Castell de Bellver

At one point in time, the number of Spain castles totaled more than 10,000, but today, the number of remaining castles in Spain is approximately 2,500. As the troops of Isabel and Ferdinand took over Spain, the country increasingly relied on castles as a defense mechanism. The condition of castles in Spain varies today, but regardless of that fact, they represent an important part of Spain’s history and indicate a need for protection during war.

One of the most distinct castles in Spain is Castell de Bellver, known for its uniquely circular form, imposing defensive exterior, and regal interior. King James II of Mallorca ordered the castle’s construction in 1300, and meant for it to serve as both a military fortress and a Gothic palace. Castell de Bellver has three large towers, a central courtyard, and other unique features displayed in its architecture. Some of the stone used in the castle was taken from rock quarries 40 to 60 meters below the castle.

True to its name (Bellver means “lovely view” in ancient Catalan), Castell de Bellver offers visitors one of the best views available of the city of Palma de Mallorca and the bay of Palma. The castle is located on a hill not far from the center of Palma. Although it is approximately 700 years old, Bellver Castle is very well maintained among the many Spain castles.

More of Bellver Castle’s history was spent as a military prison than as a royal residence. Prisoners were held here during the War of the Spanish Succession and in the Spanish Civil War. Even as recently as the 1950s, prisoners were incarcerated for their role in the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 - 1939. One of the most famous prisoners to come from castles in Spain was Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, who wrote many famous works during his imprisonment at Bellver Castle.

The role of the castle today has changed from military prison and royal residence to popular tourist attraction. The central government ceded control of Bellver Castle and the woods around the castle to the Palma Council with the requirement that an antique art museum be installed there.

Visiting the museum provides a fantastic opportunity to examine Palma’s history through artifacts and beautiful pottery. Most pieces in the museum were discovered during archaeological excavations. In addition to housing the museum, the Palma Council uses Bellver Castle for cultural and protocol activities.

The best way to experience the castle starts with a walk around the moat. Then, move to the top of the castle and gaze down to the patio area to see magnificent architecture. Bellver Castle is open daily for visitors all year long. A small admission fee is required. The museum is closed on Sundays and public holidays. To reach the Castell de Bellver, take a car or taxi, or ride the bus to Placa Gomila and walk through the pine woods past a chapel to see this incredible piece of Palma de Mallorca’s history.

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