Hip hospitality group Nobis brought in the big guns for Concepció by Nobis, its first boutique hotel outside Scandinavia. Flying in the aesthetically leading luminaries from Stockholm’s eminent Gert Wingårdhs studio and adding flair from equally lauded Spanish firms, they’ve cleaned up a 16th-century building, once used as a soap factory – restoring its columns and vaulted arches, and dressing it with furnishings emblematic of the best Scandi design. There’s much to evoke Mallorca too, with a palette of hues inspired by the Mediterranean Sea and Tramuntana mountains and tiled floors throughout with clinkers from local heritage brand Huguet. And, a lounge that hives with activity, on-the-DL pool and shareable pintxos add plenty of dish to this fashion plate.
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A welcome drink with some local tapas at Restaurant Xalest or by the pool
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £193.65 (€216), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include the buffet and à la carte breakfast options (including freshly made juices, breads and pastries; Serrano ham and local cheeses; and a choice of hot and cold dishes).
Work may be a million miles from your mind, but if there is that niggling email to deal with, you can plug in and connect under the stone cross-vaults of the lounge at one of the communal tables. And Wingårdhs has crafted the sort of meeting rooms you’d expect from one of Sweden’s top architects. If you’re looking for some Unesco-approved tables for your own home, the ones in your room are from Bosnian woodworkers Zanat.
At the hotel
Lounge, pool terrace, high-speed WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, built-in Bluetooth speakers, minibar, bathrobes and slippers and air-conditioning. Rooms and suites from the Superior up have a coffee machine too.
Our favourite rooms
Each of the rooms bear the hallmark of a Sweden-Mallorca meet-cute, with beautifully executed furnishings (say the Carl Hansen Cuba chairs, woven headboards from Sweden’s oldest furniture maker Gemla Fabrikers, lighting by Denmark’s Le Klint and other name drops), dark-wood beams and sage-and-white ceramic Huguet tiles. However, La Terrazza is the only room in the hotel with a terrace – a shaded one at that, overlooking the pool – which stole our sundowner-loving hearts.
You’re not here to try out for the Olympics, so the heated pool’s lack of space for laps shouldn't concern you; rather, its Roman steps beckon you to wade in and wallow happily for a while (well, from 9am till 7pm). It’s in a sheltered, hidden-away courtyard, surrounded by various candy-striped loungers and overlooked by a sofa-dotted pergola with lush potted plants, which will draw plenty of swim- and shade-seekers. And you can order drinks and nibbly bits to enjoy in the sun.
The petite gym has free weights and spinning machines. And, of course, there’s a sauna – Swedes gotta schwitz.
It’s probably a good thing Palma has few Swedish-furniture stores, because the excess-baggage fees might bankrupt us. But, if you feel the need for something Nordic, you can pick up sweets, beauty products and more from the motherland at the Swedish Shop (9a Carrer del Baró de Santa Maria del Sepulcre).
There are adapted rooms in the Standard and Superior categories for guests with mobility issues and – unusually for a heritage building – a lift too..
Get to know the creative sorts who float in and out of the hotel over tapas plates at a communal table in the restaurant.
Fine and Scandi.
Magnanimity reigns in Restaurant Xalest, where you pile your table with Chef Xema Álvarez’s pintxos, appetisers and entreés, all designed to share. Although, you may get a little territorial when you read the menu: red-prawn croquettes, beef cheek with truffled potato purée, and scrambled eggs with foie gras and Iberian ham are the sort of dishes worth fighting forks off for (but generous paella-style sizzlers will keep the peace). All ingredients are sourced from the island, naturally, and the restaurant’s as stylishly outfitted as the rest of the hotel, with sage and white Huguet floor tiles that look like a crazed chessboard, a vaulted stone roof and large Crittall-style windows.
Through an arched doorway in Xalest, you’ll find the bar and lounge – either stop for a swift apéritif while perched on a stool by the counter, or sink into one of the svelte leather seats or green-velvet Hay sofas in the lounge and swim in the selection of wines from Mallorca and mainland Spain. Or get stuck into something more spirited – we like the elderflower margarita or the mai tai with added mango – as smooth beats play. And, if the situation calls for nine litres of champagne, dip into the ‘on request’ list, which has a Laurent Perrier salmanazar among other rare and novelty-sized wines.
