Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably at least heard of Palma’s Santa Catalina neighbourhood.
Once a solidly blue-collar fishing enclave, Santa Catalina has been transformed in recent years into a trendy area centred on the Santa Catalina Market. Enchanting tree-lined streets are filled with a shopper’s heaven of stylish boutiques, design studios and vintage shops. Eternally-crowded bars and cafes are nestled in with dive bars and new, delicious restaurant choices seem to crop up every week.
Be in the know…and take a closer look with Look Mallorca at Santa Catalina.
The name of the district stems from a promise. A wealthy Mallorcan merchant called Ramón Salelles prayed to Santa Catalina when he feared he was going to be lost at sea. He told the patron saint of merchants and sailors that he would build a hospital in her name if she spared him. When he finally made it to dry land in one piece, he made good on his word and in 1343 founded the Hospital of Santa Catalina next to the Porto Pi road.
Parts of the old hospital were discovered when the area was excavated in the early 20th century. Identified as the old Santa Catalina Hospital, the name stuck and became the moniker for the Palma suburb that bears its name today.
Traditionally this fishing village was closely tied to Andratx, rather than Palma, and remained so until the 1860’s when the inhabitants of Santa Catalina asked permission to expand to the Palma city walls. With the expansion granted, the population jumped in just over a decade from 2500 to 6000.
The enlarged settlement became a target for factory owners looking for cheap land. So, on top of being a fishing enclave, it also became an industrial one, solidifying its working mans roots. In 1902, the city walls that had for so long separated Palma and Santa Catalina came down and the two slowly merged into one.
The physical barrier allowed Santa Catalina to grow up without interference from her big sister next door. The flavour of the district has always been distinctive from other parts of the city in that it had a more bohemian flare, yet firmly working class.
Since the 1990’s the area has been increasingly gentrified, and for better or worse, is now one of the most sought after neighbourhoods of the city.
Santa Catalina’s Food Market
No article on this barrio would be complete without paying particular attention to the market. The iconic Santa Catalina Market is Palma’s oldest and by most accounts, one of the best. Of course you can find gorgeous produce, but there is also much more. You can also source fresh seafood and fish, meats from locally-raised beasts, Mallorcan cheeses and olives, prepared dishes, hams, baked goods, flowers and plants.
Moreover, if you find yourself peckish, there are some fine tapas bars. These offer a delightful selection of snacks and drinks, just right for taking the edge off hunger pre-lunch.
Every time you go, you’re sure to find something new in Santa Catalina. If you’ve never been, get thyself there. If you have, maybe it’s time for another look! Have fun!
Selected again and again as a mecca for Palma shoppers, Santa Catalina hosts varied offering for just about everyone. Sleek interior design shops, mixed with fashionable boutiques, vintage clothing stores and artist’s studios ooze charm and sophistication. Gems are dotted all over the neighbourhood, but for a serious concentration of coolness, check out Carrer Sant Magi and branch out from there.
In Santa Catalina, it is less where do you eat than what kind of food do you fancy. The enclave is a foodie’s dream. Craving Thai? They’ve got that. What about Italian? They’ve got that, too. French? Yup. Dim Sum? Absolutely. What about vegan ice cream? Lebanese? Raw vegan? Yes, yes and yes. Pretty much anything you could want is available in this groovy little slice of Palma.
More in Santa Catalina
Featured image by Buy a Home Mallorca.