November 2017: Palma de Mallorca — late Autumn City Break

Le Seu [Catedral de Mallorca] with the s'Hort del Rei [Royal Palace] beyond viewed from across the Parc de la Mar.

Palma de Mallorca has gained a reputation recently for excellent food — with Michelin starred restauarants in the city and beyond and high quality tapas in the bars/cafes/restaurants — and a flurry of city centre hotels opening in refurbished palacios and town houses - a great off-season draw for us hedonists.

The historic city centre of Palma is a warren of narrow streets and passages that initially baffled us experienced city visitors - and we have dipped into the city a few times previously. We slowly got our bearings and found routes through the urban maze to explore and visit some recommendations for drinks and meals, shops and taking in the city ‘vibe’.

We’ve drawn some maps of walking routes from our base at the Hotel Posada Terra Sant and the locations of bars and restaurants nearby. Some feature in the Ruta Martiana Tuesday Tapas Route scheme. We've also read of the Ruta Santa Catalina, a similar scheme on Thursdays that we’ll try out on a future visit [awaiting confirmation].

Palma de Mallorca City Centre.

1: Museu es Baluard, 2: Le Seu [Catedral de Mallorca], 3: Museu Mallorca, 4: Mercado Gastronomica San Juan, 5: Mercado 1930, 6: Mercat d'Olivar, 7: Mercat Ecologico, 8: Mercat Santa Catalina. Major roads in ochre; main streets in grey. Yachts and small craft line the water's edge of the huge Marina to the West of the Moll Vell. The Airport lies to the east, with access from Ma 1.

Around the city

The main roads bounding the old city centre follow the reclaimed coastline and the zig-zag of the city walls to the east. Another dual carriageway, Passeig Mallorca/Avinguada de l'Argentina follows the Sa Riera watercourse past the 16th century citadel now housing the Museu Baluard, bar and restaurant. Within the city the main streets are Las Ramblas, Passeig Born and Avinguada de Jaume III. All other streets meander around, focussing on parish churches and plazas. The modern rail terminus at Plaça d'Espanya is hidden below ground with a bar and cafe on the plaza fronting what is now a linear park. Trains to Inca and other towns leave from here; the vintage trains to Soller leave from an adjacent station.

Palma is a lovely city to walk around, the architecture an eclectic mix of mediaeval, post-classical, modernista and contemporary interventions repurposing older buildings. The population: young and old, wealthy and less so occupy apartments throughout the old city; so at street level, shops for locals are juxtaposed with high fashion and old craft workshops like basket making. The numerous bars, cafes and restaurants again cater for friends and neighbours as well a visitors. Doubtless, the old city is teeming with tourists in the summer, but it’s pleasantly busy when quilted coats are required in the evenings - everyone wears them in Autumn!

Eclectic 'Modernista' style edifice fronting the Plaça Mercat: one of a pair on opposite corners of Costa de Ca'n Santacillia. Designed by Francesc Roca Simó in 1908.

Fundacio Le Caixa — the former Grand Hotel designed by Catalan architect Lluis Domenech I Montaner in 1903. Another example of OTT 'modernista' architecture. An art and design bookshop and the Cafe de Grand Hotel are on the ground floor.

The imposing mass of the cathedral has yet to lure us inside, but the Parc de la Mar gardens below the old ramparts are very pleasant - a nice spot for children and buskers to play too.

Check out the map for walking routes centred on the Hotel Posada Terra Sant for shopping, local bars, cafes and restaurants. On Tuesday evenings the La Ruta Martiana scheme offers a drink and a tapas for a set price in some bars in the neighbourhood. A great idea but not too well advertised — see our map!

La Ruta Martiana and the Canamunt Neighbourhood

La Ruta Martiana 1: TOC RestoBar; 2: Cafe D 'en Coll; 3: Tapas Bar La Andaluzia; 4: La Cuadra del Mano; 5: Sa Corbata; 6: Tagomagos; 7: Ca la Seu; 8: Sa Jugueteria; 9: Lemon Tree; 10: Moltabarra. Other Bars & Restaurants A: La Tortilleria de Palma; B: Quina Creu; C: Vermuteria Vi.Xet; D: Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo.

As mentioned we've read of a similar event on Thursday evenings: the Ruta Santa Catapintxos in the old fishermans neighbourhood of Santa Catalina. It's listed on the internet [latest post 2010] with 16 bars/cafes/restaurants offering a fixed price tapas and drink offer. We're currently investigating this scheme — watch this space!

