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!
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!
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.
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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