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Palma de Mallorca: the good, the bad and the ugly

Palma de Mallorca The good the bad the ugly - Luca Travel Around

Last updated on 03/07/2017 at 15:50:28

Why “the good, the bad and the ugly”? Well, if you read this article about my experiment of a relaxing vacation, you know how it ended when I was on Palma de Mallorca. But nothing is just black or white: there are shades of gray in between (no, not fifty) so I’m going deeper on how was my experience on that sunny Spanish island, and what you should keep in mind if you happen to go there.

So take a seat, grab your popcorn and let’s start with the movie!

The good

E Arenal - Luca Travels Around

Do you see what I mean?

What is good for sure is the fact that, since Palma de Mallorca is on an island, there’s the sea. I grow up on the coast, so when I see some blue sea water, I feel like a kid. Not all the coastline is suitable to have a dive into it, though. There are beaches, but also cliffs waving up and down the perimeter of the island so unless you have a boat, some parts are hardly accessible. In any case, these beaches are great, mostly thin white sand and amazing water.

The climate is excellent too if you go in summer. Clear sky, dry air, and hot temperature are all you need if you want to spend some time on the beach or go visiting the island. During the colder months, the temperature is never too low, but you can’t expect to go out in shorts and flip-flops.

Another good point, an excellent one indeed, is Palma de Mallorca’s city center. I wasn’t expecting such a beautiful city so, when I approached it, I was amazed and confused by what it has to offer. Like Spain’s mainland, the island too was colonized centuries ago, and it is possible to notice it from the architecture and the various influences that can be seen walking through the little alleys. Roman churches, Moorish buildings, Byzantine mosaics and palm trees, outstanding!

The bad

Cathedral and cruises - Luca Travels Around
Now it’s the turn for some downsides, and the first one is the one that leads to the others: tourism. The Balearic Islands are a hot spot for tourists and Palma’s airport is one of the major European hubs, counting 23 million passengers in 2015.

Most of them come from Germany and UK, and two of the main holiday spots of the island, El Arenal to the south of the city and Magaluf to the north, are a sort of German and British colony, respectively. That means that if you go to El Arenal, the majority of the shops display signs in German, and that’s also the main language everyone speaks there. Strange, huh?

Another obvious consequence of tourism is that Palma si not as cheap as Spain usually is. Especially when dealing with restaurants, prices are higher, but the quality doesn’t necessarily reflect this. I saw many places more neglected than I imagined and some of the most expensive ones were quite off-hand, especially about style and furniture.

The ugly

Shops - Luca Travels Around
Last one, the ugly. For sure urban sprawl had an impact on the city, especially on the most touristic spots. If you look at the coast from the sea, you notice some parts where hotels and resorts grew up like mushrooms, completely ruining the sight. Big modern blocks that are just an eyesore; suburban areas developed mainly for touristic purposes are nothing more than a strip of fancy building facing the seaside. But as soon as you turn one block inside, you notice how everything seems like a movie set, a scenery: good-looking on the stage but not so good-looking behind the curtains.

Posh clubs and cafes facing the sea, welcoming hordes of young people in their last moments of sobriety, and dozens of little mini markets/souvenir shops, selling poor quality food and shoddy goods. That’s basically all you can find on the main boulevard if you are in El Arenal, for example.

Also, I noticed a lot of empty houses, like some areas rely so bad on tourism that people run away because of it. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but for sure I saw many of these situations, and it was strange to me considering it was August, not December.

In the end, would I like to go back to Palma de Mallorca? I’m more on the NO side, even if I admit that there are many surprising places to see. But probably I’m just a grumpy “old” guy, considering the average age of the tourists there!

Have you ever been to Palma de Mallorca or in a city with a similar identity? Tell me in the comment section below!

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Palma de Mallorca The good the bad and the ugly - Luca Travels Around


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34 CommentsLeave a comment

  • It’s always so refreshing when you read both good and bad (and ugly!) because it’s the truth. Most of the worlds beautiful places have that love/hate relationship with tourism. But 23 million in a year??? Wow. I’d still love to see it, as any island/seaside destination is always worth visiting once!

    • Thanks!
      Yeah, do you realize? 23 million in a year! It’s something I couldn’t believe myself, considering how small is the island end what’s there. And, for what I can see, it’s not because people lands there and then goes to Ibiza (that has its own airport)!

  • I have always heard of Magaluf for being a British teenager’s party scene aka don’t go there. Good to know where it is located. I like how you covered the bad and ugly as not many blogs do that.

    • Thanks. 🙂
      I avoided Magaluf for the same reason, trying some luck with El Arenal. Probably fewer parties around there, but I didn’t understand half the things around since almost everything was in German 😀

  • It’s great to see a travel article that addresses some of the negative points of a place instead of solely the upsides. But, I must say, your pictures would certainly indicate that Palma de Mallorca looks a great spot although it is a shame to note that the encroachment of tourism seems to be claiming another victim. Nevertheless, a great read

    • Thanks!
      You know what? I realized I took not so many pictures, and I didn’t know what to put in the article ahahah. Shame on me!
      The one I would have liked to take, to better reflect the ugly impact of those buildings, I should have taken it from the sea 🙁

  • Not two but three sides of the same coin! 🙂
    I too dislike the haphazard manner in which the hotels come up, they become eyesore to the once charming city! Well explained!

