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Stylish, sophisticated Palma de Mallorca is the Balearics' one real city and the entry point to Mallorca for millions of visitors, the majority of whom step off at the sprawling Son Sant Joan airport and head straight for resorts on the Bay of Palma (Badia de Palma), which runs either side of the city.

The beach revellers' loss is everyone else's gain, with surprises such as a beautiful historic quarter, grand Renaissance mansions and Baroque churches nestling around a splendid Gothic cathedral.

A stroll around Old Palma reveals a jumble of tiny churches, narrow alleyways, Moorish relics and elegant, vibrant squares. There's also good shopping and a leisurely café culture to enjoy.

Palma may be a city but it is a world away from the hustle of those on mainland Spain. Here, Balearic slow time rules, the palms sway, boats bob along in the harbour and everyone comes out to promenade as dusk falls.

Walk along the waterfront either in the late afternoon or at night and you see Palma at its best, with the cathedral and the Almudaina Palace rising up against the old city walls, framed by sunlight or illuminated by floodlight.

Most of the main sights of Palma are contained within the city walls and it's easy to explore on foot or by bus. It's also the central hub of transport for the entire island, with excellent bus services that radiate out through the unspoilt countryside to resorts, historic towns and enchanting villages.

If you are looking for a spot of beachlife you can head east or west from the city and brave the undeniably splendid Platja de Palma beach between C'an Pastilla and S'Arenal on the bay.

Travel further afield (nowhere in Mallorca takes more than half a day to reach from Palma by car or bus) to less congested beaches, such as those at Cala Fornells on the western tip and around Port de Pollença in the north.

Palma has a temperate Mediterranean climate with an annual mean temperature of 17º C and an annual mean rainfall of 450 litres per sq m.