20 Best Things to Do in Mahon (Menorca)

Best things to do in Mahon

Menorca is one of my favourite islands in the Mediterranean Sea. If you plan a visit to this beautiful island, this post will be very helpful for you. I will recommend a list of the best things to do in Mahon, Menorca´s capital.

A stay on the southeast coast of Menorca, the second largest of the Balearic Islands and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve since 1993, will be incomplete without a visit to Mahon.

Made the island’s capital in 1722 while under British occupation, this compact historical city is a mix of different architectures showcasing the many cultures to have occupied the island through the centuries.

Less commercialised than its sister islands of Mallorca and Ibiza, many hotels, government buildings, museums, galleries and boutiques in Mahon are large converted mansions once owned by the 18th-century Menorcan elite, wealthy traders, the French and the British. 

While having been extensively refurbished inside, these unique properties still retain their magnificent exterior splendour.

Sitting on a cliff top and built overlooking the Mediterranean’s largest natural harbour, Mahon is a compact, picturesque town that cries out to be explored on foot, to make the most of the different things you can see in Mahon.

Tall, impressive properties rise on each side of narrow, cobbled streets and alleys, before opening onto the many squares dotted around town. From the get-go, casual is the name of the game.

Allow you some time to explore the streets, bars and restaurants while soaking up the sun – and the atmosphere – of this truly historical city.

To help kickstart your holiday or make the most of your day trip, from checking out the local bars to exploring the harbour by boat, the following are 20 of the best things to do in Mahon.

Read also: The Ultimate Menorca Travel Guide

20 Best Things to Do in Mahon (Menorca)

1. Visit Mahon Harbour – the second largest deep-sea harbour in the world

What to see in Mahon: Port

At six kilometres long and 1,200 metres wide, you could spend a day or longer exploring this historical area. As around the town, the harbour’s British influence is everywhere. 

From the lovely summer houses and Georgian properties notable for their bow windows to the many defence towers.

Mahon’s busy, energetic, 30-metre-deep port welcomes the largest cruise liners, island ferries and commercial shipping. All vying for space with tour boats, water taxis, privately owned dinghies, yachts and cruisers.

Along the busy, wide harbour promenade, you will find chandlery stores, small businesses, souvenir shops, cafes, tapas bars and restaurants where you can enjoy an afternoon snack watching the harbour’s comings and goings, or an evening three-course meal.

2. Add a harbour boat tour to your list of things to do in Mahon

An alternative way to discover all the Port of Mahon offers is by boat, and the port has several cruises available for those wanting to get a different perspective on things they want to see in Mahon.

With an hour’s harbour cruise and with an onboard tour guide, you can get up close to the stone fortress of Fortaleza de La Mola, the small islet of Isla del Rey, a one-time hospital for injured sailors or troops, and the islet of Lazaretto, a former quarantine hospital for infectious diseases.

Other waterborne tours use glass-bottomed boats, allowing you to see what goes on beneath, as well as above the waves.

Longer trips are available to the island’s north, usually including snacks and soft drinks.

All these tours are highly popular things to do in Mahon. Pre-booking in the morning for the afternoon, or booking online, is the best way to ensure seating, especially if you’re travelling in a family group.

After a snack lunch at the port to top up your energy levels, you’ll no doubt want to visit the city. 

All along the harbour promenade, you will find streets or steps that take you to the upper area of Mahon, or you can use the lift located at the bottom of the lane at the side of the Mercat del Claustre. 

3. Cloister of the Convent of Carmen, a market for over 100 years

What to see in Mahon: Mercat del Carmen

Built between 1750 and 1808 for the Carmelite Order, the Cloister of the Convent lies alongside the Church del Carmen and has something of a chequered history.

Built originally for the Carmelites, it was also used as a courthouse and jail, before becoming a local produce market around a century ago.

The bustling popular market survives to this day. However, over the years, more space has been utilised for cultural programmes, and you will find the Hernández Mora Foundation art collection in the cloister.

The cloister has numerous shops and holds various pop-up markets, exchange and craft markets, cultural documentaries, lectures and live performances.