    • I have magical coins! 😀
      I can understand that certain places have few resources to rely on except tourism, but when it’s too mass driven, it gets terrible.
      Another example could be Venice: it’s just a fun fair for tourists, only shops/stalls selling shoddy products, and pigeons.

  • Great article about Mallorca! As I studied Tourism-Management we talked a lot about those facts you mentioned. I´m actually also think that the bad point is really mega bad! Even if I´m German I wouldn´t feel comfortable in El Arenal, because why would I want to fly to Spain to have everything in German? That´s just weird!

    • Thanks!
      Well, we have to consider that, generally speaking, what’s bad for us could be good for others, but in this case, I actually find nothing good at all to have a city “colonized” by another country. Set aside the weirdness!

    • I love Aerosmith! 😀
      Well, I agree about the character that graffiti give to a place, but in my opinion, it depends on the kind of graffiti and the situation of the place. Yes, it’s still character, but some are just a sign of urban decline.

  • This is the state of quite a few hill stations and beaches in India. With India’s burgeoning tourism sector having both international and domestic travelers, the scene is pretty much similar. Love the way you wrote about the bad and the ugly. 🙂

    • Thanks, I got some inspiration from a famous movie for the title hehe.
      I’m very curious about India, never been there, but I know I’ll find similar situations. Nevertheless, I want to go and see!

  • Many of the lovely places of the world are caught in a catch-22 kind of situation. Their beauty draws people like a magnet and this brings with it the trappings of commercialization. If all stakeholders do not ensure a proper balance, the very allure of the place may evaporate gradually.

    • A couple of weeks ago a famous Italian businessman caused sensation because he said Apulia, a southern region of Italy (the “heel” of the boot”), is too “poor” for rich tourists: they need to build luxurious resorts, harbors for the yachts and so on, otherwise no rich men would like to go in a place that relies only in the nature, local products, the sea and the culture. Well, I hope they’ll use their mind when dealing to stuff like that and don’t opt to the “money” side of the tourism.

  • Ah, love reading this. I spent time in Mallorca and definitely stopped here. I agree that it’s become massive with tourism. However, Mallorca’s mountain trails are lesser known but quite marvelous. If you are remotely into hiking, I’ll strongly advise you hit the trails. You even have the GR long distance trails connecting various towns via huts/guesthouses. Cheers.

    • I saw there were several ways to visit the island and its trails, but I went there for an “experiment”, trying to relax! 😀
      Next time maybe, if I’ll go again to Mallorca, I’ll try another way to enjoy that island 🙂

  • It’s great to read about the negative points as well as the positive once in a while! I haven’t been to Mallorca yet but might go there at some point next summer (sailing from Sardinia!), so it’s good to know what to expect… I’m not a big fan of very touristic places either… x

  • Sadly this happens everywhere! I have seen so many great places being overrun by tourism boom! Sometimes the new businesses that start to cash in on the tourist flow have no ethics or aesthetc sense for sustainable development. Also, some of the tourists have no consideration or respect for the places they visit.

  • We have never been to Palma de Mallorca but loved the architecture its beautiful. And beaches is definitely a plus point. And these we think are reasons to make any place touristy and sadly that does make a destination less alluring.

  • Same, I always feel like a kid whenever there’s a sea/beach. The summer climate is somehow similar to my home country, the Philippines. You still make me want to visit the place, amidst the bad & ugly parts – solely because of the architecture. Although, I might have to learn some German first, before I decide to go there.

    • 😀 well, German is not mandatory, at least everyone seems to speak German, English and Spanish, but for sure to read some signs at the shop it can help!

  • Ah I’m so sorry to hear the destination wasn’t all you if hoped for! But that’s something we travelers have to battle regularly and I think makes us resilient people 🙂 was it mainly graffiti tagging and no real street art?

    • Resilience is a valuable skill indeed! No street art of any sort. I saw mainly graffiti tags and dirty roads as soon as you moved away from the most beaten streets.

  • Every country, every place has a history of its own. Some are good and some are bad, thats what how interesting a place could be. All we need to do is enjoy every place we visit, took tons of photos and remember the story of that place

    • The problem is when you forget to take tons of photos because you’re looking too much around to understand the places and why it’s that way. And to me, it happens quite often…

  • I visited Mallorca this spring but I chose to stay in the North of the island, which is so different from the South: a lot of hiking trails, virgin coves, secret beaches, local towns with amazing food markets. But one day, I visited Palma too. I thought it was an interesting city but it didn’t really won me over. I did notice however that the entire island seems to be split between British and German venues. I however always chose the local restaurants and run away from everything that says “tourist”, haha. 🙂

    • I’m sure the island has pretty much more to offer aside from Palma, but for that trip, my goal was different than exploring. Maybe I should have done it instead 😀

    • You’re welcome! In the end, these are my thoughts, I own no supreme truth! This article could be BS for a lot of person eheh 😀

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