Ibiza’s famous fortified Old Town is more commonly known as Dalt Villa. This jewel in the Island’s crown is an iconic and fascinating mixture of old and new cultures embracing ancient artefacts and historical sites with vibrant restaurants, bars and shops. Dalt Villa is a virtual treasure trove with over 2,500 years of the rich history of the many cultures who have called Ibiza home, and it just begs to be explored and enjoyed. From the cathedral set in the heart of the town, to its museums, monastery, the castle and its walls and breath-taking panoramic views, this stunningly beautiful town offers something for every visitor. It is not hard to see why in 1999 Dalt Villa was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Finding yourself lost in this pretty and charming corner of Ibiza is an absolute delight as Dalt Villa has an almost magical feel with entertainment and intrigue around every corner! Scattered amongst the ancient artefacts are an array of boutiques, jewellery and antique shops, Mediterranean restaurants and cool bars brought to life with twinkling fairy lights and al fresco diners relaxing whilst enjoying balcony views. In comparison, as you climb away from the tourist areas you will feel that you have stepped back in time to the real Ibiza with labyrinths of narrow cobbled streets, washing hanging from above, bougainvillea spilling from window boxes and the laughter of children playing in the streets.
When visiting Ibiza spending time in Dalt Villa is a MUST and we are delighted to be able to provide you with a short guide of how to get the best of your visit to this iconic city:
THE HISTORY OF DALT VILLA
The Phoenicians were the first inhabitants of Dalt Villa in the seventh century BC, and founded the Island’s second colony (after Sa Caleta) called ‘Ibosim’ building defensive walls around the area to protect themselves from invasion. During the second century BC, the Roman Empire claimed Ibosim as a federated city but abandoned it in the fifth century AD. Byzantines and Muslims passed through Dalt Villa and rebuilt the walls, but it was not until 1229 that the city was taken over by the Catalans.
The imposing city walls that can be seen today when visiting Dart Villa were built in the 16th century as protection from the Berber pirates supported by the Ottoman Empire. They provided six impenetrable bastions from which the city could be defended from attack. In modern times, these bastions provide the most amazing lookout points for panoramic views over the city, the sea and across to the mountains.
When visiting Dalt Villa you cannot fail to be amazed by the feeling of stepping back in time with the Roman statues, high stone walls, dramatic drawbridges and huge wooden fort doors, numerous churches and historical museums that make this city simply magical.
VISITING DALT VILLA
There is much to see and do when spending time in Dalt Villa but before we take a look at some of the highlights of this fascinating town, there is one word of advice that we must give that will (hopefully) make your visit so much better. That is to wear sensible shoes! Although Dalt Villa is small and perfectly formed there is a LOT of walking around very steep streets and stairs and you will need to be reasonably fit for some of the climbs, some places may not be suitable for people with reduced mobility
Many of the streets are cobbled and have become worn and shiny. Therefore, it is best to ensure that your chosen shoes afford good grip under foot to prevent slipping over – particularly if it has been raining!
Dalt Villa is a fascinating maze of alleys, doorways, stairs and winding paths between the main streets. It is not an easy place to re-trace your steps, so the best bet is perhaps not to try but to simply carry on and see where the next turn takes you. Generally, the streets of Dalt Villa are rather quiet and calm (although this may alter in the peak tourist season), so it is easy and pleasant to explore and there are many superb photographic opportunities.
PLACES AND EXPERIENCES THAT YOU CANNOT MISS IN DALT VILLA
- Immerse yourself in history on the battlements
Walking around the streets of Dalt Villa you will find seven battlements (translated as Baluards in Catalan) that were built to protect Ibiza from invasion over the centuries. The largest of these battlements is Baluard de Santa Lucia where in past times soldiers stood guard to protect the island against pirates and enemies and offers a superb display of cannons. Baluard de Sant Jaume has an impressive display of military technology over the ages, while Baluard de Sant Pere has an impressive audio-visual presentation. Baluard de Sant Joan appears as one of the turrets on the emblem of Ibiza Town. All baluards showcase the most spectacular views over the city of Ibiza, Ses Salines and the island of Formentera and are the perfect place for keen amateur photographers to shoot breath-taking images.
- Spend some time at the Archaeology Museum
Dalt Vila offers its visitors the choice of many museums all of which showcase the Island’s history over the centuries, which is a wonderful compliment to the many historical sites that can be visited within Dalt Villa.
The Archaeological Museum is in the same square as the Cathedral at the top of Dalt Vila. This fascinating museum offers you the chance to see nearly 3000 years of Ibizan history in just one place and is NOT to be missed. It contains many highly valuable treasures and you will see relics from Phoenician, through to Punic and Roman times, all the way to Moorish medieval objects, which chart the varied history and cultures of the island.
- Discover your inner artist and visit the Museum of Contemporary Art
This museum is in an emblematic 17th century building with over 200 years of history and it adjoins a more modern newer building via a stunning courtyard. The museum houses a permanent exhibition of over 100 paintings which are an outstanding representation of the artistic creativity that emerged in Ibiza during the 1960s. These include paintings from the famous collection of Narcis Puget Riquer and his son, Tàpies and Miralles amongst others, all of which show a fascinating insight into Ibiza over the decades. You will see a mixture of vibrant watercolours, video art, Japanese prints, poster and photography art. There is also an important collection of engravings and the museum boasts a beautiful garden which plays host to many temporary art exhibitions.
