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Guide to Menorca

What to do and see in Menorca?

The name Menorca comes from "menor"which means littler, and the Romans gave this charming island this name because Menorca is smaller than neighbouring Mallorca. The island has 8 towns, the largest being its capital, Mahon.

The population of Menorca is 80,000, although this can increase dramatically in high season. Menorca has a survace area of 694.39 km². The official languages are Spanish and Menorquín, the local dialect of Catalan. Some adaptations of English words - such as "grevy" (gravy) or "bótil" (bottle) are widely used as a result of the years during which Menorca was under British rule.

History of Menorca





Like Mallorca, the first period to leave its important mark on Menorca was the Bronze Age, during the so-called "talayótic" period. Later Menorca was occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Megalithic, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine and the Moors. The Island was liberated (rather brutally it must be said) from the Moors by Alfonso III on 17th January 1287, and even today the 17th of January is Menorca's local fiesta day.

A few years after the reconquista, it became part of the "Kingdom of Mallorca" under Jaime II until Pedro el Ceremonioso gained control of the Island from the successor of the previous King, Jaime III. This was the beginning of the most unremarkable and untidy period in Menorca's history, as many fled the island, weary of the constant fighting between the aristocracy and the locals.

In 1708 Menorca fell under British rule, and remained so, except for a brief time under French rule, until the beginning of the 19th century when it was recovered by the Spanish army. The years of British occupation left their mark, not only on the menorquín dialect, but also on local customs and arquitecture.

Mahón, capital of Menorca

Mahón has been the dministrative capital city of Menorca ever since the island fell under British occupation in the 18th century. The main natural feature of this city - and the principal reason why it proved so attractive to foreign armies - is its incredible natural harbour, sheltered from the fierce storms which sometimes blow over Minorca. It is considered to be the best natural harbour in the Mediterranean and one of the best in the World.

What to see in Mahón:

  • Museo de Menorca: Museum set in an 18th-century convent with impressive exhibitions of objects from the prehistoric period.
  • Iglesia de Santa María: Impressive church with enormous 19th-century organ with 4 keyboards and 3,120 tubes.
  • Ayuntamiento: Neoclassical façade. Visitors can still see the clock which was brought to Menorca by the British governor Richard Kane
  • Bastión de Sant Roc: This 14th century gate to the city is the only thing left of the medieval wall which used to surround Mahon.
  • Fornàs de Torrelló: Small 6th century church with a mosaic floor
  • Talatí de Dalt: 4km along the road to Ciutadella from Mahón. This fascinating talayotic settlement conserves many prehistoric remains including a taula, natural caves and a talayot.

Hotels in Menorca - click on link.

Ciutadella de Menorca

Until British occupation of the island, Ciutadella was the capital city of Menorca, and the historic significance of this city is evident from its beautiful buildings in the old quarter of the city which has been declared a National Historical-artistic Monument. The local fiestas of San Joan are famous all over Spain, and some of Menorca's loveliest beaches are close by.

What to see in Ciutadella:

The Cathedral of Menorca: 14th century gothic cathedral which was built on the site of a former mosque.

Municipal Museum of Ciutadella des Bastió de sa Font - a 17th century building with an impressive collection of prehistoric objects.

The old quarter: Winding streets full of the city's Moor and Medieval history. Of special interest, La Plaza del Borne, Plaza de Alfonso III and Plaza de la Catedral.

Canteras de s'Hostal: Amazing maze (see photo) used to stage theatrical performances and concerts.

Where else to go in Menorca

  • Alaior, with 7,000 this medieval town is the third most important town on the Island of Menorca. Founded in the 14th century by Jaume I, it has attractive winding streets. Famous for producing Menorca's well-known chees, Queso de Mahón.
  • Es Mercadal, small town lying at the feet of Mount Toro, with just 3,532 inhabitants. Famous for its thriving leather industry. Nearby beaches worth visiting include Na Macaret, Arenal d'en Castell, Cala Tirant and Cala Pregonda.
  • Fornells, typical picturesque Menorcan fishing village. The sheltered bay nearby makes it popular with windsurfers, especially beginners. Visit Cueva de Na Polida, beautiful caves famous for their spectacular stalactites.
  • Es Migjorn, very well conserved village, founded during the British occupation of Menorca.
  • Santo Tomás, beautiful beach which so far has retained its charm despite the rapidly-growing tourist developments which are being built around.
  • Son Bou, popular with tourists. Menorca's longest beach (3 km) and all sorts of facilities typical of a thriving holiday resort
  • Cap de Penyes, the headland next to Son Bou where the original settlement was build in the 5th century. Visit the caves which were homes to the first settlers of this area, the remains of a fortified talayotic village and at the foot of the cliffs, the remains of an early Christian basilica.

Beaches in Menorca.

Menorca's great attraction is its outstanding beaches and small sandy coves hidden from view. The following are considered to be the most beautiful:

Ciutadella: Arenal de Son Saura, Algaiarens, Cala del Pilar, La Vall, Cala Morell, Cala Blanca, Cala Bosch.
Es Mercadal: Ferragut, Cala Tirant, Cala Pregonda
(Cavalleria), Es Mercadal
Ferreries: Cala Mitjana
Es Migjorn: Cala Trebaluger

Travelling to Menorca? The following links may also be useful
Travel guides to Spain Travel guides to Spain
Guide to Alicante Guide to Almeria
Guide to Avila Guide to Barcelona
Guide to Caceres Guide to Castellon
Guide to Cuenca Guide to Girona
Guide to Guipuzcoa Guide to Lerida
Guide to Murcia Guide to Tarragona
Guide to Valencia Guide to Zamora
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