A Legacy With Offspring
18 August, 2016
No less than 40% of the island’s population is concentrated in the capital, Ibiza. It is the venue for most social and cultural activities throughout the year and boasts the lion’s share of Ibiza’s culinary, sporting and leisure facilities.
Twenty-seven centuries of history are crammed within the walls of Dalt Vila in this ancient, sea-facing Phoenician capital. A visit to this site takes you on a journey into the past, essential to any understanding of the origins of the island. With their panoramic views of the sea, the Cathedral steps or the Old City Hall are hotspots for logging Instagram “likes”. The vantage point overlooks Es Freus, the strait that separates Ibiza from its sibling island, Formentera.
Business and leisure activities are concentrated at the foot of the walled precinct in Sa Penya, the old fishing quarter, as well as inLa Marina,the harbour, the central Vara de Rey boulevard, the lively Plaza del Parque and along the city’s main avenues.
Dalt Vila can easily be toured in half a day. We met Shana Dominique Lacroix next to the boats moored in Ibiza harbour and she explained that the best panoramic view of the Old Town is to be had from alongside the Boas de Ibiza residential complex, designed by Jean Nouvel, on the opposite side of the docks (Paseo Juan Carlos I). While strolling along the dockside on our way to the walled city, we came across a monument dedicated to corsairs. Ibiza was a strategic point in the 16th, 17th and 18th century, as from there the whole south-east of the Iberian Peninsula could be defended against surprise raids by Turkish pirates.
Opposite the harbour, between Plaça d’Antoni Riquer and Plaça Sa Tertúlia, is a street market which begins after Holy Week and offers all kinds of craft wares, jewellery and leather goods. It is best to visit it at night time, when you can also have an ice-cream or a cold beer in the harbour area. It opens from 5 p.m. until the early hours. Nearby is Es Mercat Vell, with its Roman temple aesthetic, where you can enjoy fresh food and buy cut flowers. Open every day except Sundays.
Shana explained how the luxury marina had been relocated at the foot of the Old Town. This is one of only seven examples of such an oddity in the world. The fact is that a mooring in Ibiza’s exclusive harbour costs from 6,000 to 7,000 euros a day in high season (July and August).
Within the Walls
It is well worth strolling through the randomly laid out streets here and, on our walk, we came across medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. The austerity of the Gothic Cathedral is surprising. A rewarding stop is the Dominican Convent, in Renaissance style. It houses the tomb of Guillem de Montgrí, who drove the Moors out of Ibiza and Formentera in 1235. It was then that Catalan was adopted as the main language, although it gradually morphed into Ibizan over the centuries.
In Dalt Vila, culture vultures will be able to quench their thirst in the Contemporary Art Museum, with paintings, engravings, drawings, posters, photographs and videos by such prominent contemporary artists as Bechtold, Floris, Broner, Micus, Zush/Evru, Flanagan, Vedova, Schlosser, Hausmann, Le Parc, Tàpies, Gordillo, Dmitrienko, Hinterreiter, Vallribera, Broto, Faber, Tur Costa, Echarri and Portmany. Also worth visiting is the Puget Museum, dedicated to the work of the acclaimed artist, Narcís Puget. You can now also visit an exhibition devoted to the work of his son, the recently deceased photographer, Narcís Puget Riquer.
Ibiza was designated a World Heritage Site in 1999, by which UNESCO recognised the need to preserve the historical, cultural and natural assets which make this island unique, although especially on account of four complexes:
1. The Walled Precinct of Dalt Vila. The best preserved fortress in the Mediterranean. In the 16th century, Philip II ordered the island to be defended tooth and nail against Berber assaults. He had the old medieval walls converted into an impregnable, fortified bulwark.
2. The Puig des Molins Necropolis. The world’s largest and best preserved Phoenician-Punic necropolis is located in the ancient Roman settlement in the city centre. On display are over 2,500 hypogea or underground chambers where the deceased were buried along with their belongings and tools, in preparation for the afterlife. This is also where the bust of Tanit was found. The goddess of love and fertility, she is identified as the goddess of Ibiza.
3. The Phoenician Settlement of Sa Caleta, in the environs of the Ses Salines Nature Reserve, was the earliest Phoenician settlement on the island, dating from the 8th century BC. The site is fenced off but you can still see the layout and the way life was organised in those times.
4. The waters around Ibiza and Formentera are exceptionally clean and transparent on account of abundant, well preserved underwater meadows of posidonia which promotes seabed biodiversity and the development of indigenous species of marked scientific value. The waters and islets of Es Freus, within the Ses Salines Nature Reserve of Ibiza and Formentera, are ideal for diving.
A large medieval market is held on the second weekend in May each year to celebrate the anniversary of Dalt Vila’s designation as a World Heritage Site.
But, not all is world heritage in old Ibiza. Other assets have emerged over the last few decades and, while they may not be as edifying, they are nevertheless equally essential. For instance, there is the broad slew of culinary offerings available in a host of restaurants, many of which can be found on the Calle de Santa Cruz. We can recommend La Oliva, which features Mediterranean cuisine with some Asian flourishes, where you are sure to bump into the odd celebrity. Then there is the Plaza del Sol, with amazing views of the harbour.
Why wait to explore Ibiza’s Old Town? Check out our flights here.
Special thanks to the Fundación de Promoción Turística de Ibiza.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
18 August, 2016