Until a few months back, all I really knew about Majorca was that it was the home of Magaluf – aka ‘Shagaluf’, the resort where teenagers go after their A-levels to lose their V plates – and that certain people refer to it disparagingly as ‘Maj-Orr-Ka, the Maj pronounced the same was as ‘Her Maj’. But my uncle moved to Majorca recently and I spent a weekend visiting him and exploring the surrounding areas. It is a glorious place. As a beginner, I clearly do not present the below list as a definitive city guide, but rather a list of things which I would heartily recommend in and around Palma.
Where to stay
Palacio Can Marques is a converted 18th century palace tucked away near the centre of Palma. A dramatic staircase sweeps up above you as you walk into the courtyard, which leads up to the delightful collection of rooms. Most of them have high ceilings and retain many of the original architectural features. The whole place feels like a retreat from the city. At the very top of the building is the terrace, which is covered in hot pink bougainvillea. It is a lovely spot to have a cold drink and listen to the bells of the cathedral as they trill out throughout the day. The food is also pretty good: bowls of cooling almond soup and plates of unctuous jamon. I also made a note about the tomatoes, but I suspect tomatoes are good wherever you go on the island. Another excellent hotel is Can Bordoy, a rambling 16th-century family house that has been given a refurbishment, with one of the biggest private gardens in the city, a pool and an organic restaurant.
Where to eat and drink
It may seem ridiculous but the best place we ate was run by a British man selling tapas to the Spanish. El Camino opened recently on Carrer de Can Brondo and is run by Eddie Hart and his business partner Samuel Gough. Eddie is one of the Hart brothers, who are best known in London as being the founders of the Soho establishment Barrafina. At El Camino, locals and well-informed tourists mingle together at a long marble bar, from which you can watch as the chefs pour beer from white porcelain taps and serve up divine tapas. For a slightly less pricy option (apparently the locals somewhat balk at the price of the tapas in El Camino), we also enjoyed spending time in La Rosa Vermuteria, a white-tiled joint which serves up glasses of vermouth, tapas and all kinds of tinned fish.
What to do
Purobeach is the sort of place that looks very silly but is actually quite amusing to spend a day at. It’s a beach club with a pool, and nobody seems to swim in the sea. Everything is white and looks as if has been designed for Instagram, while DJs play house music that all sounds the same, but is enjoyable nevertheless. I drank pina coladas all day. Tacky, yes, but also quite a lot of fun. The one downside is that it is right under the flightpath, so every few minutes, a Ryanair plane appears above you.
For something a bit less basic, there is a marvellous old-fashioned wooden train that takes you from Palma to Sóller. It’s worth booking a ticket as it can get very busy – on the way up, we had to stand at the back of the train because there weren’t any seats. The route takes you up through lemon groves and rustic villages. You feel as if you are in another era and there is much to be said for that. From the small town of Sóller, there is another train that takes you down to the waterfront. I’m told the Ca’s Xorc hotel, a converted 18th-century olive mill, is the spot to stay in, if you plan to spend a night in Sóller. On the return journey to Palma, we bought almond macaroons and fresh lemonade from the friendly woman at the station.
For the nimble-footed, there are fine walks to be done across the island. We went from Esporles (a short taxi ride from Palma) to Valldemossa. The route took about five hours and meandered amongst olive groves and rocky outcrops with hilltop views of the sea. The restaurants in Valldemossa are not much to write home about but they serve cold beer, which is what we fancied most of all.
My top tip:
I was tempted by the sandals on sale throughout the city. The classic style is a simple leather sandal, which seemed to be on offer in most shops for about €40. But at the local supermarket, on the outskirts of the city, we found them for €16. They were exactly the same, and I have worn them all summer.