Mallorca is the largest island and is known for its family-friendly tourist resorts, with golden beaches and an excellent range of restaurants and bars, but it’s also full of history and beautiful scenery. Trendy capital Palma de Mallorca is famous for its nightlife and arty vibes; head to an exhibition, concert or festival, browse vibrant cafés, visit the sophisticated Avinguda Jaume III and Passeig des Born for some upmarket shopping, or go bargain hunting at the Plaça Major Craft Market. The city’s eclectic architecture is fascinating – you’ll see a striking Gothic cathedral dominating the skyline as well as an enchanting Arab Quarter.
The area around Palma de Mallorca has some amazing seaside spots to choose from. Peaceful Cas Catala is in a quiet residential area, just a 10-minute drive from the centre of Palma and the chic Puerto Portals Marina while only being a stone’s throw from the beach. Cala Mayor is just to the west of Palma and is the summer residence of the Spanish Royal Family – you might be lucky enough to spot them having a meal out or shopping, while families can enjoy the clear, warm waters of its Blue Flag Beach. You’ll also have access to three golden Blue Flag Beaches in Paguera, a popular resort in the far south-east corner, around 30 minutes from Palma. When you’re not enjoying the watersports or energetic nightlife, get out and explore the hills and coastal hiking routes. Further up the west coast you’ll arrive at Deia, a gorgeous village of yellow-stone houses in the Tramuntana Mountains; spend some time browsing the handful of wonderful workshops, boutiques and galleries, before unwinding with a glass of one of the region’s fine wines.
Head to the north and discover Puerto Soller, in a pretty bay set in the shadows of the Tramuntana Mountains. The atmosphere is quieter than other Mallorca resorts but it’s a fantastic place to explore; go for a stroll along by the harbour, pop to the market place and Museum of Natural Sciences in town, and hop on the Orange Express tram to soak up views over the green surroundings. For a more traditional setting, choose Puerto Pollensa, a traditional fishing village with wonderful restaurants, a palm-lined waterfront and numerous luxury hotels. Cala Sant Vicenç has a string of pretty beaches and calm waters. Enjoy a range of activities from snorkelling and scuba diving to sailing and surfing on the golden sands of Playa de Muro, and likewise at scenic Formentor, a beautiful peninsula on Mallorca’s north-eastern tip.
Menorca is quieter but still a great option for families, with superb secluded beaches, pine-topped hillside scenery, postcard-esque harbours and charming villages. We recommend hiring a car so you can really get to know the island, and at your own pace. Cala Galdana on the south-west coast is known as ‘queen of the calas’ and has one of the best beaches in Menorca – a breathtaking cove fringed with limestone cliffs and pine trees, with shallow warm water that’s perfect for little ones. Cala’n Bosch is also in the south-west corner, with a beautiful small beach where you can try your hand at watersports including windsurfing and sailing – dry off after a day in the water before sampling some of the local dishes at one of the harbour’s restaurants. Punta Prima is a quiet beach resort on the opposite side of Menorca’s south coast; it has bags of authentic charm, a white-sand beach with clear waters and a collection of rock pools which make it a top choice for families.
It may be known as the party capital of Europe but there’s more to Ibiza than meets the eye – away from the lively nightlife of San Antonio, you’ll find stunning beaches and some wonderful landscapes. Ibiza Town’s old quarter is home to cobbled streets, winding white-washed alleys and a charming castle, and if you’re travelling with the family or as a couple and want a more laid-back escape, then head to the town of Santa Eulalia. It has soft sandy beaches, an exclusive yacht marina, impressive art galleries and some of the island’s finest restaurants; take an evening stroll along the palm-lined promenade after a day of exploring or hop on the tourist train to the resort village of Es Caná, where you’ll find a crescent-shaped sandy beach and a little harbour for fishing boats. Head to Ibiza’s old town and climb past reams of white-washed houses en route up to the enchanting castle at the top, complete with cannons and panoramic sea views.
Where are the Balearic Islands?
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago off Spain’s east coast, in the Mediterranean Sea. Mallorca, the largest, is sandwiched between Ibiza to the west and Menorca to the east.
Food & drink
Cuisine in the Balearics is rich and varied; the islands make great use of their natural resources and incorporate various influences, mainly Arabic and Mediterranean. They’re famous for their incredible seafood which you can try for yourself at Michelin-starred restaurants or just casual fish shacks – popular local dishes include spiny lobster soup, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) and calamares a la romana (fried squid rings). Head to Mallorca where the slopes of the Tramuntana Mountains provide perfect shelter for the production of olive oil, and enjoy pa amb oli (bread with oil) – a staple snack served everywhere and often accompanied by tomato, cheese and ham. Produce widely used in fish and meat dishes includes potatoes, peppers, aubergines and artichokes, and the island is also known for its spicy sobrasada sausage, cured and seasoned with paprika and salt, served on flatbread or added to other dishes. It’s believed that mayonnaise comes from Menorca, and the island has slightly salty and aromatic Mahon cheese. You can enjoy salted cod and caldereta de llagosta (lobster stew), as well as ensaimadas, soft melt-in-your-mouth coils of pastry dusted with icing sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth. Wash down your food with a juniper-flavoured Gin de Menorca or a glass of Manto Negro, a red wine straight from the sublime vineyards of Mallorca.