You might know the Balearics best for their glorious beaches and sun-soaked summers, but did you know that there is lashings to see and do on the islands year-round, especially when it comes to their rich and eclectic culture?
Winters in the Balearics are also temptingly mild, providing the ideal backdrop for exploring the cultural scene away from the chilly climes of the UK.
The hub of Balearic culture has to be the popular city break destination of Palma, on the largest island of Mallorca. Here you will find the epic Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, more commonly referred to as La Seu.
This Gothic Roman Catholic wonder is truly vast, with a vaulting 44-metre high nave, making it even taller than the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. You can also walk on the rooftop here, standing beneath its magnificent flying buttresses as you soak in the view of the city and the Mediterranean beyond.
Palma is also home to the world-renowned Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation, dedicated to the work of artist Joan Miro, the painter, sculptor and ceramicist born just across the water in Barcelona. This is the only place in the world where visitors can see Miro’s workshop, as well as the home in which he spent the final years of his life.
The workshop has been closed throughout this summer, but it is slated to reopen early this winter season, with the ambition of it representing the workshop exactly as Miro left it when he died in 1983.
Up in the rugged Tramontana mountains, the village of Deia has long been a centre of culture. Robert Graves, the English author and poet best known for his historical novels, had a house here and lived in it from 1929 until his death in 1985. The house is now open to the public as a museum and visitors can see his desk, all set up as if he might be about to walk back into the room.
Today Deia it is a real honey pot for visiting writers and artists. Indeed it’s popular with travel writers in search of inspiration and stories on the ‘other side’ of the Balearics.
Also in the Tramontana mountains is the village of Valldemossa, an essential stop on any cultural tour of the island for its Royal Carthusian Monastery, where Polish composer Chopin and French writer George Sand spent the winter of 1838-9.
Over on Menorca much of the culture you can savour is even older. This island is home to several fascinating Talayotic sites, ancient monuments built by the island’s first inhabitants, who lived here before the Roman conquest of 123BC.
The megalithic village of Talatí de Dalt is perhaps the most impressive, a series of standing stones, circular houses and low stone walls that was once a settlement. During the summer there is an entrance fee but in the winter the site is free – and usually very quiet. Indeed you may be standing all alone with the ghosts of our ancestors.
In summer Ibiza is known for its electronic music scene, but there is far more to the culture here than clubbing. In Ibiza Town the Can Ventosa cultural centre has a diverse programme of events, including performances from the Ibiza Symphony Orchestra, while in 2016 the City of Ibiza Big Band formed, and now perform regular jazz concerts around the island, an island where a rich vein of culture ripples on throughout the cooler months.
The town is also home to numerous private art galleries, including Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté’s Lune Rouge and Lio Malca’s La Nave, while the MACE contemporary art museum features a sweep of major international artists.
Finally, on Formentera more traditional culture is on offer at the Ethnography Museum in the island’s capital of Sant Francesc Xavier, including tools used in the island’s salt production, once the island’s major industry. In the Balearic Islands the past is never far away and out of season you get the real chance to delve deeper into the archipelago’s rich and diverse cultural scene.
This is, of course, only a light tapas look at the cultural delights that you can explore across the Balearic Islands. If you want to know more about the bountiful culture in the Balearics then check out Illes Balears, or come along to the British Guild of Travel Writers Awards Dinner at The Savoy, where our Balearic hosts will be helping us learn even more about this year-round destination.