The bay of Palma is the heart of mass tourism in Majorca. There is nowhere else on the island where so many hotels are massed along the coastline and the density of accommodation here is amongst the greatest in the whole of the Mediterranean. The building developments cater almost exclusively for the demands of tourism and although they only stretch a few street blocks inland, they extend almost without a gap along the entire length of the wide sandy area.
Playa de Palma, known as Platja de Palma in Catalan, is just east of the island’s capital and is part of the built-up mass tourism area which extends from the holiday resort of Magaluf in the west to the hotel resort of Arenal in the east. There are differing opinions as to what the areas known basically as Playa de Palma and Playa Arenal should include and be known as and the beach here stretches along the northern shore of Badia de Palma for four and a half up to six kilometres, depending on your point of view. The German holidaymakers here see the issue more pragmatically and have simply known it by their name of “Ballermann” for many years now.
It all started at the beginning of the 20th century when the dunes and thick forests which had previously surrounded the beach here fell victim to building construction. Large hotels gradually came to dominate the skyline to accommodate the steadily increasing numbers of tourists from the European continent looking for a place in the sun. In the 1960s the construction boom reached its peak and most of the holiday resorts were built then. While hotels, restaurants and traders prepared the bay of Palma for mass tourism, nature was creating a problem of her own. The sea was eating away the sand of the beach and more and more of the beach area was disappearing. In the winter of 1989 there was hardly anything left of the dunes and the people of Majorca needed to act. In a spectacular operation, the beach was topped up with 400,000 tons of sand and Playa de Palma is now Majorca's longest beach.
In the 1990s the coastal area between Palma and Arenal became more and more a stronghold for alcohol-drinking and party-loving tourists from Germany. Small restaurants such as the “Bierkönig” became large party hotspots and streets such as "Schinkenstrasse (Ham Street) and "Bierstrasse” (Beer Street) turned into party districts for German holidaymakers. To this day the bay of Palma has the reputation of being the enjoyment hotspot for party-lovers from Germany, in what seems to be a combination of a carnival party with a beer festival, including popular German music and drinking alcohol from buckets. For years now this has created a bizarre offshoot of German lifestyle in Palma which continues to be seen as the typical Majorcan holiday.
However, the people of Majorca now want to change this image and the measures taken include the introduction of codes of behaviour. Drinking alcohol from buckets is now forbidden and the wearing of bikinis and swimming trunks is now only allowed at the beach. In addition run-down accommodation is being renovated to offer more comfort and improved interior design, to take it into a more exclusive, higher star category, and two new luxury hotels will be opening soon. For some time now the restaurants in the bay of Palma have been providing a more upmarket service than the beach kiosks with their sausages, kebabs and beer. Nicely decorated restaurants and cafés are now taking over and offer quality dishes in modern surroundings.
The beaches of Playa de Palma und Playa S'Arenal are without doubt going through a phase of change, but the party is anything but over here. Large discos such as “Megapark” and “Oberbayern” still attract thousands of young Germans and are for some holidaymakers more important than the beach itself. Close by, however, there are also families to be seen relaxing in the sun. The soft sand which slopes gently into the shallow water, a variety of water-sports activities, as well as a choice of restaurants and hotels for all tastes means that there is something for all ages to be found here and it is this enormous variety on offer which makes the Bay of Palma what it is today.