PALMA is a go-ahead and cosmopolitan commercial hub of over 300,000 people. Its self-confidence is plain to see in the city centre, a vibrant and urbane place, which is akin to the big cities of the Spanish mainland – and a world away from the heaving tourist enclaves of the surrounding bay. There's still a long way to go – much of suburban Palma remains dull and dilapidated – but the centre presents a splendid ensemble of lively shopping areas, mazy lanes and refurbished old buildings.
Finding your way around is fairly straightforward. The obvious landmark is the Catedral, which dominates the waterfront and backs onto the oldest part of the city, a cluster of alleys and narrow lanes whose northern and eastern limits are marked by the zigzag of avenues built beside – or in place of – the city walls. On the west side of the Catedral, Avgda. d'Antoni Maura/Passeig d'es Born cuts up from the seafront to intersect with Avgda. Jaume III/Unio at Plaça Rei Joan Carles I. These busy thoroughfares form the core of the modern town.
A five-minute walk from the medina-like maze of old-town streets, and occupying, oddly enough, the site of the old Moorish soap factory, the Basílica de Sant Francesc is the finest of a bevy of medieval churches. It's a substantial building, founded towards the end of the thirteenth century, and the main facade displays a stunning severity of style, with a great sheet of dressed sandstone stretching up to an arcaded balcony and pierced by a gigantic rose window.
On the west side of the city centre, the Passeig Mallorca is bisected by the deep, walled watercourse that once served as the city moat and is now an especially handsome feature.