Ibiza still lays claim to the party scene and Mallorca continues to take in the tourist traffic as the largest of the three Balearic Islands but what about their third, smaller sibling? With its natural, unspoiled beauty, luscious rolling hills and exquisite food, Menorca is the place to be for those looking for an alternative to busy beaches, bars and bus-loads of tourists in the Balearics. Make the most of your fortnight in the sun with our guide to where to eat, sleep and what to see on the island of Menorca.
Eat and beach at Cap Roig, Sa Mesquida
Renting a car is the best way to see all the island has to offer and access some of the lesser-known lunch spots and beaches. Menorca is small enough to drive between the two main cities of Mahon to Ciutadella within 45 minutes, covering off some beautiful countryside in the process. Wherever you start from, jump in the car and head east to find Cap Roig – a fantastic family-owned restaurant perched high on the headland overlooking the sea.
No surprise to find they serve the freshest seafood, paella and local wines as you gaze out across the uninterrupted deep blue view of sky and sea. After lunch, take a short trip through the sleepy village to visit the beach at Platja Sa Mesquida and grab an authentic Italian gelato from Gelateria Soldati, served from a van parked on the beach. If all that sunbathing becomes too much, there’s also a stunning walk through the nature reserve nearby.
Stay and explore at the Faustino Gran, Ciutadella
Like an oasis in the middle of Menorca’s old capital, Ciutadella, the Faustino Gran (part of Relais & Chateaux) is an ideal hideout from the heat, hustle and bustle of this historic harbour town. Walk through a discrete archway off a narrow road and you enter into the soothing shade of the hotel’s gardens, peppered with palms, olive trees and candlelit tables laid up for an evening of al fresco dining.
A stone’s throw from Ciutadella’s cathedral and central square, the Faustino Gran is ideally located for exploring the boutique shops, restaurants and history behind one of Menorca’s largest towns. For those looking for a slower place of life, the hotel has its own small outdoor pool and spa, as well as a beach club called Casa de Pau. Located a 15-minute drive out of the city, the countryside club is situated in the middle of one of Menorca’s many Biosphere Reserves and can be accessed by the hotel’s own 1979 Land Rover Santana, which ferries guests to and from the Faustino Gran. For those keen to get out on the ocean, the hotel has access to three vintage yachts – Heloise, Hermine and Ciutadella – which can be chartered by the day and sailed around the island with a crew.
From €490 per night, visit faustinogran.com
Admire the art at Hauser & Wirth, Illa del Rei, Mahon
Housed in a former hospital off the coast of Mahon that was built by the British in 1711, a recent renovation attracted art gallery Hauser & Wirth to showcase its works in one of the many buildings. Accessible via a short passenger ferry from Mahon harbour, the trip across the turquoise water is a great way to appreciate the city’s layers and stunning shoreline villas. Arriving at the fort, there’s a short but steep cobbled climb up from the water’s edge, so beware if travelling with children in buggies or less mobile companions.
Once at the top, however, you’ll find it's worth the walk, with the open space and luscious leaves surrounding the gallery and neighbouring Cantina restaurant provide a welcome break from Mahon’s narrow alleys. Lunch at Cantina is a chance to sample some delicious local delicacies – but it gets very busy during peak times, so book ahead to avoid disappointment. It’s the only place to eat on the island and one of the best restaurants in Mahon, with its tables stashed in the shade of the trees and views down to the water. For those unable to grab a table, there’s a lovely tapas bar called Café Baixamar located a short walk from the ferry mooring on the mainland that’s been serving locals since 1980.
Walk the cliffs and soak up the sunset at Playa de Binigaus
On the island’s south coast lie the white sands of Playa de Binigaus. One of the most impressive and accessible beaches on the island, it’s just a ten-minute walk from the village of Santo Tomás. Stay at the near end (closest to Santo Tomás) for the best white powder and a cute chiringuito called Es Bruc overlooking the beach, while the far end, under the cliffs, is best for privacy and nudism.
Like so many beaches in Menorca, there’s plenty to do for those who’d rather not sit on a beach all day. Behind the beach and up on top of the cliffs runs a rugged coastal path, which dips in and out of shady forests, giving way to stunning views over the white cliffs and turquoise waters. Known for its pristine sand and crystal-clear waters, Binigaus is one of the best beaches for sunsets on the island, so it’s worth hanging around for a sundowner.
Haggle at the markets in Mahon and Ciutadella
Mahon makes for great people watching but head to the traditional pescaderia municipal fish market for an education in fruits of the sea. While you’re more than welcome to haggle with the market sellers, there’s also space to sit and sample small plates (pintxos) in peace. In Ciutadella, Placa de la Llibertat is where you’ll find both the fish and meat markets, which offer up more of the same. Aside from the hustle and bustle of the markets, both Mahon and Ciutadella have a comprehensive spread of independent boutiques selling everything from fashion to food.
Head to Cristine Bedfor for cocktails by the pool
From the outside, the Cristine Bedfor guest house in Mahon doesn’t seem like much but step inside this tastefully decorated Tardis is home to 21 beautiful rooms, as well as a library, lounge, breakfast room, and perfectly proportioned garden, featuring a pool. With a cocktail bar in the ‘secret garden’ by the pool and daily live music, it’s the perfect bolthole in which to sip and spend a moment.