Heritage | Tourist route H006

Palma, the historic city

What is it?

A feature of the city of Palma is that it has assimilated the various cultures that have settled on the island throughout its history.  The mark that each one has left on the palaces, streets, squares, patios and terraces has created a historic asset and a highly attractive monumental richness.  The route goes past such unique and spectacular buildings as the Cathedral, the L'Almudaina Palace, la Llotja (the old fish market), the Consolat de Mar (Consulate of the Sea), the old city walls, the Arab baths and the Town Hall.  All are in different styles that fuse the old town's Roman, Muslim and Christian past and make it unique.


Length: approximately 2-3 hours.

Location and contact:

Start point: Plaça de Cort. 07001 Palma

Information and reservations (guided tour):

Monday to Friday: 10.00-18.00

Saturdays: 10.00-14.00

Telephone: +34 971 720 720 / 636 430 000

E-mail: itinerariosculturales@caib.es

Web: www.illesbalears.es

Organiser: Conselleria de Turisme. Institut d'Estratègia Turística.

Meeting point: Plaça de Cort, next to the olive tree

Price (guided tour):

Adults: €10
Pensioners and students: €5

Under - 12s free.

Available public transport

 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December
Monday to Friday

Public Transport

Detailed description

This route around the historic town centre offers the chance to get to know Palma's history and learn about the various cultures that have settled in the city over the centuries.  The tour gives a global vision of its artistic and urban development and goes through the upper and lower parts of the old town.  The former was inhabited by clergy, nobility, the military and the upper classes and is where the main monuments are to be found.  The latter was lived in by people with close links to the sea, such as sailors, fishermen, ship owners, tradesmen and merchants, along with other traders within the sector.  The architectural and aesthetic style of the buildings and districts are explained along the route.  Up to 17 monuments can be visited on the route.

01. Palma Town Hall

The Plaça de Cort is the civic centre of the town par excellence.  Its name comes from the word corts (courts) which was synonymous with the chanceries that were in the square and which were the administrative and judicial headquarters for the magnates who accompanied King Jaume I and amongst whom the island's lands were divided after the 1229 conquest.  The square is presided over by the Town Hall which has a monumental 17th Century façade.  Some of the best Majorcan sculptors of the era took part in building the façade, for example, Joan-Antoni Oms and Gabriel Torres, with the latter being the creator of the spectacular carved wood cantilevered eaves.  It is Baroque/Mannerist in style.

02. Council of Majorca

The Council of Majorca, which is the island's governing body, is next door to the Town Hall.  The building was originally the old Provincial Government, a state institution at the beginning of the 19th Century that, in 1882, had the palace built with a noteworthy Gothic façade designed by the architect Joaquín Pavía Birmingham.  The very interesting sculptural details are the work of the artist Llorenç Ferrer Martí.  Highlights inside are the monumental staircase and the meeting room.  Important paintings by Majorcan artists can be seen in the various rooms.

The Council of Majorca is in Carrer Palau Reial, which takes its name from the palace (palau in Catalan) at the end of the street. For centuries the famous convent of Sant Domingo, a Gothic monument of the highest order, was on the right. It was demolished in 1837, as a result of the law on confiscation of church property passed by the State, and bourgeois houses were built which are a splendid group of late 19th and early 20th Century urban architecture.  The current Balearic Islands Parliament building stands out, which was built as the headquarters of the old Círculo Mallorquín, as it contains some sumptuous rooms, such as the ballroom, which is the Parliament's meeting room today.

03. Can Oms, Can Bordils, L'Almudaina arch

We are in one of the oldest streets in Palma, which still retains the L'Almudaina arch, a door of Roman origin used by the Muslims and also the Christians throughout the Middle Ages.  There are some significant mansions in this street, such as Can Bordils, home to the Palma Municipal Archive, and Can Oms, which is also municipal property.  In the first building, a highlight is the two Renaissance-style windows with the coats of arms of the Sureda-Sanglada and Sureda-Moyà families, who owned the property.  In Can Oms there is a wonderful patio, in the Baroque style, built at the beginning of the 18th Century.  The building's façade has a splendid balcony.

Can Marquès, which is now a museum, is in Carrer Can Sanglada.  This is an old mansion, also known as Can Comassema, which was substantially rebuilt in the 18th Century and underwent significant renovations in the 19th and 20th Centuries, which explain the modernist-style staircase.

