Exploring Balearic Architecture
The Balearic Islands have long been associated with a quick fix of winter sun or a hectic weekender in the clubs of Ibiza. But take some time to explore the visual culture of these popular Spanish islands and another, more intriguing side emerges. Influenced by everyone from the Phoenicians to the Catalans, Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza have their own stories to tell, and their stunning architecture can inform, amaze and inspire visitors from all over the world. So if you’ve yet to discover the cultural side to the Balearics, take a look at our guide to the best of the islands’ architecture.
Ibiza is not just for party animals and music fans – there’s a lot of visual appeal to be found in the ancient ruins, lookout towers and white stone churches that speckle the island. Alternately conquered by the Romans, Arabs and Catalan people over the years, this tidal wave of cross-cultural migration has left its mark, particularly in places like the capital Ibiza Town. Its well-preserved Dalt Villa or High Town is a UNESCO heritage site and contains solid 16th century city walls, built by the Italian architect Calvi, and a Medieval cathedral that claims both Roman and Arabic foundations.
Elsewhere, the peaceful resort of Santa Eulalia to the East offers the 16th century white stone churches of the Catalans and an original Roman bridge. You can also see a series of stone towers all around the coast – which were once used to warn residents of approaching pirates!
Mallorca’s beautiful Moorish, Gothic and Roman architecture can be spied right across the island, but it’s in the main hub of Palma de Mallorca that the strongest concentration of design and history come together. From the 10th century Arab Baths to the magnificent vaulted structure of La Seu cathedral, a whole spectrum of the island’s past can be seen by taking a walk round Palma’s meandering streets.
Beautiful religious architecture can be seen at attractions like Lluc Monastery, with its dramatic location high in the rocky landscape of Escorca. Or, if you find yourself staying in the north of the island at Alcudia, this cultured settlement is home to the former Roman outpost of Pollentia, where you can examine the remains of an amphitheatre, amongst other historical finds.
Known as the quieter Balearic island, Menorca is nonetheless full to the brim with stunning architectural gems. More of the Catalan Gothic style that characterises Palma de Mallorca can be seen at the cathedral of Ciutadella de Menorca, with its intriguing carved gargoyles, while the port capital of Mahon is renowned for its Georgian buildings; a legacy from 18th century British rule which make a pleasing contrast to the older styles.
Stay in more remote destinations, such as Es Castell, and you’ll find primordial stones at ancient Trepucó, as well as charming rural churches. The domestic dwellings of tiny villages like Binibeca Vell, near the resort of Cala Canutells, tell stories of how Menorcans have lived for centuries among the cobbled lanes.
Do you have any tips for discovering the architecture of the Balearics? Which island has the best examples of design? Share your opinions in the comments below!