Whether you are arriving by plane or ferry, your landing point on Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, Spain, will almost certainly be the city of Palma de Mallorca, and rather than just heading off for one of the busy coastal resorts, as most visitors do, why not take some time out to visit this surprising city? There is lots to see and do and you could easily spend a week there and still not see all of it. Palma is home to over half of Mallorca’s population and is in fact the 12th most populous municipal district in Spain (with around 800,000 people). Palma is named after the Roman city Palmaria and much of the original Roman city, which was founded in around 123 BC, still exists underneath the modern city (remains are constantly being found in the area around the cathedral). The city you will find today, is a mostly modern creation, the majority of the old city walls were levelled long ago, to make way for a network of avenues, forming today’s Palma. Some of the ancient walls still remain however, and sections can be seen facing the sea in the old part of the city. From the harbour, fishermen still sail from Palma to lay out their nets, much as they have done for hundreds of years. First port of call for most visitors to Palma is the magnificent Gothic cathedral (La Seu), which was built on the site of an Arab mosque, which was in turn built upon a Roman temple. Legend tells that in 1229, when caught in a terrible storm at sea, on his way to conquer Mallorca, King Jaime I vowed to build a great church if God would lead him to safety. And so he did, and a great church it is, so great in fact, that it was not completed until 1587. One of the most breathtaking buildings in Spain, Palma cathedral also boasts one of the largest stained glass windows in the world – The Great Rose Window has 1,236 coloured pieces and is over 36 feet in diameter. Below the cathedral lies the Almudaina Palace, originally built during the Arab occupation of Mallorca, it was converted into the Gothic style by King Jaime II (Jaime I’s son) in 1307, it still belongs to the Spanish Royal Family, parts of it are open to the public including a 13th century throne. Another of Palma de Mallorca’s attractions is the Castell de Bellver (Bellver castle), standing in an elevated position on a wooded hillside some 3 miles from the city centre. This unique circular castle was commissioned by Jaime II for use as a summer residence, it has commanded sea and land approaches to Palma ever since. Three large towers surround a central courtyard, connected by an arch to the keep, from the battlements, visitors can enjoy one of the finest views of the city (a clue can be found in the name – Bellver in Catalan means “lovely view”). The castle has over the centuries been a Royal residence and a military prison, nowadays it houses a well-laid out museum, outlining the archaeological and military history of the city.
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