The village of Santa Maria del Camí boasts more than just a Sunday Market and the chameleon-like ability to be at once typically Spanish in its austerity and also typically Spanish in its liveliness. With just under 7;000 inhabitants, this not-so-sleepy town has loads to offer visitors and locals year round.
Easy Access to Santa Maria #
With its rural-village charm, it’s hard to believe Santa Maria is only 20 minutes (roughly 20km northeast) from Palma. As Palma’s suburbs melt away into bucolic countryside, and amazing views of the Tramuntanas, you find yourself breathing a little easier and relaxing a little more.
The drive on the motorway is easy from most points on the island, and is just a few minutes off the Ma-13. Parking, always tricky in these small towns, is not a serious problem here. There are abundant spaces in town, and three large car parks just on the edges of the of the village, making parking a snap, even on market day.
If you’re staying in Palma or along the train line, the trains are reliable, inexpensive and run regularly year-round to the village. In fact, all the train lines to and from Palma stop here, making it a seriously convenient destination.
Once here, nothing is too far, and walking is the easiest way to get around. As it’s fairly flat, even those who dislike that mode of transport shouldn’t have trouble, especially as there are plenty of bars and cafes to stop into to give tired feet a rest.
Historically Speaking #
The original Arab name given to Santa Maria was Mauia, meaning “Stop on the Wayside”. It was a major crossroad for people travelling on the island as early as the 10th century. Much of the town as we know it today was built from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Rumour has it from local old-timers that it was primarily a place for farm hands to live in the days of the large working fincas. This may or may not be the case, but it is true there is a long history of wine making in the area. Lying on a flat, sun drenched plain, Santa Maria is ideal for grape growing and has been a producer and exporter since the 18th century.
Local Attractions #
If grapes are your thing, you’re in luck. Santa Maria has several producers who are more than happy to let you sample their offerings. The biggest is Macia Batle (maciabatle.com), which has regular tours and a nice selection of wines. Its modern facilities are on-site and the tasting room is large enough to comfortably accommodate the many tourists who come most days in summer.
There are also vast expanses of almond and carob trees, the former coming into bloom and perfuming the air in February/March when the rest of Europe is pining for spring. These three crops still form much of the local economy of the town.
The dramatic Parish Church, built between 1718 and 1756, boasting a stunning blue-tiled roof, carved doors and ornate entrance, is an excellent example of local Baroque architecture. It sits just off the Plaça Nova, where the Sunday market is and is just across from the pathway leading to the Town Hall, another 17th century must-see.
Markets and Shopping #
The Food Market
8am – 2pm, Sunday
If you’re in the market for a market, Mallorca has no shortage. And if you’ve even casually researched the local farmers' markets here on the island, Santa Maria’s comes up again and again. Held every Sunday, rain or shine, it’s more akin to a Provençal market than a typical farmer’s market. Along with the usual abundant fruits and vegetables, there are exquisite cheese and charcuterie sellers, textiles for miles, leather goods, and even a guy who sets up a chair in the organic section (Yes! A whole section devoted to organic goods!) and does a form of massage therapy so intense, some of his clients actually pass out on the pavement.
(Window) Shop Till you Drop #
For those who love a good window shop, Villa Wesco and Living Dreams, are in walking distance of each other on the high street. Villa Wesco (villa-wesco.com) converted a villa and its garden into a magnificent showroom space housing both indoor and outdoor furniture, kitchenware, home decor and accessories for miles. It's a destination in and of itself and an enjoyable way to spend an hour after the Sunday market and before lunch. Living Dreams (livingdreams.ch) is a combination lifestyle store and restaurant, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone.
In addition, there is an American style outlet mall 7 minutes to drive and one train stop away. They’ve got serious brands like Ralph Lauren, Diesel, G-Star, Nike, Vans, and Sunglass Hut, not to mention a massive cinema, loads of restaurants, a karting arena, and even a little play park for younger visitors. This may not be a big deal for some, but to those of us who’ve lived in the hinterland, this little bit of organised shopping goes a long way.
Food & Drink #
All that walking and exploring tends to make one rather peckish. Santa Maria has an array of restaurants to choose from. Here are a few:
Fellini, on the high street, has top drawer pizza and pastas, plus a friendly, attentive staff all for extremely reasonable prices. The interior is slightly bizarre, but it adds to the charm. They’re open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and they do take-away pizza.
