The town of Sóller is near the north coast, huddled in a bowl shaped valley in the Tramuntana Mountains. There were pre-Talayot cave dwellings in Moleta Cave in the hills northwest of the town while three bronze statues were found at Sa Roca Rotja (Red Rock) on the road to Sóller Port. The Moors found that the valley climate was perfect for olive groves and they named the village Sulliar, or Valley of Gold, after the valuable olive oil. Other sources believe the name comes from the Arabic word for shell, which describes the geography of the valley.
Sóller was given to Hug IV, the Count of Ampurias, following the conquest of Mallorca by King Jaime I in 1229 and he in turn gave the village area to Ferrer de Sant Marti who built the original church of Saint Bartholomew in 1236. The townspeople spent the next 300 years improving on what the Moors had started, turning the hillsides into fertile terraces. The only drawback for the townspeople was the long drag over the hills to get their produce to market and it was a problem that would last until the 20th Century.
Mallorca became a target for pirates in the 1500s and Sóller's turn came in May 1561. Following the raid, the town was surrounded by a wall while watchtowers were built along the coast and part of the old wall can be seen by the southwest corner of the Church. The pirate raid is remembered during a fiesta every May and the week starts with the landing of the Moors in Sóller Port. The celebrations continue through to the final victory in the main square. Read the Sóller Port webpage and the Watchtowers webpage in the Organisations section to find out more.
At the end of the 18th century Napoleon's Revolution drove many French Royalists, including farmers, tradesmen, wine-growers and textile workers, to emigrate to Mallorca and many settled in Sóller. They took advantage of the valley's climate, planting orange, lemon and lime trees and regular deliveries of citrus fruits were soon being made to France.
The valley became known across France as the Jardin d'Espagne , the Garden of Spain , over the next 75-years but in 1860 pests reached the area, decimating the plantations. New farmers were forced out of business while established farmers took their money and expertise and either returned to France or headed to Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
After 30 difficult years those who had struggled on were rewarded by a new interest in citrus fruits, following the discovery of the benefits of Vitamin C.
They used their new wealth to upgrade their Majorcan style houses while returning emigrants built their houses in a Latin American colonial style.
Sóller's fortunes changed for the better when the train was opened in 1912; read the Sóller Train webpage to learn how the town benefited from this new mode of transport.
Enter Sóller by turning right off the Ma-11 onto Carrer Cetre and find the car park on the right hand side after 200m. Walk east towards the town centre, turning right at the roundabout by the fountain, and walk down Avenida de la Gran Via; you will see the grand houses built at the turn of the century. Turn left at the end, continuing towards the centre, noting the Casal de Cultura Museum in the narrow Camino de la Mar to the left.
Plaza Constitució, or Constitution Square, is at the heart of Sóller and it has a fountain in the centre while trees provide shade. Trams regularly pass through the square, making it a lively place to enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants . The parish church of Saint Bartholomew is the main feature on the square and it was rebuilt between 1688 and 1733. In 1904 Father Sebastià Maimó invited Catalan architect Joan Rubió, a student of Antoni Gaudí, to give it a modernist facade . Banco de Sóller, to the left of the church, was set up in 1889 with money deposited by the rich emigrants and it is another modernist spectacular by Joan Rubió dating from 1912.
Heading east along Calle de la Luna, we find Ca'n Prohom Inn, a 18th Century building, but the street is named after the Moon House, a 15th Century building decorated with a moon shaped bas-relief. Further on we see Ca'n Prunera, a modernist house completed in 1911, which houses the Museum of Modernism. Heading back to Constitution Square, look down Calle Hospici to the right to see the Church 'De la Sang', which was built between 1564 and 1572 on the site of an ancient chapel. There is a plaque on the wall thanking La Mare Deu de la Victoria for protecting the village during the pirate attack on 11 May 1561.
Leave Constitution Square by the street between the church and the town hall to discover Plaza d'Espanya. It was built at the end of the 19th century and enlarged in 1912 when the train station was opened. The last section of the town wall built in the wake of the pirate attack is attached to the church. Father Guillem Rotger and Father Gaspar Miro are remembered on a plaque on the church wall behind; they stopped the Moorish pirates breaking into the church during the attack. There are two focal points of Plaza d'Espanya. The monument soldiers who fought in the Spanish Civil War was erected in 1940. A tram carriage serves as the tourist information office.
The impressive railway station stands at the top of the square and it was created by converting Ca'n Mayol, a manor house from 1606, in 1912. There are plaques to Jeroni Estades Llabres, the founder of the Sóller Railway Company, and Pere Serra, who donated the items for the Pablo Picasso exhibition. There is also a collection of etchings by Joan Miró inside the station.
Check out www.sollernet.com to find out more about Sóller Town. Visit the Sóller train webpage to discover more about the train journey from Palma and the Sóller Port webpage to find out about the port.
The Balearic Museum of Natural Sciences
As you head out of Sóller, stop off at the Balearic Museum of Natural Sciences on the main Ma-11. In 1992 it was opened in Camp d'En Prohom manor house as a natural science museum dedicated to the study, and conservation of the unique flora and fauna of the Balearic Islands. The museum is a study centre for natural science projects and a centre of learning . It houses zoology, geology and botany exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, relating to the islands. Seeds of 1,700 plants unique to Mallorca are also stored at the museum.
The museum's windows have a wonderful view of the Tramuntana Mountains and the botanical gardens are immediately in front of the house. They contain a diverse array of Mediterranean shrubs and flowers, ranging from mountain to beach and from forest to desert. The 350 species of flora and fauna from the Balearic Islands are split into eight areas; fresh water, river beds, rocky shores, oak forests, mountain flora, fruit trees, vegetables and endangered species. Another area is dedicated to the Canary Isles while two others are dedicated to other Mediterranean Islands.
As you head out of Sóller, you will see the Convent of the Sacred Heart alongside the main road. It was confiscated in the 1830s under Prime Minister Medizabel's plan to raise cash to support Queen Isabel II and bring an end to the First Carlist War. The convent is now a school.
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