The large terrace area has also found a new lease of life, where locals and visitors can enjoy a drink, snack, coffee, tea, or glass of wine in quiet surroundings.

Visit in the evening, and you will likely find some impromptu musical or other production to keep you entertained.

4. Gin Xoriguer, Mahon’s famous gin distillery

The origin of this gin dates back to the 18th century. Production began after British sailors complained that they couldn’t buy any gin on the island.

Today, Gin Xoriguer is a distillery and brand that makes local gin using the traditional recipe. It is over 100 years old and is still a family-owned business. Its Xoriguer bottle with a windmill logo on the label can be found across the length and breadth of the island

You can just turn up and visit the shop to watch the production process through large glass windows. To decide which liquor or gin suits your palate, you can also enjoy a complimentary tasting.

Available tour: Gin Distillery Tour with Tasting & Appetizers

5. Visit the Town Hall, showing portraits of Mahon’s most prominent citizens through the years

Mahon Town Hall

Sitting on Plaça d’Espanya, Mahon’s main square and close to the Arch de San Roque is the Town Hall. 

Originally built in 1631, major restoration work in the Renaissance style was undertaken in the late 18th century.

The large clock in the bell tower was ordered from London in 1731 and made by Thomas Windmills, a famous London clockmaker of the time. In 1788 it was fitted into the bell tower as a gift from the then-British Governor Richard Kane.

Visitors can enter the town hall and browse the portrait gallery displaying paintings of Menorca’s most prominent citizens throughout history.

6. Visit the Hauser and Wirth Art Gallery, sitting on its own islet

You will have passed the Isla del Rey during your boat trip around the harbour, but this Gallery of Contemporary Art deserves its own mention.

A family-owned group of (now) international galleries, the original was opened in Zurich in 1992, and in the last 30 years, the group has opened other galleries worldwide.

In 2020, in conjunction with the not-for-profit Fundació Hospital de l’Illa del Rei, which was responsible for maintaining the islet and properties, they set about restoring the buildings to their former glory and organising the gallery.

The gallery officially opened in 2021, emphasising education, nature and sustainability

Along with its main gallery, it holds numerous temporary exhibitions, and has an outdoor trail featuring sculptures by notable 20th-century artists.

The complex has an art shop and a pleasant Cantina where you can enjoy a snack and drink. Look out as well, for the small endangered lizards, which are likely to scurry across the trail in front of you.

Entrance to the gallery is included in the €6 water taxi fare, or €5 if booked online. Full details can be found at: https://www.hauserwirth.com/locations/25040-menorca/

7. The Museum of Menorca, a five-minute stroll from the city centre

Located on the Pla des Monestir, in a 18th-century Franciscan monastery, the Museum of Menorca is the island’s most important museum.

Tracing Menorcan history from the prehistoric period through to modern day, the collection of over 200,000 artefacts includes many new finds from recent archaeological digs and several from private donations.

The museum also holds numerous workshops and temporary exhibitions

Opening times vary through the winter and summer months, and full details and fees can be found here: https://www.museudemenorca.com/

8. Visit the Fortress of Isabel II on the beautiful La Mola peninsula

What to see in Mahon: La Mola

As the least commercialised of the Balearic Islands, Menorca has numerous areas of natural beauty easily reached from all areas of the island. 

One such area is the Mola Peninsula, close to the Port of Mahon and the magnificent Fortress of Isabel II.

Commissioned by Queen Isabel II and constructed between 1850 and 1875, the fortress and its ancillary buildings are considered one of the finest examples of 19th-century military architecture, and was designed to protect the port of Mahon and stretches of the coast from marauding land and waterborne invaders.

Within the walls of the fortress are numerous other structures, including:

  • The Fronts – The main defences overlook the Port of Mahon.
  • The Mine – Gunpowder storage and munitions areas
  • Queen’s Gate – Main entrance into the fortress.
  • The Hornworks – Main defences against land attack
  • Caponier – Defensive positions for the moat.

Besides the moat which still surrounds the fortress, you can visit The Princess Tower. The first fortification built on the Mola and included within the fortress walls; it was constructed by the British between 1798 and 1802 during their third occupation of Menorca.