Breakfast is from 8am to 11am, lunch from 1pm to 3.30pm and dinner from 7pm to 11pm. Drinks run at the bar from 12 noon to 11.30pm.
Dine in-room round-the-clock on a refined edit of Restaurant Xalest’s dishes.
Carrer de la Concepció 34
07012 Palma, Illes Ballears, Spain
The hotel sits where the Old Town meets Santa Catalina on namesake street Carrer de la Concepció, just alongside the Torrent of Sa Riera and a short walk from the flower-stall-lined La Rambla.
Palma de Mallorca Airport is just a 20-minute drive away, and flights arrive here direct from all over Europe and beyond. The hotel can arrange transfers on request for 55 one-way.
There’s no parking onsite, but you can leave your wheels at Passeig Mallorca 300 metres away for €23.55 a day.
Take the long, leisurely route over the sea from Barcelona to Palma (around seven hours).
Worth getting out of bed for
Tucked away and for hotel guests (and their guests) only, the pool is serene and secluded, but its deck and pergola promise summertime partying. Follow the Swede’s lead and hit the sauna, or sweat it out in the gym, or forgo the exertion altogether and select one of the covetable designer chairs in the lounge to flop into and quaff down Mallorcan wines. The hotel is in one of the less ‘obvious’ locations in Palma, on a residential street at the cusps of the Old Town and Santa Catalina, where there was once a bustling olive-oil market. It may be gone, but you can pick up Mallorcan delicacies at deli El Paladar down the road. To hit a rich shopping vein, head east to La Rambla – one of the main thoroughfares in Palma, which is often lined with flower stalls – follow it down and you’ll come to Avenida de Jaume III and Passeig del Born, both of which are lined with boutiques both designer and high-street. Pick up pieces from the likes of Michael Kors, Desigual and Carolina Herrera or get a little of everything at El Corte Inglés department store. After, stroll north to Plaça Major and on to Mercat de l’Olivar to pick up more charcuterie, cheeses and snacks. For a more cultured stroll around the city, follow the Torrent of Sa Riera down to the shore, stopping off at ABA Art Lab and Es Baluard Contemporary Art Museum to see the island’s modern-art stars. Walk along the shore, admiring the ritzy yachts in the harbour, and up towards the Old Town, to see the cavernous, ornate interior of the Catedral-Basílica de Santa María de Mallorca and the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, which is still the residence of the royal family. Then stop by the Arab Baths to see the tropical plants and unique ruins. Santa Catalina, to the west of the hotel, is Palma’s hottest ’hood, whose colourful casas and buzzy bars make it pleasant for lazy strolling. Stop into the city’s oldest market, Mercat de Santa Catalina, for small bites, glasses of sake and cartons of fresh handmade pasta. Then explore its vintage boutiques and pause at one of the many wine and cocktail bars. Palma’s more for culture vultures than beach bunnies (nearest stretch of sand Platja de Ca’n Pere Antoni tends to get crowded), but those desperately seeking sunbathing can hop in a taxi to Portitxol, a former fishing village that happens to have some peaceful golden sands, too.
Of the many Michelin-starred eateries in Palma, Adrian Quetglas stands out for his five- and seven-course tasting menus, that veer into the fantastical with dishes such as orzo with plankton and candied cococha (a Basque fish stew), veal with beet caviar and praline, and chocolate garam masala with black sesame and cassis. Fera knocks down flavour borders to bring together tastes from Asia and the Med in delicious ways. Try cherry gazpacho, lobster and caviar royale with ponzu and mango, and Thai carrot gnocchi with lemongrass and coconut. Or indulge in the spoils of the sea at Ca n'Eduardo, which has sweeping views across the harbour to the Cathedral (3 Carrer Contramuelle Mollet).
Bar Bosch is a long-reigning icon of Palma’s café culture – it opened in 1936 and still pulls in the punters, largely for its huge, generously filled langosta sandwiches.
