Minorca retains and preserves all the magic left by its ancestors, making the island one of Europe’s most important historical studies and a unique “open air museum”
The historical patrimony of Minorca is inexhaustible with over a thousand prehistoric monuments, artificial caves, remains of the roman era and signs of the Muslim period as well as structures of Paleo-Christian churches.
The island's talayotic settlements are the most important in Europe. Observing the splendour and size of these stones it’s easy to travel back along the mysterious paths of time and question how did these men build these “T” shaped monuments, called “taulas” - The tallest “taula” on the island can be found at Trepucó in Mao it measures 4.20 metres.
Other iconic structures visible on the island are the “navetas”, the Naveta des Tudons being the islands finest and are one of the oldest monuments in Europe. A naveta is a burial chamber, somewhat resembling an upside down boat.
Other constructions sure to captivate are the “talaiots”, great mounds of stones that emerge from hills and plains.
The “prehistoric settlements” were authentic cities designed for living and worshipping. Amongst the grounds of these settlements you can admire taules, navetas and talaiots, sepulchral caves or wells, perhaps the best example on the island is the “Torre den Gaumes” settlement, close to Alaior.
More recent historical structures can be viewed almost entirely in and around the boundaries of the harbour of Mao. These majestic buildings are the fortresses that were constructed to fight against pirates and enemies. The island was many times fought for and occupied due to her strategic Mediterranean position and for her harbour in Maó; the second largest natural harbour in the world. Today, you can visit and admire the “Mola” fortress, situated at the mouth of the harbour (19th century) and then you have the castle of Sant Felip, with its maze of underground tunnels and Fort Marlborough (built by the British in the 18th century). The conquering and occupying English, French, Arabic, Roman and Spanish have all marked the landscape with their buildings...... too many to mention in such a short text.
At regular intervals around the island and along its coastline you will see the watch towers or defence turrets, these were built on elevated and strategic sites affording good visibility and easy communication and alarm networks. In order to appreciate the towers' uses and the islands defence system between the 16th and 19th century, we recommended that you visit the exhibition at the Torre de Fornells.
The episcopacy has had a historical influence of the island's society. This power is reflected in a number of religious buildings to be observed. Minorca`s Cathedral is the clearest example of the islands wealthy patrimony as well as being the most important gothic representation on the island. This Cathedral can be visited in Ciutadella, and was built at the end of the 13th century and constructed over a Muslim mesquite. For the historical architect and admirer the island has many buildings from different periods, take the neo-gothic inside of the “Santa Maria Church”, in Maó; the neo-classic inspired “Carmen Church” together with its “Cloisters”, where different cultural events are held. Another religious visit must include the “Toro Sanctuary” of Es Mercadal. It is inhabited by a Franciscan community but visits are permitted and enjoyed.
The aristocratic families have also left their mark on the local architecture, these grand old families commissioned plush and elaborate palaces, so when your taking a stroll around the old town centres, take a look at the houses.