The history of Palma de Mallorca goes back to very remote times, going through many different stages until arriving at the capital of the Balearic Islands as we know it today. From the prehistoric times until our present days, the city has gradually changed and adapted to the different cultural, political and social moments which it has lived.
It is believed that where Palma de Mallorca is placed today was at the beginning occupied by talayotic people with a marine character. In the year 123 B.C. it was invaded by a military expedition lead by the Roman consul Quintus Cecilius Metelus, who for precaution covered his vessels with animal skins to avoid the damage and sinking of them by the famous Balearic stone slingers, known as the "honderos".
Antique History (3500 BC - 900 AD)
The Romans founded four cities in Mallorca, one of which was Palma of Mallorca. The remains of the Roman city are buried beneath the present neighbourhood of the 'La Seu', next to the Cathedral. Its perimeter was limited by the sea, the antique course of the Torrent of the Riera (at present Paseo del Borne and Avenida Antonio Maura), the streets called Miramar and Morey and the squares of Cort and of Santa Eulalia. The perimeter was surrounded by a wall that resisted even the Islamic conquest.
The Middle Ages (IV- XV)
In the year 903 it was conquested by the Arabian general Isam al-Jawlani, who counted with the approbation of the emir of Córdoba Abd Allah and he named the city Madina Mayurqa. From this Arabian time certain monumental traces are conserved such as the royal palace of the Almudaina, the Arabian baths, and the Arabian city buried beneath the present city. The 31st of December of the year 1229 it was conquested by the King of Aragon Jaime I, who doted it with a municipality which ruled over the entire island (for this reason it was called the Ciutat de Mallorca).
From the Renaissance to the Age of Enlightenment (XVI - XVIII)
At the beginning of the XVI century, the Germanic rebellion and the frequent pirate attacks of the Turks and of the 'Magrebies' resulted in a reduction of the commercial activities and large inversions in fortification. As a result of this, a time of decadence took over which lasted until to the end of the XVII century. At the same time the Riera was diverted from the centre and a polygonal parapet in the pier was built and a renaissance wall substituted the medieval.
In the XVIII century, the defeat of the Crown of Aragón in the War for Succession provoked the arrival of military units and authorities from Castilla and the Decrees of the year 1715, promulgated by the king Felipe V. This decree prohibited the use of the language Catalonian and modified the government of the island and separated it from the municipality of Palma, recuperating in this way the Roman toponomy of Palma and adding the addition of Mallorca to differentiate it from what is today Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
The Modern Age (XVIII - XX)
The French occupation of Argelia in the XIX put an end to the danger of the Maghreb attacks in Mallorca, this resulted in an expansion of the marine lines and shipping. This in turn favoured the economic growth, having a wider demography and the birth of new nucleus of the population.
In the year 1838 a ferry was inaugurated of steam boats Barcelona-Palma, in this way making the arrival of travellers from the mainland and from foreign countries easier. The first tourist guide of Palma was published in the year 1845 and during the second half of the century, a variety of different works were published with the idea of publicizing the singular geographical, cultural and ethnological individuality of the Balearic Islands. The publication of the Archduke Luís Salvador of Austria titled Die Baleares in Wort und Bild Geschildert. In these times we were visited by Frédéric Chopin who suffering from an illness, lived on our islands for health reasons.
During the Spanish Civil War, the island of Mallorca fell under the Nationalists band, which resulted in a number of actions against the rebellious and the 23rd of July of the year 1936 the airplanes of the Republic bombed the city.
At the beginning of the decade of the 1960s the appearance of the touristic boom changed its physiognomy and that of all the island, transforming it into a centre of attraction for visitors and a place for the inter change of sociological cultures. From this moment onwards, the growth of tourism in the Balearic Islands was absolutely spectacular. This fact deeply marked the economical, political, and cultural future of the islands of the archipelago.
In Palma its medieval architecture stands out with the contrast of the views overlooking the sea. It is a city where the Medieval and Renaissance palaces are to be found in the narrow streets. All of this has an almost magical touch which has the capacity of taking us back to a remote past but without neglecting the present time.
The views of the Cathedral from the park known as the Parc de la Mar and over the Bay from the Castle of Bellver are indispensable and unforgettable and deeply mark the character of the people who live in Palma. The squares in Palma such as the Plaza Mayor, Cort and Santa Eulalia are of a unique beauty and character.
