There’s probably quite a few people kicking themselves for not having bought an apartment somewhere in Santa Catalina a decade ago when it was just a tatty neighbourhood close to the marinas. These days it is one of Mallorca’s hottest property spots. A hub for the international yachting community, a culinary meeting place within a cosmopolitan neighbourhood, full of restaurants and bars mixing locals with foreign residents as well as visitors to the island from around the world.
History of Santa Catalina
Santa Catalina begins where the old town ends at Palma’s city walls at Es Baluard, and just off Avenida Argentina. The area’s name derives from a heartfelt promise made by a wealthy Mallorcan merchant, Ramón Salelles, to Saint Catalina of Alexandria, the patron saint of merchants and sailors. Fearing for his life at sea, the wealthy merchant had promised the saint that he would build a hospital. Both for sailors and merchants. So in 1343 the merchant founded the Hospital of Santa Catalina. It occupies the block today between Cerdà, San Mají, Servet, and part of Sa Feixina park.
Due to its closeness to the sea Santa Catalina was a popular place to live for fishermen and their families.
They were then joined by rope and bread makers. Hence the windmills, some of which can still be found in Es Jonquet and Calle Industria. Over the past hundred years the neighbourhood has established its style. It also has managed to keep many of its typical houses of one or two floors with balconies and Mallorcan-style shutters and small gardens or patios. There are also still some of the grander, Modernist-style houses known as indianos. These were built in the area at the end of the 19th Century by those returning from Cuba. Just like in other cities, as a reasonably poor area starts to attract low waged but creative people to live there. That’s how this area of Palma has become trendy and invites others to live there.
Santa Catalina’s Food Market
In the heart of the district is the food market, it’s Palma’s oldest. It’s also one of Palma’s best, appealing to the regular customer and the pro chef alike. Within the market it’s possible to buy freshly-caught fish and seafood, top quality meat from local producers, prepared foods, hams, sausages, pickled foods and olives. You can also buy wine as well as flowers and plants. Stand at a tapas bar and have a quick bite. Or drop in to a bakery and pick up pastry products. For example the traditional Ensaimada, rectangular quartos or traditional cakes like those made in the local convents. You can source exotic and local produce, organic, and free range, market garden and typical Mallorcan foods. Such as local almonds, sheep’s cheese, black pork Sobrassada, split or whole olives, typical Mallorcan bread for pa amb oli and extra virgin oil that is now exported around the world.
Mix of Cultures
These days Santa Catalina is an exciting mix of cultures and one of the most visited neighbourhoods in Palma. Old Mallorcan housewives out doing their daily shopping and rubbing shoulders with interesting young things. Stroll down Annibal or Sant Magi and you can eat and shop around the world. Businesses are popping up overnight like mushrooms. Always reflecting the latest food and lifestyle trends: vegan ice cream, raw food, Japanese, Lebanese, local, it’s all there. But it’s not all perfect in Santa Catalina. On Fabrica street, the famous pedestrian street filled with restaurants. There are rumblings from the residents about the noise level from revellers as they finish their meals and go on to late night bars. But Santa Catalina just continues to evolve, as it always has done.
More in Santa Catalina
Featured image by Buy a Home Mallorca.