Another great reason for visiting the city in the autumn is the TaPalma ruta de tapas y cócteles, this year held on 15-19 November, but again poorly promoted — guide booklet and website in Spanish only and no posters or street banners — we were there! There are a number of short routes of bars/cafes/restaurants around the city offering a speciality tapas and cocktail at a set price. There is also a competition for best tapas and cocktail.

Te Palma guide to participating venues 2017.

At the top end of the restaurant spectrum is the Chefs[in] organisation — also in Ibiza and Menorca — a group of Michelin star chefs offering events and happenings including: Cursos Kids: a kids cooking school, Hidden Kitchens: pop-up tasting menu events [very expensive], Peccata Minuta: high end tapas events in exotic locations and Cursos #a4manos: a sort of cooking theatre, tasting event/Masterchef thing for two chefs at a time! [See below regarding fine dining deals].

Bars and Restaurants;  

Apartment living means the population use bars, cafes and restaurants as neighbourhood meeting places in addition to tourists needing respite from shopping and sightseeing. In the old city these are sometimes situated in the most unprepossessing locations like the narrow and sunless Carrer de Ca'n Sanç [near the Hotel Posada Terra Sant] where Ca'n Joan de S'Aigo is a vibrant cafe/restaurant specialising in chocolate, fruit ices and traditional pastries with a history dating back to 1700 [see the website]. A little further along is the Vermuteria Ca'nVi.Xet — again, simple premises selling our favourite drink.

We had some very good meals, and a free drink one evening at the bar of Quina Creu, just a few steps from the Hotel Posada Terra Sant. We happened upon an improptu music happening Saturday afternoon at La Tortilleria de Palma — acoustic double base and a rapper — surprisingly acceptable. Food and drinks OK too — if you like tortillas! Another astonishing find was Celler sa Premsa, on Placa Obispo Berenguer de Palou, established in 1958 and serving traditional Mallorcan cuisine in a huge, barrel lined dining room at bargain prices — probably why it filled up completely in 30 minutes from our arrival at 1.00pm.

Lunchtime at Celler Sa Premsa: mainly local 'pensionistas' and a smattering of tourists too.

The Es Baluard Museu d'ArtModern | Contemporani de Palma [see Culture] has a bar/cafe/restaurant and 'chill out zone' with 'the best terrace in the city'. It's open from 10.00am to midnight everyday. Considering the location, contemporary venue and views, the prices are not outrageous — although we only had a few drinks.

Entrance to the The Es Baluard Museu d'ArtModern | Contemporani de Palma.

Across the Sa Riera storm drain/river from Es Baluard, on the edge of the Santa Caterina district is the Hostal de Cuba Hotel, with it's recommended Sky Bar on the roof terrace. Drinks are understandably expensive here but there are great views here too.

The Sky bar on the roof terrace of the Hostal de Cuba Hotel on Avenguida Argentina.

The Santa Caterina district, west of Avenguada Argentina has definitely been 'hipsterised' since our previous visit: a profusion of bars/cafes/restaurants offering cuisines from around the world now occupy the ground floors of the terraces of pastel painted houses of this former fishermen's neighbourhood. A few remnants of windmills remain to the seaward side of the district on Caller Industria and Caller Es Jonquet that processed wheat for the city in the past.

A rather sad looking Museu di Molini overlooking Palma Bay in the Santa Caterina district — good metal lettering, albeit vandalised.

The Mercat de Santa Catalina, built in 1920 is the oldest market in Palma and is the heart of the neighbourhood. We were there late lunchtime and although the stalls had closed for the day the two bar/cafes were still doing a roaring trade in all sorts of tapas and small plates — Bar La Tapita offered two types of paella and morcilla [blood pudding] too.

Late lunch at the Mercado Santa Catalina.

Markets

Municipal Markets are a fascinating feature of Spanish life — testimony to the vast range of fruit, vegetables, fish and seafood, fish and cured meats and provisions of all kinds displayed with passion at markets large and small and still patronised by a discriminating public. The famous La Boqueria in Barcelona even has a marketing and souvenir point for tourists and many, as above, offer drinks and food at very reasonable prices for stallholders, shoppers and visitors.

Some old building have been repurposed as gastronomic markets for casual dining and drinking and 'street food style' concessions comprising small stands rented by food producers, breweries and wineries, bakeries and confectioners and fish, seafood and cured meat suppliers offering small plates with casual shared tables and seating.

In addition to the l'Olivera, Pere Garau and Santa Catalina municipal markets, Palma de Mallorca has embraced the gastronomic trend with the Mercado Gastonómico San Juan within the S’Escorxador complex on Carrer de l'Emperadriu Eugènia just north of the city centre. Opened in 2015, in a former slaughterhouse built in 1905, designed by architect Gaspar Bennazar in 'modernista' style. It was subsequently adapted as a commercial and cultural centre in 1990. A double height central area has long tables and surrounded by 20 vendors offering a multitude of food and wine offers. check out the lively web site for more details.

