A cultural guide to Mallorca
As a Balearic island, Mallorca is often seen as a destination for hedonistic beachgoers and party people. However, away from the glitzy resort towns and nightclubs you’ll find a wealth of understated cultural jewels both ancient and modern, from spectacular architecture and museums to impressive country estates and exciting events to enjoy all year round. To get the best out of the stunning scenery get a car rental in Mallorca with easyCar.
This article will introduce you to the island’s history and pick out some unmissable cultural highlights to add to your itinerary.
The history of Mallorca
Like many Mediterranean islands, Mallorca has experienced numerous religious and political shifts throughout the centuries that have contributed to its present-day culture. After a turbulent period of piracy and primitive trade, the Romans came to power in 123BC, leading to centuries of imperial rule, traces of which can still be seen today at the ruins of ancient Pollentia and at Palma’s Museum of Municipal History at the beautifully preserved Bellver Castle.
The next major period of occupation came in 902 when the Moorish annexation of the Balearic archipelago was completed following 200 years of attacks. A scenic walk to Alaro Castle at the heart of the Tramuntana mountain range will give you some insight into Moorish life and its influence on local language and mythology, as well as offering breath-taking views of the luscious surrounding landscape.
The Catalan conquest in the 13th century is generally seen to mark the beginning of modern Mallorcan history, with the island experiencing its “Golden Age” under the rule of Jaume II from 1276 to 1344. This period of relative peace and independence gave space for the economy, culture and agriculture to thrive leading to the construction of major landmarks including Palma’s treasured La Seu Cathedral, Bellver Castle and Almudaina Palace, all of which are unmissable treasures on any sightseeing tour.
Centuries of civil war would ensue after this fruitful yet brief period of independence, followed by Napoleonic occupation and Franco’s dictatorship up until 1978 when Spain’s democratic constitution finally gave the island political autonomy. Today, this myriad of historical influences blends into a fascinating cocktail of ancient and modern attractions in an idyllic natural setting. Below you’ll find a guide to some of the island’s brightest cultural gems.
Admire world-class galleries & architecture
Understandably, Palma dominates the island’s art scene as the only major city, boasting a multitude of fascinating galleries and art exhibitions all year round. Modern art connoisseurs should head to the renowned Es Baulard museum for a host of cutting edge displays covering photography, audio-visual installations and painting. If you want to combine striking modernist architecture with classic art exhibitions head to Caixa Forum Palma which houses a permanent display of paintings inside a former grand hotel. Meanwhile, those seeking a sense of the past need look no further than the Museu de Mallorca which gives a comprehensive look into the complex and fascinating history of island. Whilst in Palma, take the time to admire the iconic Can Forteza Rey building which can be seen en-route to the elegant Placa Major.
If your trip takes you further afield, we recommend the Museu Sa Bassa Blanca just outside the historic town of Alcudia. Here you can combine sightseeing with sculpture in a dramatic mountain setting which sports sea views. Otherwise head to Campos’s Es Revellar Art Resort which hosts an impressive collection of private pieces that are sure to spark your curiosity.
Explore fine country estates
Mallorca’s sumptuous natural scenery merits a road trip, with no shortage of lavish estates to explore along the way. Can Lis near Porto Petro is the former home of Sydney Opera House architect Jørn Utzon. This unique villa combines traditional Mallorcan building techniques with modern styles to create an open structure that is sure to enchant, not least because of its dramatic cliff-side setting.
If you’re more interested in getting a taste of the past, the Raixa Estate just outside Bunyola is a marvellous example of an 18th century Italian style villa that has housed generations of Mallorcan nobility.
Indulge in events & nightlife
It’s no surprise that an island as dynamic as Mallorca is home to some exciting events. A host of Spring carnivals get everyone warmed up for high season, whilst Palma’s Nit de Foc in June epitomises the island’s hedonistic spirit with firework celebrations and street parties taking over the capital. Later on in September, the lower key Nit d’Art in Palma sees the city’s historic centre transform into one huge gallery as exhibitions are taken to the streets.
A more permanent fixture is the much loved Jazz Voyeur Club in the heart of the capital, which has live music every night in a suave setting.