Ibiza + Mallorca See And Do
3 Plaza de Weyler
Palma de Mallorca , Mallorca
Tel: 34 971 178 500
Built at the beginning of the 20th century by the great Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the former Gran Hotel is the place where modern tourism in Palma began. The four-story building's sculpted facade is the best example of modernism on the island. Today the home of the Caixa Forum Palma, the building's interiors have been restored to house a contemporary art library, changing exhibitions, and a collection of works by local painter Anglada Camarasa. The very stylish café-restaurant, with picture windows for people watching, has a calm, cool atmosphere and is reason enough to visit.
Closes at 9 p.m.; 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Plaça de l'Almöina s/n
Palma de Mallorca , Mallorca
Tel: 34 971 723 130
This handsome cathedral represents one of the finest Gothic structures in Europe. An imposing sight seen from the outside, with its distinctive flying buttresses and ornate rose windows, it is at its most impressive from within, where the nave soars 44 meters in the air in what seems an impossible feat of engineering. Built to replace the great mosque that stood here prior to the 13th century, the cathedral now encompasses a variety of styles that represent the fashions of each century. Its most prolific architect and designer, however, was undoubtedly Antoni Gaudí, and his hand is evident in the creation of an unusually light-filled space.
10 Plaça Porta Santa Catalina s/n
Palma de Mallorca , Mallorca
Tel: 34 971 908 200
The shining jewel of the up-and-coming neighborhood of Santa Catalina, this impressive museum opened in 2004 and gave a much-needed injection of energy into what was a flagging art scene. Much of the collection was donated by Pere A. Serra, a wealthy Mallorcan business man, and spans works by high-profile Catalan artists including Joan Miró and Santiago Rusiñol, paintings by island artists such as Hermen Anglada-Camarasa, and modern-art works by Kees van Dongen and the Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. The space is a triumph of light and space, combining glass, steel, wood, and concrete to create a series of galleries connected by rooftop walkways and patios. There's also a great café here, worth a stop to admire the views and refuel.
Formentera is the smallest of the Balearics, offering visitors mile upon mile of pearl-white sand, crystalline waters, and some of the least developed terrain in Spain. Geologically like a Swiss cheese, the island is formed of pale, porous rock that the sea and elements have carved into dramatic sculptures over millennia, making it a paradise for diving (Vellmarí Formentera, 34-971-312-071; www.vellmari.com). It's worth breaking away from the beach to explore areas like Punta Pedrera, where the sea and wind have carved natural swimming pools into the rock; the Estany des Peix, located on a small lagoon, to see the fishing boats chug in and out; and the lonely, windswept lighthouse La Mola, written about by Jules Verne. Those who prefer their feet on dry land will find that many of the roads remain unpaved, and the preferred method is two-wheeled, by bicycle or moped (Motorent Migjorn; 349-971-32-27-87; www.motorentmigjorn.com). While beaches like Platja Illetes are as packed as any of the resorts on the bigger islands, those willing to explore will find a little piece of paradise to call their own. Head to Es Caló for fresh-caught fish on the beach, or over to Espalmador, a smaller island located 492 feet off the northern tip of Formentera. It has no facilities, but its isolation makes it all the more idyllic. To get there, swim or take a boat.
After a recent clean-up of the notorious nightlife scene, Ibiza is now attracting what some would call a more discerning breed of globe-trotter, who come not only to party but also to enjoy the island's myriad pocket-sized beaches and azure water, pretty rolling countryside, and yoga retreats. To tap into the Ibiza of the 1960s, head for Platja Benirras, where hippies play drums as the sun sets; Cala Salada, to get away from the crowd; Cala d'Hort, for lovely views over the monolithic rock of Es Vedra; and Cala Jondal, to bathe with the beautiful people. Boats leave from the harbor in Eivissa and Sant Antonio to ferry visitors to beaches inaccessible by car. The other often-overlooked attraction is Ibiza Town itself. The D'Alt Villa (old town) is a delightful jumble of cobblestone streets and 16th-century town houses, crowned by an ancient cathedral and crumbling Moorish castle. You'll also find the Museu Arqueológic, which gives a good overview of the history of both Ibiza and Formentera (3 Plaça Catedral; 3-94-971-301-771; www.aamaef.org; closed Mon), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Ronda Narcís Puget; 34-971-302-723). It's well worth dedicating a morning to exploring these honey-colored ramparts. Predictably, it's become good for shopping, too, with innumerable boutiques, many of them stocking natural fabrics and showcasing talented island designers, as well as some gourmet delis offering island cheeses, charcuterie, and designer salt.
