Majorca is not a cheap island. Hotels are among the most expensive in Spain with budget options few and far between. In fact the Balearic government put a ban on the opening of anything less than a three star a few years ago, so its touristic model is more St Tropez than Costa del Sol. Still, there are ways and means of keeping it real, not least by travelling out of season if that’s an option for you (the weather in May and June, and September and October, is usually glorious).
The good news is, many of Majorca’s greatest attractions are free anyway: you can’t put a price on the jaw-dropping views from the West Coast, or the tranquil, hidden beaches of the South East. You can’t pay for the pleasure of simply strolling the streets of Palma, or soaking up the atmosphere of local markets. Hiking trails require nothing more than a stout pair of shoes, while the sea yields treasures galore for anyone with a snorkel and mask. Like they say: there’s a lot to be said for life’s simple pleasures.
Eating and Drinking
- You can save massively if you make your main meal of the day the lunchtime menú del día (usually three courses including a glass of wine), which ranges from around 10 euros for something quite basic, to around 18 euros at a high-end restaurant like Simply Fosh. The custom dates back to the Franco years, when the Generalissimo decreed that the Spanish working classes should be entitled to a hale and hearty meal once a day at an affordable price. Many people say it’s the only good thing he ever did for the country.
- For evening meals, especially in Palma, do as locals do and ‘ir de tapas’ (go tapas hopping). This is a cheap and fun way to fuel up, minus the sometimes eye-watering add-ons of a full sit-down meal. It’s also a lot more fun as you roll from place to place having a small beer (caña), copa de vino (glass of wine) or tapa (snack) in each place before moving on. If you see reference to any of these classically Mallorquín ingredients on the menu board go for it: tumbet (a roasted vegetable salad), sobrassada (a soft, spreadable pork sausage richly spiked with pimentón, the local equivalent of paprika), arròs brut (a rustic, meat and vegetable filled paella) and queso Mahón from neighbouring Menorca.
- Shopping in the markets of Majorca is one of the great pleasures of being here. Stock up picnic fodder and a bottle of wine and head for the beach or the hills and you’ll soon be feasting like a king in your private dining room. At the Mercat de Santa Catalina you can even have a glass of wine and a tapa while you shop. Most supermarkets sell disposable cool bags (a lined carrier bag really) for 1 euro that will easily last you a week and really does make a difference.
- While many of the classier beach bars (chiringuitos) – like those in Deià – can be prohibitively expensive, those of the south are infinitely more wallet-friendly. Dangle your toes in the sand and feast on freshly grilled sardines, tomato salads and jugs of sangria for around 15 euros a head at places like Cala Santanyì and Llombards.
- This might sound obvious, but if you’re planning to spend all your time in Palma, don’t, whatever you do, hire a car. Parking is a pain and pricey, plus there are plenty of buses to zip you along the bay of Palma if you want to explore further afield. If you are going to spend a couple of nights in Palma then move on somewhere else, arrange to pick up a car at the airport (it’s easily worth the journey out there and easier than trying to pick-up in town) on the day you plan to travel. See more on Majorca car hire.
- Better yet, rent yourself a bicycle and take advantage of the city and surrounding areas’ impressive network of bike lanes. www.palmaonbike.com is reliable and reasonably priced.
Sights and attractions
- If you’re an art lover, don’t miss the Nit de l’Art in Palma in September. It’s one of the most important dates on the Spanish calendar for art lovers and gets you into all of Palma’s galleries for free. Usually held on the third Thursday of September, doors are open from 7pm to midnight. Official dates are not yet released for this year, neither is a website, but I’ll update this section the second I have it.
- If you want to catch a game, RCD Mallorca is comparatively cheap compared to other football clubs with ticket prices starting at 20 euros. www.rcdmallorca.info.
Other useful tips
- Check on low-season deals with hotels. Many throw in a rental car, or transfer to and from the airport, if you’re planning to stay a few days.