Menorca is the most tranquil of the Balearic Islands, a popular destination for families and couples. Its charming little capital, Mahón (Maó in Mallorquí), on the eastern tip of the island, overlooks the largest port in the Mediterranean. Elegant and stylish, Mahón is a wonderful place to soak up the island’s laid-back, unhurried pace. Perfect for a short break, there is plenty to see and do in this historic town, as well as a fantastic choice of shops, restaurants and bars. You’ll find all the highlights in our essential local guide to 48 hours in Mahón.
Day one: morning
The old heart of Mahón is beautifully set on a cliff overlooking the harbour, with a series of viewpoints (miradors) offering stunning views over the bay. Get a feel for the city with a stroll through its elegant streets and squares. Enjoy some shopping – Menorca is famous for shoes, and there’s a fantastic choice of shoe shops – and then stop for a drink on the Plaça d’Espanya, a beautiful square overlooked by the Casa Mir, the city’s prettiest Art Nouveau building. Don’t miss a visit to the famous fish market (Mercat del Peix) and the colourful produce market, which has a lovely setting in former church cloisters. Both markets have a great choice of counter bars and cafés where you can join the locals for tapas or some lunch.
Day one: afternoon
Continue your tour of the old town with a visit to the splendid Baroque church of Santa Maria, which has one of the world’s largest and most impressive organs. Admire the 18th-century city hall (ajuntament), crowned with a British clock, and then amble down the Carrer d’Isabel II, which is still lined with mansions erected by the British (who ruled the island for much of the 18th century). A former convent now houses the Museu de Menorca, which provides an engaging introduction to local history. A post-sightseeing drink is in order: you’ll find lots of places along the Costes ses Voltes, a charming passage that links the old town with the port, and along the water front.
Day two: morning
Take a boat trip around Mahón’s spectacular harbour – at 5 kilometres long, it’s one of the largest in the world. You’ll get an interesting commentary during the tour, which passes islands (including a quarantine island, where poor souls with leprosy were incarcerated) and commanding fortresses. When you’re back on dry land, why not visit the Xoriguer gin distillery? In business since the 18th century, it’s perhaps the best-loved legacy of the British occupation. They also offer tastings, which should set you up nicely for lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants.
Day two: afternoon
After a culture-packed couple of days, you deserve an afternoon at the beach! Head a few miles north to Es Grau, a peaceful fishing village set on the fringes of the S’Albufera wetland nature reserve. You can walk along the trails in the nature reserve, which are a haven for water birds, or simply relax on the beach and soak up some rays. Es Grau has plenty of places for dinner – including some delightful spots serving up the catch of the day right on the beach.