Places of Interest
The Cathedral of Santa María, Palma of Mallorca: popularly known as the La Seu , is situated on the banks of the Bay of Palma, next to the park known as the Parc de la Mar. It has the highest nave of Spain and second in Europe, only the Cathedral of Beauvais has a higher one. It is very well-known for having the largest rose window of Europe of the Gothic style, as there does exist larger ones of the Neo-gothic style. It is the only Cathedral of Europe that has its image reflected in the sea water.
Bellver Castle: the only medieval castle with a round shape in Spain and the first to be constructed in Europe. In the continent there are only three castles with a rounded form that date from this age.
Castle of San Carlos: it is a small castle of artillery situated in the entrance to the port of Palma of Mallorca built with the defence of Palma in mind. At present it is in the naval base of Porto Pí and it is the place used as a military historical museum of the city.
Arabian Baths: these are one of the very few remains of the Muslims architecture that are conserved on the island. It is a building with a square form and has twelve columns that support a cupola with a variety of circular openings. This room was destined to be used for hot baths and for this reason it has a double floor with hollows where the hot water and air circulated, quite an advance for the times.
Palace of the Almudaina : it is the royal palace or 'Alcázar Real' of the city and one of the residences of the Spanish Royal family. This emblematic infrastructure is part of the National Patrimony. It was known until the year 1309 as Zuda, but was rebuilt for Jaime II of Mallorca, according to the model of the Royal Palace of Perpiñán.
Plaza Mayor: is one of the main squares of Palma of Mallorca. It was built in the XIX century over ground that was then occupied by the Convent of San Felipe Neri and other bordering buildings, it is one of the most beautiful and famous of Palma thanks to its structure and lovely arches.
Consulado del Mar: it is situated in the Paseo Sagrera, very near the Port. It was headquarters of an homonymous juridical-mercantile medieval building, formed by a Prior and numerous consuls whose jurisdiction was similar to the present mercantile benches. At present it is the headquarter of the Balearic government called Conselleria de Presidència del Govern de les Illes Balears.
Pueblo Español: this 'Spanish Village' was built during the 1960s by the architect Fernando Chueca Goitia in the neighbourhood of Son Espanyolet. It was thought up as a typical Spanish village with the main characteristics of the villages in Spain. Nowadays it competes with the one in Barcelona to be the best in Spain.
Lonja: The Lonja of Palma of Mallorca or, as it is more popularly known, Sa Llotja is one of the Gothic works of art of the Gothic architecture in Mallorca. It was built by the architect Guillem Sagrera between the years 1420 and 1452 and it was the headquarters of the Merchants College.
Convent of San Francisco: the convent of San Francisco is a combination formed of the church, the cloister, and a number of other buildings attached. At present, the Franciscan friars of the Third Regular Order (TOR) govern a college of the same name in an adjoining building.
The church of Santa Eulalia: the church is to be found in the old part of the city. In this temple the king of Mallorca Jaime II on the 12 of September of the year 1276 was crowned. The church consists of three naves, the central one being the highest, with two entrance doors. The bell tower which dates back to XIX century, is of a great height and its capital is pointed and of sublime beauty.
Palacio March : is a palace situated in the historical centre of Palma de Mallorca, next to the Cathedral and the Almudaina. Its construction began in the year 1939 and it was inaugurated in the year 1945. Nowadays, it is a museum of art belonging to the Bartolomé March Foundation, created in 1975 by Bartolomé March.
Gran Hotel: is a construction of a modern style by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner and was finished in the year 1903. Nowadays it has been reformed and is now the headquarters of Fundación La Caixa.
Parliament of the Balearic Islands: it was built in the year 1848 where there was previously a Dominican Convent and was built by the architect Antoni Sureda i Villalonga. At that time it was the headquarters of Círculo Mallorquín, where the present hall for debating is now, was then a hall for dancing and parties. Since the year 1983 it is the headquarters of the legislative power of the Balearic Islands. It is to be found in the street known as Calle Conquistador, near the Cathedral and the Plaza de Cort, where the Town Hall is.
Consell Insular de Mallorca : the edifice of the Consejo Insular de Mallorca was built to house the antique 'Diputación Provincial'. This construction which was entrusted to the architect Joaquín Pavía, entailed the total reforming of the antique prison of the city.
Casa consistorial: the Town Hall or the Casa consistorial of Palma of Mallorca (Ajuntament de Palma in Catalonian ). This building is the maximum authority of the municipality and it is situated in the Plaza de Cort.
