Palma Cathedral in Palma de Majorca

Palma's most iconic building, Palma Cathedral, known as 'La Seu', towers over the city and the sea. Construction on this magnificent Renaissance and Neo-Gothic-style building began in the 13th century and took around 400 years to build. It's easy to see why it took so long, as it's truly vast. The story goes that on his journey to the island, James I vowed to build a cathedral if his mission to rid Majorca of the Moors was a success.

A colourful cathedral

Often called 'the Cathedral of Light', Palma Cathedral (Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca in Spanish)  boasts 61 stained glass windows which flood the building with beams of coloured light on sunny days. Here you'll find 'The Gothic Eye', one of the largest rose windows in the world, made with 1,236 pieces of glass. The impressive golden sandstone building is one of the tallest Gothic structures in Europe.

Changing times

The cathedral hasn't always looked the way it does now though. In the early 20th century the cathedral underwent some changes, when Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi added his enormous (and often controversial) Crown of Thorns above the altar. The piece is constructed from cork and cardboard and although it's attributed to Gaudi, it was actually made by his colleague and one of his pupils.

Further changes took place in the 21st century with the reformation of the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament by Miguel Barcelo, a local artist. Its contemporary design is often the topic of debate among visitors to the cathedral, as it's not to everyone's tastes.

Explore Palma Cathedral

There's a small fee to pay to enter the cathedral, and you'll go in through the side entrance, taking in the Chapter Museum before arriving in the main part of the building. Look down the nave and you'll see the gravity-defying ceilings. The pillars here are among the narrowest load-bearing pillars around; it's actually the external buttresses which support the building.

As you stroll through the cathedral you'll spot Antoni Gaudi's Crown of Thorns. Continue from the nave to the south front and you'll find the Portal de Mirador, a 15th century door depicting the Last Supper. Don't miss the opportunity to stop off at the Royal Chapel, where the tombs of King James II and III are located.

When to visit

The cathedral is generally open from 10am Monday to Saturday during the summer months (it closes early around 2pm on Saturdays). Opening hours may vary during the winter, so it's always best to check before setting off.

Top Palma attractions

There's far more to see in the city than just its cathedral. History buffs can't afford to miss the Castell de Bellver, with its museum packed with Spanish, Arabian and Roman exhibits. Head for the roof and you'll be rewarded with breathtaking, 360° panoramic views over the pine forest and city.

Another must-see on your trip is the Royal Palace of Almudaina. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, the palace hosts the King of Spain during summer events and its grand architecture is a sight to behold. Stroll around the medieval courtyard with its Moorish arches, or admire the stunning tapestries inside.

For something a little more modern, the Baluard Museu d'Art Modern I Contemporani is home to pieces by over 500 modern artists, including Picasso's ceramics and works by Miguel Barcelo.

Or you could always head for the Placa Mayor Craft Market. Get up early and you'll be rewarded with the Mercat Artesanal, the best place in Palma to shop for souvenirs. Here you'll find all kinds of handicrafts from ceramics to jewellery and textiles, so you're sure to pick up some unusual gifts for friends and family back home.

Palma Cathedral is a must-see on any trip to Palma, whether you're a history buff or just looking for an enjoyable day out for all the family. On hot sunny days it's surprisingly cool inside the cathedral, making it the ideal spot to escape the midday sun.

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