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Santanyi - small town with Mallorcan charm

Santanyi is a small town in the southeast of Mallorca, which has retained its original Balearic charm to this day. The beaches are four kilometres from the town centre. Santanyi appears at first glance to be characterised by medieval and modern buildings made of golden Mares sandstone. The sandstone is quarried locally and gives the city a distinctive face. Plaça Major is a place of visual contrast where the green palm fronds gently sway in the breeze in front of the sandstone facades and the backdrop of the azure skies.

Majorca Es Pontas in Santanyi

History of Santanyi
Although archaeological finds from the Roman period suggest that there may have been an ancient settlement on the site of today's Santanyi, conclusive evidence to support this theory is missing. The village was first documented in the southeast of Mallorca in 1236 under the name Sancti Aini. In 1300 Santanyi received its town charter. Evidence of the settlement being there in the Moorish era is apparent from place named such as s'Almunia, Albocora and Benilassar. From the 14th century Santanyi was repeatedly looted by pirates. Cabrera island served as the buccannears' base just off Mallorca's south coast. City walls and Porta Mudarda city gate were erected to protect against pirates raids which happened again and again until the 18th century.

In the 18th century, the inhabitants had grown weary of the permanent pirate threat and built a fortress near Cala Llonga. The defensive bastion is comparatively well preserved. The Rock Castle was part of a whole defence network of stone watchtowers and smaller fortresses designed to protect the island from pirate raids. In the late 19th century, about 5,500 people lived in Santanyi. The population was poor and only with the emergence of tourism from the 1960s did this start to change. Numerous wealthy Spaniards from the mainland built summer residences in the vicinity of the small town, and the first northern Europeans also started to move to the sun-drenched Balearic island.

church of Sant Andreu in Mallorca

Attractions in Santanyi's old town
The old town of Santanyi is still partially enclosed by the remains of the medieval city wall. The city gate of Porta Murada with its tower from the 16th century bears witness to this era. The central meeting place of the locals and the perfect starting point for a stroll through the town is the Plaça Major where the sandstone facades of three-storey stone houses circle the square. On the ground floors of the buildings there are cafés and restaurants, and of course in the summer, life takes place outside under parasols. The long-drawn, olive-green shutters remain mostly closed to keep the heat out of the living rooms.

The dominant building on Plaça Major is the town hall which dates back to 1902. Like most of the other buildings, the Casa de la Villa was also built of golden Mares sandstone. The central square is the home of the 18th church of Sant Andreu equipped with a baroque organ. The monumental instrument was built by the royal organ builder Jordi Bosch. Right next to it, the Rosary Chapel of Capella del Roser is housed in the same building. Dating back to the 14th century, the interior is spanned by an intricately carved ribbed vault.

Cafe in Santanyi

Shopping and restaurants
In Santanyi you can find an art gallery or studio at almost every corner. Those looking for extravagant decorative items will surely find something in the small shops. Right on the main street, the Galeria Sailer is set in a completely renovated 17th century townhouse. In addition to handwoven Kalim carpets, paintings, glassware and sculptures there are also textiles with South American motifs. The Dutch artist Gemma Leys has set up her studio in the Casa de Arte. She regularly runs workshops where aspiring painters and graphic designers can familiarise themselves with key techniques.

Fashion boutiques with something for people of all ages line up along the main road towards Plaça Major. If you are looking for new designer jeans, leisure wear or an elegant evening number, you will find it here. One of the Mallorcan specialties you will encounter at the official Flor de Sal shop in Santanyi are Flor de Sal d'Es Trenc products which are pure salt, obtained in the salt pans on Es Trenc beach and refined with spicy herbs and other ingredients. This natural product is used for the seasoning of various foods.

In the heart of Santanyi there are numerous restaurants serving typical Mallorcan and international dishes. Just a few steps from Plaça Major, Sa Botiga Restaurant is located in a narrow street. Because of the acute lack of space in the narrow cobblestone lane, the four-seater tables have to be placed one behind the other. Hotel Santanyi on Plaça Constitució, has a restaurant terrace at the front and a small backyard at the back. For delicious tapas you should visit Es Molí de Santanyi or try classic Mallorcan cuisine at Es Coc.

Parque Natural de Mondrago Santanyi Majorca

Excursion in the area
Five kilometres from the centre of Santanyi is Parc natural de Mondragó a nature reserve full of bio-diversity. This protected area is home to more than 70 species of birds and numerous rare orchid species. The Mediterranean turtle has successfully been introduced into the nature park. Cap de ses Salines is the southernmost point of the island and is also in the municipality of Santanyi. The eponymous lighthouse on the headland has been guiding ships through this part of the Mediterranean since 1863. For wine tasting in cosy environs, visit the winery of Son Alegre where wine is produced in the bodega under strict environmental guidelines.

Only a few kilometres outside Santanyi is the southeast coast. The port of Cala Figuera welcomes you with its Mediterranean ambience. The port's charm derives from the almost complete absence of mass tourism. The connected bay of Cala Santanyi is ideal for a dip in the clear Mediteranean waters. Cala Santanyi is a bathing paradise for families with its sandy beach that gradually rolls into the sea in the small bay of about 70 m in length and has a complete absence of dangerous currents. One disadvantage is that in peak season it can get crowded on the beach. Just 10 minutes drive from Santanyi on a former finca plot is the beautiful Vall d'Or golf course where you can tee off with an idyllic maritime backdrop.

Santanyi is a great place to stay if you appreciate Mallorcan lifestyle and want to spend your holidays in an authentic atmosphere away from mass tourism.