Visiting Es Mercadal | A Traditional Village in Menorca

Es Mercadal is the nucleus of Menorca, located right in the centre of the island between Ciutadella and capital Mahón. You can locate the town easily, at the base of the island’s highest peak, Monte Toro.

Es Mercadal was formerly a medieval market town, and today, it still retains much of its original character. Cobbled streets are lined with a mix of whitewashed and pastel houses, while historic landmarks seamlessly mesh with sleek restaurants and shops selling Abarcas, the traditional-turned-trendy Menorcan sandals that you’ve likely seen on your favourite celeb.

This is a place for nature lovers and photographers, with epic sunset viewpoints and scenic hiking trails abundant with vegetation. Foodies will love Es Mercadal too. It’s the home of Menorcan cheese, there’s a fantastic winery nearby, and the town’s bakeries create some of the best ensaïmadas in the Balearic Islands!

If you are planning a trip and wish to add Es Mercadal in Menorca to your itinerary, here are my insider tips to help you gain the most from your visit.

A Brief History of Es Mercadal

Es Mercadal dates back to the 13th century when a group of people from Girona, in mainland Spain, migrated here following the reconquest of Menorca. The early settlers built a parish at the base of Monte Toro (Mount Bull), and it quickly blossomed, gaining a reputation as a lively market town. Fittingly, the name ‘Mercadal’ means marketplace.

Unlike some of the coastal towns, it’s not a seasonal destination. Es Mercadal is a year-round working town with thriving businesses, a pretty church, residential areas and schools, and it’s a charming place to gain insight into ‘everyday’ Menorca.

A few attractions to see during your day trip or longer stay include Sant Marti Church in the town centre and the Sanctuary of the Virgin, which sits on top of Monte Toro.

You can also take a visit to the Mercadal cistern (el aljub) dating to 1735. It once provided an important freshwater source for travellers journeying between Mahón and Ciutadella – and it’s still in use today!

The town is also home to the Artisanal Centre of Menorca, located in a former barracks, plus the surrounding area boasts significant flora and fauna, including 59 of the 65 bird species found in Menorca. (tip – if you want to see the Menorcan bird of prey, the ‘Red Kite’, head to Mt Toro to see them swirling above!).

Getting to Es Mercadal

If you’re planning to hire a car in Menorca, Es Mercadal is easy to reach from both Ciutadella and Mahón along the main road known as the Me-1. Due to its geographical location in the middle of the island, the journey time from either location takes around 20-25 minutes.

If you’re staying in the coastal town of Fornells to the north, the trip takes less than 15 minutes by car along the Me-15.

It’s also possible to reach Es Mercadal via public bus. The No. 01 operates between Mahón (Maó) and Ciutadella (Plaça Menorca) stopping at Alaior, Es Mercadal and Ferreries year-round, several times a day, although the service is reduced in winter.

There are also further daily bus services – the No. 51 bus from Mahón to Cala Galdana and vice versa runs a few times a day stopping at Es Mercadal. You can also hop aboard the L41 with services between Es Mercadal and Fornells, Son Parc and Arenal d’en Castell. The services however are limited out of season.

If you were wondering if it’s possible to get from Menorca Airport to Es Mercadal by bus, the short answer is no, not directly. You’ll have go to Mahón city centre first. Alternatively, the cost of a taxi from the airport to Es Mercadal is approximately €30-35 one way.

Read More: Best Things to do in Menorca

Things to do in Es Mercadal

Es Mercadal may be a small town of less than 3000 people, but it’s an incredibly charming and interesting place to visit. Whether you’re into hiking, shopping, good food, local history or wine tasting, here are a few more things to do in Es Mercadal and beyond.

See the Views from El Toro

El Toro, also known as Monte Toro or Mount Bull, is Menorca’s highest point, located three kilometres east of Es Mercadal. It’s not really a mountain per se, more of a hill, but it’s tall – 357 metres above sea level, boasting views across Menorca – you can see both coasts on a clear day.

Unlike many mountains, this one has a road leading right to the top, making it easy to drive to the summit within 10 minutes from the town. You can also hike along the roadside in around 45 minutes, although this is best actioned in cooler weather and at quieter times of the day.

