Bellver Castle is one of the most emblematic and visited places on the island of Majorca and during your visit to Palma de Mallorca, you simply can’t miss it.
The castle has been the home of kings and royal families for years, a refuge from the plague epidemics, a military fortress during the Revolt of the Brotherhoods, a military prison and some of the visitors say that it is haunted as well.
Where the name comes from
The only existing circular castle in Spain, one that watches over the city of Palma de Mallorca and the Mediterranean Sea, is located approx. 112 metres above sea level. The great view of the Mallorcan capital and bay of Palma, surrounded by scented pine woods, gave it its name, bell ver which literally means in old Catalan Bella Vista – beautiful views.
Bellver Castle is one of the stops on the route on the open top bus tour – Palma City Sightseeing. There are many ways to get there, but the most interesting is to walk up through the beautiful scenery of mediterrean woods. The 360-degree panorama from mountains of the Serra Tramuntana, including the Bay of Palma and view of the city is really worth this walk.
The history of the Bellver Castle
When visiting the castle, every detail takes you back to medieval times. It’s a really impressive monument gem of the Balearic Islands.
The beginning of the construction of the Bellver Castle dates from the early 14th century, at the order of King James II of Majorca. The main part of the fortification was built by architect Pere Salvá.
The Bellver Castle was built in a gothic style but its main characteristic is more original. The castle’s plan, a circular floor with round towers attached and with the large towers surrounding a central courtyard connected by an arch to a free standing keep.
To get an idea of how peculiar this is in a fortification we are facing the only castle in all of Spain with a circular shape, and of the few in all of Europe this is the oldest of them all.
It was constructed following the patterns of the royal residences, and until the XVIII century, that was its use (for Kings Jaime II and Jaime III). However, it’s interesting to observe how there are defensive elements that make you think that maybe it wasn’t only a palace, taking into consideration its strategic position at the top of a hill.
It was in 1717 when it was converted into a military prison. One of the most illustrious prisoners housed in the castle was the Minister of Finance and Justice (under the reign of Charles IV) Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, due to the political turmoil at the time.
However, his years in prison were not in vain, as he commissioned the first plans and drawings of the Bellver Castle, as well as a botanical and geological description of the surrounding pine forest, laying out the groundwork for what became a cultural heritage.
Bellver Castle was used as a prison until the 20th century.
Another curious fact concerning its use as a building is that in 1821 it was temporarily converted into the currency factory of Mallorca.
In 1931, the castle and the forest that surrounds it were delegated by the State to the City of Palma, which founded the first city history museum in it.
During the Spanish civil war, it was newly used as a prison for the republicans, and in its vicinity shooting occurred.
If you know these details, walking through the forest can become a moment to reflect.
Is the Bellver Castle haunted?
Some visitors confess that they have heard whisperings or grunts in the Bellver Castle especially in one peculiar place – Homage Tower.
The suffering prisoners
One of the towers is more separated from the others and is called Torre de l’Homeage (Homage Tower). Inside, in the dark dungeon, there is the place called “Olla” – the pot, where numerous prisiones who passed through were left to swelter in the summer heat or freeze to death in winter.
Even today you can find marks made by prisiones.
The Legend of The Witch Joana
In medieval times, one Mayor, abandoned his wife and newborn daughter. They were wandering around in Bellver Woods for a long time and the daughter got older and very beautiful.
One day she met her father. He didn’t know she was his daughter, he fell in love with her and kidnapped her to take her to the castle where he raped her. She, feeling dishonered, commited suicide.
Her mother was desperate and resorted to witchcraft to get her daughter back, selling her soul to the devil. One week later came a knight who killed the Mayor. The anguished woman because of the death of her beloved daughter and husband stayed living in a cave covered by a dead fig tree, just a little below the Castle of Bellver where she dedicated herself to witchcraft. Her name was Joana.
Castle Bellver exhibitions
The castle has three permanent exhibitions:
- Urban evolution of Palma. A review from Balearic prehistory up until current days showing how the actual city is constructed. In the first room of the exhibit a film is offered showing interesting details about Palma´s history.
- Collection Despuig. This is an exposition situated on the main floor of the castle consisting of sculptures created by the Palma native artist Antoni Despuig, a sponsor of artists and assiduous Balearic intellectual circles.
- Jovellanos Room. It was 6 years that the minister Jovellanos spent in captivity in the Castle of Bellver. This room contains biographical documents of the intellectual that help decipher fragments of his memoirs at the Castle of Bellver (1805).
Access To The Castle Of Bellver
Despite being located at a high point, at present access to the castle is not difficult, as there is a large parking area located a few metres from the castle.
If you choose to go up by bus, the tourist bus 50 has a stop at the castle. There is also the option to arrive using public buses, but the downside is that they stop at the foot of the hill, so you will have to ascend on foot to the castle. No doubt the most comfortable option to get to the castle is by car.
As for visiting hours, it is very important to keep in mind that Mondays are closed and on Sundays – free admission and holidays the castle is only open from 10 am to 3pm.
When visiting by car, go up Camilo Jose Cela street until you reach the castle’s parking area, where there is always plenty of parking space. You will also find lockers there.
The 50 EMT bus will also take you up to the castle. Other Palma EMT lines like numbers 3, 20 and 46 will drop you off at an approx. 20 min. walk from the castle.
Any time is good to visit, but we recommend sunrise or sunset.
April to September:
- Mondays closed
- Tuesday to Saturday: 10am-7pm,
- Sundays and holidays: 10am-3pm
October to March
- Mondays closed
- Tuesday to Saturday: 10am-6pm,
- Sundays and holidays: 10am-3pm
- General: 4€
- Reduced: 2€ (pensioners, 14-18 years old, youth card, public institution)
- FREE – children under 14 years, Sundays to all visitors
Guided tours are offered.
For more information we recommend you check their website.