The city of Palma on the island of Majorca is an ancient one. It has always been important in the history and culture of the western Mediterranean Sea. That has resulted in a rich, diverse and, at times very tumultuous past. That past has left behind magnificent reminders that are still visible, intact and available for visitors to enjoy today.
The best place to get a glimpse into Palma’s past is the Old City (or Old Town). It is a charming combination of an intricate web of shady, narrow, winding streets lined by pink Mediterranean style houses and lovely gothic buildings mixed in for good measure. Many of the houses are adorned with window boxes and narrow wrought-iron balconies, detailed metal carvings and overhanging eaves that add to its lure.
While there is much that is attractive and worth seeing in the Old City, it is the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Palma that dominates and receives the most visitors. It is a very, very large and magnificent Gothic, neo-gothic, restored building that took about 300 years (1299 to 1601) to complete. It sits between the Royal Palace of La Almudaina and overlooks the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea.
There are still some aspects of the town that are reminders of Palma’s Arab/Moorish past and their influences can still be seen. Nowhere more so than the locality called Bany Arabs or Arab Baths. You take a quiet street called Ca’n Serra that is close to the Cathedral to reach this small two-roomed brick building. It dates back to the 11th century and was once part of a larger residential complex. The bath room itself has a cupola, and twelve columns that were removed from some Roman era building. The baths are surrounded by beautiful gardens – Ca’n Fontirroig.
Then there is the ancient and still operational fishermen and sailors locality of El Jonquet. The most notable features of this area are the old mills that overlook it from above.
Bellver Castle is a unique structure because of its cylindrical form. While not technically a part of the old city, Bellver Castle is quite integral to the medieval history of the city and the island. It was built in the 14th century upon the ruins of a Moorish site and set high on a hill giving it fabulous (no doubt strategic too) views of the whole island. This distinctive fortress has three large towers and a central courtyard and houses an archaeological museum filled sculptures of times gone by. It has served as a residence for the Majorcan kings, a fortress and a prison.
While you stroll through this beautiful and old part of Palma you are bound to see a rather more modern addition to the area. They are the rubbish bins! They are attractive, like so much else in the Old City, and made of bronze. These rubbish bins are made up of two sections – an upper cylindrical part where you place your garbage. You turn a handle on the side, which then drops the refuse into the lower, rectangular storage portion.
When you are done seeing the area you could relax in one of the quaint little restaurants along the sea front and admire the view.