A 15″ Vickers gun that was installed in 1934, and fired in anger during the Spanish Civil War.

A building constructed initially for military administration in 1868. It was converted into a prison in 1948 and named locally the Spanish Alcatraz. It remained a prison until 1970.

Numerous tours are available to make the most of La Mola, both self-guided and guided, and include walking, electric bicycles, and buggies suitable for those with mobility issues.

9. The Mahon Fish Market, Fresh fish and much more

You will find Mahon’s favourite fish market in the historic old town square at Plaça de Espanya

Open Tuesday through Saturday, 8.00am to 14.00, early visitors are chefs, hoteliers, bar owners and locals arriving to buy the staples that make up the Mediterranean diet.

As the clock ticks around to lunchtime, more locals and visitors in the know begin to arrive. 

Food stalls are on the opposite side of the fish stalls, with inside and outside seating. By lunchtime, these are full of a mouth-watering selection of tasting plates and small tapas dishes of seafood, onions, anchovies, peppers, cheese and meats.

The food area remains open until 11pm, often with live music providing the evening entertainment.

At just a couple of euros per dish, it shouldn’t break the bank, and with a beer or glass of wine as an accompaniment, a pleasant hour can be spent watching the world go by or enjoying the entertainers.

10. Take a few holiday snaps from the Casa Mir

Viewpoint Mahon

As you make your way up the Carrer de ses Voltes from the harbour and reach the final step, glancing behind you will provide fabulous panoramic views as the harbour stretches away into the distance.

If you choose the last set of stairs, the impressive Casa Mir should be on your right. You will get some excellent photo opportunities from this point overlooking the port.

11. Ca’n Oliver and the Centre d’Art I d’Historia Hernandez Sanz

Although Mahon isn’t as well blessed with museums and art galleries as its sister city of Ciutadella, those it does have are well worth visiting.

Ca’n Oliver is a striking 19th-century townhouse built by Llorenç Oliver and situated on Carrer d’Anuncivay, in the city’s historic centre.

With frescoes and paintings adorning the lobby walls, the ground floor focuses on the British period and its many lasting influences in the area. 

The ornate stairway takes you to rooms more focussed on Menorca’s cultural heritage with traditional costumes and dress. 

Another room is given over to numerous old maps of the changing geography of the island through the centuries.On the upper floors, Ca’n Oliver is home to the Hernandez Sanz Collection of Artworks

The property also has a watchtower stretching up from the courtyard that you can climb for some excellent views of the harbour during the summer months.

12. Es Castell, a separate town that’s almost a part of Mahon

Cales Fonts

When looking for things to see in Mahon, the pretty neighbouring town of Es Castell shouldn’t be overlooked.

Just two miles along the coast from the city, and less than €10 in a taxi, Es Castell could well be a suburb of the Menorcan capital.

Over three centuries old, the town was founded as a military base by the British in 1771, who recognised its potential as a safe haven for their Mediterranean fleet, and originally named it Georgetown.

Primarily residential, with its own charming harbour, Es Castell is increasing in popularity, with visitors using it as a base to tour the island.

Old and historic, with much Georgian architecture, a pleasant few hours can be spent browsing the quaint shops and businesses.

The small harbour has plenty of local cafes, bars and restaurants where you can sit in the sunshine and enjoy the view of the fishing fleet and private boats bobbing at anchor. 

If photography is your thing, Es Castell is also the first point on the island to see the sun come up.

To round off your visit, if you arrived by taxi, catch the regular water taxi that runs from Es Castell harbour to Mahon harbour for your return journey.

13. Enjoy an organ recital at majestic Santa Maria Church

Located on Constitution Square (Plaça de la Constitució), this magnificent 18th-century building can be seen from various points as you stroll the city streets.

Although a less lavish interior than many of Spain’s churches, even for the unreligious, it exudes a strange sense of tranquillity.

One thing that can’t be overlooked is its massive organ. Built in 1810 by the Swiss organ engineer Johann Kyburz and decorated by the Mahon sculptor Francesco Comas, the instrument stands 15 metres high and 9 metres wide.

Four keyboards produce the sound through over 3,000 metal and wooden pipes.

