City Guide Palma de Mallorca

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Best of Both Worlds

Issue 02/2011

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Text  Ilona Marx  Photos  Andi Zimmermann  Illustration  Roman Klonek

Mallorca has long since shaken off its reputation as the favoured holiday spot of sun-worshipping Germans. Meanwhile the type of visitor to ‘the island’, as the Mediterranean isle is fondly referred to in Germany for identification purposes, has changed. The package holiday tourists, who stay amongst themselves in a few well-known areas, are being joined by hikers and cyclists, culture vultures and friends of nature, escapists and creatives. Palma, the capital of the Balearics, gives them a double promise: an urban attitude to life – and the direct proximity to mountains and beaches.

Despite attempts by the island’s government to steer tourism in a more moderate direction, some of which are already bearing fruit, Palma Airport still dispatches around 10 million holidaymakers every year. So it wouldn’t make much sense to sing the same tune as those who are still celebrating Palma as the ‘undiscovered metropolis’. It was others who did the discovering here. But even rediscovering and exploring the side streets to find out ‘qué pasa’ can also be a real pleasure. Especially when tradition is found residing side by side with the avant-garde.

Palma, which in some places comes across as a small version of Barcelona, also offers – in miniature – the same advantages. Here too, exciting projects are brought to life in sleepy alleyways, and between old churches and bodegas there is air and space for new ideas. Although the city, which has a population of 350,000, does lose out in a direct comparison to its big Catalonian sister, merely due to its diminutive size. But it’s not without reason that countless resourceful North Europeans have also settled here next to the many ambitious locals – on the one hand to flee the weather at home, on the other to fulfil their creative potential.

It is a true joy to see how many creatives in Palma consistently follow their own style, without caring too much about popular trends. Taking place parallel to this is traditional island living: craftsmanship and dining culture are kept alive. After all, real Mallorcans don’t allow themselves to be worked up by the new settlers. On the contrary: they are even known to join forces with them now and again. Which is pretty effortless in the former royal city anyway, where the distances are short; the most important addresses can all be reached on foot or by bicycle. A good example: art. In and around Palma visitors are not only tempted by Es Baluard – the ‘Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma’ – and the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró, but also by the Sala Pelaires Gallery. Since the 1970s this institution, which is also closely linked to the name of Miró, has significantly contributed to shaping Mallorcan cultural life and should therefore feature on the itinerary of every art lover. The same incidentally also applies to the Thomas De Diego Gallery and the art and design showroom Louis 21, two unconventional art hotspots that haven’t been around quite as long.

So what else does Palma have to offer, apart from the numerous beaches close to the city? Fabulous design hotels, much-lauded Michelin-starred restaurants, rustic tapas bars, exclusive fashion and jewellery stores. In the charming nightlife districts Sa Gerrería, St. Catalina and Es Molinar flaneurs and gourmands alike will be spoiled for choice. Modernist architecture meets an Arabic and Christian legacy. And like a queen, the La Seu Cathedral is enthroned above all of this diversity, making its contribution to Palma’s very own, unmistakeable skyline.

Certainly reason enough to stay loyal to the Balearic metropolis – or at least to come back as soon as possible. And during their foray through Palma that’s exactly what J’N’C-editor-in-chief Ilona Marx and Düsseldorf-based photographer Andi Zimmermann resolved to do.

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