Nightlife in Palma is generally a laid back affair; the warm summer evenings are just made for relaxing with friends on one of the many pavement cafes. And one of the best place to do this is in the arty shabby-chic district of Santa Catalina.
This is where the local Majorcans and young creatives come to sip all manner of beverages, from specialist teas, to little canas of beers and cocktails. Trendy & contemporary bars rub shoulders with derelict buildings, and there is a thriving restaurant scene featuring cuisine from all around the world.
You can't really get lost in Santa Catalina - it's only about 1km square, with Avenue Argentina bordering the eastern side and the harbour lying to the south. We started in Ginbo (Paseo Mallorca, 14A. Palma, +34 667 43 98 32), which is technically not in Santa Catalina, but is found on the other side of the road in Paseo Mallorca. The reason for this is that we love Ginbo. It's one of nicest little cocktail bars we've found, with a smart classic interior and very friendly bar staff. It specialises in Gin, with a staggering 60 varieties to try and an additional 8 brands of tonic to mix. Gin based cocktails are suggested on a large mirror board (‘Time for Ginspiration') and the staff are happy to concoct a mixture of your own devices - I asked for a Gin-gin mule (gin, ginger & lime) which duly appeared in a very large & sturdy wine glass and tasted refreshingly delicious.
Just across the road on the corner of Avenue Argentina and C/San Magi lies the iconic colonial building which houses Bar Cuba. Café, bar, restaurant and nightclub, this place ticks all the boxes for whatever you are looking for, at any time of the day. Deciding that visitors to Palma could probably find this bar by themselves, we delved around on the corner to find another Cuban styled bar - Havana - but again, we passed it by in search of more unusual premises. Which is how we ended up in Idem. This is a fine boudoir of an establishment, dramatically decorated in red velvets, baroque mirrors and sexy chandeliers. It's a small intimate bar, and we took a seat towards the rear once we had ordered our mojitos. The red glowing walls, candlelit tables and the nudes painted on the bathroom doors created what we imagined a naughty Victorian drinking den would be like. A server brought us our drinks (mojitos are probably better in Neo Cultural) and we settled back, enjoying the cool vibe and the house music in the background.
Carrying on up C/ San Magi, we passed by Exit Rock Bar - you can't miss this one, it's got legends of the rock music industry plastered all over its facade - which looked like it was a friendly & relaxed place to have a beer or three. Instead, we nipped into Ummo, which is an altogether more contemporary experience. Best known for being an award winning café-restaurant, you can still enjoy a drink and some tapas if you're lucky enough to come across an empty table (reservations are recommended). It's stylishly Spanish inside, and the tapas really is excellent, so it's a useful stopping off point if you are crawling around the area.
After our fuel stop we turned around and followed C/Cotoner on our way to the main pedestrianised street of C/Fabrica. There are a couple of unusual café bars up here, one of which is Garlic & Shots. Those who frequent Soho in London will be aware of this brand, and this outpost in Palma is the latest addition to their mission of marinating everyone in garlic. With 101 vodka shots to try and a menu full of garlic flavoured dishes, it's probably worth a trip just to say you've been!
We turned the corner into C/Fabrica, which is home to numerous cafes and restaurants, although somewhat short on serious bar action. The street is completely pedestrianised now, and so it's a great spot day or night for bagging a pavement table to watch the world go by. You are spoiled for choice here, as cafes line both sides of the street. We stopped in Horreo Veint13 which is a nicely designed café-restaurant, frequented by good-looking Mallorcans engaging in earnest discussions. We ordered a couple of glasses of wine and tried to look sophisticated.
One of the institutions in Santa Catalina is Duke, located around the corner of C/Fabrica on C/Soler. It's more of a restaurant than a bar so we didn't stop here this time around, but it's definitely a place we will try in the future. Serving healthy Asian-Pacific-International food in a surfer-dude environment, (and now ‘tuna-free') it sounds like it's right up our street.
Instead we headed to Twins chill out bar on C/Rodriguez de Arias which we had seen advertised around and about and were curious to explore. The exotic entrance was lit by flaming torches, and we descended into the gloom of this basement bar. Part restaurant, part bar, the interior is suitably Arabian, with billowing red sheets on the ceiling transforming the area in to one massive tent. We were greeted and asked if we had a reservation, to which we shook our heads. Luckily it seemed that there was a space for us regardless and we soon found ourselves lounging on an enormous day bed (shoes off compulsory). The cocktail list served the usual favourites, and there is a Shisha pipe menu for those wishing to succumb to the ultimate ‘Arabian Nights' experience. We stuck with the cocktails which were sadly rather mediocre and we began to think that Twins wasn't quite as glamorous as first impressions had hinted at. Some of the décor was a little tired, and we found that the service could have been a bit friendlier. However, there was certainly a glamorous crowd enjoying the evening here, so as long as you don't look too closely and stick to easy-to-make drinks, I'm sure you'll enjoy the vibe.
On that note we called it a night. Santa Catalina is certainly an interesting place for a night out, and there are places for pretty much all tastes. Start with the streets around C/Fabrica to enjoy warm evenings on one of the pavement cafes with a glass of wine and some tapas before moving towards Avenue Argentina for the late night drinking dens.