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Sant Lluís

Sant Lluís—or San Luis, in Castilian Spanish—is a municipality in the south-east of Minorca, with approximately 7,000 inhabitants spread over 14 centres of population. Previously known as Garriga de Binifadet (the Catalan word garriga refers to the lowland forest, which characterises the region’s landscape), the course of the municipality’s history changed for ever when, in 1756, it was conquered by the French, who set out to join the area’s isolated hamlets into one large urban centre. The centre was to be the Saint Louis church—a Neo-Classical-style edifice built in honour of the French King Louis XV—which gave the new municipal capital its name, and served as the epicentre for its future development.

As a direct legacy of its past French associations, the town of Sant Lluís, in contrast to other Minorcan towns, is laid out on a grid plan in rectangular blocks. Nevertheless, it retains the traditional Minorcan whitewashed houses, and boasts a plethora of historic buildings. The town’s main focus is the Plaça de Sa Creu, an unpretentious, rectangular esplanade on which stands the afore-mentioned church, together with the Town Hall. The square serves as the setting for the Sunday market and for the traditional local festivals held in honour of the town’s patron, Saint Louis. These take place every year during the last week of August, when the inhabitants gather to enjoy the floats, fireworks, live music and traditional horseback parade—popularly known as the jaleo.

Another notable feature of Sant Lluís is its three windmills, as centuries ago the town to some extent owed its living to the peasant farmers of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, who brought their grain here to be ground. Of the three, the molí de Dalt (or upper mill) is the best preserved. Built in 1762 during the brief period of French occupation, this edifice is now an ethnological museum, where visitors can see the tools and implements used centuries ago by workers in occupations now extinct. Unlike this windmill, neither the molí d’Enmig (middle mill) nor the molí de Baix (lower mill) still retain their original machinery, but are used by private and local government organisations.

Lastly, Sant Lluís is noteworthy for its restaurants, where visitors can enjoy typical Mediterranean cuisine. Sa Pedrera d’es Pujol is a sophisticated restaurant renowned for its tasting menu, with outstanding dishes such as the ‘corneto de queso de Mahón’ [Mahón cheese cone]. For its part, La Venta de Paco is suitable for those on a more modest budget, while still offering great quality. We can recommend the escalivada [grilled vegetables] with bread and tomatoes, and the Mahón ice cream. For wine lovers, the Bodegas Binifadet winery, on the outskirts of the town, offers visitors both tastings of their own wines and of traditional dishes on their impressive country estate.

Although Sant Lluís is the municipal capital, it shares the limelight with other tourist resorts dotted along the coastline of the municipality. These sprang up in the mid-1970s, together with the new Spanish democracy. One such is Binibèquer—Binibeca, in Castilian Spanish—an enchanting place whose white villas give it the air of a typical Minorcan town. Another attraction is the nearby cove from which the town took its name, with its limestone rocks, crystal-clear waters glimmering with a turquoise hue, and constant sunshine.

Lovers of unspoilt beaches generally will find a true paradise on the shores of Sant Lluís. In contrast with the busy cove of Binibeca, there are also hidden beaches such as Cala Rafalet and Biniparratx. Both enclosed by cliffs, the main feature of the former is its shade and of the latter its caves, perfect for exploring.

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