This post shows you the postcard-pretty Palma de Mallorca old town that hides behind the famous cathedral. El Casco Antiguo has been there for hundreds of years before any tourists found the island.
People live their life in narrow cobbled streets like they always did. Palma de Mallorca old town is the real Mallorca you shouldn’t miss when visiting the island.
Palma de Mallorca architecture: Can Casayas
The Bay of Palma on both sides of Mallorca’s old capital is one of Europe’s biggest holiday resorts. All holiday makers land in Palma but most of them skip the city and head straight off to the beaches.
Because they don’t know what Palma is like: it’s a different world. It’s a living local city and it has unique architecture.
Palma de Mallorca Old Town Walking Map
I made a walking itinerary that shows you Palma de Mallorca old town. It’s a half day walk and takes you to old Arab and Jewish quarters, beautiful squares and churches, all packed in an area of a square kilometer.
Walking is the way to see Palma de Mallorca old town. The streets are narrow and most streets are pedestrianized. There’s no place to park.
We left our car in the parking garage Paseo Maritimo that you can see on my Palma map. It’s almost below the cathedral and very easy to find. Parking in itself took almost an hour which made me think we should have in fact taken a bus.
But here we are, in Parc de la Mar right below the majestic sandstone cathedral that dominates Palma’s skyline:
La Seu, the Cathedral of Palma
La Seu, the Cathedral of Palma
Palma is an old Moorish city and the cathedral was built where the main mosque stood (and before that a Roman temple).
It was a huge effort to build the cathedral. They kept building for five hundred years from 1230 on. And then came an earthquake and again they built.
Cathedral wall, Palma de Mallorca
Go in the cathedral if you can. The interior is stunning. Gaudi planned parts of it as he helped rebuild the church after earthquake. You can tell Mallorca’s cathedral and the one in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia, are planned by the same man.
La Seu from Parc de la Mar, Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca Cathedral from Palau d’Almudaina
So now we have seen the cathedral but what else is there to see?
Palau d’Almudaina, Palma de Mallorca
Just like the name says the Palace of Almudaina has been a Moorish fortress. Almudaina is the Arabic for fortress.
When the Spanish took over in the 13th century they made the Moorish fortress their royal residence. Still today the Spanish king uses Almudaina when he is ruling from Mallorca.
The history of the Palace of Almudaina gave it a mixture of styles, Moorish and Gothic. Many parts of the palace are open to the public depending on if the king is there. There is the queen’s office, the kings room’s, a courtyard garden, Arab baths and so on.
The palace used to have a moat around it and you can still see parts of it:
Children admiring the Palac d’Almudaina moat
Arc de la Drassena of Palau d’Almudaina backed by Palma city wall
Palau d’Almudaina and stairs to Palma city wall
Palma City Wall
Parc de la Mar seen from Palma city wall
Palma has a lot of the old city wall left and it’s well preserved. Even some old gates are left. But the scenery from the wall is modern towards the sea. I so much like walking along the old Palma wall.
Below is Parc de La Mar. It’s a modern walking area with many levels and a man made lake. It was Joan Miro who planned all this in the 1960s when he lived in Mallorca. There is a Joan Miro museum a short way from Palma, in Cala Mayor.
Flowers growing on the Palma city wall
Banys Arabs, Palma de Mallorca
Behind the cathedral are Palma’s old Arab quarters and the ancient Moorish baths Banys Arabs. The baths are a peaceful corner of Palma de Mallorca old town. They are in a private garden.
And the original Moorish hammam still stands there. Twelve columns support its roof that has a hole to bring in light. The same idea was used in Pantheon in a larger scale.
Banys Arabs garden
Horseshoe door leading to the hammam
Banys Arabs bathhouse with 12 columns
Horseshoe out from the hammam
Close to Banys Arabs is the Museu de Mallorca. It has a good exhibition of Mallorcan art, paintings, ceramics, stone fragments and so on – the right place to learn about Mallorca’s history.
Old Town Alleys
Palma de Mallorca old town
So Palma de Mallorca old town begins right behind the cathedral. My photos show what old town alleys looks like. There are a lot of these lanes spread on a large area.
Palma consists of many historical layers which you can tell from the buildings. Palma originally was the Roman city of Palmaria (from 120 BC on) and Roman ruins still exist one or two meters below the ground. Then between 902 and 1229 it was a Moorish city. We already saw some of those remains.
And since that Palma is a Spanish city with its own culture. It’s clearly a Catalan city affected by Catalan architecture. And there have been even more influencers: the Jewish. Palma de Mallorca old town had one of the leading Jewish communities in Europe.
Think about all those layers and enjoy Palma de Mallorca old town:
Typical street of Palma de Mallorca old town
A traditional shop
A tapas bar in a street corner
More Palma de Mallorca old town streets
A living-room exterior
Cafeteria la Juventud
Churches of Palma de Mallorca Old Town
Sant Fransecs Church, Palma de Mallorca
Palma does not only have the cathedral. Almost every square in the old town has a church, a small invisible one or a big one like these two.
This is Basilica de Sant Francesc and it took a hundred years to build it. But it was worth the effort, look what rosette they carved in the facade! And the next square Placa Santa Eulalia shows a different style, there is a Gothic church.
Church of Santa Eulalia
Church tower of Santa Eulalia, Palma de Mallorca old town
Placa de Cort
Palma de Mallorca town hall on Placa de Cort
The next old town square is Placa de Cort. Placa de Cort is triangle shaped and has Palma Town Hall on one side. The huge olive tree on the square is 800 years old. It provides much wanted shade to locals and tourists in outdoor tapas bars that there is a good choice of.
