Rocky mountains and lush wooded hillsides fall steeply down to the sea. Along the picturesque coastline, dramatic cliffs offer sensational viewpoints, and pristine coves sparkle with crystal-clear waters. Vacationers are also delighted by the historic towns and charming villages, loaded with tourist attractions like medieval churches, ancient castles, and art museums. The joy of Mallorca is the combination of culture and nature. In the same day, visit the glorious Gothic cathedral of the capital city, then sunbathe on a pristine beach. Stroll through the walled medieval village of Alcudia, then be inspired by a 15th-century monastery or relax at the glamorous seaside resort of Puerto Portals. With so many options packed into this idyllic island, tourists will have plenty of reasons to stay for a week's vacation or longer.
The Cultured Capital City of Palma de Mallorca
A beautiful capital city, Palma de Mallorca offers the perfect combination of seaside relaxation and culture. Two impressive monuments, the cathedral and the castle, give this city the prestige of other capitals in Europe. The glorious Catedral de Mallorca (La Seo) overlooks the Old Harbor and appears from a distance as a beacon of faith. This monumental sandstone building dates to the 13th century but wasn't completed until the 17th century. The splendid Gothic facade features sculptural decorations by Guillermo Sagrera. Visitors are awed by the interior of the cathedral with its aisled nave rising to a height of 44 meters. The massive space covers an area of 6,600 square meters. Splendid stained-glass windows including several rose windows (the largest dates from 1370) illuminate the sanctuary with an ethereal glow. Much of the interior was remodeled by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí in the early 20th century. In the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), Gaudí's gigantic baldachin is shaped like a crown of thorns. The Capilla de la Trinidad contains the sarcophagi of Kings Jaime II and III. From the terrace on the south side of the cathedral, tourists can enjoy a magnificent view of the bay.
The formidable 13th-century Castillo de Bellver sits on a hilltop three kilometers from the historic center of Palma de Mallorca. Once a royal stronghold, the castle's unusual circular plan was influenced by Eastern architecture. A bridge leads into the castle's courtyard, which is lined with Romanesque and Gothic arcades. The castle is open to the public and has a history museum and chapel.
Other attractions include the Fundación Pilar i Joan Miró in the house where the artist lived. This museum has an excellent collection of paintings, drawings, and sculptures by the Catalan artist. For those who prefer to lounge by the sea, the nearest option is near the Miro Foundation at the Cala Major. This wide sandy beach is very popular during summertime. Other beaches include the Playa de Palma and the Playa del Arenal.
Alcudia's Old Town
Surrounded by lush greenery and pine forests, Alcúdia is one of the most scenic towns in Mallorca. This wonderfully preserved walled medieval town is also known for its interesting historic monuments, delicious cuisine, and traditional festivals. The town lies a distance from the sea and was fortified to protect against pirates that were a danger during the Middle Ages. Of the ancient ramparts, only the Xara and Palma gates and the Renaissance-era Bastion of Sant Ferran remain. Alcúdia has a distinct Old World ambience with it winding medieval streets and palatial Renaissance houses. Important churches include Santa Ana and Sant Jaume and the Baroque chapel of Sant Crist with a 15th-century image of Christ. Alcúdia also has archaeological sites as the town was built on the site of an ancient Roman settlement. Remains of Roman houses, a forum, and an amphitheater lie to the south of Sant Jaume Church.
Several interesting tourist attractions are found outside the town. For those who enjoy bird-watching, La Albufera natural park on the bay attracts more than two hundred species of birds throughout the year. A popular nearby seaside destination is the resort of Puerto Alcudia with its sandy beach, stylish seaside promenade, and restaurant scene. The coastline around this area also has many pristine coves of crystal-clear water. The Yannick & Ben Jakober Foundation is an excellent modern and contemporary art museum (open to the public on Tuesday, guided tours only by appointment Wednesday through Saturday) This eclectic museum is seven kilometers from Alcudia in a beautiful garden setting with a sculpture park.
Puerto Portals: A Glamorous Seaside Resort
This upscale seaside resort on the Southwest Coast of Majorca is a favorite destination of the Spanish royal family and other trendsetting visitors. The chic marina is filled with luxury yachts and draws fashionable people to the yacht club, stylish shops, cafés, and restaurants. With its expensive boutiques and flashy cars (Ferraris and Porsches are common) seen racing through town, Puerto Portals feels like a smaller version of Monte Carlo in Monaco. Tourists can stroll up and down the waterfront while enjoying the scene, stopping to shop at the designer stores. Gourmet dining is also a popular pastime at fancy restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Tristan Restaurant as well as the more casual Tristan Bistro and Flanigan Restaurant. Many of the cafés and restaurants have pleasant outdoor patios to soak up the Mediterranean sunshine.
Nearby, Marineland is an attraction for families with kids. Children love playing at the water park and seeing the dolphins and sea lion show. Also nearby is the Mood Beach Club, which has a beautiful beach and a gourmet restaurant.
The Hilltop Town and Monastery of Valldemossa
In a picturesque setting between the Tramuntana Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, the historic village of Valldemossa is filled with charm. Steep pedestrian streets and buildings with old stone facades lend a special ambience. The mountainous area has luxuriant vegetation, and the slopes lead down to beaches and coves. Below the hilltop town is a lovely harbor; the Port of Valldemossa, which still feels like a little fishing village. Tourists will enjoy sampling the fresh seafood specialties at the local restaurants.
Save time to visit one of the area's must-see sights, the Real Cartuja de Valldemossa. This magnificent Carthusian monastery was built in the 14th century on the site of an ancient Moorish Alcázar. For more than four hundred years, this serene setting offered spiritual inspiration to the Carthusian Monks who prayed and lived here. The monastery has welcomed other illustrious guests including the pianist Frédéric Chopin and novelist George Sand who spent the winter of 1838-1839 at the monastery. The couple rented a room inside the monastery, and the room is now open to the public. During the time they lived here, Chopin composed Raindrop Prelude and other works, and George Sand wrote her famous book, A Winter on Majorca. The expansive grounds of the monastery also include the 14th-century Palacio Rey Sancho built for King Jaime II.
Sóller's Beautiful Seaside Scenery
This lovely little town is tucked away in an idyllic valley, surrounded by beautiful scenery of olive groves and citrus orchards that leads to the sea. The famous Sóller Train takes tourists on a ride through the gorgeous landscape. Visitors can also reach Soller by train from Palma de Mallorca. The ride is enjoyed from a classic Old World railroad car. The town has several important historic monuments including the 14th-century parish Church of Sant Bartomeu, a monument dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Sa Capelleta Monastery off Lluc road. Outside the town, beyond the Coll de Sóller hillside, is Alfabia Palace, the site of a Moorish Vizier's residence. The property's splendid gardens flourish with fragrant lemon and orange trees, date palms, and bamboo plants. The palace was designed in Baroque style and contains valuable furniture and paintings. Nestled into the valley, the Port of Sóller has a picturesque marina with the verdant hillsides as a backdrop. Many small boats and yachts are moored in the marina.