Hotel Cort is a 19th-century bank given a boutique beachy makeover by designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán – with madcap Moorish tiled floors, maritime-chic suites and island-inspired flotsam and jetsam, including surfboards and models of yachts. This Balearic bolthole is close to the beach, but it’s worlds away from a run-of-the-mill resort; the locally loved restaurant and bar spills out into historic Plaça de Cort – a lively and landmark-laced Mallorquin meeting spot.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Guests can store luggage round the clock.
Double rooms from £112.96 (€124), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.40 per person per night on check-out.
À la carte breakfast (with tea, coffee, juices, breads and pastries) is included in the room rate.
The hotel’s eye-catching design is the work of Lázaro Rosa-Violán, who’s a dab hand at hip hotels – he’s given a va-va-voom makeover to sophisticated Argentinian Smith stay Hotel Pulitzer too.
At the hotel
Roof terrace, concierge, free WiFi throughout, and a private function room. In rooms: Private enoteca (wine bar), flatscreen TV, iPod dock, minibar, kettle and cafetière on request.
Our favourite rooms
Honeymooners should opt for the Junior Plaça Suites, some of which have huge double showers lined with pretty hand-painted tiles, a voyeuristic view of the bustling square and a bold Mediterranean colour scheme: teal furnishings, coral accents and a cosy olive-green living area with little olive trees and framed maps. There’s also a stash of wine and cava in the in-room enoteca for starlit nightcaps.
There's an unheated open-air plunge pool, on the hotels third-floor terrace, flanked by a smattering of day-beds. Ring reception to have towels or après-swim drinks whisked up.
A fold-up map of Palma to navigate the myriad alleyways leading off from the main square. If you’re not shy, you needn’t pack a bikini – on some Mallorcan beaches your birthday suit will suffice.
For disabled guests there’s a lift, and Room 11 – a Junior Suite on the first floor – is adapted for guests with mobility issues. Smokers can enjoy a surreptitious puff on the restaurant terrace or the sun porch.
Some suites have a sofa bed sleeping two (€100 for over-16s, €60 for 16 and under-16s) or a cot can be added free. Restaurant staff are happy to heat milk or baby food, tweak meals and bring child-distracting paper and pens to your table.
Join the lively crowd at the Raw Bar to put the old oyster-aphrodisiac myth to the test.
This city-centre spot is the place to be seen; ensure you will be in bright-white or tropically toned outfits, and jewellery that sparkles in the sunlight.
The restaurant may look like a wayward trattoria, with wine bottles lining the walls and nautical knick-knacks – set to a soundtrack of animated Spanish conversation – but this clutter is carefully considered to create a cosy unpretentious space. Foie-gras ravioli, steak tartare and cod confit grace the hotel’s Mediterranean and Mallorquin menu, and the restaurant’s Raw Bar dishes up ceviche and oysters sourced straight from the sea. The kitchen is fabulously flexible too: if you’re vegetarian, lactose intolerant or require gluten-free meals, they’ll whip something tasty up – and they serve a top-notch home-made breakfast here.
The bar is part of the restaurant, serving classic cocktails, spirits and an impressive selection of wines – take a glance at the bottles on the wall to see what tickles your fancy. Order a glass of robust Mallorcan red and take it to the terrace on the square to watch well-heeled locals wander by.
You can wine and dine all day at the restaurant from 7.30am to midnight.
Generous ham and cheese platters, salads, light meals (grilled chicken) and a tempting array of desserts are available around the clock; order from the restaurant menu from 7.30am to midnight.
Shop- and café-lined mediaeval alleyways run like rivulets into city-centre Plaça de Cort, where the hotel sits opposite the Baroque town hall – just 10 minutes’ walk from Palma Cathedral and a 30-minute walk from the coast.
Palma Son Sant Joan Airport (www.aena-aeropuertos.es) is 10km from the hotel, roughly a 10-minute drive away. EasyJet flies to Palma from major cities in the UK, France, Germany and Italy. Flights across the Pacific arrive via Abu Dhabi and Munich.
Train travel here favours sightseeing over practicality. Vintage steam train Ferrocarril de Sóller (www.trendesoller.com) chugs over mountain paths and aqueduct bridges daily, from Placa D’Espanya in Palma to 17th-century valley-set Sóller village.
