Families flock to Majorca’s bustling coastal resorts in their droves, without casting a second glance from their air-conditioned coach at this sun-kissed city. But it would be mad to miss out on even just a couple of days exploring sassy, historic and enduringly cool Palma
It’s a city that’s easy to walk around: explore slowly and get your bearings at the mighty La Seu cathedral, looming large over the city. You won’t lose your way. Let the kids run along the Passeig des Born, beneath shady lime trees. Navigate its culinary map: this is a place where children are welcomed in almost every restaurant at almost any time of day, and where gastronomic good times abound. If your mini mes are old enough to cycle, hire some bikes and cruise along the bay’s cycle path to the laid-back suburb of Portixol – frequented by clued-up locals – for evening picnics. And if you’re a sucker for a beach, you’ve come to the right place. So go on, discover this city with its winning formula of gastronomic delights, hotels with flawless service, piercing blue skies and top-notch playgrounds. Your kids will only thank you for it.
Where to eat
Booking a table at this Palma institution is an absolute must. Locals return again and again – and it’s not hard to see why. The main event here is spectacular steak, sprinkled in rock salt and cooked on stone at the table. Inside it’s dated and far from cool. But that’s all part of the appeal in this spot where the crowd is lively, and the food is real and honest. And the best news? Outside is a handy little playground where the kids can play whilst you polish off a fine red on the peaceful terrace.
La Madeleine de Proust
Pitched in the on-trend quarter of Santa Catalina, this French bakery is a sweet little pit-stop for an authentic taste of ooh la la. For pastry cravings, it has some fabulous flaky creations that’d rival anything in Paris, the coffee’s seriously good and it serves up a cracking fresh orange juice.
Housed in a former abattoir in the up-and-coming hood of S’Escorxador, this indoor gourmet market dishes up an inspired mix of Spanish bites, lip-smacking nibbles and Mediterranean classics. A cavernous place that buzzes every day of the year with the chink of wine glasses and the rich, roasty scent of paprika and garlic, it’s a nifty find for hungry families. You could play it safe with stone-baked pizza, but you’ll eat exceptionally well if you go for the fresh seafood, terrific pintxos, pad thai, and favourites such as tortilla and croquettas. With kids in tow, pull up some pews on the outdoor seating and take it in turns to watch the sprogs as they work off their dinner on the adjacent park. No one will be leaving hungry.
Mallorcans are a discernible bunch when it comes to ice cream – just like your little ones. But where to sample the best scoop? Parlours are ten a penny, but this joint is a real stand-out with classic flavours and some top-drawer varieties of chocolate.
Where to stay
This welcoming sprawl of a place, pitched behind Palma Bay beach, ticks all the boxes when it comes to a family-friendly hotel. Unfussy hotel rooms combine unparalled comfort with thoughtful touches – think heavenly beds, cuddly toys for the kids, colouring pads and sensational views. Go for a family suite and your kids can be snoozing in one room whilst you chill with your feet up in another. Alternatively, book the babysitting service and slip into the spa, or dine on exceptional seafood in the nearby village of Portixol. By day, dangle your feet in the rooftop pool whilst the kids splash about, before fuelling up in the lounge on top-notch tapas and afternoon tea. Rooms from £162 a night.
Where to play
Puerto Portals is the hangout of yachties and millionaire-boat owners; a marina in the Bay of Palma where well-heeled punters air-kiss and fill up on fizz and spectacular seafood over long, languid lunches. But a trip to its beach costs nothing: this curve of creamy-coloured sand is lapped by gin-clear seas and is beautifully calm and shallow. Little ones will relish padding about its shoreline and shaping sandcastles, before curling up on a shaded sunbed. There’s a beach bar for drinks and sandwiches, but your best bet is to make your own jamon sandwiches from the supermarket, El Corte Ingles, down the road. And if you’ve managed to find a babysitter, make a beeline for Roxy Beach Club at one end of the beach, order a fizz and gaze at the horizon.
The only conundrum to consider at this pretty little cove is whether to snooze before or after lunch. You’re never going to find a deserted beach on Majorca, but this instagrammable patch of sand doesn’t attract the huge crowds that some others do. Little hands will be kept for busy for hours with a bucket and spade, and the water – that’s a glittering shade of azure – is cool and heavenly on a baking hot day.
Parque de Sa Faixina
When it comes to parks, this sun-blushed city knows exactly what it’s doing. From super-high slides and climbing frames to makeshift pirate ships, little ones can run wild whilst you pull up a chair for a five-minute breather: many parks have an on-site café. One of the best and a crowd-pleaser for all ages is Sa Faixina, in the shadow of the museum of modern and contemporary art, Es Baluard, with its climbing towers and tube slides.
How to get there: Airlines including Ryanair, EasyJet, Jet2.com and British Airways fly from regional airports throughout the year.
Best for: Kids of all ages will fall for Palma. It’s very walkable and pram-friendly, plus there’s so much scope for running around. The shopping is also first-rate for teenagers. And what kid can say no to ice cream and beaches? Fiestas run year-round too, filling the streets with parties, concerts and fireworks.
Best time to go: Visit in spring or autumn when the heat’s not too fierce. The sea is pretty chilly in April and May, though it heats up very quickly from June.
Top tips: For the truly greedy – and for those in the know – go for the menú del día (‘menu of the day’: usually three courses, with a glass of wine) at restaurants across the city. It’s an absolute bargain at around €10-€18.