The name El Toro is said to come from the legend of a bull that guarded the peak, preventing trespassers from ascending to the summit. This is not the only legend of Monte Toro though – strange phenomena and miraculous events are also said to have occurred here…

At the summit, you can explore the Sanctuary of the Virgin del Toro, dedicated to the patron saint of the island. It dates back to the late 1600s with Gothic architecture, an inner courtyard and the remains of a defence tower. After visiting the sanctuary, pop into the gift shop, see the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue or enjoy snacks and refreshments in the hilltop restaurant (open May-October).

Mt Toro is also a sunset hotspot. Arrive early to photograph panoramic views, then take a seat and watch the sky change colour before the sun sets beyond the horizon.

Places to Eat in Es Mercadal

There are some fabulous restaurants in Es Mercadal ranging from traditional eateries serving Spanish and Balearic dishes to historic bakeries and pizzerias.

Cas Sucrer makes some of the best ensaïmadas on the island. Try the traditional plain version topped with icing sugar or try one of their fun versions like Lotus cookie, Ferrero Rocher, or apricot and walnut! The quaint café with outdoor seating was founded in the late 1800s, and today, the family still create their cakes and sweets using traditional recipes.

No trip to Es Mercadal is complete without savouring a meal at Molí d’es Racó. This iconic restaurant is hard to miss when you enter the village, as it sits beneath the town’s unmissable windmill! The traditional restaurant serves up farm fresh, homegrown food, prepared in a Menorcan style. This understandably means there’s plenty of meat & fish on the menu, but there are a few plant-based options too for the veggies among us.

One of the finest restaurants in town is Café Bistro Sol 32. Hidden away in an unassuming residential house with shuttered windows, dining here is like being invited into a friend’s home for dinner. The menu is distinctly Mediterranean with a French twist, thanks to the Breton chef, and dishes are made with the freshest, seasonal market produce to tantalise the most discerning of palates.

Restaurante Can Jaume is a great place to try fresh fish, meats, paellas and Menorcan cheese paired with fine wines. With elegant botanical-infused décor and a relaxed ambience, it’s an ideal spot for a group, family or romantic dinner.

Places to Shop in Es Mercadal

While not a shopping mecca, the small town of Es Mercadal has a few quality stores to get your shopping fix. They sell everything from gastronomic treats to local arts, crafts and handmade Menorcan sandals.

Menorca Infinita opened in early 2020, and sells an eclectic collection of arts, crafts and jewellery – all locally made in Menorca. Browse an array of hand-made earrings, bags, mugs, textiles and perfumes made from island botanicals (including sea salt), and know you’re supporting the local artisans. NB – this shop is seasonal, so is closed in the winter months.

Let’s talk Abarcas – the trendy unisex sandals handmade in Menorca. They are typically crafted from leather, although these days, you can find elaborate versions with lace, sequins, or even faux fur if that’s your thing. You can even now find them made in leather substitutes for their growing number of vegan customers.

Abarques Mibo in Es Mercadal is one of the best places to buy them for the sheer variety of styles. There are shelves upon shelves of sandals in different designs, colours and sizes, all at reasonable prices between around €30-50 euros.

For gourmet picnic treats, El Paladar ticks the boxes. This gastronomic wonderland sells everything from cured meats, to wines, pickled veggies, olive oils and cheeses. If you fancy a spot of cheese tasting and a tour you can also visit nearby Queseria Lluriach a few kilometres outside the town.

Wine Tasting at Bodegues Menorquines

Avid oenophiles may enjoy spending time tasting local Menorcan wines during a stay. The area around Es Mercadal is perfect vine-growing terroir, as the land is comprised of slate, sandstone and clay. Around 3.5 hectares of vines are grown here, with a particular focus on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Macabeo grape varieties.

Bodegues Menorquines has been here since 1987, producing around 12,000 bottles every year under the denomination Vi de la terra Illa de Menorca. The wine is sold mainly in local markets and to restaurants throughout the island, but they also have quite a following on the mainland and in France.

If you wish to discover their wine-making process, see the oak barrel cellars and sample a glass or two, you can arrange a tour and tasting in advance. They offer a selection of delicate white wines and well-rounded, fruity, spicy reds to try.

Hike in the Public Estate of S’Arangi

Just outside of Es Mercadal lies a beautiful area for hiking, picnicking, and even rock climbing! There’s a dedicated car park (here) just off the main road. Choose one of the three colour-coded trails to explore – from just a quick 20min stroll, to an hour’s hike.

You can also complete the Green & Blue trails together, to form a loop. Don’t be put off by the climbing symbol next to the blue trail (as I almost was) – although it is a great spot for climbing – it’s optional!

