Of course we couldn’t overlook this incredible village in Menorca. At first sight you will be attracted by its white houses, stone streets and every path with a certain charm, being one of the most beautiful villages you can visit.
During the day you can enjoy a sports and fishing pier, because gastronomy and physical activity is the order of the day in this incredible village. On the other hand, the nightlife is full of entertainment, with bars and restaurants offering different entertainment options. There is no reason to get bored in Ciutadella.
“The ‘other capital’ of Minorca, Ciudadella, is equally attractive and welcoming, qualities that make it full of people at the height of the tourist season. The streets and squares are crowded, and there are not enough places to stay in the port. You have to wait for hours while the beaches absorb the flow of passers-by to enjoy in peace and quiet what is possible during the rest of the year: the tranquillity of an old town that has a great history in its streets and in the memory of its inhabitants.
The location of the ancient city walls can be easily traced by the arch, which today represents three successive passages (Constitució, Jaume I and Capità Negrete) and is popularly known as Sa Contramurada. It is flanked by two imposing bastions, one of which crowns the town hall, an ancient citadel from the Muslim period, and the other houses the Bastió de sa Font museum. These overlook the port and its extension, the Plaza Sant Joan, where horse games are held during the fiestas.
Within these medieval city limits are many interesting buildings. Its spine stretches from Plaça Alfonso III to Plaça del Born. Even the Plaça Nova bears the name Camí de Maó, like the old access road to the city, which has now been replaced by the main street. It later became Ses Voltes (Josep Mª Quadrado street), whose narrow street runs between the arched porches of the houses.
The harmonious series of arches is only interrupted by the short continuation of the Plaza de Vela, where you can see a bronze representation of the emblematic Lamb of Saint John (Be de Sant Joan), a delicate sculpture in quartz crystal. It stands behind the cathedral, a building that unites religious faith and civic awareness and is the true and symbolic centre of this neighbourhood.
Without being taller than other buildings in the city, the Seu impresses the viewer with its location and the fact that it rises spectacularly above the empty spaces around it. The church of Santa Maria was built in the 14th century on the site of the former Muslim mosque, which had already been converted to Christian worship when Alfonso III arrived on the island. It was consecrated as a cathedral in 1795. It was built according to a Catalan Gothic model and consisted of a wide nave to which several side chapels were attached. The cathedral has been renovated and rebuilt so many times that it is not surprising that it has Baroque elements, such as the Ses Ànimes chapel, or Neoclassical ones, such as the main façade. As the city’s most important religious centre, it has experienced both happy times and tragedies. The Turkish hordes of the pashas Mustafa and Pialy sacked the city in 1558 (a tragic year) and set fire to the neighbourhood.
The Palau Olivar also stands in the Plaça de la Seu and its overhanging façade seems to guard the logical path to Es Born. Even so, it is a good idea to slow down and take your time to lose yourself in the neighbouring narrow streets. In Carrer del Bisbe is the Episcopal Palace, and in the neighbouring Carrer de Sant Sebastiá is the Palau Squella, an 18th-century Baroque building in the Italianate style. Further on, in Santa Clara street, is the Palace of Baro de Lloriac, the oldest family of the local aristocracy, which is on the corner of Dormidor de ses Monges street, where the convent of the nuns of the Order of Santa Clara, so closely linked to the vicissitudes of the city, is located. Returning along the same street towards Ses Voltes, you pass between the small church of Sant Josep and Can Salord, the corner of which has been set back to facilitate the entrance and exit of the church.
Crossing Ses Voltes, victim of the endless stream of pedestrians going up and down, the street takes the name of Bisbe Vila, but Carrer del Seminari is more popular because this is the site of the Renaissance-style Augustinian convent of Socors, home to the town hall’s seminary. The cloister hosts the Music Festival on summer evenings, as well as the auditions of the Capella Davídica, an institution that has cultivated many famous and appreciated voices. Before, however, you will have passed another small chapel, that of Sant Crist, and another palace, that of the second branch of the Saura dynasty, today occupied by bank offices. Behind the Socors convent there is a space with a life of its own: the market, in Plaça de la Llibertat, with an architectural style – in iron, contributed by the modernists – that brings a great leap of two centuries in the physiognomy of the area, although with the necessary character so that it is not too striking a difference.
There are more palaces in Carrer del Santíssim, those of Saura and Martorell, and the Roser church -secularised and used as a cultural centre-, and more small, narrow streets that give off a sense of intimacy and tranquillity. This continues until you leave the Born area, where the mansions of Salord and Olivar, already 19th-century buildings, sublimate the representative intention of these dwellings – the stately homes or palaces – whose façades tend to provide a more spectacular architectural style.
The obelisk of the Born can be seen as an accusing index finger, as an accusation to the heavenly powers for the abandonment suffered in the face of calamity. But the monument, a tribute to the victims of the Turkish attack, should also be interpreted as a confirmation of nobility which it does not renounce. Ciudadela de Menorca is well aware of its past, and the role it has had to play has not always been kind. The fact that the British occupation stripped it of its capital status, for example, has not prevented it from retaining the pride with which it held this title.
Opposite the aforementioned palaces is the Town Hall, and to one side, the Teatre des Born, next to which you can access the port via the stairs of the Baixada Capllonch. Another road is the Costa des Moll, which opens up between this square and the adjoining Esplanada des Pins, another scene of urban peace. If instead of going down to the port, you walk along the Passeig de Sant Nicolau, you reach the entrance to the open sea and the Passeig Marítim which follows the line of Cala Degollador. In the Plaça Almirall Farragut – an illustrious American sailor of local descent – stands the Castle of Sant Nicolau, an elegant military construction with an additional guard turret. Octagonal in design and surrounded by a moat, it had the necessary artillery to repel attacks from the sea. It was designed by Spanish engineers at the end of the 17th century to replace another one, from which the coat of arms it bears, that of the Crown of Aragon, comes from. Since its recent restoration, it can be visited free of charge.
The spirit of summer materialises every year in Ciudadela with the arrival of the Sant Joan festivities, revealing the Mediterranean heart that beats beneath its venerable exterior. This spirit does not rest until the days are shorter again. Evenings should be filled with people and music as much as possible, dispelling the austere reputation of being a city of convents.