Home / History & Culture / A Guide to the Balearic Islands, Part 2: History

A Guide to the Balearic Islands, Part 2: History

The Balearic Islands – made up of Ibiza in the south-west, Majorca in the centre and Menorca in the north-east – offer so much to the British holidaymaker.

Mahon Museum

Their heavenly fine-sand beaches and turquoise waters attract thousands of tourists every year.

Menorca is often seen as low-key in comparison with its glamorous sister islands, which are famous for big yachts, show biz visitors and thumping all-night dance parties. But how does it actually compare in terms of history, geography and culture?

The next topic in this series is that of history: how do Menorca’s historical featuresweight against those of Majorca?

The Talaiotic Past

There is evidence to suggest that the Balearic Islands were inhabited as far back as 6,000 years BC. The first pre-historic period that has left its mark on the islands is that of the Talaiotic Culture from the end of the first and beginning of the second millennium BC.

Although you could go to the Museu de Mallorca if you are an ancient history buff visiting the island, there are many more physical sites to visit on Menorca. You can see the taulas, mysterious megaliths which get their name from the Catalan for ‘table’, all over the island. One of the best preserved is the Torralba d’en Salord, which is just 15 minutes’ drive from Mahon. Another must-see historical site is the Naveta des Tudons, a boat-shaped funeral buildingon the other side of the island.

British Rule in Menorca

Although the histories of Majorca and Menorca were closely intertwined for centuries, there is a point of divergence: in 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht made Menorca a British dependency for most of the eighteenth century. The British moved the capital of the island from Ciutadella to Mahon and introduced a number of conventions that are still in use today.

For example, the neo-classical Town Hall in Mahon with its sash windows contrasts with the Hispanic-influenced architecture of Palma’s public buildings in Majorca. The Friesland cow was introduced to Menorca by the British, and to this day far more butter than olive oil is used in cooking than it is in Majorca or Spain. Another inheritance from Great Britain in the eighteenth century was a love of gin, which you can taste for yourself in a delicious pomada cocktail.

Wave upon wave of invasions of these small Mediterranean islands throughout the centuries have created individual layers of history that are fascinating to unfold. A stay on Menorca allows you to visit it all and experience the peculiar mix of cultures that make the island such a special place.


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