Foundation of Pilar and Joan Miró: it is a cultural foundation dedicated to modern art, next to Son Abrines, the residence of the artist Joan Miró. It includes two work studios, gardens with murals and sculptures and 6.000 works of art by the artist, exhibited on a rotary basis.
The demographic growth of Palma of Mallorca has been spectacular in recent years: whilst from the year 1981 to the year 1996 it only increased by 15.000 inhabitants increasing from, 290.372 to 304.250, but in the last five years it has increased by about 30.000 inhabitants, at present amounting to more than 396.570, being the eighth on the Spanish list of number of inhabitants. To be able to see some interesting facts about its demography and others about its population please, click here.
Tourism in Mallorca is the main economic activity and so it is the same for Palma. All its economy depends directly or indirectly on the touristic activity in Mallorca. The beginnings of tourism date back to the beginnings of the XX century, with the foundation of Fomento del Turismo de Mallorca y la Cámara Oficial de Comercio, Industria y Navegación de Baleares. The type of tourism which characterizes it is that of the sun and the beach type, due to the large quantity of beaches that the island possesses and the temperatures of its Mediterranean climate.
For the entrance and exit of products elaborated or sold in the city and its areas of influence, there is the port of Palma of Mallorca and the airport of Son Sant Joan, which canalizes the flow of products to the exterior and with a large area for making the movement of merchandise easier. The sea is the main via of union of commerce amongst the islands and the rest of Spain.
The main organization dedicated to potentiate and better commerce on the island is the Cámara de Comercio de Mallorca, which attends all the promoters and business men of the city and of the island.
Politics and Government
Palma of Mallorca is the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands and all of the islands that belong to or are part of Palma of Mallorca. Also located in Palma of Mallorca the 'Delegación del Gobierno de la Nación para Baleares'.
The political administration is done through the Town Hall in a democratic way and whose components are elected every four years by universal vote. The electorate roll is made up of all the residents enrolled and over eighteen years of age and with Spanish Nationality or other countries of the Common Market.
The UIB or University of the Balearic Islands is the main academic organism of the islands and is to be found on the road that leads to the town of Valldemossa known as 'la carretera de Valldemossa', on the outskirts of Palma. As far as schools are concerned, the public and state schools offer an excellent quality and a wide range.
Palma has both a civil and a military airport at about 8 kilometres from its centre: the airport of Son Sant Joan. It is the third Spanish airport for the number of passengers, only behind the Airport of Madrid-Barajas and the Airport of Barcelona, with a large concentrated number of passengers in summer, distinct from the other two which have a more homogeneous traffic of passengers all year round. The airport of Palma of Mallorca generates a lot of air traffic between the United Kingdom and Germany.
The Port of Palma of Mallorca is the largest port and most important of the Balearic Islands. It covers an extensive coastline between the Moll Vell (Muelle Viejo), in front of the Cathedral, and the Dique del oeste (next to the neighbourhood of Porto Pí). It is used for the transport of merchandise, fishing boats, pleasure boats, ferries and passengers, as well as military vessels.
All the large towns and villages of Mallorca converge into Palma. In the year 1990 the Circular road was built, motorway that deviates the traffic from urban areas of Palma and distributes it in all directions. At present there are plans to create a second motorway that also encircles the city of Palma.
The scheduled regular routes of the coaches that unite and connect Palma with the rest of the regions of the island are operated and run by private companies through public adjudications through the TIB (Transportes de las Islas Baleares). The coaches which are used in this service stand out for their bright colours, red and yellow, the colours of the TIB. All of these operate from the coach station near the Plaza España where there is an Intermodal Station (bus, train and underground) inaugurated in 2007.
Palma has two railway stations managed by two different companies. The terminal points of the two of them are next to the Plaza España. The train station called Intermodal Plaça d'Espanya is the main one of the city and is run by the public company with the name of SFM (Serveis Ferroviaris de Mallorca). From this station, the following railway lines operate Palma-Inca, Palma- Sa Pobla and Palma- Manacor, as well as the local buses and the underground. The other train station of Sóller is run by a private company with the name of Ferrocarril de Sóller SA . Its route is Palma-Buñola-Sóller and return. This railway line uses very classical trains with their origins at the beginning of the XX century and they are more than 100 years old. It is a train service that is very popular with the tourists and an authentic attraction both for residents and visitors.
