Bellver Castle also known as Castell de Bellver got its name from Catalan for ‘lovely view’ and – with its commanding hilltop position to the west of Palma, and surrounded by scented pine woods – it couldn’t have been better named.
If you take a Palma City Sightseeing open top bus tour, Bellver Castle is one of the sixteen stops along the route; using a public bus from the city centre means a steep walk up the hill from the bus stop! There is ample parking at the top if you visit the castle by car.
The 360-degree panorama from the summit includes the Bay of Palma and the mountains of the Tramuntana, Mallorca’s 90 km mountain range. A renowned Palma landmark, Spain’s only round castle was built in the 14th century as a rather grand fortress and, architecturally, is a Catalan Gothic masterpiece.
During its long history it has served briefly as a royal summer residence and, more infamously, was used for almost six centuries as a prison – up until 1915. Many of those who spent time imprisoned here – including King Jaume IV – didn’t get to enjoy the views that captivate so many visitors to Mallorca today. It was again used as a prison for a short time during World War 2 and during Franco’s dictatorship.
Perfectly preserved, Bellver Castle has the all-important moat and drawbridge, three defence towers and a tall free-standing keep – known as the Torre del Homenaje – linked to the main castle by a small bridge. The round central courtyard – Patio de Armas – is two-tiered: the lower tier is made up of Catalan Romanesque arches, and was intended for the use of servants and soldiers; the royal family had the use of the Gothic-arched upper tier.
Today, during the balmy summer evenings, you’ll find frequent concerts of different types of music taking place in this impressive courtyard, under star-studded skies.
Bellver Castle is also home to an interesting museum, accessed via the central courtyard – where you’ll find artefacts from Roman, Arab and Spanish periods to help give you a picture of the history of Palma. The museum comprises eight rooms of the castle, six of which cover different periods of the island’s history. You can also visit the old castle kitchen, with its smoke-blackened walls, and the castle chapel.
If you’re interested in history, old castles or photographing spectacular views, a visit to Palma’s Bellver Castle is a must.