Palma is the city of courtyards. There must have been some 400 or even 500 houses in Palma’s old town containing historic patios (courtyards), but only some 150 are in existence now. More than 90 courtyards are still accessible around the centre of Palma. Most of them are not open to the public, other than perhaps allowing a peep through an iron gate. Some are museums (Palau March), the High Court (Can Berga), cloisters (Basilica de Sant Francesc) or retirement homes for elderly priests (San Pere i San Bernat). Others, such as Can Oleza, Can Sureda or Cal Poeta Colom (see photo) are private houses and their patios can only be visited in exceptional circumstances. Some patios are occasionally used as the setting for music concerts, mostly of a classical nature.
The origins of Palma’s patios date back to the Roman period, but took on more importance after the Conquista during the 13th century. At the beginning they were modelled in an austere Gothic style, but with the economic prosperity of the 17th and 18th centuries, their architecture became far more elegant and refined in the Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Every year the Ayuntamiento de Palma conducts guided tours of the some of the most iconic courtyards, partly in Palma’s Ciutat Alta behind the Cathedral and Cort (town hall) as well as in the Ciutat Baixa, the downtown area east of Es Born. Guided tours are then available in Catalan, Castellano, English, German, French and Italian. Check the new website for details.