Mallorca For History Buffs: A Guide
Mallorca has played an important role in European history and while it is currently part of Spain, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Moorish have all laid claim to it. The tumultuous past of Mallorca, along with the rest of the Balearic Islands, means that there a lots of interesting historical sites to explore. Mallorca holidays are not just full of beaches and sun, if you’re a history buff then there are plenty of places you should visit and here are some of the best ones.
Alcudia Old Town
The town of Alcudia is now one of the busiest tourist destinations on the island and is popular for mallorca holidays. The Old Town dates back to the 13th century. It’s still fully contained within the old city walls which are worth the visit just to see them. Walking around the old town is the perfect way to spend a day or two. Alcudia is renowned for its small restaurants, shops and the market on a Sunday which gets very busy and gives you just a small glimpse to what it might have been like when the old town was in its heyday.
Parking around the walls is free of charge but it’s also only a 45 minute walk from the main tourist areas. The Church of St Jaume is worth the €1 entrance fee, as are the Roman ruins of Pollentia just outside the city walls.
Roman Town of Pollentia
Just outside Alcudia directly in front of the Church of St Jaume are the ruins of the Roman Town of Pollentia. For history enthusiasts they should be on the top of your sightseeing list. The site covers roughly 12 hectares and contains the ruins of two residential streets and houses, the public square with the forum and the Capitol Temple dedicated to the Imperial Cult as well as many other individual buildings. Many of the artefacts that have been found in the town indicate that it was once very prosperous and these are now on display in the Monographic Museum nearby. There is also a 2,000-seat Roman amphitheatre on the outskirts of the town which is 10 minutes away on foot and must also be seen.
The entrance fee to the ruins is €2 per adult (children free) which also includes access to the Monographic Museum. Opening times are 10am-4pm Tues-Fri, 10.30am-1pm Sat & Sun and closed on Mondays.
The Banys Arabs are former Arabic baths that are the only surviving remnants of the 10th century Arabic city of Medina Mayurqa. The baths are located in modern day Palma and can be very difficult to find if you don’t know where to look. It’s very likely that these baths were private ones that belonged to local nobility as they are very similar to what can be found elsewhere in the Arab world including the small courtyard garden.
Although small, the baths are interesting for those who like history, partly because the hydraulic system used is quite sophisticated and also because the 12 columns used to support the roof are all different, indicating that the stone was likely recycled from earlier Roman buildings.
To find the Banys Arab you need to head to Number 7 of the calle Can Serra in Palma. The baths are open from 9.30am to 7.30pm every day and it costs €2 to enter.
Royal Carthusian Monastery
The Royal Carthusian Monastery (Real Cartuja in Spanish) is in Valdemossa, about 25 minutes’ drive north of Palma and has seen so much happen within its four walls that anybody interested in history has to visit. The monastery was first used by monks in 1399 and was used for that purpose until 1835 but had been a royal residence before that.
Aside from the monks and travellers, some of the more famous visitors include Frederic Chopin who supposedly put the finishing touches to some of his famous works while there and also the French writer George Sand. There is now a lot of memorabilia on display for both of these people and the entry fee also includes a small recital of Chopin’s work.
The views from gardens and the monastery itself are almost worth the trip in itself. Opening times are 9.30am – 5pm in the summer months. There are regular buses from Palma bus station and the entrance fee is €7.50 for adults.
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Ursula Jones is a travel writer and blogger who writes on behalf on Bluebay Resorts. She has several years’ experience of travelling the world.