The most tranquil of the Balearic Islands, Menorca was declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1993. Its 135-mile coastline is dotted with fortified baroque towns, untouched beaches, coves and ravines. The island’s green interior, meanwhile, harbours unique wetlands and ancient archaeological sites.
2,000 BC, Menorca’s pre-historic structures include tombs and sanctuaries
shaped like a horseshoe. If you only visit one site, let it be the Torre d’en
Galmés, southwest of Alaior (9am-8.30pm Tue-Sat, 9am-3pm Sun, 9am-2.30pm Mon;
A legacy of
British colonial rule (1713-1802), gin was first distilled here in the 18th
century. Buy and taste the aromatic Menorcan spirit at the Xoriguer Gin Distillery in Maó. Do as the
Menorcans do and ask for a gin con limonada, with real lemonade (Moll de
Ponent, Maó; 8am-7pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat).
the Carthaginians, Ciutadella was
Menorca’s capital until the British arrived. It has a distinctive Spanish
baroque style, embodied in the façade of the cathedral and its elaborate
churches, Església del Roser and Església dels Socors.
Natural S’Albufera des Grau is the nucleus of Menorca’s Biosphere Reserve
status. The largest freshwater lagoon in the Balearics, it is home to many
species of wetland birds (00 34 971 356303; Es Grau; 9am-6pm Apr-Oct, 9am-5pm
until 1994, the vast sandstone quarries of Pedreres de s’Hostal are now used
for summer concerts. Lithica quarry
features a charming medieval garden with a fountain (Camí Vell; 9.30am-2.30pm
and 4.30pm-sunset Mon-Sat, 9.30am-2.30pm Sun; £3.50).
Eat and drink
authentic Menorcan cuisine, the menu at Ca’s
Ferrer de Sa Font is based around meat and vegetables from the owner’s
organic farm. Dine on the patio of this 18th-century building or inside, below
beams (00 34 971 480784; Carrer del Portal de Sa Font 16, Ciutadella; lunch and
dinner Tue-Sun; mains from £8).
Café Balear is one of Ciutadella’s
classic seafood stops. Eat outside while tucking into local prawns or fish,
hauled in that day off Café Balear’s own boat (00 34 971 380005; Placa de Sant
Joan 15, Ciutadella; lunch and dinner Tue-Sun; mains from £10).
N’Aguedet serves some of the finest island cooking, with a stamp of approval
from Catalan mega chef Ferran Adrià. Dine on melt-in-yourmouth suckling pig or
wild rabbit with onion (00 34 971 375391; Carrer de Lepanto 30, Es Mercadal;
mains from £10).
don’t match at Itake . Nor do the glasses, but it doesn’t matter a jot when the
Basque menu has delightful dishes such as pato
Itake – duck in a port-based sauce (00 34 971 354570; Moll de Llevant 317,
Maó; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat, dinner Sun; three-course menu £18).
Maó’s harbour, Jàgaro is best for traditional fish and rice dishes. The menu
also features a catch of the day Try the ortiga
de mar (sea anemone) if you are feeling adventurous (00 34 971 362390; Moll
de Llevant 334, Maó; mains from £15).
Run by a
delightful couple, Residencia Oasis is a quiet place located in the heart of
Ciutadella’s historic quarter. Rooms, some without en suite bathrooms, are set
beside a spacious garden courtyard. The homely furnishings, though trim, appear
to date from the 1940s (00 34 971 382197; Carrer de Sant Isidre 33, Ciutadella;
area’s colonial past with a stay at Collingwood
House, once home to Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Nelson’s
commander-at-sea. With its maritime souvenirs and paintings of great vessels, you
could almost be in a museum (00 34 971 362700; Maó-Es Castell; from £60).
central stairs with their wrought-iron banisters at Casa Alberti to your vast room with its
whitewashed walls. Each of the six bedrooms in this 18th-century mansion is
styled with traditional Menorcan furniture, while bathrooms are contemporary
(00 34 971 354210; Carrer d’Isabel II 9, Maó; Easter-Oct; from £80).
Lluís, Biniarroca Hotel is a rambling
retreat with heavy, country architecture, terracotta tiled floors and rooms
furnished with four-poster beds. Ducks peck and sheep graze just beyond the
fence of the lovely garden (00 34 971 150059; Camí Vell 57, Sant Lluís;
Easter-Nov; from £90).
Set in open
country, two miles outside Ciutadella, Hotel
Rural Sant Ignasi is a beautiful country mansion. Each room has a sunny
Balearic colour scheme. From the Cala Morell road, take a narrow lane signed “Hotel
Rural” for one mile (00 34 971 385575; Carretera de Cala Morell s/n; from
When to go
In March and April, spring flowers brush your boots as you walk the hillsides
of the interior. In July and August, you can catch the nightly, torch-lit
historical re-enactments at Maó’s forts.
is well served with local buses operating between Maó, Fornells and Ciutadella.
However, the best way to visit the interior is to hire a car. Autos Mahon Rent hires out cars and bikes
(car/bike £30/£13 per day).
How to go
EasyJet and bmi fly to Maó Airport from
May to October. EasyJet flies from London Gatwick (£170), Manchester (£170) and
Liverpool (£230). At other times, connect with local flights via Palma de
The article 'Mini guide to Menorca, Spain' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.