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.
- 2 Menorca Airport (Mahon Airport, Aeroport de Menorca MAH IATA), Carretera de Sant Climent, s/n, 07712 Maó, Illes Balears, Spain (A bit out of town. Drive down the ME-14, where you'll reach the dual layered arrivals/departures roads.), ☏ . 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 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.