While often overlooked compared to its bigger (Mallorca) or brasher (Ibiza) Balearic cousins, Menorca is more than just a family-friendly beach destination. From old fortresses and ancient standing stones to world-class dining and even some great shopping, there’s no shortage of places to visit around the Mediterranean isle – so read on for our top 16.
An incredible crescent bay enclosed by pine-topped cliffs with a long stretch of white sand, Cala Galdana still stands out as somewhere rather special, even on an island known for spectacular beaches. It’s not remote or secluded, but with plenty of facilities and accommodation, it’s a fabulous place to stay, with super-calm and shallow waters particularly well suited for families with young kids.
As the island’s original capital, Ciutadella could hardly be further from the present-day capital. The Old Town also sets itself apart with its particularly elegant and picturesque Mediterranean-style buildings that can be found along its charming cobblestoned lanes and attractive plazas.
Located less than a mile (less than 2km) outside Ciutadella is the bizarre and wonderfully photogenic sandstone quarries of Ses Pedreres de s’Hostal. While they fell into disuse in 1994, they have since been preserved in all their geometric glory, complete with a stone labyrinth, botanical gardens and orchards.
As far as settings go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressively positioned bar than Cova d’en Xoroi. It is built into the rocks in the southern coastal resort of Cala en Porte, and its cliffside terraces are understandably popular for sunset sundowners. Access is not free, however, but sections are reservable in advance.
At 354m (1,161ft) above sea level, El Toro is Menorca’s highest mountain and is located in the centre of the island just outside the town of Es Mercadal. While the walk up from town is certainly tiring and can be up to two hours, the panoramic views from the top are genuinely breathtaking. There’s also a 13th-century church and elevated statue of Jesus at the summit, as well as a café where you can refuel before the (much quicker) journey back down. It’s also a popular and pretty challenging cycle to the summit, or alternatively, it’s an easy drive with space for parking.
Housed in a Baroque convent building in the capital city of Mahón, the Museo de Menorca guides you through the history of Menorca with a collection of archaeological items relating to the Talaiotic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras. It also contains ancient sculptures, historical maps and 18th- to 20th-century art over its four floors, and it is free to enter.
Like Mallorca’s iconic La Seu, the Santa Maria Cathedral in the city of Ciutadella was begun in the 13th century on the site of an old mosque (and still has part of the minaret of the mosque that once stood here). Although much smaller, the interiors are equally impressive, with beautifully carved columns, a marble monolith altar and soaring vaulted apse.
During the French occupation, three windmills were built in the small town of Saint Lluís, but the beautifully restored Molí de Dalt is the only one that remains. It now houses the ethnological museum, which is dedicated to the history of this mill through the display of exhibits of old tools and crafts, highlighting its importance to the town, and information about the life of the villagers.
While just along the coast from Cala Galdana, the gorgeous Cala Turqueta has a much more remote and untouched feel. It’s a stunning white-sand beach, with natural shade provided by the pine trees and rocks, and water so turquoise that it could pass for the Caribbean. This small cove is also great for snorkelling, plus there are low cliffs for those who enjoy throwing themselves into the crystal clear water from above.
Located in the northeast of the island, this pretty nature reserve covers over 50sqkm (19sqmi) of forest, marshland, dunes and cliffs, including five small islands. It is home to a wide range of wildlife, including up to 90 different species of birds and countless varieties of shrubs and wildflowers. There’s also a visitors’ centre with maps and videos about the park. Guided tours can be arranged too.
Housed in an 18th-century barracks in Mahón, this museum charts the island’s military history, including the various occupations and the effects and influence they had on Menorca’s culture. There are also exhibits of ancient cannons, guns and other weaponry, along with information about forts and other strategic sites on the island. Cheap to get into, it is worth a visit, especially – obviously – if you have an interest in military history.
Torralba d’en Salord is a perfectly preserved Talaiotic village, with a huge taula similar to the standing stones at Stonehenge. The enclosure around the taula is thought to be an open-air religious space. There are also Bronze Age megaliths, excavated caves and impressive pillared buildings and walls of huge boulders. There is evidence that the settlement was inhabited as late as the Middle Ages, but it is generally thought to have been used from 1,000 BC up to the occupation of the Romans.
Located around 8km (5mi) from Mahón, this quirky village was the brainchild of famous Spanish architect Antonio Sintes Mercadal. In the early ’70s, he built this cluster of two-storey buildings with the aim of recreating a traditional fishing village. Designed with Moorish styling, it comprises a small labyrinth of cobbled lanes and whitewashed houses, all overlooking a small harbour. A great option for a meal, Sa Musclera restaurant offers top-notch cuisine and a cosy bar.
Families with kids shouldn’t miss Splash Sur, the biggest waterpark in Menorca, on the southeast coast near Punta Prima. Built in 2015, the water park has numerous attractions for all ages, including a play area with buckets, gentle water jets and a splash pool with slides, to various slides with names like the Black Hole, the Giant Slide and the Kamikaze. The less adventurous can chill out on a rubber ring on the lazy river or the relaxing jacuzzi pool.
The ancient settlement of Torre d’en Galmés is the largest of its kind in Menorca and one of the biggest in the Balearic Islands. Belonging to the island’s early Talaiotic inhabitants, it is set on top of a hill with superb panoramas over the south coast. It also features some of the finest examples of monuments, religious buildings and numerous circular houses, as well as a tourist centre with videos and a cartoon reconstruction of the village.
Perched on the southern side of the entrance to Mahón’s harbour, the small but sophisticated Fort Marlborough was built in the 1720s to protect the city and its much-coveted port. And it certainly saw some action, with part of it destroyed (and later rebuilt) by the Spanish towards the end of the 18th century. Nowadays, you can experience a reenactment to take you back to the time when the fort was under siege, including uniformed soldiers and technological effects.