Buses within the city
The 31 urban bus routes are operated by a municipal company called the Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Palma. It is made up of a fleet of 150 vehicles easily identified for their distinctive colour of blue and grey, they run routes which unite the centre of the city with the outskirts and different neighbourhoods, as well as a number of routes that encircle the city. Some of the vehicles used on these routes are ecological and have a lesser impact of the environment for the city of Palma de Mallorca.
Developed from a plan to integrate the bicycle as a form of transport within the city called Plan de integración de la bicicleta which was an initiative on the part of Palma, its bicycle lane has 40 kilometres which run through the main routes, streets and areas of Palma, without forgetting the more emblematic places, all this with the aim of fomenting healthy activities for the citizen and making a contribution against global warming with alternative transport systems.
Sports and Entertainment
There are various theatres in existence, of which the most outstanding are the Teatro Principal, the Auditórium, the theatre of Xesc Forteza and the Teatre del Mar.
A structure by the Dutch architect Sander Douma, the Palma Arena is a cycle track which was built for the World Championship of Cycling in the year 2007, of which Palma was the headquarters. It occupies a surface area of 90.000 square metres and has seating capacity for 4.500 spectators. In the interior many cultural activities are performed such as concerts by people of international fame.
Polideportivo de Son Hugo
Son Hugo is a 'polideportivo' (sports centre) belonging to the Town Hall and run by the Institut Municipal d'Esports (IME ). It consists of four swimming pools of which the two larger ones are of competition size. One of them is exterior and measures 50 by 25 metres.
Son Moix Stadium
The stadium of Son Moix is the one used by the football club RCD Mallorca to play the official matches. It can be found on the industrial estate of Can Valero. The stadium belongs to the Town Hall of Palma.
Bay of Palma
The Bay of Palma is the geographical element which has had most influence over the city, not only for the multiple touristic and industrial activities which go on in it, but also for the sports ones. It is possible to do the majority of aquatic sports, specially sailing. In these type of sports, several Mallorcans have stood out who compete in the World Championships and in the Olympic Games. There are various clubs for the practice of these sports, the most outstanding being the Real Club Náutico de Palma, Escuela de vela Calanova and Club Náutico de Portitxol , amongst others.
For playing this noble sport the golf clubs Club de Golf Son Vida and Son Gual are excellent both for the quality of their installations and for the wide range of services that they offer.
Leisure, activities and special days and events
One of the main commercial centres is the well-known Porto Pí centre, situated in the neighbourhood of Porto Pí. It has two levels for commercial purposes, leisure zones with amusement arcades, restaurants and multi-cinemas. An area for going-out where one can find all types of bars, restaurants and other types of places for leisure.
Popular festival days
Saint Sebastian, the 20th of January, was proclaimed patron saint of Palma at the miraculous end of the Plague in the years 1523 and 1524, with the arrival of a bone from the arm of Saint Sebastian which came from Rodas. During more than a week a variety of acts were undertaken.
Fiesta del Estandarte, the 31st of December. It remembers and commemorates the entry into the city of the Catalonian troops of the king Jaime I, the Conqueror, a n event that put an end to the Islamic domination. It is one of the oldest festivals of Europe, as its celebration goes back to the XIII century. It is celebrated in the square known as Plaza de Cort, with a religious ceremony, a thanks-giving and a civil ceremony presided by the royal banner.
Virgen de la Salud, the 8th of September. A Mass is celebrated in the church of Saint Michael known as the San Miguel, where there is an antique image conserved of the Virgin, this is followed by a party for children, music and popular dances. In the vigil there is a lively march and a floral offering, and all of this made even more pleasant by the sound of popular music.
Domingo del Ángel, the first Sunday after Easter, in which the citizens go on a pilgrimage up to the Bellver Castle.
La noche de San Juan, the vigil of the day of Saint Juan, the 24th of June, the popular Nit de Foc (night of fire) in the Parque del mar next to the sea, with bonfires, firework displays and animation groups for entertainment.
The capital of Mallorca and the entire island is an internationally well-known touristic destination since the last third part of the last century. Palma is a city, capital de province, with all that one could expect from a typical Mediterranean city. It is situated to the south of the island and there is no place of similar characteristics that is near to it. Palma has the unique charm that only a Mediterranean city can possess, with the presence of the sea, where its people and its architecture make the daily life even more dynamic. It is not in vain that Palma de Mallorca is chosen as a permanent residence by visitors of the entire world.