For the past few years, the Balearic island of Mallorca has been quietly reinventing itself with a raft of noteworthy hotel openings, a revival of old artisan crafts by an influx of next-generation creatives and a growing number of restaurants awarded Michelin stars. And nowhere is this gentle evolution more apparent than in the low-key capital, Palma. Here, the characterful old town, with its majestic cathedral, pretty cobbled squares and labyrinthine streets, is made for meandering, while chic boutiques, contemporary art galleries and the super-smart waterfront attract an ever-more cosmopolitan crowd. These are our recommendations for this Spanish hotspot, to bookmark now for when you can get there.
WHERE TO STAY
Set in a peaceful corner of the old town above the historic Baluard del Príncep (one of only two bastions that date back to when this was a fortified city), three-year-old Es Princep has sensational views of Palma Bay from its rooftop terrace. Inside, the look is simple and modern; the home-from-home vibe created by the Mallorcan family owners is relaxed and unstuffy (the hotel is part of the Leading Hotels of the World collection). In a nod to the island’s traditional country fincas, clean-lined rooms in neutral hues have been furnished with warm wooden furniture, brass lamps and, in the bathrooms, natural stone sinks. Choose from a cityscape or sea vista: either way, the best come with glass doors that open onto a small balcony – the perfect spot for that first cup of morning coffee. Evenings are spent tucking into Mediterranean dishes in Bala Roja restaurant or at Gremium bar behind reception where mixologists knock up potent craft cocktails. Don’t miss the subterranean Coco spa either, which has a pool, hot tub, salt cabin and sauna, as well as treatments using products by renowned Parisian skincare brand Anne Semonin. Es Princep is a perfectly positioned oasis for exploring the capital.
Just a five-minute walk from Es Princep, sweeping Ca’n Pere Antoni is a favourite city beach among locals who flock here to stretch out on the fine white sand and soak up the sun. From here, it’s a cycle ride east along the palm-tree-lined promenade towards the former fishing village of Portixol (and beyond), which now has a small harbour and a handful of excellent seafood restaurants. A 45-minute drive north-west, the charming town of Banyalbufar makes a lovely day trip from Palma and has a gorgeous, off-the-beaten-track eponymous bay. Backed by steep cliffs and terraced mountains with a narrow pebbly strip for lounging on (it’s in the shade until late morning), this is a secret spot for blissfully refreshing swims in gin-clear water.
WHERE TO EAT
For a fine-dining experience, book a table at Es Princep’s flagship restaurant Bala Roja, where the ethos is traditional local flavours infused with a contemporary twist. Arrive hungry for the full-blown tasting menu which might run the gamut from a fried oyster with turnip tagliatelle aperitivo to a pre-dessert mousse of Mallorcan red sheep’s cheese and black trumpet mushroom ice cream. A new restaurant is due to open at the hotel in August 2022, under Michelin-standard chef Fernando Pérez de Arellano.
Also tucked away in the old town is Toque de Queda, a 15th-century bakery turned tapas restaurant and bar where sharing charcuterie and cheese platters and cervezas are served at communal tables. For something equally informal, head to Duke in the food-centric Santa Catalina neighbourhood. Set up by a pair of local surfer friends more than a decade ago, it has a global menu ranging from Thai curries and ramen noodles to gourmet burgers. Don’t be fooled by the beach-shack aesthetic: there is nothing casual about their attitude to properly sourced produce, much of which comes from Mercat de Santa Catalina, the city’s famous food market.
BEST ROOFTOP BAR
By far one of Palma’s biggest rooftop bars is the Almaq at Es Princep. It’s tranquil by day (sun loungers are arranged to face the dazzling Med, chilled beats play on the sound system and there’s a dipping pool for cooling off), but the atmosphere cranks up in the evenings as it becomes the place to come for cocktails to kick-start a night out. The all-day food menu includes the freshest salads and tempting tapas: fried squid with Mallorcan seaweed emulsion, caramelised onion croquettes with Mahón cheese and octopus ceviche. And in summer 2021, look out for the new series of live jazz and DJ sessions at sunset too.