Carrer Bernardo de Santa Eugenia 30, 07320 Santa Maria
With a name like La Bodeguita Argentina, you expect there to be meat...lots of it. This casual haunt with a fab summer terrace won’t disappoint. They do a decent paella, too!
Carrer Marquès de la Fontsanta 43, 07320 Santa Maria
C'an Barry has an adorable courtyard for al fresco eating on warm winters days and balmy summer evenings. They have an all-you-can-eat ribs deal that can’t be beat. They also have lovely fish dishes.
Carrer Marquès de la Fontsanta 40, 07320 Santa Maria
Living Dreams takes high-end rustic to another level. The main restaurant is in a gorgeous garden setting and is one of the few places in Santa Maria where you can rock your glad rags. The food is lovely and the staff very professional. They also have a more casual terrace in the front where locals gather for coffee or cava.
Plaça Hostals 19, 07320 Santa Maria
Moli de Torrent, set in an old stone windmill, is an experience. The stone floors and elegantly set tables contrasting the fabulously eclectic art collection make for a tasteful setting, the outdoor terrace is gorgeous and the food sublime. It’s a wonderful date night or special occasion place, even in winter.
Carretera de Bunyola 75, 07320 Santa Maria
C'an Cannoli has good Italian at a good price. They, too, have an outdoor seating area that gets busy in summer, but even in winter they are buzzy. The interior is a bit kitschy, but the servers are super nice and once you’ve had a glass of wine and a slice of the heavenly pizza, you won’t be noticing that at all!
Plaça Hostals 26, 07320 Santa Maria
There are also many cafes dotted around the village. Places easy to drop into for a glass of wine and a bocadillo. You’ll likely be sitting with a mix of well-heeled ladies and gents and tough looking municipal workers. It's that kind of place. Everyone seems to rumble along quite well, and there are always people stopping at tables to give an old friend or neighbour a quick “hello”.
Let's Get Physical #
For the more sporty set, the village is also a well-known stop on the many cycling circuits crisscrossing the island. Most days of the week, the cafes along the high street are filled with cyclists stopping for a quick snack and a coffee before taking on the climb into the Tramuntana Mountains.
Hiking is also a popular pastime. There is a lovely hike between Santa Maria del Cami and the remote mountain village of Orient. This takes walkers through the Coanegra Valley passing by such must-see beauty spots as the Son Pou Avenc Cave and the Es Freu Waterfall. Walking the entire circuit can be challenging, so it’s not recommended for beginners, but the start of the walk is along a beautiful pathway and is mostly flat, making it perfect for walkers of every level. Dogs are welcome, too!
There is also a municipal centre, Camp Municipal d’Esports Antoni Gelabert, whose facilities include a football field and basketball courts, for clubs of all ages.
Living in Santa María del Camí #
Whilst the bells and whistles are what makes Santa Maria unique, it's the everyday stuff that makes it convenient. The village is pretty full service for being the size it is. One important feature is the hospital, Centre Mèdic Santa Maria. Having a clinic in walking distance is a big draw, and though it’s not a massive facility, its staff is professional and able to handle emergencies day or night.
For parents, there are schools to choose from as well. There are the local government schools, the Montessori School of Mallorca (montessorimallorca.org), and the new private school, The Orange Tree, on the outskirts of the village.
In addition, there are major appliance shops, car mechanics, local textile makers, seamstresses, two huge pharmacies, multiple hair salons (many offering spa treatments), several vets, a gym, an English-speaking dance, theatre, music and yoga studio for adults and kids (zebrastudios.es), supermarkets, several bakeries, a proper butcher, laundromats... you get the picture.
If you’re interested in settling here, having amenities in the neighbourhood are certainly handy. But what about the cost of living? Well, Santa Maria is one of those places that can best be described as up and coming. New businesses are opening and more expats are moving in. But right now, it is still a very local village. The prices vary wildly. There are deals to be had for sure. 2-3-bedroom flats in the centre of town can go for around €200,000. If you’re not afraid of a project, or you want a house built exactly the way you want it, there are a fair number of village houses in disrepair going for €300,000-€500,000, and a small selection of move-in ready houses starting from €370,000.
Charm Factor #
If you’re looking for a charming place poised to be “the next big thing,” take a look at Santa María del Camí.
By Stephanie Horsman
14 February, 2019