Even more recently the Mercat 1930, repurposed from the former Restaurant Mediterráneo 1930 has opened off the Paseo Maritimo on Avenida de Gabriel Roca. A smaller venue than the San Juan but with a lively social calendar. More details on our next trip!

Jeff Koons Christmas bunny window display at the Louis Vuitton shop on Passeig des Born.

Shopping

Palma has a profusion of posh shops for tourists and wealthy residents, all the usual Spanish chains, plus two El Corte Inglès department stores in the city centre. The Avinguada de Jaume III location has a small open air bar accessed from the top floor restaurant with views of the cathedral and city rooftops. Another favourite is the new Rialto Living clothes and decoration store on Carrer de Sant Feliu with an atrium cafe in a beautifully repurposed palacio. And don't forget the basket shop on Carrer de la Cordera. They come in all shapes and sizes and you can have your rush or wicker seated chairs re-woven here too!

View of Le Seu [Catedral de Mallorca], the Royal Palace [to the right] and city rooftops from the open air bar accessed from the top floor restaurant at the El Corte Inglès department store on Avinguada de Jaume III.

La Fabrica, Inca: the courtyard and the restauarant's produce growing area.

Trip out

Inca, inland from Palma is world famous as the home of Camper shoes, leather goods and some well known traditional celler style and contemporary restaurants. The big day in the calendar is Dijous Bo in November, on the Thursday of the week when we were there too! It's very much an event for local people: a huge street market, an exhaustive display of agricultural machinery and numerous competitions including Best Mallorcan Black Pig. We travelled on the very busy train to Inca and then jostled our way through the crowds to the main street, taking in the sights and smells of traditional food and a demonstration of ensamada cake making.

We had booked lunch at La Fabrica, a restaurant in a repurposed factory, right on the main street. We got a confirmation phone call in the UK to ensure that we knew only the five course seasonal tasting menu was available on the day! Chef Marcel Ress has a contemporary take on traditional Mallorcan cuisine — wonderful food at a bargain price! A great day out.

Our research also indicated that other chefs in the city of Palma also offer seasonal tasting menus at lunchtime [including Michelin star holders Marc Fosh and Adrián Quetglas] at prices way below that for dinner. Another good reason to revisit Mallorca soon.

Traditional foods and traditional costumes at Dijous Bo, Inca.

Print our of one of our tickets for the Al Di Meola show at Trui Teatre, Palma — no pix in the auditorium unfortunately! 

Culture

We also noted that a number of jazz events were scheduled for the autumn organised by the Jazz Voyeur Club to be held at the Teatre Tui — part of a school/college complex beyond the Ma 20 motorway, west of the city centre. We coincided with a performance by US guitarist Al Di Meola playing a mix of music with an accordianist. All the music had a very tango like sound due to the high pitched accordian. The theatre was very nicely appointed with a small foyer leading to an upper bar area and the auditorium was contemporary in style with comfortable seating. An intriguing evening — just to see who else in Palma attended the event — mainly people our age! We investigated travel by bus to the theatre, buy took the easy option and were pleasantly surprised to get a taxi to and from the venue for under 7 euros each way!

                                                   

Apartment building on the charming Plaça de Josep Maria Quadrado. Note the murals at the top of the facade illustrating domestic tasks — all undertaken by womene and girls!

Accommodation

Hotel Posada Terra Sant is an old family palacio on a narrow street off the charming Plaça de Josep Maria Quadrado. The wide arched ground floor houses reception and the breakfast/restaurant/kitchen area - a mash up of contemporary design and ancient stone arches and walls. This style continues throughout the hotel and up to the sun terrace and splash pool on the roof. Rooms are generous and well appointed, albeit a little dark. All staff are unfailingly bright and helpful without being over familiar. In addition to their own small restauarant La Desponsa del Barón, there are numerous restaurants and bars close to the hotel and all around the city centre, for casual dining and gastronomic taster menus too. Bicycles are available from the hotel for journeys further afield. Accomodation prices reflect the popularity of Palma  - OK in November, but seriously expensive in high season!

Our room at the Hotel Posada Terra Sant — big beds and beautiful linens.

Roof terrace solarium at the Hotel Posada Terra Sant, Plunge pool is up the steps — a bit too chilly in November!

Missed this event — on our last day! A musical event organized by 'Moixes de Canamunt' — cats of the neighbourhood!