Palma’s hidden treasures, tucked-away in mediaeval streets, and hair-raising ring roads mean the city is best navigated on foot. There’s a 24-hour car park close to the hotel, charged at €25 a day. We recommend hiring a car for day-trips outside the city to discover terracotta-hued mountains, hidden beaches and pretty port towns. There’s an Avis car-hire booth at the airport.
Baleària (www.balearia.com) runs a ferry between Barcelona and Palma daily. The trip takes about seven hours.
Worth getting out of bed for
All of Palma’s landmarks can be reached on foot from Hotel Cort’s old-town setting on a 17th-century square. The flag-bearing town hall and an 800-year-old olive tree are on the hotel’s doorstep, and the Arabic Baths’ well-preserved Moorish hammam rooms and luxuriant lemon-scented gardens (+34 971 72 15 49) are five minutes’ walk away, on Calle Can Serra. From there, Gothic gargoyle-studded Palma Cathedral (+34 902 02 24 45) is a five-minute stroll. Be sure to stop at the waterfront, the OTT boys’ toys – helicopters teetering atop mega yachts – are quite a sight. Beautiful Balearic beaches are just a 30-minute walk from the hotel; choose Portixol’s golden sands to avoid the crowds on popular Ca’n Pere Antoni beach, or perch on a mod lounger at glam Anima BeachClub (+34 971 59 55 91), a 15-minute walk away.
Outside the city, Es Trenc beach is a pretty 50-minute drive south west – taking you past emerald hills, terracotta villages and coastal vistas – it’s a little wilder and less touristy than Palma’s coast, with Caribbean-clear waters, and chiringuito snack bars serving zesty mojitos. Alternatively, wend through delicate stalactite and stalagmite formations and over crystal-clear pools to reach a rock-hewn amphitheatre by a vast subterranean lake; at the Caves of Drach (+34 971 82 07 53), an hour’s drive from the hotel in Porto Cristo, an orchestra on a boat serenades you in a naturally baroque-style setting.
Tuck into spicy albondigas (meatballs), heaped platters of chorizo and manchego, and plump prawns at the bar of hip tapas joint Taberna de La Bovéda (+34 971 72 00 26) – a six-minute walk from the hotel – or book a table for whole grilled fish and hearty portions of suckling pig. Red curtains, honey-coloured stone walls and a black bar strung with cured hams at La Bodeguilla (+34 971 71 82 74) create an intimate and authentic setting for feasting on a weekly-changing menu, which includes home-made truffles and grilled fish with stacks of market-fresh veggies.
The chic café terrace in the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (+34 971 90 82 00) has avant-garde eye candy to muse over while you dine on modernist Mallorquin cuisine: grilled fish topped with tombet (a traditional potato dish) and crystallised chillies, cream of artichoke soup with ibérico ham and stewed apple cake with Szechuan-pepper ice cream.
Spend a sophisticated evening sipping a champagne cocktail to a soundtrack of moody and melodic live jazz at Blue Jazz Club (+34 971 71 19 02), a high-rise bar atop the Saratoga Hotel. The bijou open-air terrace doesn’t allow much elbow room, but it’s worth jostling fellow patrons for night-time views of Palma.
Hotel Cort is in a city square. It’s a bruised stone building with shutters flopping open to reveal its boozy innards. Little tables outside wobble on the cobbles while people mumble in a cocktail of different languages. Behind the stone walls is a small selection of brilliant rooms. They are all connected by a baffling series of corridors and terraces. I want to write that it’s a bit like a 3D chessboard but I’m not sure what one of those is. It’s like staying in an Escher drawing, but way sexier and less creepy. Let me start by saying that it’s the very definition of a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel for me. It’s a heaving, crumpled, romantic old beast of a building that feels intimate, modern and easy inside. You can waft in and out as you please and use it as a base to explore from. You can also hole up in the room doing nothing, with the mumbling of the town square and the church bells outside to remind you that you’re on holiday.
Did you know that Mallorca is the perfect place for a city break? I didn’t. I had no idea. I also found out the hard way in front of our taxi driver that Palma and Parma are two different places and we were in not that had no affiliation with ham. I thought Mallorca was going to be Irish pubs, the Macarena and middle-aged Brits that look like leather sofas waddling around fighting and kissing each other. Palma has none of that. Looking out onto the square outside the hotel, you could be staying in a delightful city in France, Italy or indeed, Spain.
