Tranvia de Sóller

Photographer: Ramón Rullán – CC0 Public Domain

The municipality of Sóller is located in a valley in the centre of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range in the north of Mallorca, surrounded by the highest peaks on the island. It is one of the most unique spots on Mallorca due to its natural isolation and the beauty of its landscape. In 1912 the Valley of Sóller was linked to the rest of Mallorca with the inauguration of the railway, which linked the valley with Palma de Mallorca. The railway maintains its original charm, but is now more of a tourist attraction than a means of transport.

Most of the streets here are narrow and winding, and the best way to enjoy the charm of the town is to wander round the stone-paved streets in the old quarter. Many houses have stone façades and a semi-circular arch as the entrance, and some have an interior courtyard with orange trees, which were the mainstay of the local economy in times gone by. At the front of some houses there are painted symbols on the underside of the tiles of the projecting tiled roofs, which are influenced by Pagan superstitions. One of the distinctive features of the town´s layout are the large ancestral homes which were built at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century by local people who had made their fortune in Latin America, especially Puerto Rico, as well as in France and other European countries, and who returned to Mallorca. Some of these are in a colonial style and others are in the Catalan art nouveau style, with plant and geometrical motifs on the façades and ironwork which is an authentic work of art, with styles depending on where the owners had emigrated.

The square of La Plaça de la Constitució is the centre of Sóller, and the tram which runs to the coastal town of Port de Sóller passes through here; the square is full of life, as it contains many bar and restaurant terraces and hosts cultural and leisure activities. The most outstanding building here is the Parish Church of Sant Bartomeu, which was founded in 1248. At the end of the 14th century the church was on the verge of ruin and was rebuilt in the Gothic style, with the façade being placed where the side entrance (Portal de Dalt) is today. Following the attack and pillage of Sóller by the Turks on 11 May 1561, it was decided that a fortress should be built around the church and the cemetery, acting as a refuge in the case of new attacks, with a single entrance which can still be seen on the street of Carrer de Santa Bàrbara. At the end of the 17th century a new, Baroque-style church was begun, expanding on the existing church and covering the single nave with a cross-vault roof, which is an archaic feature of the Mallorcan Baroque style. In 1904 work was started on the final enlargement, with a new façade in the Catalan art nouveau style being added and the fort being demolished. The works were led by the architect Joan Rubio Bellver, who was a student of Antoni Gaudí and who also designed the Catalan art nouveau style building of the old Banc de Sóller, which is also in the Plaça de la Constitució, as are the Ethnology Museum and the Town Hall. The square of Plaça de la Constitució is also the starting point for the street of Carrer de la Lluna, which is Sóller´s main shopping street.

At the square of Plaça de Francesc Saltor is the Convent dels Missioners dels Sagrats Cors, which is an old Franciscan monastery which was built in the 18th century; it has a cloister and a rectangular church with a cross-vault roof and lateral chapels. The other church in the town is that of La Sang de l´Hospital, on the street of Carrer de l´hospital.

The origins of the village of Sóller go back to the 10th century, during the period of Moorish rule on Mallorca, though the valley has been populated since prehistoric times. However, the main transformation of the old quarter came about in the 16th century with the reforms carried out in order to protect the settlement from pirate attacks, which was when the parish church was fortified and gateways were built to protect some streets.

Visits of interest in the Valley of Sóller.

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