It’s easy to forget sometimes that Mallorca isn’t just a great holiday destination full of sandy beaches, azure sea, first-rate hotels and luxury villas to rent, with hundreds upon thousands of tourists visiting every year to enjoy them. Mallorca is also home to rich history and culture, with places such as Palma Cathedral, the Arab Baths, many beautiful Churches and Monasteries, a Royal Palace and many more.
Palma Cathedral, or La Seu as it is known, is arguably the most iconic of all Palma’s buildings, an emblem of the Islands history, art, and faith. This magnificent Gothic Cathedral was built on the sight of a pre-existing Arabic Mosque and sits in the old city between La Almudaina and the episcopal palace and has the most breathtaking views of Palma and the sea.
It was James II who began the construction of the cathedral in 1229, but it was only finished in 1601. In the day, the sun shines on the golden stone, illuminating it in a warm, welcoming glow and by night the spotlights highlight the architecture of it, creating a beacon that shines bright in the darkness.
The cathedral has seen many changes over the years, most recently being the astonishing ceramic murals from Felantix artist Miguel Barceló. Inspired by the feeding of the five thousand, this creation took six years and was very well received, covering an incredible 300 square metres in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
Right next door to La Seu is the Arab Baths. There is very little visible architecture that remains of the Muslim period of Palma, but these Baths thankfully have and are exceptionally important. The construction of these baths dates back to the 10th century and is surrounded by a lush walled garden. As you enter the domed chamber, supported by 12 slim columns, you can see the various apertures that allowed steam to escape and the double floor through which the hot water travelled. There was also once a cold baths room, but that unfortunately no longer exists.
The baths are a place of peace and quiet in the bustling city and is like stepping back in time. With a little imagination, it is easy to see how these baths looked in their prime and is definitely worth the visit.
Three kilometres out of the centre of Palma, Bellver Castle stands proudly on a hill, over looking Palma and the cities beautiful bay. This castle is one of the most popular visitor attractions on the island, enticing thousands to come and discover it. The construction of this circular medieval fortress was ordered by James II in the early 1300’s and despite its age, has been very well maintained, allowing you to step into the past and explore the architecture and history of this circular Gothic castle.
The monastery of San Salvador is situated high up on the top of a mountain overlooking the vast and beautiful countryside below. On first glance, it’s very possible to think it impossible to get too, but on closer inspection, a thin road can be found which winds its way up the mountain. This journey is exhilarating leaning towards terrifying, as the thin road wraps around the mountain in sharp turns, a sheer drop on one side and only the barest of barriers in front of it if any at all. Needless to say it required extreme concentration. If you wind the window down and let the breeze stream into your face, it’s possible to believe you’re flying.
Once you’ve reached and parked at the top, the view is simply breath taking. The giant statue of Christ overlooks the countryside of Mallorca, looking like a patchwork quilt of green and terracotta spread out bellow. There are two walkways wrapping around the statue and either will yield beauty and awe.
Once inside the Church, the coolness is often a welcome relief and the silence is contagious, inspiring reverence as you look around. San Salvador is also a ‘working’ monastery, accepting pilgrims from all over, so it’s always very important to be respectful, especially in regards to dress code. Anything skimpy or revealing is most certainly not appropriate.
Before leaving this stunning place, have a drink or something to eat in the café as you reflect on the experience and look out at the views across Southwest Mallorca.
These are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to Mallorca’s rich history, so it’s certainly a good idea to forgo the beach sometimes and soak up the history and culture, instead of the sun.