Palma is the capital of Mallorca island and, with 358,462 registered residents, is home to around half the island´s inhabitants. Practically all of the Mediterranean cultures and civilisations have left their mark here, but it is tourism which has given the island its current form and provided economic dynamism.
The city was founded in 123 BC by Quint Cecili Metel, which was the same year in which Mallorca became part of the territories of the Roman Empire; however, it is thought that Roman Palma was built on top of a prehistoric settlement. The first part of the city was built around the current site of the cathedral of La Seu and the Almudaina Palace, stretching as far as the site of the Plaça de Cort and enclosed by a wall, the remains of which can be seen in the gardens of the Episcopal Palace. During the period in which the Moors ruled Mallorca, the city became known as Medina Mayurka, though there are few traces of this era left, apart from the layout of the old quarter and the Arab baths. Historians describe the city as being full of vegetable gardens and fountains. With the Christian conquest of Mallorca in 1229 the city became known as Ciutat de Mallorca; this name was maintained until around 1717, when the Roman name was readopted, and then the city was given the name of Palma. It is curious that even today many Mallorcans refer to the capital simply as Ciutat.
Palma is a city which spills out to the sea, with an important commercial dock which serves to bring in and send out a large proportion of the island´s goods. Palma´s port is also the entry point for many visitors, who either have a stopover as part of a Mediterranean cruise or who arrive by ferry. The large number of yachts and pleasure boats at the various maritime clubs along the city´s coast catch visitors´ attention, and these reflect the importance of tourism and water-sports on Mallorca. Important sailing competitions are held every year, such as the Copa del Rey and the Princess Sofia Trophy.
Bars and restaurants in Palma
Being a tourist city, Palma has a wide range of bars and restaurants, especially in the city centre. The area around La Plaça de la Llonja contains many fashionable bars and restaurants that form part of Palma´s nightlife scene, and the area which spreads out west along the Passeig Marítim has a similar range of establishments. Near the Santa Catalina market, at La Plaça de la Navegació, there are small restaurants with a varied range of cuisine. The area of Gènova is popular for eating, with Mallorcan cuisine and cooked-meat dishes on offer. To conclude, one of the top areas for nightlife in Mallorca is La Plaça Gomila; however, this zone, which, in times gone by, enjoyed the presence of stars such as Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and Errol Flynn, has lost some of its charm over the years.
In the Es Portitxol area, as you leave Palma in the direction of the airport on the Passeig Marítim, there are some restaurants which are famous for their fish dishes.
Shopping in Palma
In Palma there are many products from traditional Mallorcan crafts on sale, such as glassware, ceramics and the roba de llegües fabric used in the home. In terms of fashion, we find leatherware and artificial pearls which are made on the island. The most well-known gastronomic products are ensaïmada (sweet pastry) and sobrassada (spicy sausage spread), but there is also a wide variety of Mallorcan wines, as well as liqueurs, such as herbes and palo.
The main shopping area of Palma is made up of the pedestrianised streets in the old quarter, which run from La Plaça d´Espanya to La Plaça Major.
At the junction of the streets Carrer Joan Miró, L´avinguda Gabriel Roca and Passeig Marítim, we find the Porto Pi shopping centre, which is a modern complex containing shops, cinemas and restaurants.
As we leave the city in the direction of Inca, next to the motorway is the Alcampo shopping centre, and a bit further out we find Festival Park, where there are cinemas and restaurants.