Manor house-turned boutique hotel Posada Terra Santa is well camouflaged amid a hotchpotch of alleys and saffron-hued buildings in Palma’s Old Town. In fact, this 16th-century home to Boixador barons and monied Palmesanos is a little hard to find, but the pay off for map fumbling is a serene, leafy courtyard leading to an intimate stay. It’s modernised with eye-catching art and curios (we like the plaster stag heads in the lounge), a dinky spa and rooftop pool, but there’s plenty of weathered stone and wooden beams for history buffs to coo over.
Noon, but flexible; late check-out till 4pm is €120, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm; guests can store luggage on site.
Double rooms from £134.96 (€158), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include a buffet breakfast with Mallorcan delicacies, fresh fruit and a station where eggs are cooked to order with local goodies (sobrassada and camaiot sausage, gruyère and almonds).
Pilates and yoga classes are held in the gym on request (€40 an hour), and personal trainers can be arranged. The hotel has a fleet of bikes for hire (€20 a day) for exploring the cobbled surroundings.
At the hotel
Spa and gym, sauna, lounge, salon, library, sun hats to borrow, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, kettle with a selection of teas (on request), Egyptian-cotton linens, air-conditioning and Prija bath products. The Preference Room, Preference Duplex Room and the Baron Suite have Nespresso coffee machines.
Our favourite rooms
Rooms are similar in style, but the Preference Duplex Room edges out the competition for its surfeit of space. There’s plenty of natural light in the bedroom, and retro detailing – mini searchlights, a rotary phone, a mounted toy boat – add to its more historic charms, including a beamed ceiling and views of the Basilica. The Superior Rooms are smaller but have generous bathrooms and ‘oh so tempting to jump on’ beds.
A very petite, unheated plunge pool on the roof terrace overlooks Palma’s higgledy-piggledy rooftops and the Basilica de Sant Francesc. There are day-beds and parasols, and a phone for summoning drinks from downstairs. The spa has a small soaking pool too, kept at a toasty 28 °C.
The spa’s in two arched nooks of the original grain store. The bijou spaces house an indoor pool, sauna and a treatment room for massages, facials, mani-pedis and body scrubs. Speciality treatments such as Lomi Lomi massages and ayurvedic rituals round out the pampering options. There’s a gym too, kitted out for weight training, cardio and fitball sessions.
Bring several engrossing tomes to flip through while sprawled over the Stately Lounge’s inviting sofas or the roof terrace’s loungers. The library has a stash of art books if you forget. Bring your wits, too: there’s a chessboard in the English Salon.
Common areas are wheelchair accessible, and one of the ground-floor Preference Rooms has been specially adapted with a roll-in shower.
Extra beds (€120 a child, a day) and cots (free) can be added to some rooms. The small rooftop pool has wide steps to sit on (but no lifeguard). Babysitting is available (but must be booked a day in advance). Staff can adapt dishes and heat up milk too.
The elevated table by the open kitchen lets you watch the chefs work their magic. A few cushioned banquettes are sequestered away under arches in the courtyard, offering a little privacy for couple-y drinks.
Breezy Balearic with a touch of tailoring. Throw a blazer over a sundress or a linen shirt and you’re good to go.
Guests dine under the original Gothic arches in the hotel’s cellar at La Despensa del Barón Restaurant. An open kitchen and black-and-white prints are decorous nods to the modern-fusion fare, which borrows inspiration from Asia and the Med. Tapas plates are served by day and come evening, chef Matias’ team prepare freshly caught, sesame-crusted tuna tataki with wakame seaweed, and Iberian pork loin cooked with plump figs and other continent-straddling delicacies. The breakfast buffet is laid out here each morning and tapas plates are served throughout the day.
Pick from the selection of wines, beers and spirits in the honesty bar by reception to drink in the lounge or salon. The pool has a hotline to reception so you can summon drinks to the roof terrace if you don’t fancy schlepping downstairs.
Breakfast is served 8am–11am, dinner in La Despensa from 7pm–10.30pm.
Salads, sandwiches and cakes can be enjoyed in your room from noon to midnight.
Tucked away in a quiet back street, the hotel’s hidden in Palma’s Old Town. The Basilica de Sant Francesc is a few steps from the door; the cathedral is a 10-minute walk, and the coast is 15 minutes away.