The longer 2.1 kilometre circular track takes less than an hour to complete. It’s a fairly easy hike, although it can be quite steep in places, therefore it’s advisable to wear comfortable footwear and carry some water with you on hot days.

Along the route, you’ll gain incredible views of the whitewashed town of Es Mercadal and Monte Toro. En route, you’ll navigate pathways through shady mystical woodland, spot endemic flora and fauna and unique rock formations – you can even break for a picnic.

As mentioned, the loop trail only takes a short time to complete, however, it’s worth staying a while to be at one with nature and listen to the birdsong.

Other things to do Around Es Mercadal

Es Mercadal’s central location makes it an excellent base for exploring the island on day trips. You could drive anywhere on the island from here in less than an hour, but if you’re looking for nearby spots to discover, here are a few ideas.

Discover the Coastal Village of Fornells

Pining for the seaside? The pretty coastal village of Fornells is a short drive away. The enchanting fishing village has several highlights to explore including 19th-century Torre de Fornells, and a pretty palm-fringed harbour where you can enjoy various water activities or feast on the famous seafood stew.

Read More: Visiting Fornells, Menorca

Sunshine and Sunsets at Platges de Fornells

Alternatively, pack a picnic and drive to nearby Platges de Fornells to soak up the sun, and enjoy a refreshing dip or spot of snorkelling. This area has fabulous viewpoints. You can sip sundowners at sunset at chic Isabella Beach Club in summer or head to Mirador la Bahia de Fornells with a camera.

Beach Days at Son Parc and Arenal d’en Castell

The coastal resorts of Son Parc and Arenal d’en Castell are blessed with beautiful beaches (some Blue Flag), golf courses, tennis courts and an array of water sports activities. Spend a day relaxing, swimming, snorkelling or zipping around on a jet-ski.

If you prefer to stay on terra firma, walk sections of the Cami de Cavalls trail (including the stunning section between the two resorts), browse for souvenirs, or enjoy a delicious meal with sea views.

Experience Port d’Addaia

Port d’Addaia is a gorgeous scenic destination on the northern coast of the island with whitewashed houses, a natural harbour, luxury boats and a coastal landscape that’s begging to be photographed. For some of the best views of Na Carboner and Illa Gran d’Addaia, walk past Torre de Addaia to Punta Addaia at the tip of the peninsula.

Discover Local History at Alaior

If delving into local history and culture is more your thing, Alaior is a typical interior town founded in the early 1300s. Here, you can visit the LOAC contemporary art gallery, enjoy a picnic in Munt de l’Angel Park, visit windmills or spend time exploring Pedrera de Santa Ponca, a mysterious abandoned stone quarry nearby.

Cultural Activities and Shopping in Ferreries

Hemmed between natural gorges and mountains, the town of Ferreries is known for its whitewashed houses, ruined 10th-century Santa Agueda Castle and Sant Bartomeu Church.

There’s a fantastic Saturday morning market selling local produce, lacework, etched glass and sandals, plus, in summer you can enjoy folk dancing and live music. You’ll also find excellent tapas restaurants and shoemaking, jewellery and furniture factories here that sell to the general public.

Es Mercadal – Key Things to Know

This is a working village, and therefore most shops and businesses in Es Mercadal stay open year-round.

Apart from the aforementioned places to eat and shop, you’ll also find banks, a well-stocked supermarket, a car rental agency, a petrol station, and pretty much anything else you’ll need during your stay.

Where to Stay in Es Mercadal

Es Mercadal, although unassuming from the outside, actually punches above its weight when it comes to accommodation options. Unlike the seaside resorts with their holiday apartments and large hotels, this is a great place to find boutique accommodation in Menorca.

S’Estancia Suites always catches my eye when I drive through Es Mercadal. The modern building is striking, and at street level there’s an upmarket restaurant and bar. The rooms are tastefully decorated, and some come with a private jacuzzi.

Hotel S’Antiga is located in a renovated school building in the heart of the village. The character of the building shines through and has been complimented with simple furnishings and understated decor.

Cas Conco caters for larger groups or families staying in Es Mercadal. The beautifully renovated building boasts 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, a private swimming pool, and a modern, fully equipped kitchen.

Read More: Best Places to Stay in Menorca

Es Mercadal is a great base for nature lovers, food and wine connoisseurs and those wishing to explore the island by car while immersing themselves in the traditional island culture and lifestyle. Combine a couple of days in Es Mercadal with a beach or city stay for a fully-rounded Menorcan experience.

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