Palma is a really bike friendly city. The giveaway is the prominent red cycle route running all along the Paseo Maritimo and through the city centre. The weather is perfect for it too. Despite the obvious benefits of urban exploration on two wheels, Palma on Bike was my first experience of cycling in the capital.
I joined a party of ten at 10.30 in Passeig del Born for a 3.5 hour day tour. Tours also run from 13.30 and at night. Luckily no one was dressed head to toe in Lycra which put me immediately at ease. The first thing that people need to know about this tour is it's relaxed and suitable for all abilities. This is about having a fun day out not training for the Vuelta a España. Families are welcome, with 50% off for children under twelve.
Our friendly French guide, James, made sure we were happy with our bikes, adjusting seat heights where necessary. Their city bikes have very comfortable, cushioned seats which I think you'll agree, is essential. The first stop was at Parque del Mar to take in the fantastic view of the Cathedral La Seu. Within the first five minutes of James' introduction I'd already learned something new. Did you know there are fifty-five churches in Palma alone? You do seem to pass a lot when you stroll around Palma but I'd never thought to count them. If you're a fan of churches you can organise a tour so you can visit them all!
James did a great job of situating us in Mallorca and filling us in with the culture without getting too heavy. Not everyone knew, for instance, how widely spoken the Mallorquin language is. He named the other islands that form the Baleares, including the lesser known Cabrera, nicknamed the cannibal island. Why? Because during the War of Spanish Independence, they used the island as a prison for over 9,000 French prisoners and, due to storms and disagreements, boats with supplies didn't arrive for three months... well, you can piece together the rest!
Since I've been to Palma many times, I suspected I wouldn't be seeing anything I hadn't seen before, but I was delighted to be proved wrong. The convent of Santa Clara doesn't have a very obvious entrance, but it made for a great pit stop. To the side of the church James showed us a room where you can buy shortbread made by the nuns there. Their biscuit-baking business began back when wedding parties used to give them offerings of eggs in exchange for their prayers for good weather. At one point they were inundated with so many eggs that they decided to make shortbread.
What makes this an unusual cookie buying experience is you can't actually see the nun you're buying a biscuit from. You have to put your money on a spinning shelf, and hope that your biscuits and change reappear. "I've never been so excited waiting for a biscuit," one of the party said. "Or a nun," quipped another. "Or a nun with a biscuit." The shortbread came boxed up, perfect for a present to take back to the office.
Another highlight for me was cycling passed the 300 year old cafe, C'an Joan de S'Aigo, where Joan Mirò used to have chocolate and churros. Palma might be small, but it's so easy to fall into the trap of visiting the same touristic streets, and missing out on the gems to be discovered down the narrow lanes of the historic town. Cycling around the capital means you can cover so much ground and see so much, and because it's small, you can do it at a really leisurely pace.
We had a few short breaks, one to nose around Mercat d'Olivar, where some people enjoyed a seafood tapas and a glass of cava. The chilled out rhythm was perfect for the group I was with, who had a long weekend to enjoy the capital, and were starting off with a bike tour to see what areas they fancied revisiting later. Different groups have different requirements. Cruise passengers with limited time can arrange a shorter tour that guides them through the main attractions without so many stops.
We ended our tour with tapas at Lizarran in Plaza Mayor. Although in a tourist hub, the food was delicious and there was great variety. The tour with tapas costs €35 and includes a choice of four pinchos, (tapas on bread), and either a glass of beer, bottle of water or a coffee. The ice had already been broken during the tour and it was easy to make friends.
It was a pleasure to take part on the Palma On Bike tour. It really takes the pressure off anyone planning a visit to the capital. You won't need to worry about where to go or how to get there. Your guide will make sure you see the best places and give you an enjoyable education, you'll feel great for the exercise and satisfied you've made the most of your time in Palma.
Check out their website for a timetable of tours and prices.
For more from Emily, visit her blog.
- Tours / Excursions