About the sights in Mallorca
Mallorca is a holiday destination boasting not only beautiful beaches but a wide range of sights and attractions. With top class art museums, castles, remains of ancient Bronze age settlements, caves, natural parks through to shopping and dining experiences, this island has a long list of things to do. Many of the highlights are in Palma, but to see the best Mallorca has to offer, a car is highly recommended.
Thanks to Mallorca’s rich history, you will find ancient remnants of the Moors, Romans and other conquerors dating right back to the Bronze Age all around the island, including watch towers, castles and other ruins. Many grand manor houses, castles, palaces and their gardens have been preserved and are now open to the public for viewings, whilst museums are available for those keen to dive into the history of the island in more detail.
It is not just man-made artefacts that are worth seeking out. Mallorca is blessed with some incredible scenery, from the mountains in the west to the marshlands in the north and a multitude of natural beauty spots scattered around the island. A number of these areas have been turned into Natural Parks, which provide not only protection to the land but have encouraged the creation of informative guides along with an infinite list of trails to follow. Passing through the foothills and over the plains of Mallorca, you can’t miss the vines growing so why not stop by one of the bodegas and learn about the rejuvenated wine growing industry? Let’s not forget to mention the incredible cave systems that have formed over thousands of years, which are now some of the islands top attractions.
Mallorca is home to a vibrant arts scene as evidenced by the number of excellent art galleries and museums found throughout the island. Highlights include the Es Baluard contemporary art gallery in Palma, the Can Prunera modern art museum in Sóller and the CCA art centre in Andratx.
It goes without saying that a spot of shopping should be on your agenda whilst holidaying in Mallorca. Do read on to find out about where the shopping hotspots are, and what kind of souvenirs you might want to bring home.
Castles & ruins
As may be expected for an island that endured continuous invasion and conquering during the Middle Ages, the coastline is dotted with stone watchtowers. Many of Mallorca's castles are situated a couple of kilometres in from the sea so that the local inhabitants could take shelter if the watch towers spotted any approaching pirates. Some of the best examples of castle include Capdepera Castle and Bellver Castle in Palma.
Of course, Mallorca was home to humans long before the Middle Ages, and there are several Bronze Age sites that have been carefully preserved by archaeologists. The island's local Talaiotic culture can be explored at the sites of Capocorb Vell or Ses Paisses. The Romans were here too, and the best evidence of their stay is at Pollentia, in the town of Alcudia.
Caves & rocks
Cave systems can be found all around Mallorca thanks to the island's limestone bedrock, highly erodible. The most popular, the impressive Cuevas del Drach and Coves de Artà, are located on the east coast, offering frequent guided tours. If you find yourself in the north west, then Coves de Campanet are worth a trip too. These attractions are tastefully lit and you will follow a trail showing you the caverns with stalagmites, stalactites and underground lakes.
Of course, the major 'rock' to be seen on Mallorca is the Tramuntana Mountain range. It forms the spine of the west coast and runs from Formentor at the top to Andratx at the bottom. A favoured beauty spot is Sa Calobra and the Torrent de Pareis, a deep gorge with a hidden beach in the wilderness of the far north west coast. A wilderness that is, apart from the great number of tourist buses that make the long and winding journey every day...
Churches & cathedrals
Palma cathedral, known as La Seu, takes the crown for being the most iconic building in Mallorca. This enormous sandstone structure dates back to the 13th century and took over 400 years to complete. Several other Gothic style churches are dotted throughout the old town of Palma. You will also find the remains of an ancient Arabian bathhouse from the 10th century whilst wondering the streets of the Arab Quarter behind the cathedral.
All Mallorcan villages and towns have their own church, the origins of most of them rooted in the Middle Ages but they have been heavily changed throughout the centuries. The island is also home to many hilltop sanctuaries where monks set up home, which were places of refuge and pilgrimage. Some, like Lluc Sanctuary, are large and complex sites, others far more simple in size and ambition, all offering a place of tranquillity and solitude as well as amazing views of the surrounding countryside. The Royal Carthusian Monastery in Valldemossa is also a popular tourist attraction as this is where the composer Frederic Chopin spent an infamous winter with writer George Sand.
Houses & gardens
There are several fine examples of country estates dating from the 16th-18th centuries that are now open to the public. Some are set up as museums, others have small animal petting farms, others hold classical music concerts during the warm summer months. They are all rather fabulous but do keep an eye out for Els Calderers in Sant Joan and La Granja in Esporles as they make for a great day out for the whole family. Horticultural enthusiasts should head to the west to find the Jardins Alfabia in Bunyola and the Botanical Gardens in Sóller.
