Maó (Spanish: Mahón) is the capital city of Menorca. Known interchangeably as Maó (the original Catalan) and Mahon (the English), the city became the island's capital following the British Occupation of the island in 1708. The city is known for arguably having the largest natural harbour in Europe (and the second largest in the world, with Pearl Harbor being the largest). It is also known for being one of the origins - and potentially the birthplace - of Mayonnaise.
Maó, like most of Menorca, has enjoyed a violent and bloody history with many countries wanting to lay claim to the island and in particular the valuable port at Maó. The city's history in particular begins in 1708, where during the War of Spanish Succession the British Royal Navy invaded the entire island, seeing a naval base established in the port at such a close proximity to mainland Spain. This gave the port much of its military history, most of which can still be toured on a number of boat trips today. The city was so strongly associated with the Navy that the entire area became known as 'Port Mahon'.
Following a French invasion in 1756, in the Battle of Menorca, the Port came under French occupation and control, shortly before being lost to the British again and eventually, having been thrown to and from the British and Spanish, being handed to Spain for theirs to keep ever since.
The link to the popular dressing Mayonnaise originates from these battles too. As the dressing is originally french, its name was supposedly a chance to honour the 1756 French victory over the British, with the name "mahonnaise" being used around that time.
Like much of the island, the industries prevalent in Maó are relatively rural, with two of the largest manufacturers producing Menorcan Gin and a brand of cheese known as 'Mahon Cheese', unique to the island. This is due to the island's excellent stock of dairy cows which produce milk laced with salt from the nearby seas, producing excellent dairy products.
- 1 Menorca Airport There are regular flights available to Menorca Airport (sometimes known as Mahon Airport) from mainland Spain and the sister islands of Ibiza and Mallorca through Iberia and their subsidiary Air Nostrum. Flights from Spain are also available from Barcelona El Prat with Vueling (subsidiary of IAG, the owners of Iberia and British Airways). If travelling from the UK, various airlines offer regular scheduled services during the summer tourist season. Airlines Jet2, TUI Airways and EasyJet all fly from various regional and main UK airports direct to Menorca. British Airways offer services from London Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports.
To get to your resort, Menorca's airport is served by buses to Maó (€2.65, 10 min) every half hour from around 06:00 to 22:00 and then hourly to midnight. The bus stops at the bus station, the Estacio Maritima and a couple of other intermediate points. Buses are then available to various resorts and towns across the island from the bus station.
Taxis are available directly in front of the airport terminal and there is a range of car hire options to get to your resort. There are also various services (bookable online) that allow direct coach transfers to resorts across the island.
The bus system in Menorca is extensive, reliable and easy to use. The Mahon bus station is on the edge of the old town and can be easily reached on foot from the town. If you have luggage with you, you can also change to the city centre buses and drive a few stops closer to the hotel. Single journey between €1.65 and €2.50, to be paid to the driver. Trips to other places on the island cost up to €6.50. There is a recreation and information centre at the bus station, where all bus timetables are posted. The overland buses to the beaches run much less frequently in the low season (Oct-Apr), so it is advisable to make a note of the bus connection for the outward and return journey in advance. The buses are modern, and the next stop is shown on electronic boards.
- 1 Església del Carme. A church
- 2 Xoriguer Gin Distillery (Destilerías Xoriguer), Moll de Ponent, 07701 Mahon, (On the main port road next to the harbour in Mahon.), ☏ . M-F 08:00-19:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. Menorca's very own Xoriguer Gin Distillery, constructed during the 18th century, is on the Moll de Ponent dockside. Menorcan gin is distinctively aromatic and very tasty, and generally offered only there and by select European retailers elsewhere. You can sample and purchase it on-site, as well as the many other types of liquor that the Xoriguer Distillery manufactures. Free to enter, a bottle of gin can be €30-50.
- 3 Museu de Menorca, Pla des Monestir, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10:00-14:00, 18:00-20:00, Su and holidays 10:00-14:00. This 15th-century former Franciscan monastery contains the earliest history of the island, the Roman and Byzantine eras and Muslim Menorca and includes paintings from more recent times times.
- 4 Talatí de Dalt. One of the most important prehistoric sites on the island.
- 1 , Carrer Moll de Llevant, 12 (most depart from next to the Ferry Terminal in the Maó Port - tickets can be booked from their offices in the port). Numerous operators offer glass-bottomed cruises around the harbour and port of Maó, offering a chance to view the underwater, marine life and learn about some of Maó's history in the process. They are always fun and very recommendable.
- 2 Maó theater (Teatro Principal de Mahón), Carrer d'en Deià, 40. The oldest opera house in Spain, built in 1829.
