Things to Do in Menorca
The island of Menorca (or Minorca), known for its intensely scalloped coastline and wildlife-rich scenery protected as the UNESCO Menorca Biosphere Reserve, is the choice for those seeking a more peaceful Mediterranean escape. The capital, Máo, has a variety of dining and nightlife options, but many fantastic coves are overlooked only by peaceful resorts and quiet seafood restaurants, perfect for families and lovers.
This island has always appealed to independent souls, since its Stone-Age inhabitants built their taulas (table monoliths) and talaiots (towers) not found elsewhere in the Balearics. Today, Menorca's islanders still speak their own language (Menorquín) and were the first to grant legal rights to non-human apes.
Adventurers who make the trip will find their efforts rewarded with fine foods (try the lobster stew and artisanal cheeses) and better beaches, from endless Son Bou to posh Punta Prima, with plenty of other perfect playas for everyone.
Monte El Toro, also known as Toro Mountain, is the highest peak in Menorca, measuring in at 1,175 feet above sea level. In fact, the peak can be seen from nearly every town on the island. On top of the mountain, the views are truly spectacular.
Aside from the beauty found on top of the mountain, there is also an old Augustinian monastery and church, complete with a wood carving of the Virgen del Toro, the patroness saint of the island. The area has a rich history – be sure to dig in during a visit to the Virgen del Toro Sanctuary which was originally built around the site of a 13th century gothic church. This area is considered to be the spiritual center of Menorca.
Today, visitors can explore the area, including a gorgeous patio, a church built in the 1700s and wood carvings of Menorca’s patron saint. Alongside the church is a testament to the other history of the island – a defense tower built in the 16th century. Once a monastery for Augustine monks, today the sanctuary is run by a group of Franciscan sisters of Mercy.
The capital of Menorca, Maó (Mahón), features the best of both worlds on the island – a charming and beautiful town filled with culture during daylight and a vibrant and pulsing nightlife scene. The city has plenty to offer, including one of the largest natural harbors in the world (a heaping three miles long). There are tiny streets to stroll, shops to explore, cakes and meals to be had, drinks to be sipped and a market housed in what used to be an old convent.
There’s also the history. Like the other towns on the island, Maó (Mahón) is not without its story. The oldest building, Arch de San Roque, is the only remnant of the old wall which used to surround the town. Town Hall, built in 1631, is another historic building. It even features a clock still on display which was given to Menorca by English Governor Richard Kane. Of course, no town is complete without an old church. Here, the Church of Santa Maria can be found. Inside, there is an organ with more than 3,000 pipes.
No visit to town is complete without stopping at Place de S’Esplanada. The main square is filled with cafes and activities. Be sure to park yourself here for a cup of coffee and to relish in the gorgeous island weather.
About three miles from Mahon Port are rock pilings that leave people awe-struck. Talatì de Dal is home to T-shaped stone monuments on Menorca – known as Taulas – which date back to 1000 BC and 300 BC and were a part of the Talayotic culture.
Not much is known about this prehistoric site, although it is considered to be one of the most fascinating on the island. Researchers aren’t sure of the significance of these rock formations. Some say it has religious implications, others suggest these were a part of science, and others hypothesize these rocks were part of ancient buildings support systems. What is not debated is the attraction of these rocks – regardless of the reasoning, people come and visit and marvel at the large formations.
A visit to this site includes exploring the Taulas of Menorca, ancient homes, and even a set of caves. For those seeking more than just this one Taula, there are a few spread out on the island.
Travelers looking for a way to cool off on Menorca without heading to the beach will enjoy Splash Waterpark (Splash Sur Menorca), an attraction-packed destination. This family-friendly park has slides for the kids and lounge areas and Jacuzzis for the adults, plus food, drinks, and sunbeds to guarantee a comfortable visit.
Aqua Center Water Park is a prime destination for visitors in Menorca who want a place to cool off and careen down towering water slides. With pools, jacuzzis, and a bar area—plus a kid-friendly water castle and bouncy play zone—the Aqua Center offers lots of family-friendly fun.
See a diverse collection of wildlife at the Menorca Zoo (Lloc De Menorca), a park that is home to a variety of rescue animals, from goats to macaque monkeys. Highlights include the kid-friendly displays and an area where you can interact with lemurs, plus the on-site Bronze Age monument.
