The first glimpse of the town from the cruise ship is that of a fortress-like settlement perched high above the sea, protected by cliffs and ramparts. In fact, once on land, the little island capital is a relatively modest town.
At the opposite end of the island Ciudadella is the former island capital, well worth a visit for its architecture, atmosphere and shopping. Dotted amid the rural and largely uncommercialised Menorcan countryside are several prehistoric remains from the Talayot civilisation of the 2nd millennium BC, while the coast is famous for its cove beaches.
The fjord-like harbour of Mahon (Maó in Castilian) is one of the largest natural harbours in the world.
Mahon is an attractive hybrid of British colonialist and Spanish-style architecture and its narrow streets and little squares repay exploration. On the waterfront catamarans and glass-bottom boats ply pleasure cruises. Ciudadella is a charming warren of elegant 18th- and 19th-century mansions, palaces and churches.
• Talatí de Dalt and Naveta d’es Tudons: two of the most spectacular of the island’s several prehistoric formations.
• Ciudadella: its superb Gothic-Baroque Catedral de Menorca, its picturesque arcaded shopping street, Ses Voltes, and quaint old market area.
• Beaches: the idyllic white-sand coves of Cala Mitjana, Cala Turqueta, Cala Macarella and Cala Trébaluge near Cala Galdana.
• Binibèquer Vell: a picture-postcard re-creation of a typical fishermen’s village, close to Mahon.
• Fort Marlborough, Mahon. Underground fortress built by the British in the early 18th century.
Oficina de Turismo de Menorca
Plaza de la Catedral 5, Ciutadella 07760, Menorca, Spain
Tel: (+34) 97 138 2693.
There is a strong tradition of craftsmanship on the Balearic Islands that includes furniture, hand-embroidered works, handpainted ceramics, carved olive-wood panels, wrought ironwork, glassware, items made from raffia and palm leaves, handmade shoes, the famous pearls made in Mallorca and other costume jewellery from Menorca.
Island specialities include seafood, ensaimada (spiral-shaped cake, dusted with icing sugar), sobrasada (soft, spreadable red chorizo-like sausage), tumbet (baked dish of layered potato, courgette, aubergine and tomato sauce). Gin is distilled in Mahón, a legacy of 18th-century British occupation.
When to go:
The island enjoys a temperate, Mediterranean climate. The maximum temperatures are not excessive, even in high summer, owing to the cooling influence of the sea. The climate during the winter is generally mild and dry with occasional showers.
2km (1.2 miles).