March 2020 Port of Call: How to Spend the Day in Mallorca

Port of Call: How to Spend the Day in Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca, the island’s largest city. 
Palma de Mallorca, the island’s largest city. 
Photo by Getty Images
If your cruise calls on the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, lucky you.
Sunny Mallorca ticks every box for a Mediterranean idyll. The island, located about 150 miles off the coast of Barcelona, is known for its beautiful – and bountiful – beaches, from rugged coves with Caribbean-blue waters to long crescents of fine sand lapped by crystalline waves. But for most visitors, especially those arriving by cruise ship, the first stop on the island is Palma de Mallorca, an ancient city founded by the Romans, where the superyachts of Russian oligarchs and other high rollers regularly drop anchor in the harbor. At this popular cruise port, skirting the tourist crowds is key, so embrace the easygoing island attitude that favors long lunches and leisurely strolls, and look to Catalan culture for respite from the parasol-packed playa. Here’s how to spend a day in this Balearic capital.
A cinammon bun and coffee at La Molienda.
A cinammon bun and coffee at La Molienda.
Photo by Nanna Dís

9 am: Get moving at La Molienda, the island’s first specialty coffee bar. Away from the tourist trail on a leafy corner of the residential Sant Jaume district, take a seat at a sidewalk table outside this welcoming café for a creamy almond-milk cappuccino or a pour-over made with beans roasted at its second location. Inside, choose from the fresh pastries displayed on the counter – the soft cinnamon buns are hard to resist – or peruse the menu for something more substantial, perhaps tomato toast topped with poached eggs, or a slice of grilled brioche dolloped with sheep’s milk yogurt and strawberry jam.

The Catedral de Mallorca.
The Catedral de Mallorca.
Photo by Nanna Dís

10 am: If you see only one sight while in Mallorca, make it the Catedral de Mallorca, the Gothic cathedral known to locals as La Seu. This majestic sandstone landmark, high on a bluff above the Mediterranean, also overlooks a large artificial lake (which happens to be the town’s top Instagram spot). To understand why this thirteenth-century structure has earned the nickname “the Cathedral of Light,” head inside to bask in the glow of its 59 stained-glass windows, including a central rose window illuminated by the morning sun. And don’t miss the altar with its canopy, designed by famed Catalan modernist Antoni Gaudí, best known for his masterwork, Barcelona’s Sagrada Família cathedral.

Bconnected.
Bconnected.
Photo by Nanna Dís

11 am: Stroll over to Santa Catalina, a bohemian neighborhood of low-slung cottages that once housed fishermen and harbor workers. In recent years, yoga studios, raw-food restaurants, laid-back bars, and creative boutiques have popped up here. Stop at Frida Watson to browse the well-edited collection of mid-century Scandinavian furniture and ceramics. Explore the showroom of Bconnected, featuring bold colors and patterns, from silk ikat cushions to citrus-print lampshades. Then visit the produce vendors and gourmet shops of the Mercat de Santa Catalina, a sprawling indoor food market – the oldest in Palma – that remains the heart of this evolving neighborhood.

Banderillas (skewered tapas) and vermouth at La Chica de Santa Catalina.
Banderillas (skewered tapas) and vermouth at La Chica de Santa Catalina.
Photo by Nanna Dís

1 pm: According to Spanish tradition, the hour before lunch is known as la hora del vermut, or “vermouth hour,” a sociable time to sip herbal aperitifs, nibble briny olives, and prime the palate. Join in the fun at La Chica de Santa Catalina. On a bustling corner of Santa Catalina, find a table on the outdoor terrace, then order a glass of Bodegas Yzaguirre’s ruby-red vermouth with olives and a few toothpicks speared with Cantabrian anchovies. When the hour is up, move on to the tapas menu for small plates of grilled razor clams and octopus, hand-sliced jamón Ibérico, fried artichoke hearts, blistered Padrón peppers, and Spanish tortilla.

Joan Miró’s studio in Palma.
Joan Miró’s studio in Palma.
Photo by Nanna Dís

4 pm: Central Palma is packed with popular art spaces, from world-class galleries to art institutions, including the Fundación Juan March and the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. But it’s worth a detour to the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca, a fascinating museum complex on a terraced hillside west of the city center. This is where the Catalan artist Joan Miró spent the last decades of his life, painting in a light-filled studio designed by Josep Lluís Sert and sketching on the walls of a traditional Mallorcan villa next door. Today, these well-preserved workspaces are open to the public, along with a sprawling exhibition hall where galleries and grassy gardens showcase dozens of the artist’s surrealist paintings and sculptures.

Nouveau tapas at El Camino.
Nouveau tapas at El Camino.
Photo by Nanna Dís

6 pm: While there’s no dress code at El Camino, a sophisticated new tapas bar on a lane in the historic center, you wouldn’t be out of place in an ascot, a tailored suit, or a designer gown (jeans are fine too). Arrive early to claim a stool inside this buzzy local haunt, a long, narrow space with mosaic-tile floors, gleaming mirrors, and a handsome marble-topped oak bar. Beneath glowing pendant lamps, order a copa of crisp Catalan cava or a smooth Mallorcan red – the island’s idiosyncratic blends are rarely exported – along with a few tapas, such as pillowy salt-cod beignets, Spanish tortilla studded with sobrassada sausage, and fried zucchini flowers stuffed with goat cheese.

Three Ways to Cruise to Mallorca

Travelers on Azamara’s 690-passenger Azamara Journey get a full day on Mallorca during an 8 am to 10:30 pm port call. The ten-day Barcelona-to-Civitavecchia (Rome) cruise also stops on the less-frequented island of Menorca and in the Italian ports of Amalfi and Sorrento, among others. Departure: May 26.

During the inaugural season of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s 298-passenger Evrima, experience Ritz-Carlton service at sea on an eight-day journey that departs from Barcelona and for the Balearics, concluding in Palma de Mallorca. The ship also calls on Ibiza, Formentera, and Menorca. Departure: June 14.

Spend autumn sailing across the Mediterranean aboard Seabourn’s 458-passenger Seabourn Odyssey on a 15-day cruise that departs from Piraeus (Athens) and stops in ports large and small along the coasts of Greece, Italy, France, and Spain, before docking in Barcelona. Day 13 brings a call on Mallorca for Serra de Tramuntana hikes, biking outings, or a winetasting tour. Departure: October 10.

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