- Explore the Cathedral
The Cathedral is situated at the top of the fortified area within the walls of Dalt Villa. It dominates the square it stands on with a simple Gothic style and provides magnificent views of the sea.
Historically this area has always been a place of worship, as the first religious building in this spot was a temple by the Carthaginians in the 7th century. The cathedral that is there today was founded in the 14th century however not completed until the 16th. Inside is a mixture of Catalan Gothic style and later Valencian influences.
The agreement signed in 1234 by Guillermo de Montgrí, Peter of Portugal and Nuno Sanç, future conquerors of the islands, established that one of their first obligations to Ibiza was to create a parish dedicated to Saint Mary. This parish became a reality once the conquest was taken on, on 8th August 1235. At first, it was set up in an already existing building, possibly a Muslim mosque readapted to Christian culture. The current building owes more to the 16th century although it only became a Cathedral in the 18th century. Inside there are many works of art including two Gothic painted panels by Francesc Cornes from the 14th century. The Cathedral is steeped in history and well worth a visit.
- Chill and relax in the atmosphere in Plaza de Vila
Plaza de Vila is one of the most picturesque parts of Dalt Villa. All of the main plazas behind the walls of Dalt Vila and can be entered from the dramatic ramp through the imposing gateway of Portal de Ses Taules. On your journey you will be flanked by Roman stone statues, medieval gateways and an ancient cobbled stone courtyard which gives immediately onto the Plaza de Vila.
The Plaza de Vila has a very long and interesting history: the parade ground “La Escalera de Piedra” (the stone stairway), “el orejón” of the old Sant Joan bastion”, the fountain and many other things that are part of the history of Dalt Vila and the island of Ibiza.
At night Plaza de Vila is a cosmopolitan and highly fashionable spot. Coming to life with numerous high-quality restaurants that offer stunning terraces for dining al fresco, chic boutique shopping and performances of traditional entertainment.
- Go Medieval!
One of the favourite events of the Ibiza calendar and without doubt a highlight of the year is the Medieval Festival. This takes place at the start of May and runs over the course of a long weekend and the whole of Dalt Villa is transformed into a Medieval town. You can expect to see everything medieval including minstrels, jousting, hog roasts, falconry, fire eating, knights in shining armour, traditional crafts, artisanal goods and a plentiful supply of market stalls selling mouth-watering food which HAS to be sampled to be believed. At the Medieval Festival you will find locals rubbing shoulders with well-known DJs – this event really is not to be missed!
- Jazz it up in Dalt Villa
Since August 1989 the Eivissa Jazz Festival has been held at the Santa Lucia Battlements. Here you can enjoy jazz music stars from many established artists, rising stars and local artists under the stars. This Jazz festival is a complete contrast to the electronic dance music which dominates Ibiza during the summer months and this location really adds a new dimension to the special jazz sound.
- Let’s dance….
The International Music Summit takes place at the end of May and this event has firmly put Ibiza on the map as being a centre for music industry heads to converge and talk business.
The not to be missed part of the event which gets the locals excited is the ‘Dalt Vila Grand Finale Festival’ which takes place on the final two days of the conference in Dalt Vila. As a UNESCO site, Dalt Villa has stringent laws in place to protect the surroundings, but for one weekend only, the Baularte de Santa Lucia plays centre-stage to a one-off showcase of hot new live talent and seminal DJs. Another unmissable event and it is highly recommended that you should make sure that you are there at sunset as watching the sky turn pink and orange as a backdrop to the concerts themselves is simply magnificent.
- Fancy watching the movies under the stars?
Dalt Villa has its very own open-air cinema. Visit Cinema Paradiso to watch the latest film releases and classic titles under the stars on the rampart of Baluarte Sant Pere. Enjoy your chosen movie in the open air on a large screen seated on a comfy beanbag with drinks and popcorn in what is probably one of the most atmospheric movie screening spaces that you will ever encounter.
BEST PLACES TO DINE IN DALT VILLA
There are many first-class restaurants in Dalt Vila that offer superb dining experiences here are some of our recommendations:
Kyupiddo is an exclusive restaurant located in the luxurious top class Hotel La Torre del Canonigo. This superb location affords some of the very best views of Ibiza as it is situated in the highest part of Dalt Vila and no-one can dispute its impressive surroundings and views. This restaurant is renowned for the seaweed Tempura Octopus with garlic sauce and the most popular dessert on offer is the sparkling marine chocolates. These dishes are NOT TO BE MISSED!
El Olivo is an emblematic restaurant with a great atmosphere located in the utterly charming Plaza de Vila. A table MUST be booked in advance to avoid queues. Its Mediterranean signature cuisine is a combination of quality and good taste. The beef tataki with mango and basil sauce, the tuna tartare and the rice dishes come highly recommended. The desserts at this restaurant such as their famous ‘blood orange sorbet, brownie and mint sauce’ are spectacular, and they also offer a wide selection of wines.
The Mirador Dalt Vila is a restaurant located within a hotel steeped in history – the Colonial House of 1905. This hotel has stunning views of the Port of Ibiza and the rest of the city. It is an ideal place to have a good breakfast since you can enjoy it in a gorgeous outdoor patio delimited by walls. The cuisine of this much lauded restaurant showcases Ibiza’s finest gastronomy. The fish and seafood dishes are highly recommended as they are always freshly made and prepared with local products. Best of all is its wine bar, a room where you can choose between a wide variety of wines and champagnes from across Spain.