04. Estudi General Lul·lià

Carrer Sant Roc, 4. The Estudi General Lul·lià (Llulian General Study Centre) is an educational institution founded in the 15th Century which later on, in the 17th Century, bécame the Llulian University of Majorca.  After several ups and downs, the current institution was founded in 1951 to boost Majorcan culture and university studies.  Nowadays, it is a language school and also holds educational and cultural events.

The building, in the Regionalist style, is the result of reconstruction in the 1950's by the architect, Gabriel Alomar.  Some coats of arms and Gothic and Renaissance capitals remain from the original building and have been incorporated into the current building.

05. The Cathedral

Carrer Palau Reial. Construction of the Cathedral began at the beginning of the 14th Century.  It is the most important religious building in Majorca.  It is on the site of an old great mosque which was converted into a Christian church in 1230.  It is thought that the bell tower is on the site of the old minaret.

King Jaume II of Majorca developed the Gothic cathedral and the works began on the apse, directed by Maestro Ponç Descoll.  Due to its complexity and high financial cost, construction went on until the end of the 16th Century, when the main entrance was made.  This doorway, in the Mannerist style, was sponsored by Bishop Joan Vich i Manrique and is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.  The design and sculptures were done by the artist Antoni Verger, who worked on them between 1592 and 1601.  We can see the image of the Virgin surrounded by allegorical symbols in an invocation to the Virgin Mary.  In the niches to the right of the doorway we can see statues of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, and to the left, Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Jerome and Saint Gregory.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Antoni Gaudí carried out a significant Modernist renovation of the Cathedral's chancel.

The most recent addition (2007) is by Miquel Barceló, the internationally renowned Majorcan artist, who created the ceramic work representing the miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Santíssim chapel, to the right of the chancel.

06. L'Almudaina Palace

Carrer Mirador.  L'Almudaina Palace is a fortress of Islamic origin which was converted into a royal palace by King Jaume II of Majorca at the beginning of the 14th Century.  The building has had many uses over the centuries: Royal Court, Palace of the Viceroys and Captaincy General.  After a prolonged restoration process that began in the 1960's it is now open.  Part of it is a museum, and it is also used for official events by the Spanish royal family and as accomodation for heads of state visiting Majorca.

We know that the Mirador doorway, previously known as the Apòstols doorway, was designed in 1389 by Pere Morey, the cathedral's master stonemason.  It is the most monumental Gothic doorway in the Balearics and comes from an era of splendour in Gothic art in Majorca.

07. Episcopal Palace

Carrer Mirador. The Episcopal Palace is a very large building and it oldest part, facing the sea, is medieval and was begun in the 13th Century and then successively extended.  The Gothic doorway to the old Sant Pau oratory is a highlight.  The entrance portico to the patio was built around 1473 by the master builders, Cristòfol and Juan Vilasclar and Simò Xevari, on the orders of Bishop Francesc Ferrer.  The first construction was significantly extended in the 17th and 18th Centuries.  Attention is drawn to the main façade, in the Mannerist style, paid for by the Majorcan Bishop, Simó Bauçà, in 1616 and the magnificent sun dial that presides over the patio with the coat of arms of the Catalan Bishop, Benet Panyelles Escardó (1730-1743).  The Diocesan Museum, which has recently been renovated, is inside the palace.

08. Episcopal Palace Garden

Carrer Sant Pere Nolasc, 6. The Episcopal Palace Garden has a Neo-Baroque doorway designed by the Majorcan architect, Josep Oleza Frates, in 1931.  If you go into the garden, in the north-east corner you will see huge ashlar stones which are part of the old Roman wall around the town.

09. Can Olesa

Carrer Morey, 9. This is another iconic street in the old town, with a good number of mansions, mostly reconstructed.  The best preserved building is Can Olesa, one of the most famous mansions in Palma.  The façade retains 16th Century masonry, with Renaissance windows with the Descós family coat of arms.  The actual house is the result of rebuilding at the end of the 17th Century and is centred arround a magnificent central patio.  This patio is a stereotypical example of Majorcan Baroque patios, with typical columns, very low arches and stairs ending in a gallery with three archways.  This house is one of the few in the city that still completely retains its period interior.  It was declared a historic and artistic monument in 1973.

10. Ca la Gran Cristiana (Museum of Majorca)

Carrer Portella, 5. The Museum of Majorca is housed in an old mansion known by the name Ca la Gran Cristiana.  The building, of medieval origin, underwent major renovation in the 17th and 18th Centuries.  The façade has elegant Baroque balconies and the coat of arms of the Togores family, the Counts of Aiamans.  The museum was founded in 1961 and the palace was bought by Palma Town Council in 1968 and gave it to the museum as its headquarters.  It is the most important history and art museum on the island.  Highlights are the prehistoric (Talayotic culture) and Muslim archaeology section, the Gothic paintings section (13th-15th Century) and the modernist rooms, with noteable collections of china (from the Majorcan La Roqueta factory) and furniture.

