Palma Mallorca City Information

History: It is believed Palma was inhabited by an ancient talayotic culture with close ties to the sea dating as far back as the early first millennium BC; a theory substantiated by the presence of hundreds of monolithic stone structures found within the city and throughout the island. The Romans invaded the island in 123 AD, and much later, in 903, the city was occupied by the Arab general Isam al-Jawlani.

Study Spanish at Mallorca, Spain - Photo by Lanci DanieleDuring its period of Arabic reign the city was named Medina Mayurqa, from which the modern "Mallorca" obviously originates. Traces of Islamic culture are still readily visible throughout the city, such as in the La Almudaina Royal Palace, the Arab baths, and the ancient Arabic city buried under the current one.

Palma's Spanish history begins in 1229, when King James I of Aragon conquered it during the Christian re-conquest of Spain. The city's privileged geographical location gave way to a period of intense commercial activity with northern Africa, the Italian city-states, and Turkish lands that would lead to its golden age.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a period of decadence would set in due to numerous factors, including widespread disease and frequent pirate attacks, but by the eighteenth century King Charles III led the city back to commercial prosperity by initiating trade with India, and the city's port became an important center of maritime commerce.

In the 1950s, Mallorca's popularization as a vacation destination changed the appearance of Palma, transforming it into a cosmopolitan center of tourism and cultural exchange. From this moment on, the growth of tourism in Mallorca would be nothing less than spectacular, growing from roughly 500,000 visitors received in 1960 to more than 6.5 million tourists in 1997.


Attractions: The La Seu cathedral in Palma, built around an Arab mosque, is the second-highest cathedral in Europe and the highest in Spain. The cathedral was founded by King James I of Aragon in 1229, but it wouldn't be completed until the beginning of the seventeenth century. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the beautiful Parc de la Mar park, and is occupied by hawks that nest high above in the bell towers. For a time, the famous architect Antoni Gaudí worked on a renovation of the cathedral that resulted in several important changes to its design.

Other interesting historical sites in the city inlcude the unique Bellver Castle (Europe's first circular castle), the San Carlos Castle, the La Almudaina Royal Palace, and the city's numerous Arab baths. The beach, the Aqualand waterpark, and boat rentals are also popular activities within the city and island.

Palma celebrates a number of festivities every year. The San Sebastian festival lasts two weeks each January and includes a wide variety of events, from original firework displays to concerts, on each celebration day. The Fiesta del Estandarte commemorates the official entrance of James I's troops to the city, marking the end of Islamic rule. This festival is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to the thirteenth century.


Going Out: Palma and its island are renowned for their nightlife, though it is certainly more relaxed in this respect than its neighboring island, Ibiza. Most of the action takes place in three main areas: the city, Magalluf and El Arenal (the latter two are within a short distance of the city). Generally speaking, Palma hosts a more local crowd, with Titos as its most popular large nightclub. Magalluf tends to draw large British crowds, while German tourists often concentrate in El Arenal.

Each of these areas offer tremendous variety and a large number of establishments, from excellent restaurants to bars and clubs. Nearly every type of music is represented, and plenty of entertainment is available to people of all age groups. Some of the other popular nightclubs are the Pacha in Palma, Riu Palace and Zorbas in El Arenal, and BCM in Magalluf.