Museums & galleries
There is a superb range of public art galleries on Mallorca. They mainly specialise in contemporary Spanish art, with some galleries devoted to specific artists. Of particular note is Es Baluard in Palma, a wonderful contemporary art gallery housed in the old Palma Fort. Other Palma galleries include the Casal Sólleric, Fundació La Caixa and the Fundació March. Galleries devoted to Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí can also be found in the Palma region.
Outside Palma, the town of Sóller, on the west coast, has a wonderful modern art museum Can Prunera, while there are a number of Miró and Picasso artworks available to view free of charge at the train station. The CCA Andratx Art Centre is privately run and offers 3-4 international exhibitions each year, an artist-in-residence programme and a number of courses and events. At the other end of Mallorca, on the Alcúdia peninsula, is the Yannick & Ben Jakober Foundation. Also privately run, it has a sculpture garden and art gallery.
There is a good selection of museums specializing in different interests from the history of Mallorca through to the tradition of Mallorcan pottery, antique toys, and a couple of archaeological museums. If you are a fan of the writer Robert Graves, you won't want to miss his old house in Deià which was transformed into a museum after his death.
Nature reserves & parks
There are six protected Natural Parks in Mallorca, four of them on the main island, one at each corner of its coastline, and two small islets. They all have something special to offer, from beautiful white sand beaches in Mondragó to bird watching in S'Albufera and rugged countryside at the Llevant and Serra Tramuntana Nature Reserves. There are two uninhabited islands off the coast of Mallorca which fall under this category. Sa Dragonera Natural Park can be found just off the west coast while the illustrious maritime park consisting of the Cabrera Island Archipelago is located off the south east coast. Any of the natural parks provide the perfect opportunity to get away from the beaten track, offering some of the island's best beauty spots explorable via walking trails with picnic areas available.
Also see: Nature Parks in Mallorca
Plazas, placas, piazzas
You will find most towns and cities across Spain have a main square or ‘Plaza Mayor’ although on the island it might be seen spelled ‘Plaça Major’ in Mallorquín.
Palma has a few well-known squares with Plaça Major being the most prominent. This traditional space, right in the centre of the old town, is lined with colourful yellow Spanish buildings embracing traditional green shutters and graceful archways. The restaurants, arts, crafts and shops in the area are attractive to both tourists and locals visiting the city centre. Plaça Cort is a quaint square famous for the magnificent town hall and a legendary old olive tree. You might also hear the name Plaça d’Espanya which is the main train and bus hub connecting the rest of the island to the capital city. There are other open public spaces that could fall under the ‘plaza’ category in Palma but aren’t named plaza or plaça. For instance, the famous Parc de la Mar, in front of the cathedral, is a tourist hot spot and hosts various events throughout the year while Passeig des Born is a striking promenade filled with restaurants and shops along the main shopping street.
Other famously beautiful plazas worth visiting around the island are Pollença’s Plaça Major, which is a traditional square hosting markets and live entertainment. It’s also home to a 18th-century church with a stunning rose window. Sóller’s Plaça de la Constitución is equally pretty with its iconic Sant Bartomeu church and some delightful cafes ideally positioned to make the most of the picturesque setting. You will see and hear Sóller’s old fashioned tram rattling through every now and again which just adds to the character of the place.
Shops & boutiques
The island's shopping mecca is, without a doubt, the capital, Palma. Shops here comprise of well-known high street and luxury brands, in addition to quirky independent boutiques which offer a more local style. Mallorcan marinas are the place for designer shopping with Puerto Portals, Port Adriano and Port d’Andratx being the favourite spots. Most towns and villages also have weekly markets selling good quality food, local produce, touristy trinkets and some inexpensive clothes. Some of the most popular locally made products include artificial pearls, leather shoes and goods, pottery and ceramics, glassware and artworks.
Vineyards & estates
There are three main areas where vineyards flourish on Mallorca. Around the town of Binissalem is where the majority of Mallorcan wine is produced and there are many wine growers here whose estates are open to the public. The second area is focused around the town of Felanitx, on the east, and is named Pla & Llevant. Wine is also grown in the foothills of the Tramuntana mountains, mainly in the north. If you enjoy wine, try to make a visit - the vineyards are beautiful and the wine makers very enthusiastic about their produce. Not much wine makes it off the island, so it’s best to try it whilst you are here. Enjoy!
Location: Mallorca Island