Menorca (or Minorca) is one of Spain’s Balearic islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The beautiful sun-drenched island is far more low-key and laid back than it’s notorious party island neighbours Majorca and Ibiza, however that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to see and do on this idyllic little slice of paradise.
1. The Towns
Menorca has several beautiful historic cities and towns, including Mahon, Ciutadella and Es Castell…
Mahon (or Maó) is the capital city of Menorca and is home to the largest natural harbour in Europe. The harbour is home to several ocean-facing restaurants and the famous Xoriguer Gin Distillery.
You can embrace your inner child by exploring the town centre on the little red land train, then head down to the waterfront and jump onto a glass bottom boat for a tour of the harbour itself.
It’s also worth visiting Mercat Claustre del Carme, where the former cloisters of Carmen Church have been converted into a charming market selling groceries and souvenirs.
Ciutadella is located on the west coast of Menorca. Despite being the opposite side of the island to Mahon you can drive between the two in less than an hour. Ciutadella was previously the capital of Menorca, but this changed to Mahon during the time of British rule. To this day, Ciutadella still remains the more popular of the two for tourism thanks to the charming pastel-coloured houses, enchanting narrow streets and rich history.
The main square, Plaza de’s Born, is home to many interesting historical buildings such as the 17-century ‘Palacio Salort’ and the 19th-century ‘Palau de Torre Saura’, as well as the current Town Hall and Tourist Information Point. On Fridays and Saturdays, it hosts an open-air market.
Plaza de’s Born also overlooks the harbour and its many boats, restaurants and bars.
Es Castell is a smaller town a short distance down the coast from Mahon. Previously named Georgetown by the British, the town’s name was changed to Es Castell (The Castle) due to it’s proximity to the Castle of San Felip. Although there’s not quite as much to do here as the larger cities, Es Castell is a great place to visit for anyone with an interest in British Military History or a love of fun graffiti and colourful facades!
Es Castell is also just across the harbour from Illa da Llatzaret (Lazareto Island) at the mouth of Mahon Harbour. Opened in the early 1800’s, Lazareto was a quarantine island for those with or suspected to have infectious diseases such as the plague.
There are two walls surrounding the island stopping people from escaping or entering, as well as preventing objects from being thrown over the walls. One of the most interesting parts of the complex is the chapel. Inmates were kept in prison-like cells across from the central chapel where the priest would give mass. The wine was given to inmates using a long shovel-like object and the bread was given by catapulting it across the no-mans land so that the priest would not get infected. Lazareto is a hauntingly beautiful place to visit on a quiet day and an interesting look back at a slice of Menorcan history.
2. The Beaches
Menorca’s 216km long coastline boasts over 100 beaches, most of which look like they belong on the front of a postcard. The dramatic coastline of volcanic rock is broken up by secluded coves hiding away stretches of white sand and clear turquoise waters. Many of the beaches in Menorca have no road access so can only be reached by sea or a short hike (there are more accessible ones too).
3. The Water Sports
Kayaking around the beautiful coastline is a great way to see Menorca from a different angle and was one of the highlights of my time on the island. Especially when we were given the opportunity to dock up in a cave and jump into the crystal clear water for a spot of snorkelling.
If you fancy something a little more challenging you can opt for one of the many other watersports instead, such as scuba diving, windsurfing or paddle-boarding.
4. The Lighthouses
Lighthouses are a prominent feature of the Menorcan coastline. In fact, no matter where you are on the Island’s coast you’re probably going to be able to spot one in the distance. The impressive Favaritx Lighthouse, on the edge of the S’Albufera Nature Reserve, is a great one to visit. You could spend a good hour here stumbling around the rocky shores and capturing the perfect photo of its majestic striped tower.
5. The Food
I know that this is becoming a bit of a theme in my travel posts, but for me, food is an extremely important part of the travel experience. Trying local cuisine is a great way to get to know a new place and learn about its history and culture.
The legend goes that a lady from Mahon whipped up the sauce for a hungry French-man and this is where Mahon-aise (geddit!?) came from. Anyway, moving on…
One thing’s for sure, Menorcan’s love their cheese! So much so that cheese made on the island is protected by a Denomination of Origin status, ensuring it is produced and matured according to ancestral procedures. Mahon cheese is a soft to hard white cheese made from cow’s milk and comes in several varieties and strengths.
Pair the cheese up with some cold meat sausages, homemade bread and a small amount of honey and you’ve got yourself a traditional and delicious Menorcan snack.
Being an island, seafood is a large part of the Menorcan diet. Those who know me will know that I do not usually eat seafood, but after hearing everyone rave about how good it was I knew I had to give it a go. I’m not going to claim that I was miraculously converted into a seafood lover, however, I did quite enjoy several of the dishes, especially the garlic mussels. For those fellow non-seafood eaters out there, don’t worry, there are also many delicious meat options (or veggie) for you to try.
Hang in there, an entire post on Menorca’s best restaurants is coming to London City Calling very soon!
6. The Booze
One thing that particularly took me by surprise about Menorca is the alcohol. The unsuspecting dark horse of the Balearic Islands, Menorca has several wineries, a thriving gin industry and several amazing bars to get you into the holiday mood!
Check out my post ‘Wine, Gin and Caves You Can Drink In – An Alcoholic Guide to Menorca‘ for more information.
7. The Shoes
Sounds like a strange one but a trip Minorca isn’t complete without buying (or at least trying) a pair of their traditional avarcas sandals. Avarcas were developed in Minorca and were originally made with a leather upper part and a sole made from a recycled car tyre. Obviously, they are now designed to be lighter and more aesthetically pleasing, but they’re still extremely popular on the Island. If you visit one of the big cities such as Mahon or Ciutadella it’s difficult to miss one of the many shops selling them, and you can even pay a visit to the factory where they are made. I bought a baby blue pair and have barely taken them off since!
if you don’t have enough room in your luggage you can grab one of these cute little keyring versions instead.