Chapeau 1987 is a sultry sort, with its dark-wood booths, ornate ceiling and low lighting. It trades in fine cocktails and worldly whiskies, and the menu is designed to educate and involve you in the drink-building process. Purobeach Palma is a little out of town, but worth the trek for its coastal panorama and chill-out terrace and rooftop bar.
A hotel’s façade is, in the opinion of Mr Smith and I, absolutely critical. Thankfully, Concepció by Nobis ticked both the Mallorcan old town and Swedish-simplicity boxes: the front of white-washed walls, jade-green shutters and charcoal-black framed glass windows made for a promising start to our stay. Nay, a very promising start. And the alluring aesthetics continued from here. Beautiful green and white oversized tiles run through the reception, stone archways frame the restaurant tables, and taller-than-thou plants hug each well-lit corner.
We’d arrived in Palma in December – which might raise some questions, so I’ll address them here. Yes, there was sun. No, I did not pack enough layers for the cooler days. Yes, the roads were wonderfully quiet. No, we did not yearn for the thrum of the Balearic summer. Yes, some of the restaurants were closed (here’s looking at you, Ca's Patró March). No, I did not get a tan. Yes, I would visit again at that time of year. No, I did not pack enough layers.
Anyhow, on to check-in. First up was a quick peek at the pool – and what a pool it is. December certainly wasn’t sunbathing weather, but that’s not to say that the courtyard plunger didn’t get an ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaah’ – Roman steps, wicker chairs and candy-striped loungers will do that to us. Back inside, and up a few floors, we find our room. I love a high ceiling (despite my lack of, well, height) and our executive room had them in spades – along with beautiful black ceiling beams, rattan chairs, a jade-green sofa and ample natural light. But the toiletries were the fragrant cherry-on-top: Byredo (gulp) Mojave Ghost body wash and Sundazed eau de parfum can be found in the Scandi-inspired bathroom – that is, if I didn’t run their stock dry.
Having dropped our bag (singular, as Mr Smith always opts for the ‘I’ll just bring a few things and put them in yours’ approach – a tendency which has had us skirting the maximum baggage allowance on multiple occasions), we ventured down to the restaurant. A hearty breakfast spread was laid out on the thick marble centre table. Plates of local cheese, cold meats, fresh pastries and fruits were piled high onto plates, followed by an ‘all-in’ cooked-to-order omelette fresh from the kitchen. A latte con leche de avena was requested; a latte con leche de avena was received (a sign, if any, of a promising day ahead).
Never ones for resting on laurels or the like, Mr Smith swiftly sorted us a Honda CB500X through nearby Vintage Motors, and we were off. Mallorca’s roads are exceptional. Sa Calobra saw Scotland’s Bealach na Bà, and raised it better views, fewer caravans and longer, windier descents. If you, too, are the road-tripping type then here’s a pocket-sized guide for you: drive up to Deià via Valldemossa, down to cala Deià, then head south-west, passing through Banyalbufar and Estellencs, following the coastal road back to Palma. On day two, go north to Sóller, Fornalutx, Sa Calobra and Pollença. There’s more to say, but my editor would tell me I’m rambling, which I probably am.
Well-travelled roads very well travelled (thank you, trusty Honda), we headed back to the hotel for dinner. But first, a schvitz in the very Scandi-style hotel sauna (useful, too, for thawing out post mountainous motorbike ride). Dinner started well – with an exceptional local white, recommended by the in-house sommelier. It was plain sailing from there – each and every dish wowed. Despite having eaten north of 20 croquettes already this holiday, Mr Smith insisted on ordering a plate to start – a move that paid off, thanks to the high-quality local produce favoured by the chef. For me, it was the arrós brut gyoza and oxtail ravioli that hit the spot, but for my fellow food-loving companion, the chicken cannelloni was the dish. Mid first mouthful, Mr Smith looked up, eyes wide, and told me this might just be his favourite meal ever. Do with that what you will.
By check-out, it’s fair to say that we were well fed, watered (minibars are my weakness) and ready to tackle the forthcoming festive period with renewed gusto.