Just Back: Pollença, an Off-the-Beaten-Path Delight in Mallorca, Spain

Last month, Travel Agent took a four-day trip to Mallorca, and instead of staying in the capital, Palma, we opted for Pollença, an off-the-beaten-path town located about 45 minutes from the airport. 

The first afternoon we arrived, we acquainted ourselves with the old part of the city, settled by the Moors from North Africa in the 1200s. Most of the stone houses were constructed in the 1600s and 1700s on the narrow, hilly streets. The main square, Placa Major, was inaugurated in 1857 on the site of a cemetery, while Mare Deu des Angels is a church with origins from the 13th century. Every Sunday there’s a lively food and flea market that also spills into the side streets; it has fresh produce, fish, prepared foods, cheeses and crafts. We had drinks on the outdoor terrace of the iconic Club Pollença, a social club that has been a gathering place for locals, writers and artists for over a century. Inside, the handsome rooms with wood-beam ceilings and ceramic tiled floors are lined with paintings and photographs from talented local artists; plus, there’s a restaurant, a movie theater and a hall for musical performances. Club Pollença organizes a series of cultural events, including a poetry reading during the full moon in August. 

Where to Stay

There are two luxury hotels in the old town. 

Mon Boutique is a centrally located four-star hotel just off the main square. Rooms are decorated in a smart, contemporary style, with local artwork on the walls, plus ceiling fans, air conditioning and room service, which is rare for a hotel of this size. The top rooms, the Double Jacuzzi and the Suite Deluxe have private, in-room jacuzzis. A rooftop deck has chaise lounges and a small, plunge pool. For bookings, contact Pere Joan at [email protected].

For more information, visit www.monboutiquehotel.com.

Can Aulí Luxury Retreat Grand Premium Room

Discreetly located on a quiet side street, just minutes from the Placa Major, Can Aulí Luxury Retreat is a five-star eco-hotel. Hidden behind aged stone walls, Can Aulí is enclosed in a former 17th-century palace. Emphasis, here, is on the environment and utilizing local elements. To note: The organic food ingredients at the restaurant are sourced from within a kilometer. Art is another important theme in the hotel, and the rooms and public spaces are filled with works from mostly Spanish artists.

The 21 luxuriously appointed rooms have sisal rugs, wood-beam ceilings, stone floors and king-size beds with high thread-count, Egyptian cotton sheets. Standard rooms measure 250 square feet, and the top suite, Can Aulí, measuring 450 square feet, is a duplex with an expansive 350-square-foot outdoor patio with views of the historical 365 steps (Calvari Steps). The informal restaurant serves small plates at lunch and dinner with indoor and outdoor seating; room service is available 24 hours per day. Note: Can Aulí is an adult-only hotel, and children under 14 are not permitted. Contact [email protected] for bookings.

For more information, visit www.canauliluxuryretreat.com.

Out on the Town

One of the most significant sites in Pollença is an ancient stone stairway from Roman times. We slowly climbed the 365 steps, with the sides lined with tall cypress trees, and, at the top, we were rewarded with an incredible panoramic view of the rugged coastline and the Formentor Peninsula. Another treat is the tiny Calvary Chapel built in the 18th century, at one time a retreat for Carmelite monks. Note: The chapel is only open on Friday for visits. 

Throughout town, streets are dotted with dozens of restaurants and cafes with outdoor terraces. Since the temperatures were in the mid-70s Fahrenheit during the day and the mid-60s at night, we had most of our meals and drinks outside. We had dinner at Ca’n Mir, a trendy and lively tapas restaurant and we feasted on grilled sardines, marinated squid, Iberian dried ham, patatas bravas (roasted potatoes in olive oil) and, for dessert, a creamy flan. Another night we went to Bar Alhambra, a classic tapas restaurant and bar, established in 1907. Filled mostly with locals only speaking Spanish, the authentic, simply prepared dishes included chicken croquettes, spicy chorizo cooked in white wine, a dish of sheep’s cheese and anchovies, and sauteed shrimp in garlic. We topped off our meal with an excellent pitcher of rioja for only €17. After our dinner, we cooled off from the spicy food with handmade, ginger and lime ice cream at Ca’n Noble, which offers a new, daily flavor. 

A statue in Pollenca, Spain

Pollença has been a haven for artists since the 1920s and is filled with art galleries, plus two major museums. A cloister from 1588 built by Dominican monks is now home to the Pollença Museum, which was established in 1975. Although the museum mostly exhibits 20th-century modern and contemporary art, it also has archaic and religious works and artifacts. In a 17th-century house is the Dionís Bennàssa Museum, which was the home and studio of Dionís Bennàssa, a significant, 20th-century Spanish artist. The museum honors Bennàssa’s legacy, displaying paintings, sculptures, drawings and watercolors, along with personal items, furniture and other objects. Various squares throughout Pollença have sculptures by noted sculptors, including "La Madonna" by Joan Bennassar.

A big draw for Pollença is the many festivals that takes place all year round. Events include a classical music festival in August, Carnival in February, saints and religious festivals, an almond blossom fair in February, a crafts and artisans fair in early October, and—one of the most popular—the week-long La Patrona Festival, celebrating the Christian triumph over the Moors in 1550, with battle reenactments, concerts, fireworks, markets and food stalls. 

We rented a car and went to two, nearby beaches. Puerto Pollença beach is a one-mile-long sandy beach on the Bay of Pollença. We rented chaise lounges and sat under a thatched umbrella, taking in the refreshing sea breeze; plus, it was still warm enough to swim in the calm bay water. The beach offers boat, catamaran and windsurfing rentals. Another day we drove on a windy, one-lane road through the Tramuntana mountains to Cala Formentor beach, a secluded, three-quarter-mile beach surrounded by pine forests and mountains. It’s also where the legendary Hotel Formentor from 1929 was located, which attracted royalty and celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Winston Churchill and Grace Kelly. The property is now going to be a Four Seasons resort and is slated to open in 2024.

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