International hub Palma de Mallorca Airport is a 15-minute drive. Low-cost airlines Ryanair, Vueling and EasyJet run frequent services from major European destinations. Flights from the US usually connect via Madrid, flights from Asia and Australia via Munich. The hotel can arrange transfers in a luxury car (for up to four guests) for €49 each way.
From the airport, take the highway to Palma; call our Smith24 team or contact the hotel for precise driving instructions, permission to access a private road and parking permission.
Ferry Baleària and Trasmediterranea run overnight ferry crossings from Barcelona and Valencia to Palma (roughly an eight-hour trip).
Worth getting out of bed for
Palma’s Old Town is a jumble of winding alleys, cobbled streets and placid piazzas; the district’s within a whisper of a square kilometre, but it packs in a colossal Gothic cathedral with a fleet of sandstone flying-buttresses, the heavily gilded 13th-century Basilica de Sant Francesc and the Palace of the Almudaina. We also like the Moorish baths; only one colonnaded room remains, but the gardens resplendent with citrus trees, palms, hibiscus bushes and bougainvillea. The quarter’s slender streets are lined with crowded tapas bars, too, such as breakfast favourite C'an Joan de Saigo, and late-opening joints such as Quina Creu. Passeig del Born is a leafy strip of big-name boutiques (Louis Vuitton, Carolina Herrera, Hugo Boss, Mulberry), the Rialto Living store and high-street favourites H&M and Zara. The hotel can arrange bike hire for spins along the coast, to clock sleek yachts and super yachts topped with helipads. Cala Mayor, one of the city’s prettier stretches of shore is about an hour’s pedal away. Terracotta vistas, sprawling olive groves and tucked-away beaches make car-hire worthwhile. A 25-minute drive inland lies José L Ferrer Bodega, where four types of wine tastings are held; from €11 a person visitors get three wines (the young, crianza and reserve) and quelitas (savoury biscuits). Sailing and windsurfing excursions can be arranged through the hotel too.
Bowls of olives, slabs of Serrano ham, all manner of sea-to-stall delights and and a cornucopia of fruit and veg: the Mercat de l'Olivar (a 10-minute walk away on Plaça de l'Olivar) showcases the island's produce in spectacular style. Visit the Ostras counter for pintxo plates and fresh-from-the-net oysters waiting to be shucked and savoured. Locals start their day by pairing half a dozen with champagne; it would be rude not to follow suit. Forn de Sant Joan is a 10-minute walk from the hotel; sultry and low lit, with quirky artwork and ornate mirrors on display, this Catalan restaurant has a decadent menu with smoked pigeon, suckling pig and lobster. Dip into the tapas menu for coconut-foam-topped langoustines and octopus with kimchi aioli. Marc Fosh has an elegantly dressed 17th-century setting. Venison in orange, anise and vanilla sauce; a sweetcorn ‘sponge’ with autumnal-fruit minestrone; and banana ganache with saffron and rum are the kind of unexpected flavour pairings that have earned the titular chef acclaim. Sadrassana also has a historic setting: a 19th-century manor housing the Horrach Moyà Gallery. Bold prints and tapestries create a dramatic dining space, and dishes are by turns artful and witty (we like the lobster with chips and two fried eggs).
Named after one of our favourite things, lively Minibar Café on Calle Pere Dezcallar has hipster trappings – ironic granny lamps, bikes and artworks in a jumble of frames. However, the food is excellent: tantalising wheels of cheese perch on the bar and fresh-baked loaves are fluffy and flour dusted. Cuttlefish and pork-loin stews are served in terracotta bowls, too, and there are frequent art shows.
Wood beams and more Gothic arches add old-world charm to Gaudeix Bodega Palma (+34 871 23 10 24) on Carrer de Can Sales. Pair pintxos (calamari on toast, eggs and Serrano ham, prawn croquettes) with a pick from the hodge-podge of bottles displayed on shelves and in a chiller cabinet.
We entered Mallorcan boutique hotel Posada Terra Santa through imposing wooden doors. They opened to reveal a tea-light-lit courtyard, well appointed with a vintage racecar (a Morgan 3 Wheeler, which Mr Smith informed me is ‘kind of a big deal’), and a small area where twosomes could sit and sip Aperol spritzes. Once Mallorcan nobility would park their steeds here – now the car takes pride of place; but, the hotel retains enough original features to set history-buffs’ hearts racing. Through another stone archway was a warm and welcoming lobby, with a hat-rack of house-branded straw fedoras and cache of handmade umbrellas (should the occasion call for them… It never did).
