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Historical Facts of the Island of Menorca

Wolfgang Holzem

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Since prehistoric times, the Island has been controlled by the Romans, Moors, Catalans, Spanish, French and English. All these nations have left their mark on the Island and monuments to visit from Sanisera, the archaeological site close the port of Sanitja on the north coast of the island to the ruins of the 5th century Bascilica on the beach at Son Bou.

During the 18th century, Menorca was a bone of contention among the British, French and Spanish powers. This was due to the Port of Maó, the finest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, and one of the best in the world, which could protect the largest fleets of the time in their entirety.

The Utrecht Treaty, signed in 1713, gave place to the first British presence on Menorca, which lasted until 1755. The first British Governor was John Campbell (Argyll) nominated by the Queen Anne.

Richard Kane, from County Antrim in Ireland, the second British Governor, is still fondly remembered for his effective support of agriculture on the island; he introduced the cultivation of the apple, promoted cattle breeding and built roads and reservoirs which are still in use today. The Scottish Col.Patrick Mackellar (Argyll) was the chief engineer of Menorca and responsible for the main constructions of the British legacy. The main contribution of Mackellar was the design and construction of Georgestown (Es Castell) near to Sant Felip fortress at the entry of Mahon harbour.

There were two later periods of British presence on Menorca, from 1763 till 1781 and 1798 to 1808. The British left more than their earthworks and ramparts behind. Things as varied as the growth of Maó, which enthusiastically accepted the opportunities for trade and the abolition of the Inquisition, the traditional woodworking and boat building techniques and designs and Menorca’s most popular drink, gin.

Former founder of Asiarooms.com and now reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as Thailand, Germany & Switzerland. Born near Cologne but lived in Berlin during my early teenage years. A longterm resident of Bangkok, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon and Phuket. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu. Now based on Mallorca, Spain.

Menorca

An Introduction to Menorca Island on the Balearic Islands

Wolfgang Holzem

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The harbour at Maó, the island capital, is the second largest natural deep water port in the world – the largest being Pearl Harbour. The whole island is a European Biological Reserve and Unesco Biosphere Reserve aiming to preserve environmental areas. More than a 75% of the territory is protected. You can watch some of the last turtles of the Mediterranean, birds and protected species.

With a population of around 92,000, the island is dominated by tourists, particularly during the summer tourist season of May – October. Due to its unspoiled beauty, it allows the more adventurous the opportunity to discover new charms and experiences. Despite its smaller size among other Spanish islands, being just around 30 miles long and around 10 miles wide, the number of beaches that Menorca has equals the number of beaches that can be found in Mallorca and Ibiza combined.

An identifying sign of Menorca is its fascination with horses. All things centre around horses and the people love them. Menorca has its own race of black horses. In all the festivities the horses and their “caixers” (riders) are the centrepieces. The “Cami de Cavalls” is a pathway surrounding the island for horse riding and it was used in the past for defense of the coast by horse, literally translating to horse path.

If you do take time to explore the interior you will discover a wealth of interesting and historic landmarks from El Toro (the highest point on the island) to the most significant prehistoric sites at Trepucó and Torre d’en Galmés.

To this day no one is certain of the significance of these prehistoric monuments in the form of Taules, T-shaped stone formations thought to be spiritual sanctuaries; Talayots which are stone towers that local people believe were once used as look-out points. There is little evidence to support these theories about Menorca’s prehistoric past nor the original function of these breathtaking creations . Taules are named after the Menorquí word for table. (Menorquí is the local dialect of Catalan which is widely spoken on the Island). Menorca is by far the richest place in Europe for sites of prehistoric settlements, mostly dating from the Talaiotic Period, which was the period of civilisation between 2000 and 1000 BC. The term Talayot is believed to originate from the Arabic atalaya meaning “watch tower”.

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Travel to and within Menorca Island

Wolfgang Holzem

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Menorca is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

  • There are normally no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most of the European Union and a few other countries.
  • There are usually identity checks before boarding international flights or boats. Sometimes there are temporary border controls at land borders.
  • Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
  • Please see Travelling around the Schengen Area for more information on how the scheme works, which countries are members and what the requirements are for your nationality.

Travel by plane to Menorca

There are regular flights available to Menorca Airport (sometimes known as Mahon Airport) from mainland Spain and the sister islands of Mallorca through Iberia and their subsidiary Air Nostrum. Flights from Spain are also available from Barcelona with Vueling. If travelling from the UK, various airlines offer regular scheduled services during the summer tourist season. Airlines Jet2, TUI Airways, EasyJet and Thomas Cook all fly from various regional and main UK airports direct to Menorca. British Airways offer services from Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport and City airports.

