Tuesday, 21 August 2012



Palma, in full Palma de Mallorca, is the major city and port on the island of Majorca (Mallorca) and capital city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. The names Ciutat de Mallorca (City of Majorca) and Ciutat (City) were used before the War of the Spanish Succession and are still used by people in Majorca. However, the official name was Mallorca, the same as the island. It is situated on the south coast of the island on the Bay of Palma. As of the 2009 census, the population of the city of Palma proper was 401,270, and the population of the entire urban area was 517,285, ranking as the twelfth largest urban area of Spain. Almost half of the total population of Majorca live in Palma. The Cabrera Archipelago, though widely separated from Palma proper, is administratively considered part of the municipality. Its airport, Son Sant Joan, serves over 22 million passengers each year. The Marivent Palace was offered by the city to the then Prince Juan Carlos I of Spain. The royals have since spent their summer holidays in Palma.

Palma was founded as a Roman camp upon the remains of a Talaiotic settlement. The turbulent history of the city saw it the subject of several Vandal sackings during the fall of the Roman Empire, then reconquered by the Byzantine, then colonised by the Moors (who called it Medina Mayurqa), and finally established by James I of Aragon.

After the conquest of Majorca, it was loosely incorporated into the province of Tarraconensis by 123 BC; the Romans founded two new cities: Palma on the south of the island, and Pollentia in the northeast - on the site of a Phoenician settlement. Whilst Pollentia acted as port to Roman cities on the northwestern Mediterranean Sea, Palma was the port used for destinations in Africa, such as Carthage, and Hispania, such as Saguntum, Gades, and Carthago Nova. Though no visible remains of this period are seen in present day Palma, archaeological discoveries still occur whenever excavating under the city centre.

The arrival of Moors in the Balearic Islands occurred at the beginning of the 8th century. During this period, the population developed an economy based on self-sufficiency and piracy, and even showed evidence of a relative hierarchy. The dominant groups took advantage of the Byzantine withdrawal due to Islamic expansion, to reinforce their domination upon the rest of the population, thus ensuring their power and the gradual abandonment of Imperial structures.

In 707, a Muslim fleet, under the command of Abd Allgaht ibn Musa, son of the governor of Ifriqiya, Musa ibn Nusayr, stopped at the island. It appears that Abd Allah convinced the factional powers of the city to accept a peace treaty. This treaty granted, in exchange for a tax, respect for social, economic and political structures to the communities that subscribed it, as well as the continuity of their religious beliefs..

After 707, the city was inhabited by Christians who were nominally in allegiance to the sovereignty of the Caliphate of Damascus, yet who, de facto, enjoyed an absolute autonomy. The city, being in Majorca, constituted an enclave between westernChristian and Islamic territories, and this attracted and encouraged increased levels of piracy in the surrounding waters. For wide sectors of the city's population, the sacking of ships (whether Muslim or Christian) which passed through Balearic waters, was the first source of riches during the next fifteen decades. Eventually, the continued piracy in the region lead to retaliation by Al-Andalus which launched its naval power against the city and the whole of the Islands. The Islands were defended by the emperor Charlemagne in 799 from a Saracen pirate incursion.

In 848 (maybe 849), four years after the first Viking incursions had sacked the whole island, an attack from Córdoba forced the authorities to ratify the treaty to which the city had submitted in 707. As the city still occupied an eccentric position regarding the commerce network established by the Caliph in the western Mediterranean, the enclave was not immediately incorporated into Al-Andalus.

While the Caliphate of Córdoba reinforced its influence upon the Mediterranean, the interest of Al-Andalus for the city increased. The logical consequence of this evolution was the substitution of the submission treaty by the effective incorporation of the islands to the Islamic state. This incorporation took place in the last years of the Emirate. a squad under the command of Isam al-Jawlani took advantage of the instability caused by several Viking incursions and disembarked in Majorca, and after destroying any resistance, incorporated Majorca, with Palma as its capital, to the Córdobese dominions. 
The incorporation of the city to the Emirate sets the basis for a new social organisation, far more articulated and complex than before. Commerce and manufacture developed in a manner that was unknown previously. This caused a considerable demographic growth, thereby establishing Medina Mayurqa as one of the major ports for trading goods in and out of the Caliphate of Córdoba. 

