British connections
The serpentine Costa de Ses Voltes
Ciutadella: the former capital

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A small but charming city centre

MahónMinorca’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.

Must see places in Mahon

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    Love at first sight
    Love at first sight

    If you’re visiting Spain for the first time, be warned: this is a country that fast becomes an addiction. You might intend to come just for a cruise holiday, a walking tour or a city break, but before you know it you’ll find yourself hooked by something quite different – the celebration of some local fiesta, perhaps, or the otherworldly architecture of Barcelona.

    Even in the most over-touristic Mediterranean resorts of the Costa del Sol, you’ll be able to find an authentic bar or restaurant where the locals eat, and a village not far away where an age-old bullfighting tradition owes nothing to tourism. 

    A holiday to Spain can also show you the large cities of the north like Barcelona, which have reinvented themselves as essential cultural destinations (and don’t all close down for hours for a kip every afternoon). 

    And when the world now looks to Spain for culinary inspiration – the country has some of the most acclaimed chefs and innovative restaurants in the world – it’s clear that things have changed. Spain, despite the current economic uncertainty, sees itself very differently from a generation ago. 

    So should you – prepare to be surprised.