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Paul Harper spends time in Spanish island Mallorca and discovers some unexpected delights

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About Palma

Size: 80.6 sq m.

Population: 401,270.

Languages: Catalan and Spanish.

Currency: Euros.

Website: www.newsmallorca.com.

Getting there

Monarch fly direct to Palma from London Gatwick. Current offers include flights for £36 (one way and including tax). Flight time is approximately three hours. Book at www.monarch.co.uk.

* Where to eat

Forn De Sant Joan: Tapas and Spanish dishes. www.forndesantjoan.com.

Wineing: www.wineing.es.

Misa: Mediterranean brassiere and bar, www.marcfosh.com.

* Where to stay

Hotel Tres: Sophisticated hotel with contemporary design and luxury extras such as Nespresso machines, iPod docks and an iPhone app for navigating the city. Open all year round. Rates start from €215 for a double room with breakfast, www.hoteltres.com.

Hotel Dalt Murada: Former 16th century manor house now a family-owned hotel, with 16 double rooms decorated with Mallorquin furniture, family heirlooms, paintings and glass lamps.

Each one has satellite TV, mini-bar and a jacuzzi bath.

Rates start from €159 plus tax for a double room with breakfast included. See www.daltmurada.com.

»Gazing at the yacht-filled marina with its sea of lights as live jazz music filled the air, set against the backdrop of the illuminated cathedral – this was not the Mallorca I expected.

Palma, its cultured cosmopolitan capital city, has a different atmosphere to the nearby resort of Magaluf.

Palma Cathedral, a majestic gothic building created in 1601, creates a welcoming presence to those arriving in the city.

A brief walking tour took in the 17th century town hall, which has two giant statues inside, and a striking giant olive tree stands opposite.

In nearby Placa de Cort is the awe-inspiring Can Corbella, designed by Antoni Guadi, which boasts horseshoe arches and remarkable stained glass windows.

Visitors should see the Colmado Std Domingo, a few shops down, for some sumptuous Spanish sausages and chorizo.

Far from awash with multi-national brands, the narrow and intimate streets of Palma boast a stylish mix of fashion, jewellery and coffee shops.

Or if you prefer just while the day away drinking beverages outside on the tree-lined Passeig Bon promenade.

The city looks remarkably clean, thanks to a revolutionary system where waste is transferred underground by compressed air to a central collection point.

Small markets with crafts and food line the Placa Major, the main square.

Walking around the city centre is relatively easy as you often end back at Placa Major.

We dined first at the Forn De Sant Joan, a cocktail bar and restaurant in the historic La Jonza quarter. My main course was subtly brilliant, consisting of Duck magret, truffled mashed potatoes, caramelized soya and foie gras sauce.

The next night we visited Wineing in Palma where guests are given a card and can sample as much wine as they like. A sociable twist on the dining experience.

The final meal was at Misa, the latest restaurant from British celebrity chef Marc Fosh, which offered great food, service and wine in an informal classy setting.

We spent two nights at the sophisticated Hotel Tres.

A spectacular courtyard penetrates the building, which is built from a 16th century palace, and includes two rooftop terraces with jacuzzis and incredible views.

A wine and tapas lunch with Mallorcan wine producers Miquel Oliver proved a treat. Its delightful Alegria rosé is a top seller.

Dominique Carroll, of the Mallorca Tourist Board, revealed how the island is becoming an increasingly popular haunt for celebrities and a setting for Hollywood films.

She adds that tourists can explore the island in classic car excursions with vintage motors available for hire from €500 a day.

We visited the Palma Aquarium where the main attraction is the deepest shark tank in Europe at 8.5 metres, housing sand tiger sharks and other species.

The aquarium is staging an ongoing campaign with videos and displays highlighting the perilous situation of tuna.

Palma is not short of places to visit with galleries, museums, churches and historic architecture. These include the 14th century Bellver Castle.

The Franciscan monastery church houses a meticulously designed apse surrounded by intricately designed vaults.

One of the many street markets is the Rambla where traders sell flowers and fritters across a beautifully constructed stone promenade.

A museum dedicated to the artist Robert Graves in his former home is well worth a visit.

In winter, the city still comes alive at night with various cocktail bars and late night cafes.

I visited Titos nightclub which provides breathtaking views across the harbour and has burlesque dancers.

My three days in Mallorca made a fantastic winter break. It is perfect for couples looking for a relaxed getaway, while offering culture, dining and entertainment.

Magaluf is only 20 minutes away but Palma proved much more appealing.

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