On December 31, 1229, after three months of siege, the city was reconquered by James I of Aragon and was renamed Palma de Mallorca. In addition to being kept as capital of the Kingdom of Majorca, it was given a municipality that comprised the whole island.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Palma became the refuge of many who had exiled themselves from the Napoleonic occupation of Catalonia and Valencia; during this period freedom flourished, until the absolutist restoration. With the establishing of the contemporary Spanish state administrative organization, Palma became the capital of the new province of Balearic Islands in the 1833 territorial division of Spain. The French occupation of Algeria in the 19th century ended the fear of Maghrebi attacks in Majorca, which favoured the expansion of new maritime lines, and consequently, the economic growth of the city, which suffered a demographic increase, with the birth of new nucleus of population.

Since the 1950s, the advent of mass tourism radically changed the face of both the city and island, transforming it into a centre of attraction for visitors and attracting workers from mainland Spain. This contributed to a huge change in the traditions, the sociolinguistic map, urbanisation and acquisitive power.

The boom in tourism caused Palma to grow significantly, with repercussions on immigration. In 1960, Majorca received 500,000 visitors, in 1997 it received more than 6,739,700. In 2001 more than 19,200,000 people passed through Son Sant Joan airport near Palma, with an additional 1.5 million coming by sea.

In the 21st century, urban redevelopment, by the so-called Pla Mirall (English "Mirror Plan"), attracted important groups of immigrant workers from outside the European Union, especially from Africa and South America.

The Old City (in the south-east area of Palma behind the Cathedral) is a fascinating maze of streets clearly hinting towards an Arab past. With the exception of a few streets and squares which allow traffic and are more populated with tourists most of the time, the walkways of this city quarter are fairly narrow, quiet streets, surrounded by a diverse range of interesting buildings, the architecture of which can easily be compared with those in streets of cities such as Florence (Italy), for example. The majority are private houses, some of which are open to the public as discreet museums or galleries. The tall structures, characteristic window boxes, detailed metal carvings and overhanging eaves of these buildings make a stark contrast with the view of the bay that is obtained by stepping out of the shady alleyways next to the cathedral and onto the old city walls. The Old City is also home to the Ajuntament (or Town Hall), the Convent of the Cathedral and the Banys Àrabs.

Palma is definitely the best city for eating out on the island. There’s an excellent variety of choice. Palma has every kind of restaurant imaginable; from traditional Spanish (with delicious tapas) to stylish restaurants covering the whole international range - Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai….whatever kind of cuisine you prefer you’ll find it here. 

“Café culture” is a way of life here. People sit out all day long just watching other people…you never know who you might meet…This is great people watching territory. You can drink hot chocolates or cappuccinos, surrounded by artists, famous people and creative types. Try the Mallorca’s ensaimadas pastry. They’re absolutely delicious.

The eating out scene in Palma can be split into two separate areas. If you’re looking for bars serving light snacks the best place is the Sa Llotja area. Passeig Maritim has some excellent restaurants, most are alongside the harbour. In the old town and Santa Catalina you’ll find some newer restaurants along with the local favourites.

Palma holds some of the best nightclubs and bars on the island. The most stylish and expensive venues are found here and you could even be partying amongst some famous stars. 
Palma has a wide range of clubs, bars, restaurants and cafe bars. The nightlife buzzes all night long and all year round. One of the busiest places is Sa Llotja. The pubs and bars here tend to get very packed and things start to wind down at around one or two in the morning. Then everyone heads off to the Passeig Maritim, where the drinking and dancing continues…the bars and discotecas stay open till at least 5 or 6am.

Head down to C/Apuntadors Sa Llotja and you’ll be overwhelmed by a mass of English and Irish bars packed with holidaymakers and locals. The atmosphere is always very lively. There are also plenty of bars and clubs offering all kinds of live music from flamenco to jazz to blues. Although “officially” they’re meant to close at 2pm, a lot of the places stay open till 3pm or 4pm.

Passeig Maritim is located to the west of the city centre. Like Sa Llotja, It’s a regular haunt of both locals and tourists. This is where it all continues after Sa Llotja. The Passeig Maritim is a mixture of both a gay scene and a grunge/indie scene, with sex shops and topless bars. Some places well worth checking out here are; the Crazy Cow (with its charming terrace and delightful house music); and Made in Brazil (for Latin tunes).