11. La Portella Mansions

Carrer Portella. Carrer Portella is one of the most historic in Palma, as some of the most iconic mansions in the town are to be found here.  The 17th Century Can Formiguera is outstanding, with a splendid balcony and a coat of arms on the corner which has the arms of Ramon Burguès-Safortesa Fuster, Count of Formiguera, a legendary figure in the history of Majorca known as Comte Mal.  The old inn of the Carthusians of Valldemossa in Palma is opposite.  After the confiscation of church property it fell into private hands and is known as Cal Comte d'Espanya (the Count of Spain's House).  The building was reconstructed in the 18th Century and has a delightful Baroque patio.  The niche in the doorway holds the image of Saint Bruno.

Towards the middle of the street there are two grand historical houses with Neo-Gothic features.  The most important is Can Espanya-Serra, which has an outstanding late 19th Century patio.  All of these buildings have the Majorcan mansion layout which, in general, consists of a large entrance with a semi-circular arch in the Gothic style, a floor with studies, a balcony on the first floor and rows of windows or columns in the upper porticoed gallery.  Finally, the overhanging eaves are a feature which help to protect the façade.

To the left, if we go down towards the town wall, what was an old mansion now houses the museum dedicated to the Catalan painter, Joaquim Torrents Lladó (1946-1993) and which exhibits his life and work.

Following the Dalt Murada we can see the grand Ca la Torre building (short for Cal Marquès de la Torre), a mansion built at the beginning of the 18th Century which is stereotypical of the sober taste of Majorcan stately architecture.  Its patio is integrated into the medieval town walls.

12. Dalt Murada and Mirador gardens

The path that we have walked along is known by the name Dalt Murada and from here we can see the old boundaries of the Roman town, which went from the L'Almudaina Palace to the eastern edge of the Episcopal Palace.  On the south façade of the latter palace, looking towards the sea, we can see a walkway with guard posts in the Modernist style which are attributed to the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí, along with the iron grilles on some windows. The wall that we can see at the foot of the cathedral is the old Roman town wall, which was much altered in the Middle Ages and completely changed over the centuries.  In fact, the entire sea front of the fortified town was rebuilt in the 18th Century with a new town wall on the one where we are now, built on land reclaimed from the sea.  The guard posts, in Baroque form, stand out in this construction.

The space known as Ses Voltes is an old barracks, finished in 1802 and renovated between 1983 and 1991 by the architects Elies Torres and José A. Martínez Lapeña for leisure and cultural use.

13. Hort del Rei

Walkway above the Hort del Rei pond

The Hort del Rei garden and the old course of the Sa Riera gulley

The large arch that we can see above the pond was for the old Muslim era boat yard that was under the L'Almudaina Palace and that opened directly onto the sea.  It appears that the arch is 9th Century.

The Hort del Rei was a medieval garden outside the walls of L'Almudaina and which existed until the 19th Century, when it was built on.  At the beginning of the 14th Century, during the time of King Jaume II of Majorca, it had a golden age and was planted with fruit trees, flowers and vegetables.  Some animals, such as rabbits, were also bred.  In the 1960's, within the plan for recovering the area surrounding the L'Almudaina Palace, the buildings were demolished to make new gardens with a historical flavour, planned by the Majorcan architect, Gabriel Alomar.  He mixed traditional Majorcan garden features, such as the pergola, with others inspired by the Spanish/Muslim tradition, such as the pool with fountains that bring to mind the Generalife in Granada.  It is worth mentioning that the new layout has little in common with the medieval garden.

The current Avinguda Antoni Maura is where the mouth of the Sa Riera gulley used to be, which went down the Rambla, Carrer Unió and Born, and which divided Palma into its upper part (around the Cathedral) and the lower part (around the Sant Jaume and Santa Creu districts).  Sa Riera was dangerous when it flooded.  A sadly famous event occurred in 1403, when thousands of people died.  It was diverted due to building in 1612, to the part outside the town walls, and its current course coincides with the Passeig Mallorca.

