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Day Trip to Menorca

If you’re in Mallorca for long enough, I highly recommend taking a day trip to Menorca. The smaller island has a different feel to it and is interesting to see and, anyway, it’s always fun to travel on a ferry!

In September 2007, I spent a very happy day in Menorca and I’m sharing my experience because I hope it will be useful to you. Although it’s possible that some things may have changed since I went, this page should give you a good idea of what’s involved.

Ferries between Mallorca to Menorca

There are various ferry routes you can take but the main ports in Mallorca are Palma and Alcúdia, going to Maó and Ciutadella. Because of the geography of the islands, the shortest journey is between Alcúdia and Ciutadella – and this is what I did.

Alcudia sunrisePassenger ferries from Puerto Alcúdia leave from the Port Comercial and it’s worthwhile going there the day before your trip, just to make sure you know exactly where it is, how to get in, where you’re going to park and so on. You are not allowed to take a hire car on a ferry, so you will probably want to leave your vehicle at the port. If so, you need to get there a good hour and a half before your ferry leaves, since space is very limited.

It’s also a good idea to book your ferry tickets in advance. I booked mine online before I even left Britain and it all worked very smoothly. There are two companies that operate this route, Iscomar and Balearia, and I think I’m right in saying that Balearia is quicker but more expensive. It’s a bit confusing having two ferry companies in such a small space as the port at Alcúdia and you need to be on the ball!

I went with Iscomar, which is the yellow one – yellow ferries, yellow office, yellow tickets. You need to exchange your internet booking, if you’ve made one, for an actual ticket. The staff get sick of people going into the wrong office, so remember that Iscomar is the yellow one. My trip cost me 36 euros each way, which I considered good value.

There is quite a bit of hanging about involved in the whole enterprise of going to Menorca for the day and I recommend you bring some water and a book to read. There would be no harm in bringing some sandwiches for breakfast either, though they do sell food on the boat.

Before they let you on the ferry, there are quite stringent customs checks. Then, at least when I was there, all the passengers climb up a rickety old scaffolding construction in order to get on to the boat. This was fine for me, although it was slightly vertiginous, but it was a struggle for older people, especially those with suitcases. A poor old couple reached the top just in front of me, only to discover they were about to board the wrong ferry. They had to fight their way down again with all their luggage and run for the Balearia boat, which they caught with a second to spare.

The crossing is lovely. Don’t be shy to go outside on to the deck; you don’t have to sit inside with everyone else. It takes two and a half or three hours, so you’ve got plenty of time to enjoy it.


Ciutadella

CiutadellaCiutadella was Menorca’s capital until 1722, when the British, who were in charge of the island at that time, decided Maó (Mahon) was more suitable as a capital because of its bigger harbour. Ciutadella’s harbour is long and narrow, stunning to look at but not able to accommodate the volume of seafaring traffic required for international trade in the eighteenth century.

Coming into this harbour these days is a wonderful experience. Ciutadella is a classic of Mediterranean beauty and arriving by boat is probably the best way to get one’s first view of it.

When you get off the boat and come out of the port building, turn right and start walking. It’s clear where to go and in two or three minutes you’re in town. I went on a Friday, which is market day in Ciutadella, and there were stalls all over the harbour and the main square, Plaça d’es Born.

Plaça d’es BornDespite being the second largest island in the Balearic archipelago, Menorca is small, only 32 miles long and 10 miles across at its widest point. Ciutadella, as its erstwhile capital city, is correspondingly bijou and it will not take you long to find your way around. If you just wander about, which I think is the best way to explore and get to know a place, you’ll find yourself coming back to the same plazas time and again, so don’t worry about getting lost.

The little old streets and squares of the old town are full of life, in a peaceful, relaxed sort of way, offering lots of colourful shops, cafés and restaurants. Ciutadella has been remarkably unspoilt by mass tourism, although it somehow also feels up to date; historic but not old-fashioned.

A couple of streets into the old town from Plaça d’es Born, on the site of a former Moorish mosque, stands the Gothic cathedral, built in the fourteenth century. Annoyingly for me, it was closed for internal renovations when I was there but it’s certainly an impressive building.

In terms of shopping, the thing you absolutely ‘must buy’ in Menorca is a pair of abarcas (similar to espadrilles) – either some actual shoes to wear or miniatures on key rings and so on, as souvenirs. If you like gin, you could take home a bottle of Xoriguer, the local brand, made from juniper berries at the distillery in Maó.

Si Vens CafeEverything closes after lunch for siesta and it makes sense to plan your day accordingly. If you’ve done a lot of walking in the morning, you may well need a rest after lunch anyway (I certainly did). Because you’re just visiting and have no base, it can be difficult to know where to go on these occasions, to recharge your batteries, but I found the ideal place. There’s a cool café just off the Plaça Alfons III (which is known locally as the Plaça de Ses Palmeres because of its palms trees). The café is called Si Véns and it’s part of a very small complex called the Galeries Molí des Comte, inside an old windmill. It’s a trendy and happening place, with bands playing in the evenings and other events going on. In the afternoon (at least, the day I was there), it’s pretty quiet and I felt completely comfortable staying there for a good two hours, by myself, just reading and drinking coffee.

When everything opens again, you’ve got a few hours more to enjoy the town before the ferry goes back to Mallorca. You don’t need to be back at the port until about half an hour before departure because there’s none of the customs stuff to do on the return journey. Compared with Alcúdia’s, Ciutadella’s port is extremely well appointed and you board the ferry from a proper walkway instead of a scaffold.

Ciutadella eveningFor me, in September, the daylight fitted my activities exactly. The sun came up as I was waiting to board in Alcúdia and went down as the ferry was leaving Ciutadella. It was exhilarating out on deck in the dark, watching the lights of Menorca fade and waiting for Mallorca to show on the other side.

Despite not having a beach, Ciutadella makes a marvellous day out. In fact, if you’re on a beach-based holiday in Mallorca, this type of day can make an interesting change. I was exhausted by the time I got back to my apartment in Puerto Pollensa but my day trip to Menorca was one I’ll remember with a smile for a long time.

 
 
©MGRobinson