Royal Palace La Almudaina Mallorca

The Almudaina Palace in Palma - Mallorca's Arab past

Palma de Mallorca has plenty of sights to offer: Art Nouveau buildings, courtyards, churches, monasteries, a castle and of course the cathedral "La Seu". Now the latter is certainly not an insider tip, but the Almudaina Palace, or Royal Palace, just opposite the cathedral, is.
The Moorish building, which is enthroned stately next to the landmark of Palma de Mallorca, is already noticeable from afar. The Almudaina Palace is one of the city's top sights, but few know the history of this unique building, which represents the island's Muslim period of rule like no other. It's worth a visit - we tell you why.

The Palacio de Almudaina (Almudaina means citadel outside the city walls) is a former fortress of Arab origin. It dates back to the time when Mallorca was occupied by Moorish rulers from North Africa. The Moors ruled the island from 902 to 1229 and chose it as a strategically important naval base. Mallorca was an emirate in its own right, living off the slave trade and piracy.

But the occupation of the island also had its good sides. For example, the Muslim rulers brought their architecture (pointed arches and courtyards), agriculture (terracing as in Banyalbufar, irrigation systems, lemon trees), spices (we still use saffron and sultanas in our dishes today) and typical urban planning (small streets, squares, richly decorated townhouses, bathing establishments) to the occupied area, thus shaping the capital Palma de Mallorca to this day.

In order to reside in a manner befitting his status, the Emir had a palace and a mosque built. What today are the popular sights of the royal palace and cathedral were the seat of power and the main mosque of Palma in Moorish times. Even after numerous alterations, the Almudaina Palace still has some original elements. For example, the windows of the main façade facing the sea are in typical Arabic ogival style, the wooden ceilings are painted with Arabic patterns and a palma stands in the courtyard to welcome strangers. On a tour of the palace, much is reminiscent of Arab houses and it is not difficult to dream oneself away to Marrakech. One becomes envious when looking at the view of the former Emir over the beach, the sea, the harbour and all the way to Bellveder Castle.

Today, the Almudaina Palace in Majorca is the seat of the military command and also the official residence of the Spanish king. His presence is signalled by the Spanish flag on the roof. The Spanish king uses the palace for festive and political occasions, especially during his summer holidays in Mallorca.

Parts of the Palacio de la Almudaina can be visited individually or as part of guided tours. Of particular note are the 17th-century Flemish paintings and tapestries, the 14th-century Saint Anne Chapel and the terrace and breathtaking views.

The Royal Palace is not just any sight in Palma, but reflects our history and the years of Moorish rule in Mallorca like no other building. Palma's romantic old town with its alleyways and courtyards owes much to the squatters from North Africa.

The Royal Palace in Palma is open on the following days:

1 April to 30 September: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
1 October to 31 March: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 to 18:00
Closed Mondays
The entrance fee is € 7,-.

OUR INSIDER TIP: on Wednesdays and Sundays, the top sightseeing attraction in Palma can be visited free of charge from 3pm to 7pm (in winter 6pm).

African Traces on Mallorca - What the Moors Brought to the Island

The African spirit of the largest Balearic Islands does not reveal itself to travellers at first glance. It is worth taking a second look, because the history of Mallorca is similar to a mirror image of the history of Spain - and of the changing dominations in the Mediterranean. It is small havens, magnificent gardens, fiestas and soothing wellness rituals that the Moors have left us.

Kings and conquerors

After centuries of Byzantine rule on Mallorca, there was a formative occupation by the Muslim Moors between 902 and 1229. Many historians consider this period to be a heyday for the island, as the Africans brought prosperity and progress. Cultural enrichment and new technical developments were just as much a part of the 300 years of Arab rule as the political conflicts of the Arab royal houses. A lot was at stake: in the 12th century, about 80,000 people already lived on Mallorca.

For the Moors, the Balearic island between North Africa and Europe became a strategically important naval base. The power struggles continued: At first, Mallorca belonged to the domain of the Moorish king of Cordoba. In 1015, the Arab king gained supremacy and the island became part of the Kingdom of Denia in southern Spain. Mallorca became an independent kingdom shortly afterwards under King Moxabir, who ruled from 1093 to 1114. At first Alcudia (Arabic: hill), and later Palma, was the capital of the island.

After the reconquest in 1229 by King Jaume I of Aragón, a few thousand Moors remained on Mallorca, continuing to trade with North Africa or living as farmers. Their African influences on island life can still be felt today. Many town names such as Binnissalem, Andratx, Algaida or Fornalutx, for example, are of Moorish origin.

Moorish architecture on the sunny island

"It is better to reach your goal with three jumps than to break your leg with one" - so goes an old African proverb. This commandment of patience and care is also reflected in the Moorish traces on Mallorca: some impressive remains of African architecture bear witness to skill and lifestyle.

Among the most important building objects are the Arab baths in the historic heart of the island's capital Palma. The baths originally consisted of an extensive complex, of which the room for hot baths and a recreation room with a rectangular floor area still remain today. The 10th-century bathhouse is set in a magnificent garden and can be visited daily.

Another hotspot on the trail of the Moors is the "porta de l'almudí" gate. Goods had to pass through this historic gate when ships docked at the quay or set sail. The name l'almudí derives from the Arabic al-mudí, a special measuring unit for measuring cereals and salt. The gate is located next to the course of the river Torrent de Sa Riera and is one of the few gates in Palma that are still in their original locations.

Terraces and the art of irrigation

A characteristic imprint of the Moors can also be discovered away from the capital in the hills. Here, they developed large parts of the mountainous countryside for their settlements. The Arab art of irrigation, which was highly developed for the time, made special terraced cultivation possible and thus also the excellent cultivation of citrus fruits. This cultivation technique can still be admired today, for example, in the villages of Banyalbufar and Estellencs in the west of the island. One of the mountain farms built at that time, la Granja, is now an open-air museum and offers wine and sherry tasting in addition to a considerable collection.

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