With over 5 ½ million visitors every year, the sleepy island of Menorca is a haven of tranquillity for tourists all year round and an ideal retreat for those craving peaceful pleasures away from the busy mainland of Spain. Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Spain, Menorca, literally translated as 'minor island', is one of the lesser populated of the Balearic Islands. Perfect for sun worshippers, Menorca’s coastline boasts over 200 km of beautiful sandy beaches, but for the adventurous there is also plenty to explore, and the island is a site of great cultural, architectural and historical interest.

In 1231 Menorca became an independent Islamic state, but at the end of the 13th century the Arragonese invaded and most of the island’s Muslim inhabitants were sold as slaves. In the 18th century Menorca was conquered by the British navy, but after several defeats and further attempts at invasion the island was eventually given over to Spain in 1802, by the treaty of Amiens, and Menorca has belonged to Spain ever since.

Menorca bears witness to both its Islamic and Christian ruling and its noteworthy architecture is testimony to centuries of foreign invasion. Today, however, Menorcans are known for their peaceful way of life and, outside of the capital, there is little traffic anywhere on the island. Whilst the island’s main towns breed a cosmopolitan vibe, there is also plenty of the traditional on offer, and there is no doubt that Menorca will seduce anybody who affords it a visit.


Menorca is a treasure trove of interesting attractions, both natural and man-made and its winding streets and ancient ruins captivate tourists today, just as they captivated artists in the nineteenth century, who found in Menorca the idyllic beauty and picturesque views they craved.

Menorca’s main town is the ancient walled city of Mao, also called Mahon, which lies at the end of an enchanting 3-mile long natural harbour. The harbour is one of the island’s most attractive sites and home to La Mola, a fortress that lies at the north end of the harbour, from which stunning views of the east end of the island can be captured. Boat tours of the harbour are popular with visitors, offering the privilege of absorbing Menorca’s natural beauty from the water and frequent glass-bottom boat rides around the island provide spectacular viewings of the Mediterranian Sea. In the centre of the Mao is Es Freginal, an attractive park and gardens, ideal for taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the shops of Mao, and which in the summer provides a base for the summer jazz festival and a plethora of musical and cultural events.

Menorca bears witness to the attempts of colonisation by the British and French, not least through its gin, introduced to the island by Englishmen in the eighteenth century. Menorcan gin is famed across Spain and is popular for its distinctive taste, derived from the juniper berries that are mixed with the spirit in the distilleries. The Xoriguer Gin Distillery is on Mao’s harbour front and is well worth a visit, offering free samples of gin and demonstrations of the distilling process.

In contrast to the commercial port of Mao, the second main town on the island is Ciutadella, a charming example of Menorca’s heritage, boasting ancient churches, monuments and narrow streets, begging to be explored. During the middle ages, Ciutadella was the trading capital of the island, and today it still maintains its medieval charm. There is an array of seventeenth century buildings located in Ciutadella’s old town, built in the Italian style, most notably its Town Hall, which was once the palace of Menorca’s Arab governor before Christian rulers recaptured the island.

There is an array of monuments across the island that date back to the Talaiotic era, and most notable is the Naveta des Tudons, a Bronze burial chamber which revealed over 100 corpses in an excavation in the 1950’s. Perhaps the finest ancient sites, however, are the Cales Coves, a labyrinth of manmade prehistoric caves, which are thought to have their origins as far back as the 9th century BC. Home to the first Neolithic settlers the caves are hidden from the open sea and made the ideal base for sea raids, a secret pathway over the cliffs making a quick retreat possible if the lair was discovered. Today the caves are as much a hideaway as they were in the 9th century, providing retreat for hippies and backpackers, and they are a must see for any visitor looking to explore the hidden nooks and ancient history of the island.


Mao, the island’s capital, is the commercial centre of the island and its shops teem with pottery, jewellery, antiques and other souvenirs. Mao and Ciutadella are worth visiting chiefly for their markets, however, and both towns play host to a selection of daily food markets, as well as twice weekly open air markets, selling leather goods, crafts and clothing.

Pottery is the dominant craft on the island and there are workshops along the harbour front, and across the island, that have resurrected original methods of manufacture and which offer demonstrations, as well as having replicas of traditional clay artefacts for sale.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Cooking is an important part of Menorcan culture and there are plenty of restaurants around the island that offer typical Menorcan cuisine. The traditional Menorcan dish is Caldereta de Langosta, a seafood stew and, as with all islands, seafood in various forms is in plentiful supply. Tapas is also readily available, as are filled crusty rolls known as Bocadillos, which are a traditional lunchtime snack. For those on a budget it is worth noting that Menorcan restaurants are considerably cheaper at lunchtime, but most restaurants offer cost-effective evening set menus as well as fuller menus if requested.

There is a wide range of bars and clubs to suit all tastes in Menorca, the majority of which are in Mao and Ciutadella. In the area of Anden Poniente, situated along the harbour front there is a cluster of lively bars and clubs, but the most spectacular night-time haunt is in Cala ‘n Porta, where a discothèque has been installed into a series of natural caves looking out on to stunning views of the Mediterranean.

During the summer months a selection of festivals fuel the island with a lively atmosphere and there are theatrical and musical events to suit all tastes, as well as the annual Opera Festival which attracts visitors from all over the world. On a more local level, the village fiestas, or Saints’ Days, provide the small towns and villages with an exciting energy, most notably the week long San Juan fiesta in Ciutadella during which the whole town comes together in celebration through colourful processions and traditional festivities.

Tourist Information

Consell de Menorca, Cami del Castell, 28,MaoandPlaza Esplanada, 40, MaoTel: +34 971 356 050

Municipal Tourist OfficeTel: +34 971 363 790

Ciutadella Tourist Information,Placa de la Catedral, 3,Ciutadella,Tel: +34 971 382 693


Menorca is served by regular chartered and international scheduled flights and its airport is 4km from Mao. There is no public transport going from the airport, but there is a taxi rank outside the airport’s exit and most tour companies provide buses to and from the airport.

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