You can visit any time of the day, and the €2 entrance fee goes towards the building’s upkeep. 

However, if you enjoy the sound of the organ, a short recital starts every day except Sunday at 11am for no extra fee.

14. Visit Menorca’s Prehistoric Talayotic Heritage

Trepuco, Menorca

For an island of just under 700 square kilometres, Menorca is blessed with more than its fair share of documented ancient history.

Traces of human life on the island date back over 4000 years BC. The period from around 2100 BC, until the arrival of the Romans in the year 123, is known as the Talayotic era and a part of the Bronze Age.

It was the first time the island’s inhabitants began living in groups, initially forming small hamlets which slowly expanded into villages. Previously, occupants lived in small family groups.

Thought to survive by cultivating crops and keeping sheep and goats, the original hamlets seem to be centred around a Talayot, a circular structure constructed from different types of available stone. 

Although often including a second level, even today, their true use remains something of a mystery.

Other constructions of the period include navetas (burial chambers), and rock-monument Taulas, a vertical slab of rock with a horizontal slab on the top. Similar to those found at Stonehenge in the UK.

As sociability increased through the centuries, so did the construction of roads and the building of walls to provide protection for villages. It was also during this period that the building of Talayots began to fall out of favour.

Over 1,000 sites of Talayotic activity provide some of the best things to do in Menorca, with the majority located in the south of the island. 

Although many artefacts recovered from numerous archaeological digs are on display in the Museum of Menorca, there is nothing like first-hand experience.

All these sites are close to Mahon and easily reached by car:

  • The Trepuco and Talati Settlements
  • The Talayot de Torrello Settlement
  • The Talayot de Sa Cudia Cremada Settlement
  • The Necropolis of Caparrot de Forma Settlement
  • Finally, the Torre den Galmés Settlement. To date, the largest Talayotic settlement found on the island and just a 20-minute drive from Mahon.

For those thinking of basing themselves in Mahon, the city is just five kilometres from the Menorcan Airport, and transfer time is an average 15 minutes. 

For those thinking of a day trip, on an island just 56km long and 17km at its widest, it is relatively easy to get to Mahon from most beach resorts on Menorca.

15. Beaches around Mahon

Best things to do in Mahon: Cala Tortuga

A Mediterranean holiday wouldn’t be a Mediterranean holiday without at least a couple of days spent soaking up the sun. And around Mahon, we are blessed with some of our favourite Menorcan beaches.

Cala Mesquida Beach

Laying in a natural cove, the 300m sandy beach is the closest to Mahon and just a six-minute car ride away.

Located on the north coast, in 1991, the local cabildo designated the beach and its interior a Natural Area of Special Interest in the Balearic Islands

Be sure to include a packed lunch and plenty of drinks, as the beach lacks any amenities save one very popular seafood restaurant; Cap Roig Restaurant.

Es Grau Beach

A little further around the coast, the fishing village of Es Grau and its beach of the same name is a popular base for singles, families and couples looking for a quieter holiday.

The village sits on the edge of the S’Albufera des Grau Nature Reserve and is very popular with naturalists. It has a few excellent local bars and restaurants, and the usual amenities.

On the sandy beach, the younger ones can safely play in the shallow turquoise waters, while teenagers can enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding and scuba diving.

Cala Tortuga Beach

Sitting on the Morella Sandbank between the villages of Es Grau and Addaia; and on the edge of the Albufera des Grau Natural Park, this uncommercialised sandy beach is popular with locals and visitors wanting a day away from it all.

You cannot reach the beach by car. During the busy summer months a bus runs from Mahon. Nonetheless, when you alight the bus, you are still left with a 20-minute walk to the beach. A difficult beach to get to, but one well worth the effort. Be sure to bring drinks and snacks.

Cala Presili Beach

Still in the north of the island, Cala Presili is a 30-minute, well-signed drive from Mahon and definitely worth the trip.

Situated in a beautiful, wide, white sand bay and on the park’s edge, it is another beach of exceptional natural beauty. 

Roadside parking is allowed, leaving just a short walk to the beach through the park. Other beaches in the area worthy of consideration include Cala Tamarells, Binidali, Es Canutells, Binibeca, Punta Prima and Binisafuller.

