The Balearic Islands are one of the Mediterranean’s most popular destinations with millions of sun worshippers heading for Mallorca and Ibiza every summer. On a clear day in Alcudia on Mallorca’s north coast you can just about make out the coast of Menorca which lies just 30km to the north-east. In spite of the short distance between them these two islands provide quite a contrast in terms of the tourism they offer. Whilst Mallorca is well known for its large resorts and mass tourism, Menorca is more about small scale tourist developments, secluded beaches, quaint coves and a noteworthy historical legacy. In fact, Menorca is one of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves where the local government is actively responsible for ensuring that tourism developments do not endanger the natural environment. As such there are beautiful woodlands all over the island which are largely responsible for the number of walking and bird watching holidays which Menorca offers.
Consistent with other Mediterranean destinations, the months of July and August are most popular with holiday accommodation usually fully booked. However, the months of May and September can be a lovely time to visit when temperatures aren’t at their peak yet beautiful blue skies can be expected for much of the time. These months offer better deals on places to stay and are an ideal choice if you’re planning on getting to know the nature of the island or discovering something of island’s history and culture.
In the west of Menorca is the historic city of Ciutadella which was founded by the Carthaginians and was later under Moorish rule for hundreds of years. It served as the islands commercial and cultural capital for centuries until the British chose Mahon as their capital in the 18th century. This historical legacy is evident as you stroll the cobbled streets of this charming city which has become a popular short break destination for visitors who are looking for something other than to spend all their time on the beach whilst on holiday.
Getting to Ciutadella
Menorca is a very small island which only measures about 100km from east to west. You will most likely arrive at the island’s only airport which lies 5km southwest of Mahon, the island’s capital, in the east of the island. There are limited flights to Menorca during the winter months but many of Europe’s airlines provide frequent services during the summer season including Thomas Cook, Thomson, easyJet, Jet2, Air Berlin, Monarch and British Airways.
From the airport to Ciutadella is just 47km and takes no more than 45 minutes travelling the full way across the island on the Me-1. Menorca is a very easy place to drive around with good roads and little traffic. Many of the better known car hire brokers have offices in the airport terminal but you’re better off booking online before travelling to get the best deals. Taxis meet new arrivals immediately outside the airport offering fixed price journeys to anywhere on the island. A convenient alternative is to pre-book your transfer to Ciutadella with a specialist transfer company. Shuttledirect arrange for transport to Ciutadella travelling in a private car with a driver or by means of their shuttle bus service which is an economical and secure way to get to your destination.
What to Do in Ciutadella
Sightseeing: The city of Ciutadella is a lovely place to explore. As well as its busy port and delightful squares you’ll stumble upon a selection of beautiful churches most notably the 13th century Gothic cathedral in Plaça de la Catedral. Plaça d’es Born is the city’s main square where you’ll find the impressive Town Hall building, the charming Teatre Municipal d’es Born as well as two palaces called the Palau de Torre Saura and Palau Salort.
Celebrate Sant Joan: A great time to be in Ciutadella is at the end of June when the ‘Festes de Sant Joan’ take place. The festival is dedicated to Ciutadella’s patron saint and involves processions through the city streets and much merriment. During the fiestas be sure to try a drink called a ‘pomada’ which is made from locally produced gin with lemon. Gin was introduced to Menorca by the British navy in the 18th century and the locals took a liking to it. The last remaining gin distillery is Xouriguer in Mahon which is well worth a visit.
Dine on the Waterfront: The waterfront in Ciutadella is lined with some lovely restaurants some of which offer exquisite fish dishes. A personal favourite is Café Balear (Es Pla de Sant Joan 15) which is well known all over the island for its ‘Caldereta de Langosta’, a delicious lobster stew.
Visit the Talayotic Ruins: Scattered all over Menorca there are watchtowers, altars and burial places which date back to approximately 2000 BC. The nearest of these historical sites to Ciutadella are Torralba d’en Salort, Torre d’en Gaumés, Naveta d’es Tudons and Rafal Rubí.
Go to the Beach: Whilst there’s no beach right in Ciutadella you can head just 3km to the south and you’ll come across some nice little beaches at Sa Caleta and Cala Santandria. If you’ve got your own transport and would like to go to a simply stunning beach then head for Cala Macarella which is about 17km southeast of Ciutadella. This is one of Menorca’s most photographed bays thanks to its glorious white sand and clear waters. If you do make it there be sure to stroll across the headland to neighbouring Cala Macaralleta for some of the island’s most majestic views.
Where to Stay
Around the coast of Menorca you’ll find the whole range of accommodation you’d expect from a Mediterranean holiday destination ranging from small budget hotels to large resort style developments. In addition there are plenty privately owned properties which are ideal options for a family holiday. Ciutadella, however, is different. It isn’t a holiday resort on the beach but rather a charming small city with an interesting selection of places to stay which are a cut above the standard resort offerings. Here are a few suggested gems:
Hotel Tres Sants (San Cristobal, 2): This superb 4-star property is a boutique hotel with just 8 delightful rooms. It is located on a narrow street in the centre of Ciutadella close to the Cathedral and in spite of its small size it has an indoor swimming pool and a terrific roof terrace. The family who run the place are extremely friendly and will do all they can to ensure that your stay at their hotel is a very special one.
Hotel Can Faustino (San Rafael): This stunning 5-star property with just 24 rooms is one of Menorca’s finest hotels. The building dates back to the 17th century and is ideally located on a cobbled street right in the heart of old Ciutadella. It has indoor and outdoor swimming pools and its restaurant offers some of the city’s finest dining set in its own beautiful gardens.
Hotel Rural Sant Ignasi (Ronda Norte): If you’d prefer to be a little out of the city then rural property is highly recommended. Lying just 5km from Ciutadella heading for the tranquil north coast of Menorca the Sant Ignasi is the result of the renovation of a typical 18th century ‘finca’. With just 15 rooms this exclusive property is set in its own gardens, has a swimming pool and a tennis court. Its restaurant is highly regarded with meals served on a terrace overlooking typical landscapes of rural Menorca.