- 1 American Bar, Plaça Reial, 7, 07702 Maó (from the port of Maó head up the twisting Costa de ses Voltes then turn right at the top), ☏ . M-F 07:00 - 22:00, Sa 07:00 - 16:00, closed Su. Sit down on a seat on the terrace while sipping on a coffee and pore over a newspaper at this recommended breakfast spot.
- 1 Mirador, Plaza Espanya, 2, (from the harbour, head up the twisty Placa Espanya, and the bar is on the left), ☏ . 09:00 - 01:00 daily. A popular music haunt for locals which impresses with its cave-like interior carved out of the walls above the harbour.
- 2 Maritim Café (Maritimo Maó), Carrer Moll de Llevant (from the harbourside, head for the casino; the bar is just next door), ☏ . Nice bar and terrace next to the Casino Maritim of Maó. At night is transformed into a lounge bar were people can have cocktails, long drinks and dance.
- 3 Akelarre (Akellare Jazz Dance Club), Moll de Ponent (in the heart of Maó's harbour, where the cruise ships dock), ☏ . Jazz music echos off the warm stone interior which is open until the wee hours. Great cocktail list.
- 4 Vinateria Parra (Parra In Vino Veritas), Carrer de San Fernando, 5. Indulge in a great selection of wines and accompany it with a selection of cheese or meat platters from the bar. The interior features timber and marble tables and compliments the soft music that plays.
- 1 Hotel Mirador des Port (Hotel Catalonia Mirador des Port), Carrer de Dalt Vilanova, ☏ . Showcasing great views of the port from its room, this hotel also has its own pool, and fitness area complete with jacuzzis. Some brilliant food too.
- 2 Hostal-Residencia La Isla, Carrer de Santa Catalina, ☏ . This large hotel offers spacious rooms for good value. While the decor is unimaginative, the rooms are clean and the staff are pleasant.
- 3 Posada Orsi, Carrer de la Infanta (centre of Maó), ☏ . Rooms are bright and clean and the hotel staff are attentive.
- 1 La Mola Fortress (Fortalesa Isabel II La Mola) c/La Mola s/n. ☏ . Open daily. €7 – A magnificent Spanish fortress set over Maó harbour, a fine example of mid-19th-century Spanish military architecture.
- 2 Castel Sant Felip ☏ – A castle ruin.
- 3 Fort Marlborough Cala Sant Esteva, ☏
- 1 Punta Prima Beach (Platja de Punta Prima) Carrer Bellavista, 11-13, 07713 Punta Prima (head down the Carrer Mestral de Punta Prima then turn right onto the beachfront, then right again into the large car park). Daily 24 hr – A relatively small beach with some great facilities in Punta Prima, another decent beach close to the Capital. Part of a busy family resort, there are lots of bars and cafes on the seafront and a large car park just next to the beach. There's lots of sunbed hire and pedalo hire available here too. Access can also be by local bus from Maó.
- 2 Es Grau Beach (Platja Es Grau). Carrer Pas des Tamarell, 11, 07701 Es Grau (car park on the ME-5 road directly links to a bridge to access the long beach). Daily 24 hrs. Free. – A great, long beach with shallow water ideal for families that is regarded by many as the closest decent beach to the capital, Mahon. Very close to the nearby nature reserve that has some great walks. Connected to Maó by local bus.
- 1 Sa Sinia firstname.lastname@example.org Sa Sinia Art Hub, Cl St Josep 49. ☏ – Pleasant spot of a drink and some music. Local DJs spin anything from 1980s classics to hip hop.
- 2 Cova d'en Xoroi Carrer de Sa Cova nº 2 07730, Cala en Porter, Alaior. ☏ . Nightclub open 11:00 - late. Open for daytime drinks 11:30 - close – Constructed out of a cave dug into the cliff stone and peering over it. The atmosphere within the cave is unique and must be seen to be believed. One of the few nightclubs in Menorca, it is open until the early hours of the morning. Watching the sun set over the sea from the terrace is simply breathtaking.
- 1 Son Granot (Son Granot Hotel Rural & Restaurant) Carretera de Sant Felip, 41, 07720 Es Castell. (follow the ME-6 past Es Castell and you'll soon see the rural hotel on your right). ☏ – Offers traditional Menorcan cuisine and Spanish and French wines.
- 2 PortBlue San Luis Avenida Decima (S'Algar). ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00 – Hotel-resort with 228 rooms available, 3 swimming pools, a lobby bar, and 2 restaurants. Nice beach bar open till 02:00 everyday.