Destination Guide: Menorca
Menorca isn’t your typical Balearic island. Yes, just like Ibiza, this destination offers nightlife galore; but the scene centers on stylish jazz venues and bars carved into cliffs rather thanmegaclubs with A-list DJs. Menorca also has beach resorts, like Mallorca; but here they’re smaller, more personal, and – according to some – more attractive. It’s also more laid-back than its island neighbors, enticing all of its visitors to enjoy the finer things in life. Here, the cheeses are hand-made, the gins potent, and the beaches sun-drenched. Visit Menorca and you’ll swiftly be wowed by its secluded coastline and gorgeous landscapes, and start wondering why this is less famous than the other Balearics.
Its two cities lie on opposite sides of the island and have similarly opposing characters, too. Ciutadella, in the west, is more Spanish in character, with pedestrianized streets and sleepy plazas to transport you to a different era of the island’s history. Nearby, you’ll find the mysterious megalithic tomb known as Navetad’EsTudons. This boat-shaped building predates even the ancient Talayotic culture of Menorca, making it one of the oldest sites in the Balearics.
Ciutadella was replaced as the Menorcan capital by Mahón, which still bears the marks of British occupation and features several elegant mansions overlooking its large natural harbor. Take time in Mahón to visit the Museum of Menorca and Ca n’Oliver to learn about the island’s history. In the evenings, enjoy a concert in the Teatro Principal or head to the harbor for cocktails and boat rides. Fit in a late dinner at a family-run taverna and feast on caldetera de llagosta, a lobster stew that’s a local specialty.
Hire a car or ride one of the local (and charmingly slow-moving) buses to one of the island’s countless beaches. Punta Prima is one of the more popular stretches of shoreline,with visitors drawn to its fine sand and calm waters. A little bit of exploring rewards the intrepid traveler. EsGrau and CalaPresili, located in the beautiful S’Abulfera des Grau Natural Park, are enticingly quiet beaches, while destinations on the southern coast, such as CalaenTurqueta and CalasCovas, feature some of the island’s most dramatic scenery.
Time your trip to coincide with one of the island’s numerous festivals. Each town has its own feast days for patron saints, but the Our Lady of Grace Festival is a particular highlight. You’ll get to witness horses dancing on their hind legs, live musical performances, and fireworks lighting up the night sky. The Menorcan gin will flow freely, the food will be plentiful, and the atmosphere will be electric.
Top Three Attractions in Menorca
The natural bay area of central Mahón, Menorca’s capital, offers an enchanting look at the city’s architecture and character. Explore it by boat, drifting around the harbor on one of the numerous excursions that run every day, or wander around it on foot. There are numerous attractions worthy of attention lining the waterfront. The Museum of Menorca, hosted in a Franciscan monastery, traces the story of the island from its ancient Talayotic roots through to the present day. Learn about Menorca’s colorful past before heading to the Xoriguer Gin Distillery to sample the island’s most potent and popular export.
Parc Natural s’Abulferad’EsGrau
This natural park is one of the most scenic corners of Menorca, situated just a short drive from Mahón. Menorca is a UNESCO-protected biosphere, but you’ll find most of the island’s wildlife packed into this nature reserve on the northern coast. Follow the hiking trails and bring your binoculars to watch for eagles soaring above the lakes and tortoises sunbathing on exposed rocks. It’s an amazingly diverse landscape, with wetlands, agricultural fields, forests, and cliffs characterizing the scenery here. Everything in s’Albuferad’EsGrau remains blissfully undeveloped, so if you stumble across one of its beaches, such as EsGrau or CalaPresili, you can relax by the shores of the Mediterranean in total peace.
A converted mansion in the heart of Mahón hosts one of the island’s finest museums. The house itself is an attraction, a 19th-century stately home with elegant, open staircases, and impressive painted ceilings. Today it hosts a collection of artworks and historical displays, as well as spaces for temporary exhibitions. Visit to learn about the history of Mahónthrough multimedia exhibits on topics such as local families and the language of Menorquín. Once you’ve exhausted its engaging galleries, head to the top of the mansion for some of the best views of Mahón and the surrounding landscape.