Mahón, Minorca’s capital, is likely to be your first port of call on an MSC Mediterranean cruise.
Perched high above the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, the town’s compact centre is no more than ten minutes’ walk from one end to the other. Its architecture consists of an unusual hybrid of classical Georgian townhouses, which reflect a strong British connection, and tall Spanish apartment blocks shading the narrow streets.
From near the ferry terminal, set beneath the cliff that supports the remains of the city wall, a generous stone stairway, the Costa de Ses Voltes, leads up to the series of small squares that comprise the heart of the old town. The Plaça Constitució boasts the town’s main church, Santa María. Founded in 1287 by Alfonso III to celebrate the island’s reconquest, it has been remodelled on several subsequent occasions.
Like Mahón, Ciutadella is just waiting to be discovered on an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion. Sitting high above its harbour, with navigation difficult here owing to a narrow channel too slender for anything but the smallest of cargo ships, Ciutadella has nevertheless been the island’s capital for most of its history. The narrow, cobbled streets of its compact, fortified centre brim with fine old palaces, hidden away behind high walls, and a set of Baroque and Gothic churches very much in the Spanish tradition.
The main plazas and points of interest are all within a few strides of each other, on and around the main square, Plaça d’es Born, in the middle of which a soaring obelisk commemorates the town’s futile defence against the marauding Turks in 1558. To the northwest, the square is bordered by the steep harbour walls, and in the northeast lies the vast nineteenth-century mansion Palau Torresaura.