amazing restaurants, perfect for long lunches to be enjoyed with a little wine and an equally long siesta. On the furthest point of La Lonja you will find Es Baluard one of the best Museums on Mallorca.
When you are in the Paseo Borne area, I really recommend a visit to Rialto Living which is a fabulous lifestyle shop in what was the old Rialto Theatre and in fact dates back to the 15th century. The founder Klas Kall (one of the 3 founders of the brand GANT) and co-owner Barbara Bergman are warm and welcoming and their exceptional taste means there is always something new and interesting to buy.
For a nice lunch visit 13 y 1/2. This is further up the same side street as Rialto Living and is such a secret hideaway there is not even a photo of it on Trip Advisor, although excellent reviews from the people who have come across it. They offer a tapas tasting menu at lunch time, have an extensive wine selection and it is really reasonably priced.
Again with your back to the sea, to the left of La Lonja you will see a more bohemian area called Santa Catalina. This is has a Soho feel with brilliant bars and restaurants. Here you will find Lebanese food next to a traditional Mallorquian bar, along side a stylish Cuban style hotel and much more. The atmosphere has a very cool, urban vibe and it is a great place to hang out with friends. Also, if you are staying in Palma, Santa Catalina has a brilliant small market which is filled with very unique specialist stalls and certainly worth a little walk around to get some essential (and none essential) treats.
If we keep the top of Paseo Borne as our bearing, instead of turning left to visit Santa Catalina, we this time turn right you, will walk through a tree lined avenue filled with Gaudi inspired architecture, art galleries and cafes, which will lead you to the Theatre and onwards to Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is a perfect tree filled avenue where the flower sellers set up their stalls. However, just before you reach the Theatre if you take the steps in front of you upwards, you will come out to the gorgeous Plaza Major on your left and rows of small narrow streets filled with interesting shops.
Left and onwards through the Plaza you will eventually come to the Plaza Espana, stop on the way to visit Mercat de L’Olivar for some groceries or just to marvel at the fish selection (trust me you have to see it!), and onwards to the train station.
If you are facing the train station and turn right you are on Las Avenidas and along with a wide variety of shops you will see the large department store El Corte Ingles. Nearby, a perfect spot for lunch is Basic. This is the most brilliant lunch time venue and it is relatively unknown. If you hear the words “Basic” and cafeteria” you will understandably have low expectations, but don’t be fooled. The chef is from Michelin starred restaurants and is on a real mission to bring fantastic gastronomic experiences to everyone. The prices are low and the standards are high. Check it out.
If you opted to turn right at Plaza Major you will wind your way through alley like streets littered with shops giving you the perfect opportunity to have a little retail therapy. Eventually you will come to the old Olive tree which is synonymise with the city and opens up the gateway to visit the historic buildings and lead you back to the cathedral and the Parc de la Mar.
My best advice? Comfy shoes, plenty of time, no rushing and just walk and walk. There is so much to see and something new is always appearing. Take your time to just browse and enjoy the sights and make sure you stop intermittently for a tasty treat and refreshing drink to refuel and watch the world go by.