To get to your resort, Menorca’s airport is served by buses to Maó (€1.50, 15 min) every half hour from around 06:00 to 22:00 and then hourly to midnight. The bus stops at the bus station, the Estacio Maritima and a couple of other intermediate points. Buses are then available to various resorts and towns across the island from the bus station.
Taxis are available directly in front of the airport terminal and there is a range of car hire options to get to your resort. There are also various services (bookable online) that allow direct coach transfers to resorts across the island.

By ferry to Menorca

Regular ferries from both mainland Spain and Majorca are also available to Maó from Palma de Mallorca, [ , and Barcelona. Modest-sized cruise ships occasionally visit. They use Maó’s deep harbour, which offers highly scenic views of homes, hotels / resorts and historic structures and fortifications.

Ciutadella HarbourVia Mestre Vives 07769 Ciutadella de Menorca (If in Ciutadella, head down the ME-24, then turn right onto the RC2 which takes you directly to the port.). Regular car ferries from Alcudia and Barcelona are also available to Ciutadella. Some cruise ships also do visit Ciutadella, but most use the port of Mahon.

Get around Menorca

By taxi

Taxis are a popular form of transport for those not looking to move as much. They can be somewhat expensive if using them a lot, so be careful! A taxi can be booked using Radio Taxis, which is an English speaking service. Call +34 971 367 111 and state your current location and destination.

By car

Rental Companies

There are numerous agents and companies, both international and local, specialising in car hire in Menorca – both at the airport and in resorts – although it may be important to organise it from home before you arrive to avoid disappointment during peak periods. Scooter hire is also possible at some of these agencies. Car Hire companies include the International Firms, that usually cost a little more but have dedicated desks and a separate pickup facility directly at the airport, which means there’s no shuttle bus and you can just drive away. Companies based at the airport are: Hertz, Avis, Europcar, and Enterprise. There are other firms dedicated to Menorca, which will often be cheaper than the main firms, but have no dedicated desk at the airport and require a shuttle bus to their offsite destinations.

A word of warning on Car Hire: If possible, do not get a ‘full to empty‘ fuel policy; there is no way that you will use a full tank of fuel on the tiny island of Menorca. Instead, opt for a ‘full to full‘ policy wherever possible. It does mean you’ll have to use a petrol station before your return, but you’ll save the over-the-top cost of a full tank of fuel from the rental agency.

Roads in Menorca

The roads on Menorca are very simple: there is one main road, the ME-1. It connects Ciutadella and Mahon and every other major road on the island branches off it.

By bus

If you’re planning to travel around by bus, then there are three main public bus companies in Menorca: TMSATorres, and Autos Fornells.

  • Transportes Menorca (TMSA), who run buses throughout the island, including to Ciutadella, but operate mainly around the east coast (including Maó and the Airport), as well as to many of the southern resorts. Their buses leave from the Bus Station in Maó and from Placa de Menorca in Ciutadella.
  • Torres run buses from Ciutadella to locations and resorts on the west coast. Their buses leave from the main plaza (Placa des Pins) in Ciutadella.
  • Autos Fornells run buses from the major towns to the northern resorts, including Fornells.

The main bus route which serves Maó, Alaior, Es Mercadal, Ferreries and Ciutadella runs along the centre of the island. Most buses leave hourly and are very inexpensive, at around €4 to €5 to travel between Ciutadella and Maó.

You can always find the latest timetables for every route on each operators’ website.

On foot

The Cami de Cavalls footpath encompasses the entire island, and is a popular walking route along the coastline. It is a fully signposted long distance Spanish walking route around the edge of the island, and is a part of Spain’s network of paths, the Gran Recorrido (GR) Network. If you’re planning to visit a nearby beach or resort, it’s often quicker to use the Cami de Cavalls due to the island’s road structure; you can walk directly to your destination instead of travelling all the way inland only to head back down to the coast again.

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Menorca Covid-19 Safe Restaurants & Bars

Wolfgang Holzem

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Menorca is packed with good restaurants whose menus especially feature fish and seafood. Menorca also has a great variety of bars and cafes, with some open for 24 hours a day.

The Windmill Restaurant (Es Moli D’es Raco), Carrer Major, 53, 07740 Es Mercadal (On the main Mao – Ciutadella road.).  12:00 – 16:00 , 19:00 – 23:00 dailyThe restaurant inside the 300-year-old “molino” has an authentic, homely atmosphere. Authentic Menorcan cuisine.

Es CrancCalle de las Escuelas, 31, 07740 Fornells (From the main road into Fornells go straight through the first roundabout and right at the second. The restaurant is on your right at the next junction.).  13:30 – 15:30 , 19:30 – 22:30 dailyOne of the finest restaurants in Menorca, what it lacks in interior design, it makes up for in tasty home cooking. Be sure to try the shellfish soup ‘Caldereta’.