The star of the square is an olive tree that has got way out of hand. It’s so old that it’s given up growing upwards and has basically just started hugging itself into a chode of barky arms. There’s a church with a bell that goes off every few minutes. There’s a breeze. It’s always there. It’s really hard not to smoke. If an alien David Attenborough was making a documentary about humans and he wanted to make a point about the fact we like to gather in squares, he and his film crew would use this one.
Our room was great – it was sort of colonial. Wooden shutters. Wood panelling. Bright. Clean. Overlooking the square with little balconies. There was a separate living room bit next to the sleepy bed bit. Massive bed. Double shower. (Seems romantic at first but then all you really want to do is wash your pits and parts without Mrs Smith seeing.) There was a hot tub on a little roof terrace next door. Fluffy robes. Slippers. Padding around. Whispering. Lovely stuff.
Let’s talk tech. I warn you now I’m going to rant about technology. I know it doesn’t seem that sexy but technology plays a large role in my enjoyment of a hotel. Over the years I’ve built up an arsenal of equipment that makes me ready for any situation. I carry the following: an HDMI lead, a four-way plug adaptor with a foreign convertor, Google Chromecast and every possible variation of audio lead to plug into the stereo. I carry them all in a beige bag I refer to in my head as the ‘tote bag of tech’. Mrs Smith always looks excited when I pull it out the suitcase, presumably hoping it’s full of handcuffs. It’s hard not notice her face drop as I feverishly untwine an ethernet cable. What Mrs Smith doesn’t realise is that some of the sexiest and most romantic times in our life have been facilitated by technology. We love Babington House. We stay there once a year. It’s our special place (along with the whole advertising industry.) The rooms have great TVs and they’re set up like home: Sky and a DVD player. There’s a library of current films for free that you have the fun/stress of picking together. You take a few back to your room, light a fire, order wine and burgers and snuggle up. It’s heaven and very few hotels get this right. I always end up plugging my computer into the TV. So… how does Hotel Cort stack up? Well, it’s got the right idea but it’s not quite there. There’s an HDMI slot by the sofa so that geeks like me can get straight into the system – if you have a lead. They offer iPads with useful content but music has to be played through the television and the on-demand service was ropey. They’ve thought about it all and probably spent a lot of money but you just want to pick up a remote control, snuggle into bed and watch a brilliant film without getting your laptop or lead involved.
Is anybody still reading this? I’ll liven things up a bit.
Let’s talk about the day I accidentally took Mrs Smith to Magaluf. To cut a long story short, the beach club we were booked in at (Nassau) gave our sunbeds to a hotter couple. We looked up another beach club on our phones. Café del Mar popped up. Oooohh! We loved Ibiza back in the day. What’s more I read an article once that said Mallorca was the new Ibiza. I called up and the woman at the end spoke perfect English and said there were VIP beds available. I booked them without consulting Mrs Smith. It took one hell of a sales job to convince her to get into the taxi. She said: ‘It’s not going to be anything like Café del Mar in Ibiza, they’ve just licensed the name.’ I persisted.
We drove a long way. A really long way; my heart sank as I saw the sign that said ‘Welcome to Magaluf’. I didn’t even know Magaluf was in Mallorca. All I knew was that people that I don’t like call it 'Shagaluf'. We drove past a series of Irish pubs playing the Macarena and swerved to avoid people who looked like leather sofas fighting and kissing each other. You can’t miss Café del Mar, it’s behind KFC. I couldn’t help noticing that it was nothing like Café del Mar in Ibiza and they’d probably just licensed the name. We took one look at our VIP sunbed and free cocktail then drove straight back to the safety of Hotel Cort to wire up my laptop to the telly and watch a film.
Can I just point out that we don’t just watch films the whole time when we’re away? We usually watch one film. We also have romantic time. (Sometimes even twice.) Through my mistakes and discoveries I can help you have a perfect weekend break. I’m almost reluctant to share this information as it’s something I’ll be doing again and again. Definitely stay at Hotel Cort. It’s magnificent. Have dinner there in the square. In the day, go to Beach Club Gran Folies. It’s paradise. Drink cocktails by the pool, dive off cliffs, eat food under the shade looking out to sea. In the evening, have dinner back in Palma at Patrón Lunares. It’s quirky and delicious. And it’s really easy to get to Palma. Mrs Smith and I, and my HDMI lead, will be back there soon.