14. Llotja de la Mercaderia

Plaça de la Llotja. El Col·legi de la Mercaderia (Merchant's Association) was one of the most important institutions in the old kingdom of Majorca and had a golden age in the 15th Century due to maritime trade.  The association was incorporated in 1409 and its most ambitious project was the construction of a huge fish market to carry out their commercial deals, like the ones in other Mediterranean cities, such as Barcelona.  In 1426 the association signed a contract to build it with the famous Majorcan master architect and sculptor, Guillem Sagrera.  The architect was working on the building in 1447 when King Alfonso the Magnanimous called him away to take part in the works on the Castel Nuovo in Naples.

La Llotja is a monumental building with four magnificent façades that rise between four large towers at the corners, which have tabernacles containing statues of saints that refer to particular buildings and points in the town.  Santa Clara to the east, faces towards the convent bearing her name in the Calatrava district, Sant Joan looks at the Cavallers de Sant Joan de Malta church and hospital, Sant Nicolau, no longer there, looked towards Porto Pí, where there was an oratory dedicated to the patron saint of sailors, and Santa Catalina, faces the boat yard and the street leading to the doorway and hospital bearing the name of the saint from Alexandria.

15. Porta del Moll, Consolat de Mar and Can Chacón

Passeig Sagrera.  One of the old town wall gateways has been reconstructed in the La Llotja garden.  It was called the Porta del Moll (gateway to the quay) and built in 1620 by the fortificacion's master building, Antoni Saura, with the help of Jaume Blanquer, one of the best Majorcan sculptors of the era.  This is not its original location as it was the gateway that was inserted in the medieval town wall at the water's edge and, when the new one was built in the 18th Century, it was placed in front of La Llotja.  The door is an arc de triomphe in the Mannerist style crowned with a small statue of the Immaculate Conception.  The entablature has an inscription referring to its construction.  It was the main entrance gateway to the town and its artistic and monumental style is in line with the highly symbolic nature of gateways to old fortified compounds, which had the coats of arms of the king and his counsel (in those days, members of municipal counsels), which, in the case of the Porta del Moll, were removed in the 18th Century.

The Consolat de Mar (Consulate of the Sea), which is now the seat of the Balearic Islands Government, rises beside the gateway. This is a building that was originally the house of the Col·legi de la Mercaderia, with a fine Gothic chapel added at the back.  The Consolat de Mar was an institution that acted as a tribunal to resolve maritime and merchant disputes.

Can Chacón is on the left.  At the end of the 17th Century this was the home of the military engineer, Martín Gil de Gaínza, who had it built on the town wall. We can see its fine Baroque gallery, built in the 18th Century when the building was owned by the Chacón family, from Andalusia.

16. Old boat yard (Drassana)

Plaça de la Drassana. The Plaça Drassana was laid out in 1844 on the site of the old boat yard, an enclosed area which had been located here since the 13th Century.  A fountain was placed in the middle with a monument dedicated to the 14th Century Majorcan sailor, Jaume Ferrer, which is the work of the sculptor, Jacint Mateu.  The statue is a replica of the original which is held at the Consolat de Mar.

Carrer Sant Pere takes its name from the 16th Century oratory dedicated to Sant Pere, who is the patron saint of the fishermen living in the Puig de Sant Pere district.

17. Baluart de Sant Pere

Carrer Sant Pere.  The Renaissance enclosure of Palma began in the 16th Century with walls and bastions suitable for artillery use.  The project was designed by the Italian engineer Giacomo Palearo, better known as Captain Fratin (d. 1586).  To be precise, the work began in 1575 with the construction of the bastion known as Santa Catalina, which was the name of the medieval port and the district which still exists to the west.  This bastion was later known as the Bastion of Santa Creu, the name of the parish, and the Bastion of Sant Pere, the name of the street.  The bastion was rebuilt in the first half of the 17th Century by the Majorcan engineer, Vicenç Mut Armengol (1614-1687), and between 1644 and 1656 a new gateway was opened in the wall that no longer exists but a part of its bridge over the Sa Riera gulley is preserved.

The bastion has undergone numerous changes, and what we see today is what remains of the old fortification.  The bastion had two levels, the so-called lower bastion, which was the square that goes as far as Passeig Sagrera and the quay, and the upper bastion, which now houses the Palma Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art which opened in January 2004.  The gateway with a ramp previously led to the gateway going up to the upper bastion, which was completely levelled off.

A visit to the Santa Creu group of historic buildings, in Carrer Sant Llorenç is recommended as it contains the crypt of Sant Llorenç and a sacred art gallery.  It is also worth the effort to go to the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation, in the building built by Moneo, which houses a selection of paintings, drawings, graphic works and sculptures by the famous artist, Joan Miró.  It also puts on temporary exhibitions by young artists.

Source: http://www.balearsculturaltour.net


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