The popularity of cheap flights to Europe has allowed thousands of us to venture off for city breaks in a way that was once unimaginable. The Mallorcan capital Palma, at one time more traditionally associated with package holidays, has now been firmly placed on the weekend city break map by budget airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair and BMIBaby. Spend a long weekend here and you`ll discover there`s far more to Mallorca than night clubs, beaches and English breakfasts.
Despite welcoming several million visitors each year from all corners of Europe, the city of Palma has retained its local flavour and traditional Spanish charm. This is a city with a wealth of culture and historical attractions, that still exhibits traces of the 400 years of Moorish occupation remembered fondly as the golden age of the island`s history. Explore the shady narrow streets of Palma`s old quarter and you`ll uncover picturesque squares and courtyards, museums and galleries and plenty of authentic Mallorcan cafes and bars serving up some of the best tapas in Spain. The more modern side of Palma offers tree-lined avenues lined with temptingly expensive boutique shops and scented with dazzling flower stalls that are an attraction in themselves. Palma`s defining icon is its sweeping horseshoe bay, where sophisticated yachts bob proudly in the marina and the seafront walkway sways with towering palms.
Sightseeing in Palma
Top of Palma`s list of historical attractions is the huge Gothic cathedral of La Seo which dominates its waterfront skyline, rising up from the streets of the old quarter where ancient city walls once marked the edge of the sea. The neighbouring Royal Palace of La Almudaina features ornate details of Moorish architecture and as well as opening as an art museum, serves as the official holiday residence of the Spanish Royal Family. Across the bay, standing atop a pine-clad hill, the perfectly preserved circular Gothic castle of Bellver affords wide-stretching views across the city and out to sea. Once used as a military prison in the 18th and 19th centuries, its chambers are steeped in supernatural myths and legends. Summer evenings are special here, as its central patio is opened up as the venue for several musical events and concerts. For a special taste of culture, be sure to visit the Pueblo Espanol, an open-air architectural museum which chronicles the artistry behind Spain`s many architectural styles through the ages, including its houses, churches, palaces and fortresses. It`s also the perfect place to enjoy international cuisine, traditional tapas and cocktails in an authentic setting.
Food, drink and nightlife
Palma`s cosmopolitan feel is reflected in its wide range of eateries, ranging from international, fresh seafood restaurants and fast food takeaways to rustic bodegas serving tempting Mallorcan cuisine such as pork-stuffed aubergine and paella with noodles. When it`s time to head out for breakfast, follow the locals to a coffee bar and indulge in hot chocolate and cinnamon-topped ensaimadas. After dark is the time when Palma springs to life, but there`s a much more sophisticated side to the nightlife scene in Palma than you would expect to find in Mallorca. It`s a far cry from the foam parties and karaoke bars of the more commercialised resorts such as Magaluf. Prepare yourself instead for a touch of glamour as you dance until daybreak under flashing neon lights in any one of the stylish, futuristic venues that line the seafront. If you prefer something more laid back and down to earth, you`ll find plenty of pubs and bars bursting with character in the maze of streets behind the Cathedral, or head for the flamenco shows and jazz bars of the Sa Llotja district.
Travel and accommodation
If you`re flying to Mallorca, Palma`s Sant Joan airport is conveniently located just five miles to the southeast of the city. From here, a reliable bus service ferries passengers to and from the centre and other resorts across the island. Alternatively there is always a plentiful supply of taxis outside the terminal and the 15 minute journey into the city costs around 8 euros, making this an excellent choice of destination for anyone looking for a budget weekend without any travel complications. Accommodation in Palma is plentiful and ranges from luxury hotels on the seafront to small and friendly hostels hidden away in the nooks and crannies of the old town. Whichever choice of location you opt for, you will find yourself close to an abundant supply of bars, restaurants and places of interest. So whether you`re looking for a short city break or cheap holidays in the Balearic islands, don`t hesitate to consider Palma de Mallorca as the ideal base for exploring an island that has become one of the best-loved of British holiday destinations.