Maó stretches along the shore of one of the best and largest natural ports in the Mediterranean Sea. The capital of Menorca and the most important city still preserves a number of churches, ancestral buildings and palaces and streets of deep Mediterranean flavour.
The British have invaded Menorca several times. As a result Maó (Mahón in Spanish) is an unusual blend of Anglo and Spanish characteristics. The influence of the almost 100-year long English presence (the island reverted to Spanish rule in 1802) is still evident in the town’s architecture, traditions and culture. Maó has been a silent witness of many diverse cultures that populated the town throughout its history. In the outskirts, archaeological sites like Trepucó can be visited, where one of the island's best collections of prehistoric art is being preserved. Next to its neighboring coves, another feature is its location next to the S’Albufera des Grau, I’lla d’en Colomi i el Cap de Favàritx Nature Reserve, one of the most important ecosystems on the Balearic Islands.
Over the last twenty-five years, Maó has experienced a series of urban improvements, that have upgraded the city. Of all these improvements, the restoration of many public and private buildings deserves special attention. Being reconciled with its past, Maó offers its visitors a unique historic blend with justifiable pride.
Maó’s 5km long harbour is the second-largest natural harbour in the world. This fact, coupled with its prime location in the Mediterranean, has made it a strategic stronghold for many nations throughout history. The port is relaxing by day and buzzing by night when the bars and restaurants along the portside come alive. Here at the port, it becomes easy to forget the time and spend hours watching the ships, admiring the view, enjoying the hospitality of the restaurants, or just taking in the special atmosphere.
Along the streets that make up the historic quarter of Maó, a good number of bourgeois houses and historic buildings can be observed. Especially around the squares of Colón, Sant Francesc, Conquesta and Miranda, there's a lot to see and admire. The oldest monument you'll discover here is the 'Arch de San Roque', the only remains of the town's ancient city walls.The old road to Alaior passed through this gateway.
On the square, you'll also see the Church of Santa Maria which was rebuilt between 1748 and 1772. It's home to a great organ with over 3000 pipes. Behind the church is the Plaza de la Conquesta. In its center, a monument has been erected to the memory of King Alfonso III who conquered Menorca from the Moslems in 1287. Another notable feature of the square is the Public Library housed in an 18th century mansion known as the 'Casa de Cultura'.
One of the city's famous squares is the'Plaza de España', located in the heart of the city. It gathers a number of important monuments, including the Gothic church of Santa María, built in the 13th century and remodeled in the 18th century. In the exterior of the temple (the largest on the whole island), you'll be impressed by its slender belltower. Inside, you can admire a great nineteen-century organ of enormous acoustic quality.
Next to the church is the City Hall, also known as 'Sa Sala', a typically Menorcan building. The Renaissance facade is dominated by a great clock, brought by the first British governor Richard Kane. Among the rooms in this building, the conference room stands out, which keeps a good number of portraits of famous city figures.
The church of Carmen, located on the square with the same name, is another emblematic building in Maó. This Neoclassic temple, erected in the 18th century, houses a beautiful Baroque cloister in its interiors.
The city itself has plenty to offer its visitors, boasting some great places to take a pleasant walk. Maó features narrow streets to explore, pleasant shady squares with welcoming pavement cafes and shopping places that range from the twice weekly market to expensive designer boutiques. The city simply is a must on every visit to Menorca. Most of the shopping areas are located along pedestrian streets with wonderful cake shops; swish boutiques, leather and pottery shops and markets with fresh fish and food. Carrer Nou, a pedestrian street, is marked by numerous local crafts shops. Further down, along the shore of the 5km long port, you'll find plenty of restaurants, bars and terraces. In the surrounding area of the port, you can visit the distilleries of Menorcan gin (a drink flavoured with juniper cones) that follow the traditional English production method. The town's market now resides in a building, which was originally a convent, built in 1751. It has been beautifully restored and serves as venue for musical events throughout the year. In the underground beneath the market building is a large Spar supermarket It's well-stocked and offers very competitive prices. If you are in town, it's worth to drop in and stock up.