Most of the clubs here play Spanish pop music apart from Pachas. 
Located on the side of the cliff looking over the Paseo Maritimo and the yachts linked between the Palma’s horseshoe shaped Marina, Pacha Mallorca is one of the best known nightclubs in Palma. This club comes into life from 10pm in the night and stays so till 6am the following morning. During the summer months this club gets exceptionally busy and the entrance fee is increased.  

                                                        Palma’s Top 5:
  1. The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, more commonly referred to as La Seu, is a Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, built on the site of a pre-existing Arab mosque. It is 121 metres long, 55 metres wide and its nave is 44 metres tall. Designed in the Catalan Gothic style but with Northern European influences, it was begun by King James I of Aragon in 1229 but finished only in 1601. It sits within the old city of Palma atop the former citadel of the Roman city, between the Royal Palace of La Almudaina and the episcopal palace. It also overlooks the Parc de la Mar and the Mediterranean Sea. In 1901, fifty years after a restoration of the cathedral had started, Antoni Gaudí was invited to take over the project. While some of his ideas were adopted – moving the choir stalls from the middle nave to be closer to the altar, as well as a large canopy – Gaudí abandoned his work in 1914 after an argument with the contractor. The planned changes were essentially cosmetic rather than structural, and the project was cancelled soon after.
  2. The Banys Àrabs, or Arab Baths, one of the few remnants of Palma's Moorish past, are accessed via the quiet Ca'n Serra street near the Convent of the Cathedral, and include the lush gardens of Ca'n Fontirroig, home to Sardinian warblers, house sparrows, cacti, palm trees, and a wide range of flowers and ferns. The small two-roomed brick building that once housed the bath is in fact of Byzantine origin, dating back to the 11th century and possibly once part of the home of a Muslim nobleman. The bath room has a cupola with five oculi which let in dazzling light. The twelve columns holding up the small room were pillaged from an earlier Roman construction. The floor over the hypocaust has been worn away by people standing in the centre, mainly to photograph the entrance and the garden beyond it. The whole room is in a rather disreputable condition. The other room is a brick cube with a small model of the baths as they once were in the corner.
  3. The Royal Palace of La Almudaina is the Alcázar (fortified palace) of Palma. It is the royal summer official residence and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional. The site dominates the entrance to the city and this excellent strategic position was realised as early as the Talayot period, whose people were the first to live here millennia ago. The Romans used the same area in the 2nd century BC to create a nucleus for their new city, Palmeria, which marked the birth of the city as we know it. When the ‘Dark era’ began, 7 centuries later, the Vandals destroyed it building one of their own, but in 903 when the Arabs conquered the island, the governor, or Wali as he was known, built himself a fortress on the same site. ‘Almudayna’ in Arabic meaning ‘Fortress’ and this was the beginning of the building you see now.
  4. The museum of Palau March, next to Parliament, sits exactly where the old gardens of the Convent of San Domingo used to be. In the 1930’s Juan March Ordinas, the richest man in Mallorca, began its construction as a residence for his family. The drawings were made by the famous Spanish architect Luis Gutierrez Soto but were based on preliminary work done by the Mallorcan architect Forteza. The result combines the austere Herreran style of the façade in Calle Conquistador with the light, open Mediterranean style of this side, facing the Cathedral. It stands out more as an example of the architectural change undergone during this period than it does on the basis of its intrinsic value. Its construction took 6 years, finishing in 1945.
  5. Bellver Castle - a fairy tale outline that stands on a pedestal of pine trees. If anything defines this castle it’s the location, because it is also the origin of its name – ‘Bellver’ meaning ‘Beautiful view’. The Bellver Castle is located 3 km from Palma's city centre and 112.6 m above sea level, dominating the bay and a large part of the island of Mallorca.Like the Cathedral and the Almudaina, it was the brainchild of King James II and was to serve as a residence for the kings of Mallorca. Started around 1310, it took about 9 years to complete and is witness to a unique architectural design- it is the only castle, in all of Spain, with a circular design. The castle consists of three semi-circular towers and another tower about 7 metres away from the main body. The construction is set around a central courtyard and has two levels: the ground floor with round arches and flat ceilings and the upper floor with lancet arches covered with a cross vault in pure Gothic style.

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