Mahón, or Mao as it is typically referred to by the locals, boasts the biggest natural harbour in the Mediterranean and is second only to Pearl Harbour in the world. The town’s elegant Georgian architecture reflects Mahón’s history, having been under British occupation in the 18th century. The compact but charming capital city offers plenty for cruise passengers to see and do during their stopover, from historic sites to shoe shopping.
Why cruise Mahón
The capital of the picturesque Spanish island of Menorca, Mahón is a small but fascinating city, with an abundance of history and culture. Perched atop a cliff overlooking the natural harbour, Menorca is best approached by sea. Once on land, you will find an abundance of history and culture. Menorca has many claims to fame, from its shoe-making and gin-production industries to its mayonnaise sauce.
What to see and do in Mahon
Santa María Church
Situated in the centre of Menorca on Plaça de la Constitució, the foundations of the building were laid around the mid-14th century, but it was not until the 18th century during the British occupation that the church which now stands was built. Don’t leave before checking out the ornate 19th century organ housed inside.
Museum of Menorca
Discover all about the island of Menorca’s history, art and culture at this fascinating museum. Another museum worth a visit is the military museum. Housed in a 17th century monastery, there are several floors of exhibits charting the history of the island, looking at the Talayotic, Roman and Moorish periods. Visitors will also get to learn about Menorca’s shoemaking and crafts traditions.
For some of the best views of the island, head to the peninsula of La Mola, which can be reached via water taxi. La Mola is most famously home to the fortress of Isabel II, one of the main European fortresses built in the 19th century and a fine example of military architecture. If your interest in Mahón’s military history has been piqued, then it’s worth also visiting the Museo Militar de Menorca, housed in an 18th-century barracks, which details the island’s military history, including the various occupations.
Mercado del Claustro del Cármen
This unique gastronomic market is situated in Plaça del Carme, housed in a Baroque cloister belonging to the 18th century Carme church. Foodies come to worship the array of Menorcan specialities on display, from cheese and charcuterie to wine and gin. Located close by is the city’s fish market, Mercat del Peix, which also features a small courtyard where you can enjoy tapas and a glass of beer.
Go shoe shopping
Menorca is renowned for its shoemaking and you cannot leave the island without purchasing a pair (or two) of its famed leather sandals, known as arbacas. There are countless shoe shops, but some of the best in terms of the range they offer include S’Avarca de Menorca and Avarca Shop. Pretty Ballerinas designer and manufacturer Jaime Mascaró also has several shops on the island, including Carrer de ses Moreres 29.
Xoriguer Gin Distillery
Another of Menorca’s most popular exports is gin. Gin production in Mahón began in the 18th century during the British occupation to meet the demand from the thousands of British soldiers who missed their favourite tipple. At the Xoriguer Gin Distillery, you will get to see the original copper stills and buy a bottle of the gin itself, or else you can enjoy a pomada – Menorca’s twist on a classic gin ‘n’ tonic – at one of the local bars.
Need to know when travelling to Mahon
Getting around in Mahon
Mahón harbour is a natural six kilometre-long bay. There are berths for three cruise ships in the heart of the city. From here it is a short walk into the centre of town, but it is hilly and there are quite a few steps (107 to be exact) so if you don’t fancy the climb, then there’s the circular bus or the Little Train, both of which pass along the harbour and take you to the centre. You can easily explore Mahón on foot, or there’s also the Mahón Express, the little red train that loops around the city and takes in the main sights – ideal for those with children or mobility issues. There are also water taxis and boat trips that take you along the five-kilometre inlet of the Port de Mahón to where it meets the Med.
When to go to Mahon
The mild climate makes Menorca an attractive year-round destination, though be aware that some local businesses shut down for the season from November to March.
Menorca uses the euro. You can find ATMs scattered around the city.
If you hold a British Citizen passport, you don't need a visa to enter Spain unless you're planning a stay of longer than three months.
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