Our first family holiday away from the familiar shores of Italy and Ireland brought us to Palma de Mallorca, in the Balearic islands, Spain. The kids were still tiny at the time (3 and 1) and we chose Palma as an easy place where to wind down in the sun: our year had been tiring, full of work and exams and the images of Palma’s blue waters and stunning architecture tempted us like a sirens’ call.
Palma’s family friendly accommodation
We booked our trip months in advance and we secured a good deal in a fantastic four-star hotel in Palma city centre: Hotel Almudaina
We chose a family room and we were very happy with what we got. Our room was practical and spacious, with an area for the kids’ beds that was sufficiently sheltered to allow parents to keep the light on even after the little ones were asleep, without having to close doors.
The air conditioning was a blessing and the hotel had an advantage that I always notice, especially since the kids came along: widows that were not sealed and could, therefore, be opened to let fresh air in!
A city centre hotel could be considered a peculiar choice for a family and indeed Palma offers many resorts that include also swimming pools and access to the beach.
But we love the mild evenings of Mediterranean cities and our city centre location meant we would have long strolls in the ancient part of town without ever worrying about transport.
The presence of a great supermarket next door, a great breakfast buffet and a rooftop terrace (although not for kids) only added to the attractiveness of the hotel.
Strolling around Palma de Mallorca with kids
Palma’s historical centre is beautiful: the cathedral dates back to 1200 (it was built between 1230 and 1600) and it is mainly Gothic in style, except for the main façade and part of its interiors.To me what was most striking about it is the position and colour: towering above the city, if seen from the distance it looks almost like part of the natural landscape, the beautiful shade of brown of its brick almost emerging from the hill behind it.
We strolled around the cathedral often: I browsed the many little shops and the kids loved the pedestrianised street and the steep hill, that they climbed back and forth an inordinate amount of times. Mind you: the road gets pretty steep so running uphill, rather than downhill, is highly recommended! Palma also has a lively commercial centre and beautiful squares, sometimes hosting markets and children entertainers.
Palma is sunny and hot in summer, but we soon discovered that one its historical treasures, the Arab baths, could act a shady oasis. The Arab baths are the only remaining monument of the Arab domination of the island and are beautiful: surrounded by luscious gardens, they are a wonderful spot and a slice of heaven after the sun-beaten streets of the city.
Important note: you might notice that in this post I do not mention some of the attractions for kids Palma is famous for, such as their water park and dolphinarium: this is because we feel strongly that animals should not be kept in captivity for our entertainment and should be left in the wild. You can read the truth about dolphin zoos in my post about it here.
Family friendly day-trips from Palma
This was our first trip to the Balearic and curiosity for the rest of the island soon brought us to leave the city in favour of day trips to faraway spots. Day trip to Soller aboard Thomas the tank The first and most memorable trip we took was to Soller and port de Soller, towns to the north of Palma that can be reached with a short train ride. I could lie and say what attracted us to Port de Soller was its beautiful beach (that was part of it, of course) but the truth is different:
what really made us go onto this excursion was the old train that connects Palma and Soller, a train so similar to Thomas the tank, we simply cold not resist!
The railway. The towns of Palma and Soller are connected by an old, narrow- gauge railway, that offers to tourist frequent train rides across the sierra dividing the two cities. We first heard about the train line thanks to our Lonely Planet Spain, but we soon discovered this train ride is one of the most popular tourists excursion on the island and easily got all info about exact schedule and price from the local tourist office. The ride extends over 27 km and the trains run often enough to allow the return trip to be done in one day. We headed out one sunny morning and got one of the first trains. We shared the polished wooden carriages with many other cheerful families and despite the different languages we could gauge what all parents and kids were talking about: the words ‘Thomas’ and, from the hard-core fans, even the names ‘Annie and Clarabel’, were all around us!
The train goes through the spectacular sierra and soon chugs down the hill towards the town of Sodor. Sorry, of Soller.
The town of Soller is lovely, so we spent the first hour there admiring its cathedral and sipping juice in one of its many cafes, but we knew that our stop there wouldn’t last too long.
In Soller the train line ends, but if you wish to reach the sandy coast you can do so with a short ride on an old tram. After Thomas, we would not refuse a ride on Toby and so, off we went!
We spent the whole day in port de Soller, making the most of the beautiful beach, the lovely seaside cafes and the view of the tram and the kids loved it to such an extent we promised if we were ever to come back to Mallorca, it would be to the town of Port de Soller.
Crystal clear water and white sand in Alcudia
Another wonderful excursion we did was to Alcudia, in the north of the island. Unlike the train ride, the excursion to Alcudia didn’t offer a particularly atmospheric journey (we got there by the good network of public long distance buses) but rewarded our effort with one of the most wonderful beaches we saw on Mallorca.
Alcudia has a white sandy beach, palm trees, waterside cafes and a seaside playground. The water is shallow and warm and it’s a real children’s paradise. With young children, I think a sandy beach with shallow waters without strong currents is a real godsend and I remember the day over here, despite the partially cloudy weather, as one of the most pleasurable days of the whole holiday.
Between the strolls in Palma city, the local beaches and the excursion, our holiday came to an end very soon: we were sad to leave, but after 10 days there we felt ready to go to our next stop on the way home. We were heading to incredible Barcelona