Fabulous food, great wines, a stunning cathedral, picturesque hill-top villages and dramatic cliffs plunging into electric blue seas; there are so many reasons to fall in love with Mallorca.
I’ve visited this enchanting Mediterranean island many times over the years, most recently on honeymoon. To inspire you to make a visit, whether it’s your first or your twenty-first, here is my top 12 of things to see, eat and drink in Mallorca.
Top 4 things to see in Mallorca
There’s plenty of things to see and do in Mallorca including swimming from beautiful sandy beaches, sailing, canyoning and hiking. While these are all wonderful activities there are many places around the world where you can do them. Here I’ve selected four things to see that are unique to the island.
Palma is a fabulous city to explore on foot with great shops, enticing restaurants and wonderful architecture. The city’s massive Gothic cathedral, La Seu, is possibly the most impressive sight, especially when seen from the sea. It’s well worth joining the entrance queue as it’s as interesting on the inside, if not more so. It has one of the largest stained-glass windows in the world. Look out for the influence of Antonio Gaudi, who worked on the cathedral’s extensive renovations from 1901 to 1914.
The views from the vintage train to Sóller and the tram to Port de Sóller
Catch the vintage wooden train that runs between Palma and Sóller, passing olive groves, orchards and pine forests via a series of tunnels through the Tramuntana mountains. The line is over a hundred years old, having originally been built so that the farmers could take their oranges to the market in Palma. Sóller has some interesting Art Nouveau houses and a pleasant town square for a spot of people-watching from a pavement café.
From Sóller you can take the tram (pictured above) to Port de Sóller for a stroll along the seafront and perhaps lunch by the harbour.
Real Cartuja de Valldemossa
Once home to kings, monks and Chopin, this former monastery, now a museum, is a fascinating place to explore. Originally built as a palace in 1310, Carthusian monks converted it into a monastery in 1388. In the 19th century, after the monks had been expelled, the building was converted into rental accommodation. Its two most famous residents were the composer Frédéric Chopin and the French novelist Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, best known by her pseudonym George Sand.
Today you can wander through a series of cells showing how the monks once lived, and see many items of Sand and Chopin memorabilia, including several of Chopin’s pianos. Listen out for the regularly held piano recitals which are included in the entrance fee.
above: view of Valldemossa
Robert Graves’ House in Deià
About 10 miles north of Valldemossa lies the pretty village of Deià that tumbles down the hillside to a picturesque pebble cove. Down one of its cobbled streets, you’ll find the home of the English poet and novelist, Robert Graves. Now a museum, it is furnished much the same as when Graves lived here and contains many of his belongings.
above: view of Deià
Top 4 things to eat in Mallorca
Food plays a big part in a visitor’s experience in any destination and Mallorca doesn’t disappoint. Traditional local food is hearty and wholesome, mainly based on lamb, pork, game, fish, fruits and vegetables with plenty of garlic, local herbs and olive oil. Rice dishes such as paella are also popular. And, just as I expected, there are some delicious local cheeses.
In Palma, you’ll find plenty of international and modern cuisine options too, but I’m a fan of the traditional. Here are some of my favourite local dishes.
This spiral-shaped pastry is eaten for breakfast or ‘merienda’ (afternoon snack) with coffee. It dates back to the 17th century and is made with flour, eggs, water, sugar, mother dough and ‘saim’ pork lard, so is not suitable for vegetarians. It’s also a popular souvenir to take home. You’ll see boxes and boxes of it at the airport.
Sobrasada is a spicy spreadable sausage eaten spread over crusty bread and drizzled with honey. I’ve also had it simply served in chunks as a tapa (in the centre in the image below) and I’ve come across it as an ingredient in a number of local dishes.
Literally meaning dirty rice, arros brut is a delicious mix of meat, rice and vegetables in a particularly scrumptious broth. The ingredients are seasonal but can include chunks of pork, chicken, rabbit and vegetables or whatever comes to hand, including sobrasada, wild mushrooms and even snails. It is flavoured with a combination of spices that usually include saffron, paprika, cinnamon, pepper, cloves and nutmeg.
Pan Con Tomate
A traditional Catalan dish of lightly toasted crusty bread slices rubbed with fresh garlic and ripe tomatoes and drizzled in extra-virgin olive oil. I’ve seen several variations on this dish, but my favourite was at Cafè Plaça in the main square of Pollensa where it was served with small tender squid, chopped parsley and garlic mayonnaise.
Top 4 things to drink in Mallorca
The tap water is perfectly safe to drink in Mallorca, but people still tend to drink bottled mineral water (con gas is sparkling, sin gas is still), although I’d sooner refill my bottles with tap water than use more plastic bottles. When it comes to alcoholic beverages you are spoilt for choice with plenty of local beers, liquors and wines available. The wines are rarely exported so you’ll have to come to Mallorca to try them.
Wine is an important part of life in Mallorca, shaping its landscape and its culture. Much of the island’s wines are produced in and around the village of Binissalem, to the north-east of Palma, where the local grape varieties Manto Negro and Callet for red wines and Moll for whites are grown. The area has been awarded the Denominación de Origen (Designation of Origin) — similar to the French appellations. Most of the wineries are open to the public. You’ll find more information on the website, binissalemdo.com.
Another great winery that I’ve visited is Ca’n Vidalet not far from Pollensa in the north of the island.
A traditional local liqueur often given, free of charge, at the end of a meal in Mallorcan restaurants. This digestif is made from many different herbs, rosemary, camomile, mint, fennel and marjoram, in an anise liqueur. Locals swear by it for warding off colds, flu, sore throats and many other ills. Those labelled seques are dry, dolces sweet and mezclades, is medium dry. It has a distinctive taste of herbs, with mint being the most prominent, and the anise really hits the spot. I’ve come across it on other Spanish islands, including the Canaries, but each one is a little different depending on the local herbs and climate. The Mallorcan herbes remains my favourite.
A popular drink in the early mornings, especially in winter, Carajillo, is an espresso with a generous shot of brandy. To dress it up a bit you can add a stick of cinnamon and a slither of lemon peel.
A Spanish friend of mine used to always start his day with a Carajillo when he was living in London. I can certainly see the appeal when you have to get up in the wee hours on the cold winter’s day (as long as you don’t have to drive to work).
The towns of Sóller and Port de Sóller, lie in heart of the ‘valley of oranges’ which has a microclimate ideally suited to growing of oranges.
Sit in a pavement café in Sóller and order a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (zumo de naranja). The one we picked was right by the rails for the tram. A bit too close for comfort!
Where to stay in Mallorca
For our honeymoon, we stayed at the Bonsol Hotel Resort and Spa, an eco-friendly seaside hotel in the village of Illetas, a short drive from Palma. You can read more about the Bonsol Hotel in my post, Finding my Nirvana in Mallorca or watch this brief video of the hotel.
We used AT Mallorca Transfers and found their service to be excellent. It was wonderful to walk off the plane, pick up our bags and be whisked away in a smart Mercedes minivan. Our driver was polite, helpful and punctual. The standard price from Palma airport to Illetas is €42 each way. They also offer a VIP service for €60 each way.
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Disclaimer: Our stay at Bonsol Hotel Resort & Spa and our AT Mallorca Transfers were complimentary for review purposes. As always, I am free to write what I wish and will only share with you my own honest opinions.
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