The Balearic island of Mallorca, in the Western Mediterranean, attracts a list of exclusive visitors that include the Spanish royal family and international celebrities such as Claudia Schiffer, Annie Lennox, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas. Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly also spent part of their honeymoon on this beautiful and historic island.
Mallorca’s Castillo Hotel Son Vida opened its palatial doors more than 50 years ago. It has remained the place de rigueur to host Heads of State, members of the nobility, and jet-setter celebrities.
The hotel’s noble history dates back to the 13th century, but the castle’s name is mentioned for the first time in 1518, when Mateu Vida acquired the land—which at the time was a farm—set on a privileged location in the outskirts of Palma, with stunning views of the bay. The Vida family is well known for accumulating an immense fortune since the days of the conquest of the island. At the turn of the century (1900-1905), and after a historic revolt, the Marquis de la Torre renovated the castle as a gift to his wife, Magdalena Villalonga. The result was a stately villa that looked like a castle worthy of the Iberian nobility.
The 1961 opening of the hotel was attended by more than 400 personalities of high esteem, politicians, and entrepreneurs. The event was held on the terrace, which soon achieved international praise for its incredible views.
The royal families of Spain, Monaco, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and the Middle East have chosen the hotel as an ideal vacation retreat, elegant and private. Castillo Hotel Son Vida has also been a perfect getaway for a number of artists. Pedro Almodóvar, Anthony Quinn, Steve McQueen, David Niven, Michael Caine and Yehudi Menuhin are some of the celebrities who have stayed in these luxurious rooms.
The hotel was featured in Tony Richardson´s 1969 film Laughter in the Dark, starring Anna Karina; Brigitte Bardot was photographed here with husband Gunther Sachs; and Truman Capote, Montserrat Caballé, Julio Iglesias, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Sting have also visited the hotel through the years.
But Son Vida is much more than a celebrity lookout. It has had its share of historic encounters. Spanish President Felipe González and Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky met Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi in Mallorca to discuss issues of international significance in 1984, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also stayed at the hotel in 1982 to hold an important press conference.
And who can forget the times when the Christina O was docked at Mallorca’s harbor with Greek Tycoon Aristotle Onassis, the immortal diva Maria Callas, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco on board. Onassis gave an exquisite reception at the hotel. Many still remember how, at the end of the night, the hosts broke out into an impromptu quartet with Elsa Maxwell at the piano, Prince Rainier in percussion, and Callas and Onassis at the microphone belting out old Greek songs.
The hotel’s impressive gastronomy has received top credits from the culinary industry, as well as from the most discerning guests. On one occasion, King Hassan II of Morocco, delighted by the menu, personally invited the chef to his suite and asked for the recipe of the sea bass in orange sauce he had eaten earlier.
His Majesty Prince Rainier of Monaco was the first to tee off at the Son Vida Golf Club (the first built on Mallorca), which continues to be one of the island’s best.
The hotel is decorated with an eclectic mixture of artworks and is surrounded by a subtropical garden with amazing views of the Bay of Palma. Of the 164 rooms in this 5-star establishment, there is one that stands out: the Loewe Suite, decorated by Enrique Loewe. ■