The Caribbean is mobbed with sun-worshippers from December to March. Skip the crowds and hit the Mediterranean instead.
Ibiza, that attention-grabbing beach-y wonderland beloved by all of your friends that went to Burning Man and Idris Elba, isn’t the only island worth flying for in the Kingdom of Spain. Consider Mallorca—a limestone-cliffed, Balearic Island jewel about an hour’s flight from Barcelona. Mallorca’s craggy mountain sides and twinkling waters pull millions of tourists, mostly sun-seekers coming from Germany and the U.K. And while Mediterranean destination is best-known for its summertime sun and sand, it’s just as dreamy of a vacation in the “off” seasons. Maybe even more so. Fall and Winter don’t offer the same beach-able temperatures as spring and summer, but what you do get is fewer tourists, pleasant walking-around-weather, a climate fit for sobrasada sausage on toast, and serene misty landscapes.
Where to stay
During the Summer, visitors to Mallorca typically prefer to stay at a beach resort, so Fall and Winter are the prime times to enjoy all that the capital city Palma has to offer. Palma began as a Roman camp, and was later taken over by the Moors and then the Spanish. That varied cultural influence turned Palma into a visually charming, pedestrian-friendly city of leafy promenades—now flanked with charcuterie shops, clothing stores, and cafes—and snaking alleyways. In the absolute heart of the picturesque old town is Hotel Mamá—your new Mallorca home. The freshly-opened hotel from the vision of legendary interior designer Jacques Grange is too beautiful to ignore, from the blush-colored facade facing Palma’s bustling central square, to the apartment-like guest rooms detailed with bright Spanish mosaic motifs. Between the umbrella-shaded cafe and the lobby bar, Mamá is a place where you can linger, pretending you’re in a Hemingway novel as you return to the hotel periodically for a coffee or a cocktail. The people-watching is good, even in the off season. The rooftop pool offers views of the surrounding Palma rooftops and a peek of the ocean. The gym is tucked in the basement if you are overtaken by that panicky, need-to-exercise feeling, but that’s not really what people come here for. The spa will likely be the extent of your wellness ambitious.
What to see
Palma is best seen by foot, wandering down palm tree-lined roads, around the gleaming yacht-filled marina, and through the alleyways of pink and rust-colored buildings. Down one of those alleyways from Mamá, you’ll find the Museu Fundación Juan March, a museum celebrating Spanish artists like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Juan Gris, and Salvador Dalí. The museum is free to visit, and housed in a grand 17th-century building worth seeing for its own beauty, not to mention the precious artwork it holds. Other Palma sightseeing highlights include stopping by its many churches, like the Santa María Cathedral and Sant Francesco Church. For gift shopping, go to Antiguedades Midge Dalton to find antique treasures to take home for yourself or loved ones.
Make a day trip to Deià, only 45-minutes away from Palma by car. While you’re on the road, stop into the town of Valldemossa to see the monastery where composer Frédéric Chopin shacked up with his girlfriend George Sand, who wrote about the experience in her book Winter in Majorca (which makes for a fitting vacation read). The monastery still houses the piano Chopin and Sand painstakingly shipped to the island for their stay.
What to eat and drink
During the day, the local bakeries (like Fornet de la Soca) deserve your repeated attention. Try Mallorca specialties like the sugar-dusted ensaïmadas and buńuelos. The city is teeming with charcuterie and cheese shops to pop into for samples and snacks. Then there are markets to visit: Mercados Gastronómicos San Juan and Olivar. The best place for dinner is La Rosa Vermutería Colmado. Wait for your table while drinking stupid-cheap, very delicious wine. The place is what’s called a Vermutería, which means you should be drinking red or white vermouth on ice. When you do finally sit, prepare yourself for an onslaught of tapas.
After dinner, the island has plenty of nightlife spots. You’ll always find people at Bar Nicolás and Gibson, located next to each other on Plaça del Mercat. Try Chapeau 1987, a new place playing Charles Bradley and serving classic cocktails and twists on them, like the Bromance, a take on a Bramble with rose water. Garito Café is a more lounge-y local pick for late night drinking and dancing.
Visiting Mallorca in the winter is like discovering a Mediterranean loophole. It’s still bustling enough to be fun and lively, but not so lively that you’re cursing the invention of Tevas and selfie sticks. You can traipse Palma in peace, admiring gothic architecture and stopping into the oldest cafe in town without fighting for a table. At golden hour along the Bay of Palma, vermouth in hand, you’ll embrace Mallorca in the off-season, wondering why more people aren’t in on this travel secret hiding in plain sight.
MORE STORIES LIKE THIS ONE