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Photo: Pär Olsson
Photo: Pär Olsson

Places

Achingly hip in Santa Catalina

A growing alternative community is turning Santa Catalina into Palma de Mallorca's hippest district.

During the day, Santa Catalina, which is a ten-minute walk from the cathedral in Palma city center, is very laid back – verging on the somnolent in fact. There are a handful of stores that are well worth a detour and an excellent food market, but the district really comes to life as the sun begins to set.

The area’s dense concentration of bars and restaurants has made it the most pulsating outdoor district in Palma. You’ll find everything here from modern wine bars and classic martini bars to roof terrace bars and more punk oriented rock music bars.

But it’s not always been like this.

Photo: Pär Olsson

Andres Ballinas, a long-time resident of Santa Catalina, has seen how the district has been transformed. “There used to be a lot of drug dealing here and no one dared buy property”, he says. “But loads of holidaymakers have bought apartments here now.”

 Ballinas owns part of Aquanauta, one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Amid the stylish jumble of suitably distressed tables and chairs are palm trees, surfboards, turquoise-painted walls, waiters dressed in Hawaiian shirts and the seductive scent of fried corn. Born and raised on the island, Ballinas has a Swedish mother and Mexican father. He decided that Palma lacked a genuine taco bar and resolved to open one himself.

“It’s pretty hard to find this type of taco outside of Los Angeles and Mexico”, he says, after serving us ginger margaritas alongside guacamole and freshly-made corn chips. Shortly afterwards, I’m tucking into a seafood taco. The soft tortilla is filled with crispy fried fish, shredded cabbage, tomato and habanero. It tastes divine. 

Ballinas thinks there are several reasons why Palma and Santa Catalina have become so popular in recent years.

“It’s a cosmopolitan city where every­thing you need is within easy reach,” he says. “Plus, the weather is good all year round.”

Santa Catalina doesn’t simply attract foodies and those looking for a good night out. Like all gentrified city areas, Santa Catalina also has a creative and alternative atmosphere that attracts yogis, artists and entrepreneurs. Two of these are yoga instructor Sarah Elfvin and naprapath Patric Söderblom, who run the Lucky Bodies health clinic together.

“Santa Catalina is incredibly cozy. It’s a microcosm of the city,” Elfvin says. “It also has a good market, raw food and mostly organic.”

Söderblom adds, “Santa Catalina is horribly hip right now. Even so, the majority of the people who live in the district are still Majorcans – the same old men who sit in the cafés and the old women who shop in the market – which means it still retains an authentic feel.”

 

Text: Annika Goldhammer 

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