Sun, sea and significantly less sangria – why there’s more to Magaluf than its partying reputation (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
Sat on a low-slung deck chair at the Momentum Plaza, I can feel the sun beating down strongly on me.
In one hand, I have a large glass of chilled pale rose, in the other is a hearty chunk of fried calamari, with plenty of garlic aioli, plucked from the plate in front of me.
People of all ages walk past, finely dressed in designer gear, excitedly speaking in Spanish as they head to the beach. To the right of me is a platform, with a woman performing passionate slam poetry to an enraptured audience.
It could be a scene straight out of one of the more arty corners of Barcelona, or a shot from the picturesque and romantic Seville – but it’s not. I’m actually in Magaluf – the infamous strip just seconds from the plaza where I’m reclining.
The much-maligned Magaluf has undergone a significant shift in more recent years. Its somewhat dingy reputation precedes it. Once nicknamed ‘Shagaluf’, famous for sangria swilling and sex-mad sunburned Brits abroad, the town’s name prompts nightmarish images of fresh-faced teenagers enjoying their first taste of freedom away from their parents’ prying eyes.
Magaluf is perhaps petter known for its bustling nightlife (Picture: JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)
It was during the tourist boom of the 60s and 70s that Magaluf earned its party capital status, after Spain rejuvenated its struggling economy by marketing its sandy beaches and warm climate to sun worshippers looking to pick up a cheap package holiday. It was successful: the rapid growth brought the hoteliers substantial profit and plentiful jobs for locals, giving the once small town immense added value.
However, quantity soon outstripped quality, and Majorca’s delicate landscapes were mutilated by ugly tower blocks offering rooms at rock-bottom prices. Its sandy beaches became hotspots for rowdy bars and greasy spoons, with cheap food and ever-cheaper drinks.
Now, efforts are being made to move away from the stereotype it has been tarred with over the decades, with Spanish authorities looking to rebrand Magaluf as a thriving, cultural hotspot. Drawcards once inextricably linked to the resort – extensive happy hours, dirt-cheap drinks deals, pub crawls and party boats – are now forbidden. There’s also a moratorium on buying booze from shops between 9.30pm and 8am, to make it just that bit more difficult for people to become inebriated on cheap alcohol before hitting the strip.
The newly built Momentum Plaza is part of the major regeneration project for Magaluf (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
Magaluf’s dingiest bars have also now been shut down by authorities. An increased police presence serves as a deterrent to the debauched behaviour that made Magaluf infamous.
But that’s not to say Spain wants to stop the town from being an appealing tourist destination. Still substantially cheaper than other European resorts, locals are now hoping to entice a more family-friendly crowd. Sol Katmandu, a hotel-cum-theme park, has opened in more recent years to appeal to those with young children. Meanwhile, peak season has been extended far beyond A-Level results week, with authorities hoping this added time will give tourists the opportunity to explore the resort’s many museums, or hike in Majorca’s picturesque mountains.
The Momentum Plaza, where I found myself resting in the sun, is at the heart of Magaluf’s regeneration project. Melià Hotels, who constructed the plaza and the numerous restaurants and shops surrounding it, has ploughed over £300 million into the area in a bid to draw in a different sort of tourist. Among the luxury properties they’ve constructed is the INNSiDE Calviá Beach, which served as my home during my short three-day stay. The low-rise four-star hotel features two towers connected by a rooftop infinity pool, with views towards the beaches. The rooms are clean, crisp and comfortable, with soft white double beds and modern, chic white décor – a far cry from the neon-tinged signs and faded, dated tower blocks that carve into Magaluf’s landscapes.
The rooms at INNSiDE Calviá Beach are crisp, clean and comfortable (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
The hotel boasts a rooftop restaurant to enjoy seafood and wine as you overlook sandy white beaches (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
The rooftop infinity pool is another big draw for holidaymakers (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
The hotel’s rooftop pool is home to the Shallow Sun Club, which serves as a restaurant and bar, but distinctly without any Sex on the Beach served in fishbowls. Seafood is the Shallow Sun Club’s speciality – making use of the area’s local, fresh produce. Guests are free to sample oysters and numerous delicacies while overlooking Magaluf’s sandy white beaches.
INNSiDE Calviá Beach is also home to Magaluf’s annual literary festival – Festival de Literatura Expandida – which first launched in 2021 and now attracts big name authors and poets from all across the literary world.
Last year’s event included the reclusive Fight Club novelist Chuck Palahnuik, the New Yorker’s Elif Batuman and How to Build a Girl writer, Caitlin Moran.
Plan your cultured excursion
Dive into Majorca with a Magaluf getaway (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
SEE: Looking to see more of Majorca? This tour takes you round the island on their famed wooden train, rocketing you up to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Tramuntana mountain range. The tour then swaps land for sea with a boat trip to La Calobra Cove for some cave diving, and an excursion to the Torrent de Pareis, a narrow mouth of a torrent between two cliffs.
EAT: The legendary Nikki Beach, which opens between April and October, serves up some of the best seafood Magaluf has to offer. The Koh Sanui Tuna Tartare, served up with avocado cream and baby ginger, is a fresh and playful little dish – without a single french fry in sight.
PARTY: If you want to let your hair down in Magaluf but don’t fancy some of the resort’s infamous superclubs, give Stereo bar a try. One of the more high-end options on the Punta Ballena strip, Stereo is best known for its handcrafted cocktails and VIP service, while still offering sets by world-renowned DJs and unmissable performances. Perfect for a leisure lover who wants a night out without compromising on quality.
Speaking to Caitlin at the Shallow Sun Club, the day before she’s scheduled to give her talk, she says how beautiful she finds the island.
‘I’ve never been here before,’ she explains, saying she would be more than happy to return for a relaxed long weekend with her two teenage daughters and her husband when she’s not working. ‘It’s so much cheaper than our usual visits to Greece, and it’s so gorgeous.’
The rooftop bar also sees DJs and other speakers in evenings (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
Momentum Plaza also offers lots of eateries and bars if you’re looking for an evening out (Picture: INNSiDE Calviá Beach)
I raise my eyebrows – if North London media types are genuinely considering an unironic venture to Majorca with their families, maybe Magaluf truly has shed its seedy reputation.
But then, Caitlin keeps talking.
‘I saw a t-shirt saying “I heart muff” from a vendor just down the road,’ she laughs. ‘I was tempted to wear it to my talk tomorrow. Because what’s more feminist than that?’
So, despite the mammoth efforts to rejuvenate the area, the yesteryears of Magaluf still linger like the taste of aniseed the morning after a late night fuelled by sambuca shots. The resort will always appeal to revellers and ravers looking for a good time on a small budget. Even the more dated clubs were still busy, with youngsters queuing up to see DJs playing thumping dance music till the small hours.
But the hugely visible presence of the Spanish authorities roaming the streets means there’s far less trouble from punters. I didn’t find myself having to shake off too many rowdy, leering men, or dodge rogue pools of vomit the next morning.
It’s going to take some time for Magaluf’s regeneration project to attract the typically more cultured tourist – but it’s certainly taken significant steps to shed its party hard status. If you’re looking for a cheap getaway to sip wine by sandy white sands, you could do a lot worse than Magaluf.
Flights from London to Palma from £35 return, easyjet.com. Rooms start at INNSiDE Calviá Beach for £93.96