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Perfect for families
Mallorca, or Majorca, is one of those wonderful travel clichés: an island that suits everyone. Glorious sandy beaches and clear blue seas, a food scene that is both traditional and modern, smart bars serving goblets of gin & tonic and inventive tapas, plus miles of winding roads through rugged mountain scenery, perfect for drivers with well-honed clutch control.
The island has been brushing up on its cuisine in recent years, from high-end restaurants to cafés and family-run rural establishments that you can eat well in wherever you go, which makes choosing where to stay much easier.
Palma, capital of the Balearic Islands, is one of Europe’s most accessible cities. It is set in a sweeping bay with winding old-town streets and a bustling port at its core. It’s worth spending a day or two in the hip former fishermen’s settlement of Santa Catalina at one end of your holiday, but with a family in tow it’s best to head north to the coast around Pollença and Alcúdia. The sandy beaches are extensive and the resorts low-key: sunset stroll and a civilised drink affairs. From here you can explore th hills and jaw-dropping sea cliffs that taper off the Serra de Tramuntana mountains down the Peninsula de Formentor, and the honey-coloured towns across the bays and the Parc Natural de S’Albufera wetlands from their hilltop perches.
When to go
Beach season in Mallorca extrends from May to the end of September, and during these months it’s best to be close to water – August is stiflingly hot and Mallorcans can’t imagine why you’d want to rush around doing anything. In spring and autumn you can take much better advantage of walking, cycling and other outdoor activities, but bear in mind that there will be fewer places open after the October half-term ends through to Easter. Travel and accommodation will also be cheaper.
Where to eat
Stay restaurant on the Moll Nou jetty, Port de Pollença, is a lovely spot looking out over the beach and port. The snack/lunch menu offers tapas, salads and bocadillos (rolls), so if all you want is a drink and a sandwich, or a plate of Padrón peppers, it won’t break the bank to sit on the modern terrace and while away some time (snacks from £3). In the evening, the more extensive menu features plenty of seafood and a decent wine list.
Café C’an Moixet is the least flash-looking but best place to eat tapas and have a drink on the Plaça Major (main square) in Pollença old town. The whole square fills up in the evenings and you can enjoy a meal in peace while your children make new friends and play within eyesight.
Also in Pollença, Clivia is the type of family-run establishment that tourists return to year after year to eat sea bass, hake, lobster paella and Soller prawns (two courses from £25). It has white linen tablecloths and a pretty, modern shaded courtyard, but isn’t in the least bit stuffy, and children are always welcome.
Casa Gallega in Port d’Alcudia is relatively unassuming and rustic looking, but has an excellent tapas selection, ranging from pimientos de Padrón (in season) to grilled cockles and razor clams, or grilled octopus with potatoes and sweet peppers, as well as cheeses and very good steaks. There’s also a kids’ menu. Try to bag a table on the terrace.
Restaurant es Casal at Casal Santa Eulàlia, serves modern Med dishes such as prawn carpaccio with pink peppercorns, and grilled Mallorcan black pork with baked apple & rosemary yogurt (three courses £29) and has a kids’ menu; you can eat inside or out on the terrace under the stars. On Wednesday nights there’s a fish ‘barbecue’ by the pool. Enjoy frito Mallorquin (fried fish, squid and prawns) followed by a fish tumbet (casserole) packed with prawns and shellfish. Booking essential.
Where to stay
Stay at a hotel set in a rustic stone-clad finca a little way off the beaten track, such as Casal Santa Eulàlia, which has swimming pools and an excellent restaurant on site. You’ll also have a buffet breakfast of stupendous proportions, plus a haven of peace to return to at the end of the day. Book Casal Santa Eulàlia through Sawday’s from £195 per night for a double room, including breakfast.
- Coca is the Mallorcan equivalent of a yeasted flatbread. It can be savoury or sweet. Coca desnuda (with no clothes) is plain and sometimes with a hole in the centre; coca tapada is stuffed with a filling; and coca abierta has a topping just like a pizza.
- If you’re driving, you need to be aware that addresses are often given as a place on a named road but with a kilometre mark instead of a street number – for example, Santa Margalida and Alcúdia at Km1.8. Our satnav wasn’t always helpful with this kind of address.
Five foodie things to do
1. Visit Sineu market in the centre of the island on a Wednesday for a full local experience, complete with livestock auctions (get there around 8am for these). Market shopping is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a culture, and any stall selling kitchenware reveals how the locals cook at home, along with being a good source of useful souvenirs.
2. El Sol bar and restaurant is the only joint on Son Serra beach and here, in a slightly hippie setting, you’ll find cocktails and cake, plus lavish salads, Thai curry and black rice with prawns. Come here to watch kite surfing and chill out.
3. Santa Catalina indoor food market is the oldest in Palma (open MonSat, 7am-5pm). Shop or eat tapas standing at one of the bars. Look out for sobrasada, a local raw, cured sausage; snail-like ensaïmada pastries dusted with icing sugar; and coca bread.
5. Drink gin & tonic or gin cocktails at the tables outside Ginbo in Palma. With more than 100 gins to choose from – including the local Cabraboc, Onze and Gin Eva – you might like to try more than one. In which case ordering their snacks will help!
Accommodation for this feature was provided by Casal Santa Eulàlia.
What are your favourite Mallorcan hotspots? Let us know in the comments below…