About Anna N
Lives in Soller, Spain
Since Jul 2011
I am a freelance journalist and author living in Mallorca.To date I have had seven books published, six of which are set in rural Mallorca. I have twice fact checked DK's Top Ten Guide to Mallorca and am a hotel critic for Telegraph.co.uk . I write a weekly column for The Majorca Daily Bulletin and travel features for different UK and US publications. Aside from that I love travelling around the globe and have undertaken some weird and wonderful scientific and charitable expeditions, the most bizarre of which was carrying a grand piano up a tributary of the Amazon to present to a remote Amerindian tribe. I like to blend in with the locals and prefer to eat what they eat and travel in the way they do. I've backpacked around Sri Lanka using the marvellous train system and enjoyed various roughing it trips around Eastern Europe. I run a marathon for charity in a different country each year.
Churches & Cathedrals
Castles, Historic Sites, History Museums
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Speciality Museums, Castles
Architectural Buildings, Sacred & Religious Sites, Historic Sites, Speciality Museums, Churches & Cathedrals
Nature & Wildlife Areas
This striking landmark overlooking the Bay of Palma is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Europe, and took 500 years to build. Construction began under King James I of Aragon, following his invasion of the island and defeat of its Moorish occupiers in 1229. Inside, the sheer scale and height of the nave is astounding, while the light coming through the stained glass windows creates a beautiful effect. It's also worth visiting the museum, which contains a wonderfully eclectic selection of ecclesiastical artefacts.
The imposing Royal Palace, which was once home to the island’s Moorish rulers and later the Christian Kings of Majorca, combines features of both eras. Around the central courtyard, you will find a series of airy, elegant rooms finely decorated with exotic, historic tapestries and Flemish paintings.
Palau March, a Rennaisance-style palace, is a treat for art lovers. Built in the last century on behalf of one of the island's most powerful citizens and avid art collectors Joan March, it contains a rich collection of works by Henry Moore, Rodin, and Barbara Hepworth, as well as a beautiful library.
The museum of contemporary art is nestled within a vast stone bastion overlooking the harbour. Large geometric sculptures mark the entrance of the museum, which offers three floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as a lovely shop. One room is exclusively devoted to the works of Joan Miró, who spent much of his working life in Majorca. Another contains many exquisite examples of Picasso ceramics.
There are two city plazas a short walk apart, and each is worth at least a brief visit if you're in the area. The first, Plaça Major, was once the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition. Today, it's a happy home to cafes, minstrels, and craft stalls. Meanwhile in Plaça Cort, you will find a magnificent City Hall, the swanky Hotel Cortclose, and a glorious, gnarled olive tree believed to be 1,000 years old.
Why not take a lunchtime break at this peaceful little jewel of a restaurant, housed in the San Miquel Hotel and run by famed British resident chef Marc Fosh? With the ever-changing, scrumptious three-course Mediterranean menu, you can't go wrong. The pretty patio is a perfect place to dine and unwind.
High on a wooded hill overlooking the entire city is the well-preserved citadel of Bellver Castle, the only circular castle in Spain. Built in the late 13th century, during the reign of James II, it has served many purposes in its long history – military stronghold, royal residence, prison, and now museum. It also has an Arab bath house and is used as a venue for summer concerts.
Take a bus or taxi to reach the former residence and studio of artist Joan Miro, located outside the city. It's a feast for the eyes: Every period of his painting is represented, as well as many fine examples of his work as a sculptor.
A few miles north of Esporles is a grand old estate in an idyllic wooded valley, which until fairly recently was home to the same family, the Fortunys, for 500 years. The house itself – which is replete with all manner of examples of patrician life in past centuries, including a little theatre and a family chapel – is surrounded by a maze of workshops, demonstrating the level of self-sufficiency that existed in 19th century rural Majorca.
The 14th century Cartusian monastery in Valldemossa is famous for its connection with Frédéric Chopin. It was here that the famed composer spent a year with his companion, the French writer and journalist George Sand, 1838-1839. Thinking that the mountain air would help Chopin’s health, the couple rented cells in the monastery for their short sojourn, where the composer reportedly penned his preludes, trying them out on the Pleyel piano, now on display. Apart from the cells occupied by Chopin, it is worth viewing the pharmacy, with its beautifully decorated, antique glass receptacles. The Contemporary Art Museum housed on the upper floor also has a fine selection of works by Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Francis Bacon and the Spanish modernist Juli Ramis.
The mountain village of Deia has long been a magnet for the literary and artistic crowd. Today, affluent Deia is more Chelsea-on-the-sea than the bohemian hangout of years past, although some artists still remain. It was here that American writer Gertrude Stein stayed in the 1920’s, later persuading Robert Graves, prolific English writer and novelist, to move to the area. Apart from a gap of ten years during the Spanish Civil War and World War II, Graves spent the rest of his life in Deia, at his beloved home, called 'Ca N’Alluny', just outside the village. The house and garden, kept as they were in the 1940’s, have been transformed into a fascinating museum, where you can also experience an audio visual presentation about Robert Graves.
In the heart of the Soller Valley are the Botanic Gardens and the adjoining Natural History Museum. Among various intriguing fauna and flora displays, you will find a perfect specimen of Myotragus, the diminutive mouse goat which was unique to Majorca and Menorca, and became extinct some 3,000 years ago. The gardens include a wide selection of indigenous plants of the Balearics and flora from the Canary Islands.
Following the Reconquista in 1229, legend has it that a shepherd boy discovered a painted statue of the Virgin in the nearby woods, which prompted the monks to build a monastery in this verdant locale. To this day, the little statue known as La Moreneta – 'the little dark one', because its colour has faded and is now just brown stone – sits in a small chapel behind the high altar. The monastery has undergone many alterations over the centuries, including changes in decoration and the application of Baroque architecture. Inside, you will find a fascinating museum of archaeological discoveries, folkloric objects, and religious offerings. A small but delightful botanic garden also includes many indigenous plants growing amidst pretty ponds.
The small seaside resort of Colonia Sant Jordi is the launching point for the one-hour crossing to the archipelago of Cabrera (or Goat Island), a national park of outstanding natural beauty. Home to many species of birds, including the rare red-billed Audouin’s gull, peregrine falcons, and shearwaters, Cabrera is also famed for its population of Lilford’s blue-bellied wall lizards and, below the waves, sea turtles. Though now uninhabited by people, in years past Cabrera has been a haven for pirates, a military base, and a POW site for French soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars. A castle built for defence purposes in the 14th century makes for an enjoyable excursion above the main harbour, and affords splendid views in all directions. Today, a limited number of daily visitors are permitted entry, and yachtsmen are granted a permit to anchor in the bay under strict guidelines.
After a visit to Goat Island, make the most of your time in the town of Colonia de Sant Jordi and pop by the aquarium, cleverly designed to illustrate many facets of the terrestrial and marine natural history found in the archipelago and the surrounding area.