The north coast of Menorca is a gem for history buffs. Here, visitors can find Cala Morell and its necropolis caves. This site, which has regular excavations, is considered to be one of the most important archeological sites on the island.
This spectacular necropolis is made up of 14 man-made caves in a cliff, along with 20 small oval cavities thought to have been used as bone tombs or urns for infant burials. Take some time and explore this site, being sure to check out the “coves de forn,” small rooms inside the site, along with the large underground tombs. The tombs highlight the craftsmanship of centuries past, complete with pillars, intricately decorated doorways and more.
Today, those interested in exploring this site beyond a simple walk through can actually participate in excavations through special programs offered by educations institutions.
Packed with yachts and tourists in the summer, Ciutadella is considered one of the most beautiful spots on the Mediterranean. The second largest town on the island of Menorca, it was its capital until the 18th century. Today, the town features plenty of reminders of its past, including its destruction in 1558 by Turkish pirates.
Any visit to the old town should include a simple wander through its stone streets framed by white-washed and stone homes. Some of these old mansions can even be explored and are a living testament today to the nobles who once resided inside them hundreds of years ago. Be sure to visit Placa des Born, the main square of the town, which is lined with palaces from the 18th century.
There are plenty of historic attractions inside the city to explore, too. Pay a visit to City Hall to see the remnants of the town’s old wall, which was destroyed in the late 19th century in the name of growth. Or, spend some quiet time in one of the many museums in the town, including the Diocesan Museum.
By night, the elegant town comes alive with cafes, bars and more. So, be sure to plan accordingly and include some post-sunset action in the Ciutadella plans.
Located in the center of Menorca and at the base of the island’s tallest mountain, Toro, Es Mercadal offers a charming medieval town filled with markets, shops, little restaurants and cafes and heaps of culture. A visit to Es Mercadal is perfect for those exploring the inland portion of Menorca, or those heading out to the pristine beaches of the north via gorgeous country roads. Head to the top of Toro Mountain to visit the Virgin del Toro Sanctuary, not only for the views, but to take in some tranquility, too.
Perfect for simple meandering, the town has stone streets filled with shops offering traditional and modern crafts and more. The town has gained a reputation for its gastronomy. Be sure to sample the local cuisine here, particularly the desserts like crespellines, which are biscuits made with almonds, as well as amargos, almond macaroons.
Built on the southern shore at Mahon Harbour in the 1700s is Fort Malborough. The site, which helped give Britain control of the Mediterranean in 1710, took nearly 20 years to complete. Named after Sir John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, he was one of the most outstanding British generals during that time period. In 1726, when construction was finished, the fort was considered to be a model of modern engineering, thanks to its semi-submerged construction and single entry via tunnel.
Today, people head to the fort to learn more about the history of Menorca. Tours through the fort take about 45 minutes and give insight into what life was like during the 18th century.
More Things to Do in Menorca
For an example of 19th century military architecture, one needs only to visit the Fortress Isabel II on La Mola of Maó. Also known as Fortaleza de la Mola and La Mola Fortress, this fortification was built over a span of more than two decades (1848 – 1875), during a time when France and Great Britain were at arms over control of the Mediterranean and the port of Maó. In response to this dispute, the Spanish government constructed the fortress.
Exploration of the fortress beings at Queen’s Gate and continues throughout the inside walls. Be sure to pay a visit to the underground galleries where guns were housed, the barracks, Princess Tower, prison and Queen’s Water Cistern.
Located on a peninsular off Mahon Harbour, the fortress is placed in a gorgeous spot overlooking the north coast and Clot de La Mola cove. The area, which is also a special protected area for birds, is a great spot to watch bird migrations, too.
With a history dating back to 750 BC, Naveta des Tudons is a chamber tomb in Menorca. Used until 1200 BC, the tomb was not discovered until 1975. When it was, people found more than 100 bodies, jewelry, bones and other artifacts.
Built with stones, legend has it this site is one which was born from a lover’s quarrel. Apparently, giants were disputing the love of a young girl and agreed one would build the naveta, while the other dug a well for water. The person who completed their task first would marry the object of their affection. The giant building the well was the first to finish, but the other, enraged and jealous, hurled the last stone to complete the naveta at his head, killing him. Today, the naveta still is minus this stone.
These boatlike stone vessels can be found nearby Ciutadella, on the right side of the road, en route to Mahon.