SCOTLAND may boast a larger coastline, but Spain is a vast country alive with myriad different travel experiences. Choosing where to holiday can be hard, but what if I told you one city was like a greatest hits of the rest of Spain? I’ve just been back to Mallorca’s capital of Palma – it’s Spain in glorious miniature.

Flying back, even the island’s topography is Spain in a nutshell. There are the towering Tramuntana Mountains, the lower slopes draped in thick forests and dotted with villages where time peels back. The coast sparkles with beaches and popular resorts, but also hidden coves and unspoilt hideaways.

Roads and rail crisscross Mallorca, all leading to Palma, a city that has emerged since my first visit in 1994 as one of Europe’s top city breaks, a year-round charmer deeply popular with Scots.

Approaching Palma’s old town, many visitors hardly notice the sturdy city walls in their rush to the landmark cathedral – don’t make the same mistake. Marvel at some of the most complete hulking city walls in Spain, to me rivalled only by Cadiz and instantly evoking that Andalusian city, reputedly Europe’s oldest. In Palma, history is writ large and it’s of the living kind, not hidden behind Perspex, or stuck in a museum.

Back to that landmark cathedral, one of Europe’s finest. It’s so associated with Antoni Gaudi, perhaps Spain’s greatest-ever architect, that many visitors presume he designed it. He didn’t dream up its vast bulk or the inside-out flying buttresses that strike up skywards.

But Gaudi did his work inside and it was brilliant work at that. Delve in and appreciate the way he brought the lines and beauty of nature into play. Appreciate, too, the recently opened “terraces” that peer over Palma – if you can make it up the 200-odd steps.

Slipping outside the cathedral, we pass the Arab Baths and the Moorish-tinged Palace de l’Almudaina, both echoing the African influence that spread here as well as much deeper into mainland Spain and still lingers on today in the southern region of Andalusia. Sometimes wandering around Palma’s old quarter, I get snatches of Cordoba and Granada.

Palma is up there these days in the city-break stakes with Barcelona, another city that has re-invented itself over the last few decades. They have much in common in addition to peering across the Med at each other on Spain’s eastern flank.

Palma’s sweeping waterfront has been reclaimed like Barcelona’s – when the cities needed more land, they just built it on. Inland the influence breezes along Palma’s La Rambla, the local version of Barcelona’s famous tree-lined Las Ramblas boulevard. Both were built along the line of diverted rivers and are integral to their respective cities today.

The National:

Not far from La Rambla is Olivar Market. Bustling with the locals through its wealth of fresh meat, fish and vegetables is a sheer joy, the same joy I feel in Barcelona’s La Boqueria and Madrid’s San Miguel Market. I have my daughters with me on this trip and they delight in exploring the stalls, snacking at the wee tapas bars as we go.

AH, good old tapas, a culinary tradition that originated in Seville. Well, it’s big in Palma, too, with lots of little tapas bars dotted around the city, especially in La Lonja district.

We tuck into creative tapas with Mexican and Italian dishes alongside the traditional garlic prawns, local cheese and jamon serrano at Chez Camille – highly recommended.

Palma mirrors Seville’s tapas culture, but also the Basque Country’s pintxo tradition. These tapas-style snacks are called montaditos here but if you’ve been to San Sebastian, you’ll instantly see the similarity with most of these snacks topping a small piece of bread.

Tenerife has superb produce and a half-dozen Michelin stars, but Palma boasts stars of its own and is up there with Tenerife for me – and actually trumps it. My favourite Michelin gastronomic temple in Palma is Marc Fosh’s eponymous restaurant, with sparkling culinary creation shining through this atmospheric old convent.

So, Palma is Spain in a nutshell, but what about the beach resorts? We were staying out at the hip Ayron Park ( at Playa de Palma, a beach strip that runs just east of the city, handy for the airport. But Palma also has a neighbour that is one of the most famous beach resorts in Europe.

Like the whole island of Mallorca, the iconic resort of Magaluf has worked hard to clean up its hard partying reputation and draw in families in recent years. It has had to with a dynamic city next door that weaves in so many different parts of Spain, a 365-day a year festival city that needed a superb beach resort next door to complete its glorious pan-Spanish tapas.

easyJet ( flies to Palma from both Edinburgh and Glasgow

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