Isla del Rey: Everything you need to know to visit it

Fachada del hospital de la Isla del Rey de Menorca

For families who want to spend quality time together, surrounded by great scenery, simple yet elegant surroundings, Isla del Rey in Menorca is undoubtedly what they need.

Isla del Rey is the perfect choice for a holiday visit for its beaches, Caribbean waters and wild nature. However, it is not only known for its rich natural beauty. The island is also dazzling for its cultural energy, a perfect choice for silver tourism.

On a visit to the Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery we can enjoy artistic works that have the power to touch all our senses due to its multifaceted culture.

Isla Rey is definitely the place you need to experience a combination of cultural education, conservation and nature.

History of Isla del Rey

Located in the middle of the Port of Mahon, this was the first land of Menorca, set foot on by King Alfonso III, when he came to the place to conquer the island from the Muslims who inhabited it.

During the 18th century, this island acquired great commercial and strategic importance, which is why different European powers coveted to occupy and control its lands. Thus, over the years, the inhabitants of the island suffered various invasions by both the French and the English.

As a curious fact, it was during this period of constant occupation that the English built a building to serve as a hospital, which has survived to the present day.

It was in 1802 that the island became definitively the property of the Spanish crown and was called Isla del Rey (King’s Island) because it was the first land on Menorca that Alfonso III set foot on.

The emblematic hospital continued to operate and from then on provided service to Spanish and other Mediterranean navies, especially during the Second World War.

Although the island’s importance was boosted by the rise of shipping during the 18th century, there is actually archaeological evidence that it has been inhabited since ancient times.

For example, in 1888, the remains of a Paleo-Christian basilica were discovered, which, according to various studies, date back to the 5th century.

How to get to Isla del Rey in Menorca?

The only way for visitors to get to Isla del Rey is by boat and the nearest place from which these sail there is from Puerto de Mahón.

So your options for getting there are quite limited and in fact, there are only two. The first is to get to Mahón and hire one of the boats bound for Isla del Rey. The second option is to sign up for one of the excursions offered by tour guides, who will tell you everything you need to know to get to the island.

Ferries generally depart daily for the island, but departure and departure times vary depending on the season. Prices are usually €7 for adults and €3 for children and tickets can be purchased on the Hause & Wirth Menorca website.

Traslado a la isla del Rey en barco desde Mahón
Ferry transfer to Isla del Rey from Mahón

What to visit on Isla del Rey?

Although this is a very small island, it really does have a lot to offer its visitors, and the best thing is that your holiday here won’t just be about spending time on the beach and nothing else.

Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery

Many say that this place in Menorca is the best holiday destination for art lovers and they are absolutely right.

Here we find the Hauser & Wirth Art Gallery, the most prestigious branch of the famous Swiss art company Hauser & Wirth.

This art centre, with its multifaceted nature, touches all the senses of visitors. Its focus is on education and sustainability, therefore, the gallery offers different activities to both locals and visitors, such as workshops, lectures and different projects.

The entrance fee for the Hauser & Wirth art gallery is free of charge for visitors, however, the centre receives donations from those who wish to make them, to be given to charities in Menorca.

Basically, the aim of the gallery’s creators was to offer a space where people can appreciate art, while at the same time keep in touch with nature, sample the local gastronomy and learn about Menorca’s history.

Spyder de Bourgeois en Hauser&Wirth Menorca
Spyder at Hauser & Wirth Menorca

Isla del Rey Hospital

In 1711, John Jennings, who was commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean squadron, gave the order for a naval hospital to be built on the northern part of the island, with its view centred on the harbour overture.

It is not known who the architect in charge of the project was, but the building that was constructed was characterised by its spaciousness, simplicity and airiness, bearing a resemblance to the hospitals in London.

The construction was carried out, but in the period from 1771 to 1776, some changes were made to the architecture of the building and from then on it has remained that way (with some restructuring over time), until the present day.

A striking fact is that the English know this island as Bloody Island, because after the naval hospital began to function.

The building is an inverted U-shape and has three wings (including the central wing) connected by corridors. These wings were originally the wards that housed up to 140 patients.

It has a first floor which was built some time after the original construction, with the purpose of extending the capacity of the building to 1200 beds. Today, these rooms function as a museum, where visitors can learn about the instruments and equipment used by doctors more than 300 years ago to save lives.

The materials on display in this museum are completely original from the period, collected from different parts of the world and brought to the island. We will be guided through the hospital by volunteers from the island who work with the Isla del Rey Hospital Foundation.

Estancias del Hospital en la Isla del Rey en Mahón

Island canteen and restaurant

No visit to Isla del Rey is complete without a visit to La Cantina de la Illa del Rey.

Here we are offered dishes of a high gastronomic level, typical of Menorcan food, and we also have the opportunity to enjoy excellent wines, managed by the Binifadet wine cellar.

Cantina en la Isla del Rey en Menorca
Canteen on the Isla del Rey in Menorca

Remains of the Paleochristian basilica

Here we find an archaeological site that corresponds to an early Christian basilica for religious purposes.

It was discovered in 1888 and was discovered by chance when people saw mosaics similar to those of the Hamman-Lif Synagogue in Africa. However, archaeological excavations at the site were not carried out until 1964.

Experts were able to identify that the basilica consisted of a building measuring 18.5 m x 11.5 m, decorated with mosaics previously recognised in Syrian-African culture. Some outbuildings were also found, leading archaeologists to believe that the site was once a monastery.

According to historians, it was built in the 6th century after the Byzantine conquest.

Although nowadays it is nothing more than ruins, history and archaeology lovers can enjoy a visit to the site to see the remains of such an ancient construction.

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