23 October 2016

Enjoy the best of both worlds in historic Palma
A Mallorca corker
Palma is perfect for the best of both worlds, as Francesca Wickers discovered on the beach holiday that was a city break too
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ithin 15 minutes of arriving in Palma, I find myself stumbling around the hotel room pulling on my bikini in a dash to get to the beach before sunset. My friend calmly peruses her guidebook and suggests we start with a gallery. There you have the beauty of Mallorca's capital: the best of both worlds. City break and beach holiday. This means exciting exhibitions, theatre, concerts and shopping, and a ten-minute stroll to the Balearic Sea for a dip.

Many tourists simply board a transfer coach in Palma. But this historic, harbour-side city is a destination in its own right. Boutique hotels - we stayed at delightful Hotel Cort - and designer stores abound. Swish yacht clubs dot the waterfront.
The vista from the Castel Son Claret pool terrace
The bustling fish market
there's been a thriving art scene. The mix is summed up in the cathedral. Formerly a mosque, it presides by the sea, facing Mecca. The interior is a holy disco of multi-coloured light splashes as the sun shines through giant stained-glass windows.

Mallorquins love their food. At the Olivar Market, goggle-eyed sea creatures glare up from beds of ice. Locals on bar stools tuck into calamari and champagne at 11am. Grab lunch at Es Rebost for nutritious fast food (burger buns from the 100-year-old bakery round the corner and sobrassada sausage). Stave off hunger until 10pm or you'll get funny looks.

Gaudeix, a 'hidden' tapas bar, was a lucky find. Owner Christina asked: 'Would you like to see the menu or trust me?' Trust her. The marathon of Catalan dishes was superb. After three nights, we drive west from Palma towards the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. Cyclists outnumber cars, rolling fields are covered with almond, fig, carob and lemon trees, the air is fragrant and it's so quiet. This silence is what makes Castell Son Claret, a honey-coloured castlecum- spa hotel, feel so special. Sitting on the terrace you can hear an olive plop from a branch at the end of the garden. We spend the days loafing around the pool. Zaranda, the Michelin-starred restaurant, serves us Heston-style creations. Hiking trails in the mountains are plentiful, but we manage only a pootle to the nearby greengrocer's. 'Mallorca has everything,' says the beaming shopkeeper. He's so right.

Original article published in Mar 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
Poke around the old town's tangle of narrow streets and you'll find a Spanish city quietly confident in its heritage. It's quirky too: at once traditional and new, artistic and wacky. Since painter and sculptor Joan Miro adopted Palma as his home town in 1956,
"This historic, harbour-side city is a destination in its own right."
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