Mallorca´s merchant past has left it with a rich architectural heritage. We all know the iconic buildings: La Seu, of course; the Almudaina Palace, Moorish home to the early kings … La Lonja, the medieval exchange building, one of the finest examples of Gothic style in all of the Mediterranean. A walk through any one of the three and you’ll never again be satisfied with your own humble abode.
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Or is that necessarily so? It may be a well-worn cliché to say that in property terms Mallorca has something for everyone, but it’s none the less true for all that. So if you suffer from a hankering after the rare, the exceptional or the luxurious; if your most passionate wish in life is to own a unique Balearic property steeped in local history, then only one things stands in your way – money, of course.
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If you can afford to pay, you can afford to choose. After that it’s a matter of personal taste. Are you drawn instinctively towards the privacy of a grand country estate with dominant views towards the ocean, its traditional Spanish finca extended over the years to provide all the comforts of a luxury manor house? If the answer is yes, it’s okay to say so.
Or are you perhaps a more gregarious type? Is your idea of property heaven one of those magnificent old palacio apartments hidden away down an ancient street in the shadow of the cathedral – the sort of property which will allow you to enjoy the plazas and tranquil tree-lined paseos of Palma’s old quarter, retiring to your home through a typical tiled courtyard complete with fountain and lemon tree, to live the life of a modern-day merchant prince … or princess.
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“Most of the big properties of historical interest on the island would have belonged at some stage to the merchant families” who traded in wine and olive oil over the generations”, says Dominique Carroll of Engel & Völkers Mallorca. “It’s difficult to know exactly how many such properties there are, but it’s a very interesting market which attracts British and German buyers in particular.”
For the cream of the crop, prices typically start around €2 million. “Yes, I’d say anything that would catch the eye of a purist would probably have a price tag of €2 million or perhaps even €3 million and upwards”, she told abcMallorca. “In fact, because many of them are so unique, they’re actually quite difficult to value … though like all collectables, there’s always a ready market.”
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Country properties appeal to a certain type of wealthy buyer because of the land which usually comes with them. “When you realize that 40 percent of this island is protected territory and can’t be built on, you realize why large tracts of land attract a premium”, Carroll explains. “So there’s always great interest not only in the houses themselves and the stories behind them, but also in the land and the privacy it offers.”
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There’s nothing as uncouth as a waiting list, of course. It’s just that a clued-in, professional estate agent will know that if a certain type of property becomes available, then a certain type of client may well take an interest. “We’ll know not to bother them with, a chalet on the coast or something … that’s not what they after.”
A good example of what the discerning buyer is looking for is a magnificent 900-square-metre finca on ten acres of land near the historic town of Pollensa and, of course, Puerto de Pollensa, with its marina and white sandy beaches. On the market with Engel & Völkers for €5.6 million, the property is reached by a long driveway with views over Pollensa golf course. The house itself has eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and four living rooms, one of which has an original olive oil press as its decorative centrepiece. Outside there’s both a pool and a jacuzzi.
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Truly exceptional too is a former thirteenth-century monastery at the foot of Randa Mountain in the centre of the island, which has a price tag of €3.2 million. This 750-square-foot property has been perfectly renovated to make a luxurious four-bedroom house. Beneath its locally-quarried tiles there’s under-floor heating for the chilly winters, while for the warm summers there’s a swimming pool in the cloisters.
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As for those historic palacios we mentioned earlier in the heart of Palma, MJC Associates, which is partnered with Savills, has a jewel of an example. Dating back to the twelfth century, it’s near La Seu and it’s on the market with a guide price of €6.7 million. A unique feature of this palace is its Jewish past. It’s decorated throughout with rare Jewish ornamentation, and, in fact, one of only three “Jewish baths” in Spain is located on its patio.
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“Some of the larger palaces have been developed into boutique hotels, which are very popular given their location in the Old Town”, says Michael Cunnington of MJC Associates. “Others have been restored by Spanish developers and sold as luxury apartments, usually for around €1 million upwards. No matter what nationality they are, most buyers realise that when they buy here they’re buying something utterly unique.”
This is a large property of 922 square metres over three floors. It has seven bedrooms and five living rooms, parking for several cars, topped off – quite literally – by an enormous roof terrace with stunning views over the city.
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Another former palace associated with Palma’s Jewish past is located down a quiet little street close to the famous Church of Santa Eulalia. Dating to the fifteenth century, it has 650 square metres over five floors, again with a roof terrace and fantastic views. It has 11 bedrooms and seven living rooms, as well as an independent 60-square-metre apartment, all for €2.2 million. Oh, and it has its own crypt …
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To bring us back to earth a little price-wise, MJC Associates also has an alluring little 84-square-metre one-bedroom apartment in an Old Town palace in Palma Casco Antiguo. On the market for €400,000, this is a high-end renovation which gives a unique opportunity to share in the grand palacio lifestyle without being lumbered with the intimidating costs.