Placa de Cort, Palma de Mallorca old town
A glass of wine below olive tree, Placa de Cort
A Placa de Cort bar, Palma de Mallorca old town
Can Forteza Rey
Facade of Can Forteza Rey, Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca old town is not only old layers, there are new things as well.
Or what do you say about this modernist building? It is Can Forteza Rey on Placa del Marques del Palmer, also called Can Rei. It’s an apartment building designed by Luis Forteza Rey.
The style is called Catalonian art nouveau. Gaudi was a leader in this style and he lived in Palma while helping rebuild the cathedral. Thanks to him Palma got a lot of buildings with this kind of new, fresh look.
Arte modernista architects used the kind of forms and details that Gaudi used in his works: broken ceramic tiles, glass paintings and wrought iron balconies.
Facade of Can Forteza Rey, Palma
Can Forteza Rey details
Wrought iron balcony of Can Forteza Rey
Can Forteza Rey pastry shop, Palma de Mallorca old town
Gate to Placa Major, Palma de Mallorca
Next door to Can Rei is one of Palma’s main squares Placa Major. The 19th century square has massive yellow buildings on all sides and cafes and street stalls in the middle. And Placa Major is always packed with people. Since this is the core of Palma de Mallorca’s shopping area.
And all these people hanging out here are right. Placa Major is a beautiful square, and not least for the balconies and green window shutters.
IT’s easy to see why Placa Major is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Cafes lining Placa Major, Palma de Mallorca old town
Apartments on Placa Major
Green window shutters
Shopping street from Placa Major to Avinguda Jaume III
Avinguda Jaume III
View of Avinduda Jaume III, Palma de Mallorca
Avinguda Jaume III has a lot of big plane trees that provide much needed shade. Summer days in Mallorca are hot.
This is not pedestrian zone and there’s a lot of noisy traffic passing, yet people sit and spend their time in pavement cafes. But these are not just any cafes. The Forn d’es Teatre is Palma de Mallorca’s famous theatre pastry shop (the theatre itself is nearby). And the stylish Bar Central is another popular meeting place.
Forn des Theatre, Palma de Mallorca
Bar Central, Avinguda Jaume III, Palma de Mallorca
Fundacio de Caixa
Fundacio La Caixa, Palma de Mallorca
A view from the cafes: one of Palma’s greatest buildings, Fundacio La Caixa. Caixa originally was a hotel, the Grand Hotel. That was the first luxury hotel built in Palma when tourism to Mallorca started. That was in 1902.
Since then travel has increased and the branch changed a lot. The Grand Hotel left the building and the local bank Fundacio de Caixa financed restoring it. Today Fundacio de Caixa contains art exhibitions, a bookshop and a cultural center. And a street cafe.
The Fundacio La Caixa building, Palma de Mallorca
Flower decorations designed on the former Grand Hotel of Palma
Fundacio La Caixa, Catalan architecture in Palma de Mallorca
Can Casayas, Palma de Mallorca
More modernist buildings follow down the street, the twin houses Can Casayas. They are from 1908. The twin houses too are perfectly restored. They have so many crooked lines and unusual details that I have to sit down and just look. The location is Placa del Mercat.
One of the two Can Casayas, Palma de Mallorca
Can Casayas modernist building, Palma de Mallorca
More Old Town Alleys
These twin houses have a narrow lane between them. Take this lane back to the shopping area see some more of the old town:
Narrow lane from Can Casayas to old town
Charcuteria La Pajarita, Palma de Mallorca old town
Bombons i Torrons
More Catalan architecture in Palma de Mallorca old town
One more Palma modernist building
Passeig des Born
Passeig des Born, the central avenue of Palma de Mallorca
Back from the narrow shopping lanes: Passeig des Born, the center of another shopping district. The shady Passeig des Born is an elegant avenue lined with brand shops. It has a wide walking area in the middle: cafes, street sellers, fountains and a lot of stone benches to sit on. It looks a bit like the Rambla in Barcelona.
Passeig des Born is where you will probably start exploring Palma if you arrive by bus. It is the very center of Palma and the avenue leads to Placa de la Reina in the south.
Passeig des Born, Palma de Mallorca
Passeig des Born apartments
Balconies facing Passeig des Born
Old architecture of Passeig des Born, Palma de Mallorca
Shady avenue of Passeig des Born, Palma de Mallorca
Fountain on Placa de la Reina, Palma de Mallorca
Avinguda D’Antoni Maura
Park gate to Antoni Maura, Palma de Mallorca
And the shady avenue continues, all the way back to the car park where we started. Avinguda Antoni originally was a fortress moat and there still is some water. And an old gate and fountains and statues. I like this shady place – but it will soon be time to head back to my hotel pool outside Palma. the best with tourism is that you can have both the culture and the beach life.
This has been a wonderful day and we have walked pretty much. And we have seen a lot of the postcard-pretty Palma de Mallorca old town that hides behind the cathedral. Each time I go to Palma it surprises me, once again. The city is so atmospheric and they have preserved so much of the old.
View of Avinguda d’Antoni Maura, Palma de Mallorca
Fountains on Avinguda d’Antoni Maura, Palma de Mallorca
Hope you liked my Palma walk and hope my post was helpful. There’s so much to see everywhere we go, you just have to find the right places.
Was there something I missed that should have been included in the itinerary? Certainly a lot but I can’t write more in one post. You can add it in the comments.
One more time, Palma cathedral:
Cathedral La Seu in Palma de Mallorca old town
More on Mallorca Travel:
- See my other post on Mallorca: 5 Great Ways to Enjoy Beautiful Mallorca