Ca n’OlgaPont de Na Macarrana, s/n, 07740 Es Mercadal (From the ME-1 turn right up the Carrer de Ciutadella then take the next left. The restaurant is on the corner.).  13:00 – 16:00, 19:30 – 23:00 dailyPrimarily Mediterranean cuisine and attracting a stylish a sophisticated clientele, Ca n’olga is warm and intimate. It offers dining on a pretty outdoor patio or at a handful of indoor tables and an eclectic menu featuring local produce.

Son Granot (Son Granot Hotel Rural & Restaurant), Carretera de Sant Felip, 41, 07720 Es Castell (Follow the ME-6 past Es Castell and you’ll soon see the rural hotel on your right.).  Son Granot offers an extraordinary traditional Menorcan cuisine and fine Spanish and French wines. Enjoy a romantic fine dinner in the terrace with nice views to the Mediterranean and Maó. All the vegetables are grown ecologically in Son Granot’s very own kitchen garden.

American BarPlaça Reial, 7, 07702 Maó (If in the port of Mahon head up the twisting Costa de ses Voltes then turn right at the top).  Mon-Fri 07:00 – 22:00 , Sat 07:00 – 16:00 , Closed SunSit down on a seat on the terrace while sipping on a coffee and pore over a newspaper at this recommended breakfast spot.

Where to drink in Menorca

Menorcan Gin

On Menorca there were a great many junipers, (there still are), and in the harbour lay the British fleet. The twain met and Ginet was the result, a spirit far removed from the Spanish and Mediterranean traditions and with notable difference from the English Gin.

It is a kind of cross between London Gin and the Mediterranean spirit, invented in Menorca. It was very successful and was drunk throughout the British Fleet and it surprised more than one distinguished visitor to declare “the best of the sprits found in Europe today” was historian Vargas Ponce’s opinion on visiting Menorca in 1781.

The major difference between London Gin and Menorcan Ginet, is that Menorcan ginet is based on a spirit distilled from the grape, as is usual in the Mediterranean, and not on a cereal based spirit. The juniper now comes from the mainland, but the distilling continues to be done in old copper stills. The spirit rests in oak barrels cured in gin so that the end product does not take the colour of the wood.

Gin is found all over Menorca, drunk neat or in a mix. One such mix, named Pomada, is created by adding bitter lemon. It’s the drink of choice during the many fiestas which take place throughout the summer on the island. You can find information about how to visit the distillery shop in the ‘See’ section above

Bars in Menorca

Nightlife in Menorca is low key compared to nearby Mallorca or Ibiza. For a drink with a waterside view, head to the waterfront which is where the majority of bars are situated.

Sa SiniaSa Sinia Art Hub, Cl St Josep 49, Es Castell, 07720 ,   Pleasant spot of a drink and some music. Local DJs spin anything from 1980s classics to hip hop.

Akelarre (Akellare Jazz Dance Club), Moll de Ponent, 07701 Mahón, Balearic Islands, Spain (The bar is situated in the heart of Mahon’s harbour, where the cruise ships dock.).  Jazz music echos off the warm stone interior which is open until the wee hours. Great cocktail list.

Vinateria Parra (Parra In Vino Veritas), Carrer de San Fernando, 5, 07702 Maó, Illes Balears, SpainIndulge in a great selection of wines and accompany it with a selection of cheese or meat platters from the bar. The interior features timber and marble tables and compliments the soft music that plays.

MiradorPlaza Espanya, 2, 07701 Maó-Mahón (If in the harbour, head up the twisty Placa Espanya, and the bar is on the left.).  09:00 – 01:00 dailyA popular music haunt for locals which impresses with its cave-like interior carved out of the walls above the harbor.

Cova d’en XoroiCarrer de Sa Cova nº 2 07730 Cala en Porter, Alaior.  Nightclub open 11:00 – late. Open for daytime drinks 11:30 – close.Constructed out of a cave dug into the cliff stone and peering over it. The atmosphere within the cave is unique and must be seen to be believed. One of the few nightclubs in Menorca, it is open until the early hours of the morning. Watching the sun set over the sea from the terrace is simply breathtaking.

Maritim Café (Maritimo Maó), Carrer Moll de Llevant, 291, 07701 Maó (If on the harborside, head for the casino. The bar is just next door.).  Nice bar and terrace next to the Casino Maritim of Maó. At night is transformed into a lounge bar were people can have cocktails, long drinks and dance.

Dinky Bar (part of PortBlue Rafalet / Dinky Lounge), Passeig Maritimo, S’Algar (Continuing straight down the Carrer S’Algar then turning right at the roundabout will take you straight to the bar, on your left after 250m.). Mon-Sun 12:00 – 02:00Nice beach bar in S’Algar Resort open till 02:00 everyday. Good place to meet locals and have a beer on the garden terrace.

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