Menorca is the second largest of the Balearic Islands, with a peculiarly English heritage left over from when the British ruled the island for 70-odd years beginning in 1708. It has the distinct pull of being the least developed (aside from Formentera). Of the island's two main towns, Maó is the capital and is distinguished by a hard-core yachting community, thanks to its spectacular harbor and its strong military and naval history. It's worth chartering a boat to get the full experience. Menorca Cruising School offers luxury sailing days aboard its 36-foot wooden yachts, with a gourmet lunch and cava thrown in (34-971-354-103; www.menorcasailing.co.uk). The town has a fairly lively nightlife along the Moll de Ponent, which snakes along the curves of the marina and a pretty old town. Ciutadella is a charming town on the opposite side of the island. It has pink-and-champagne-colored villas, bustling plazas filled with the chinking of pomadas (the local cocktail of syrupy Xoriguer gin), a Lilliputian-sized port, and smart fish restaurants. It's worth timing a visit to be here on June 23 for the Festival of Sant Joan, the biggest party of the year. Elsewhere, it's mainly agricultural country with some surprises: Curious Neolithic monuments (talayots) litter the landscape, left by some little-known, supposedly second-millennium B.C. civilization. Clear waters, much of it nature reserve, have made this one of the best places in the Mediterranean for diving (Ulmodiving; Zona Comercial Addaia; 34-971-35-90-05; www.ulmodiving.com/en.htm).
Located in the southwest of Mallorca, the capital, Palma, is a cosmopolitan city on the sea, a sort of mini-Barcelona boasting handsome architecture, a delightful old quarter—the casco antiguo—and excellent shopping (the island is the home of Camper, so you'll get good deals on its footwear). Must-sees include the Gothic cathedral, also known as La Seu, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.
29 Calle Saridakis
Palma , Mallorca
Tel: 34 971 701 420
Set in the hills just outside the city of Palma, the artist Joan Miró and his wife, Pilar, opened the foundation in 1981 as a place to promote art in all its forms and to provide young artists with a space to work in. The original structure, which included four workshops used by Miró, was expanded in 1986 with the addition of a wing by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Rafael Moneo. The foundation has a permanent collection of works donated by Miró, including paintings, sketches, and sculpture all produced during the time he spent in Mallorca. The rest of the space includes an exhibition gallery, an auditorium, a library with many of the artist's personal documents, and the ever-present museum shop. There's also a young artists' workshop on the upper floor, and a recently opened space in the basement to exhibit the works these artists produce.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 am to 3 pm, Sundays 10 am to 7 pm, mid-May through mid-September; Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays 10 am to 3 pm, mid-September through mid-May.
The north and northwest of the island are all about beautiful villages and rugged coastline, with the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range stretching down the western shore. A picturesque wooden single-gauge railway connects Palma with the town of Sóller via a valley filled with orange groves and almond trees (El Tren de Sóller; 349-902-364-711; www.sollernet.com. Sóller's square is a pretty spot to sit and enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. From here, a tram takes visitors to Port de Sóller, a bustling little resort that curves around a natural bay. Just south of Sóller, the village of Valldemossa has picturesque stone buildings and winding streets. Don't miss its monastery, which dates back to 1310, made famous by Frédéric Chopin and George Sand's sojourn there in the 19th century.
Further north, the road narrows to the tumbling, sea-facing terraces of Deià, where the poet and novelist Robert Graves was a longtime resident. A museum, Fundació Robert Graves, opened in 2006 at his home, Ca N'Alluny (Carretera de Sóller, Km 1; 34-971-636-185; www.fundaciorobertgraves.com). Walk the narrow streets to the uppermost part of the town, where you'll find the cemetery where Graves is buried—there's a quirky mix of traditional Spanish and funky artists' headstones. The view of the coast from here is worth the hike. Today the village is also home to Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones's summer pad, as well as a handful of superb restaurants.
Beyond Deià the road becomes a series of hairpin bends and steep ups and downs, but it's well worth persevering with the knuckle-biting ride to get to some of the island's loveliest and most deserted beaches, such as secluded Cala Tuent and Sa Calobra. The latter can also be reached by boat from Port de Sóller.
On Mallorca's south coast, visit the lovely fjord-like coves, notably Cala Figuera, with its bottle-green–trimmed boathouses; Cala Llombards, which calls to mind the Caribbean; and the Parc Natural de Mondragó, for its virgin beaches and forest walks. Unlovely Magaluf, on the western Bay of Palma, has long been the default cheap vacation of British package tourists, who still populate a coast buried under ugly blocky hotels, English pubs, and fast food. Head into the center of the island, however, and you are rewarded with picturesque rural villages, mountaintop sanctuaries, and a way of life that has remained unchanged for decades.