Perched on cliffs overlooking one of the world’s great natural harbors, the pretty little town of Mahón (population 30,000), Menorca’s capital, is becoming a stylish, arty place. A striking new arts center by the famous Swiss art gallery Hauser & Wirth is scheduled to open in a former naval hospital on Isla del Rey in 2020. With its classical Georgian architecture — a legacy of the fact that the town was occupied by the British for much of the 18th century — tidy Mahón looks quite different from most Balearic towns. Spared by mass tourism, it is an intimate and delightful place to discover on foot.
What to See
To understand Mahón, you need to view it from the sea and to discover its port. So begin your visit by descending the elegant stone staircase that leads from the upper town to the waterfront and taking a Yellow Catamarans tour of the harbor. On this fascinating hourlong trip, narrated in English, among other languages, you view the naval installations that the British built at this strategic crossroads of the Mediterranean, catch a glimpse of the Anglo-American cemetery — Mahón was the winter quarters of the U.S. Mediterranean Squadron from 1815 until 1848 — and see the house where British Admiral Horatio Nelson stayed during his numerous visits.
Plaça del Carme, a lively square at the heart of town, is the location of the Claustre del Carme, a popular food market, with many stalls serving tapas and other dishes. Other vendors sell clothes, jewelry and ceramics.