Soller rates alongside Palma as a ‘must-see’ for visitors to Mallorca.
Just a couple of kilometres inland from the north-west coast, cradled in a valley surrounded by the Serra de Tramuntana, the town – with a population of barely 15,000 – is a magnet for day-trippers.
Soller has cobbled streets, Modernist architecture, galleries featuring the work of Picasso and Miro – yet is just minutes away from the orange, lemon and olive groves that are such a key part of its history.
It’s also at the northern end of a narrow gauge train ride – 27 kilometres and an hour-and-a-half away from bustling Palma.
The train – Ferrocarril de Soller – has been running since 1912 and was funded by the profits from Soller’s orange and lemon trade.
It makes the journey from Palma seven times a day – five times between November and February – passing through dramatic countryside in the Serra de Alfabia, negotiating tunnels, bridges and viaducts.
There’s a spectacular view of the Soller valley at the Mirador Pujol de’n Banya, which is reached after emerging from a three-kilometre tunnel. Often the train will stop at this point, providing the opportunity for some breathtaking photographs.
On its way to Soller the train passes through orange and lemon groves, arriving at a station housed in a 17th century mansion. The station has two rooms featuring the work of Picasso and Miro – the Sala Picasso and the Sala Miro.
There’s more stunning art in the Ca’n Prunera, a modernist mansion which is now a museum of modernism – saluting the work of Miro and Picasso, plus Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Klimt, Man Ray and Cezanne. It’s one of Mallorca’s most significant galleries and it also has a section devoted to native Soller painter, Juli Ramis.
Ca’n Prunera also has a display of dolls and a garden. And there’s a collection of flowers and plants native to the Balearic Islands in the Jardi Botanic. Admission to this garden also includes the Museu Balear de Ciencies, a natural science museum offering an insight into the plant life found in the Balearics, along with an impressive fossil collection.
The steeple of the striking Esglesia de Sant Bartomeu is visible all over Soller. The church was built between 1688 and 1723 and was given a Modernist facade by Joan Rubio, whose influence can also be seen in the nearby Banco de Soller.
At the foot of a hill from the station you’ll find Soller’s main square, the Placa de la Constituticio, which is packed with bars and restaurants.
Soller may not have Palma’s boutiques, but it does have shops featuring traditional hand-crafted Mallorcan products, jewellery, paintings, ceramics, sculptures – plus drinks and ice creams made from fresh Soller orange and lemon juice.
And you’ll also find pastry shops and tapas bars, together with an array of cafes, restaurants and bars.
During the second weekend of May Soller stages Es Firo, a colourful and good-humoured re-enactment of an assault on the town by Moor pirates on May 11, 1561, which was successfully beaten off – legend has it, with the help of Ses Valentes Dones; two brave sisters who killed several pirates with the use of iron bars!
The town celebrates Sant Joan on June 23 with bonfires and dancing and on June 29 it holds the Fiesta of Sant Pere in honour of the patron saint of fishermen.
Soller’s location in the Serra de Tramuntana also makes it an ideal starting point for some spectacular walks and hikes.