The staff at Posada Terra Santa were so welcoming, that from the moment we walked in I was sure this undercover Mrs Smith had been rumbled; I later learned that the staff had no idea we were incognito – their pleasantness comes as standard, and they did all they could to make us feel at ease. They also weren’t afraid to make fun of Mr Smith and I when we told them of our plans to visit Pacha nightclub; they even encouraged our questionable taste, sending us to the far better, yet still desirably cheesy Tito’s. Mr Smith was all-in, once he learnt that Frank Sinatra used to hang out there, but we doubt there were as many lazers in Ol’ Blue Eyes’ day.
The hotel is dearly loved by its owner – it’s apparent in the painstaking work he’s put into restoring the two original buildings. Throughout the hotel are Bambi-emblazoned family crests and mounted plaster stag heads, which confused us, as Mallorca is relatively deer-free. We later learn that the site dates back to the 16th century, and was once owned by Boixador barons, who moved to Mallorca from the medieval Kingdom of Aragon, bringing their antlered heraldic emblem with them. Enlightened, we appreciated the irony.
Posada Terra Santa opened as a hotel in 2014; the owner has artfully balanced original features with clean modern furnishings, and subtle interior-design elements amplify the beauty of the original townhouse. Terra Santa means ‘holy earth’, but Catholic crucifixes are thankfully scarce. In fact, it’s all rather laid back. There’s a choice of chill-out areas, each packed with soft and squishy chairs, and sofas in shades of gray and navy, which coolly contrast with the warm terracotta walls. One could pick a spot (the courtyard; the lounge; the salon – they’re all lovely…), flop down and read a book for hours. There was even a separate library area just off from the lobby, with striking modern chairs and a vintage, Hemingway-worthy drinking – I mean writing – desk.
We booked the Preference Duplex Suite, which was quiet at night, and had a massive bed, his-and-hers sinks in the bathroom, and a great view of the Basilica de Sant Francesc. We were welcomed with an ice-cold bottle of Cava in our room on arrival, and I loved the staff’s succinct tour of the room – it’s annoying to have someone prattle on about the TV remote for 10 minutes after you’ve had a long journey. They knew exactly what needed to be mentioned, and did so swiftly and elegantly. Then they left us alone, to polish off the Cava in peace. We were absolutely not disappointed; my only complaint was regarding the telephone in our room. Neither myself nor Mr Smith – both intelligent people – could get the confounded contraption to work, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise; who wants to be on call while on holiday?
The ace up the hotel’s sleeve is its petite, pool-topped roof terrace; there’s not much space for laps (in fact, one lap is your body length, give or take a foot), but come mid-afternoon, when the heat hits, the cool water beckons. We spent most of our time up there, especially after we discovered the handy telephone you can use to summon food (our lunch order, a burrata salad, was delectable) or more wine. At night, the pool glows turquoise, like a moonlit shard of glacier, and not once were we disturbed – it was muy romantico indeed. We took a nightcap there every night, enjoying the peace and our vantage point overlooking the city’s terracotta rooftops – a palm-frond-brushed scene which reminded me of Marrakech.
The restaurant serves inventive fusion fare – it was the best dining experience we had throughout our three-day break. The tapas tasting-menu is a must-try; it’s ingeniously presented (in similar style to that of a Japanese fine-dining restaurant), but refined rather than OTT, and we clocked Spanish and Moroccan influences as we worked through the small plates. The restaurant’s wonderfully affordable too – two glasses of wine were just €7.
One can only lounge around for so long (well, I suppose we could have basked for longer); armed with local recommendations, we decided to venture out into Palma. The hotel is smack-bang in the centre of the Old Town, and all major sights are within walking distance. One of our favourite spots was the Plaça de la Quartera, where we loitered at low-key café Terraza Gaudi, a great people-watching spot. Then, I did some damage to my Amex in two boutiques: Suite 13 and Opia Concept Store on Plaza Banc de L’Oli, both an amble away from more tourist-y stores – they only sell pieces by local and Barcelona-based designers, which makes a refreshing change from browsing in Zara. For some beach time, head to Playa Illetas (a 20-minute drive from the hotel), a stretch of sand with few fellow sunbathers. Colourful parasols, lithe and tanned locals, and water that’s turquoise and navy by turns: it’s a Gray Malin photograph come to life. It’s buoyantly salty, too – one can float for hours and daydream about embracing the beach life long-term.