16. Hit the summer market trail

Who doesn’t enjoy rummaging in a local market when looking for things to do in Mahon? Although we’ve mentioned a couple already, through the summer months in Mahon, you will find markets almost every day of the week. 

The biggest one is Mercat Ambulant De S’Esplanada – open Tuesday and Saturday – souvenirs, bric-a-brac, textiles and decorative goods.

17. Visit the oldest Opera House in Spain

Built in 1829 to a design by the architect Giovanni Palagi, the Teatro Principal is located at Carrer d’en Deià, 40, 07702 Mahon.

A similar horseshoe shape to many Italian theatres, it can hold over 800 patrons in its stalls and boxes rising for three levels. Various refurbishments have been undertaken over the years, including the neo-classical façade added in 1859.

The opera house stages a number of operas throughout the season as well as corporate events, family concerts and workshops. Guided tours by appointment are available, and a café/restaurant is onsite.

18. More things to do in Mahon: Viewpoints

What to see in Mahon: Port

Both the port and old town areas of Mahon also have several excellent viewpoints, including:

  • The Menorcan Museum: viewpoint, providing views of the Colàrsega industrial and wintering port, with a backdrop of the El Toro mountain.
  • The Pont des Castell: viewpoint, one of the town’s oldest, provides views of the old town and Mahon Castle.
  • The Miranda: viewpoint offers great views of the harbour from different areas on the corniche promenade.

Besides being a popular excursion for bird watchers, La Mola also has several excellent viewpoints popular with photographers looking for that unique shot. If that includes you, make your way to:

  • Clot de la Mola: for views of the small inlet and home to numerous small private boats.
  • From the Queen’s Gate: viewpoint, you can take in the Tower of Sant Felipe and the surrounding area.
  • From The Hornabeque: viewpoint, you can enjoy a birds-eye view of the port and the Lazaretto quarantine island.
  • The Vickers Gun: is the highest point on the peninsula, providing stunning views across most of the island.
  • The Punta de s’Esperó: viewpoint offers exceptional views along the coast and across the Mediterranean, with the lighthouse in the foreground.

19. Spend some time exploring the Albufera Des Grau Nature Park

Things to do in Mahon: Albufera des Grao

If you prefer active to sedentary, love the great outdoors and enjoy being close to nature, pencil in a half or full day to explore Albufera Des Grau Nature Park on your best things to do in Menorca list.

With the whole island being designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1993, the Albufera Nature Park was created in 1995 and includes over 5,000 hectares of wetlands, miles of natural coastline, old Spanish farms and a plethora of plant species, animals, birds and marine life.

With the park’s southern border just a short 15-minute drive from Mahon, you’ll have plenty of time to make the most of your visit.

If you love hiking, you can choose from four well-signed trails, all rated easy and taking 45 minutes to an hour to complete. That said, in the summer, be sure to carry extra fluids and wear a hat.

For the twitchers, there are over 100 species of native or migrating birds residing in the park, including European Coots, Cormorants, Warblers, Sandpipers, Larks and Crossbills, as well as several species of birds of prey.

Hides are dotted around the park, and organised bird-watching tours are available (enquire at the visitor centre).

If you feel the need for a bite, the pretty traditional village of Es Grau is on the coast. It contains a few cafes, bars and shops where you can boost your energy levels. Or recharge the batteries with some time on the beach.

20. Can you find the British Influence in Mahon?

Like many other countries, numerous armies have invaded Menorca over the centuries, dating back to the Romans in 252 BC.

Over the later years, the island was conquered and lost by a host of invaders, including the Otterman Empire in 1535 and again in 1558, the British in 1708, the French in 1756 (who returned it to the British in 1763 before re-invading the island in 1781). 

Finally, in 1798 it was again conquered by the British, until it was handed back to Spain in 1802.

Examples of these occupations can be seen in the different architectural styles of the time, and numerous examples of Britain’s almost 100-year architectural legacy can be found in and around Mahon.

Britain governed the island for the best part of the 18th century, and relocated the capital from Ciutadella to Mahon in 1722. 

During this time, they constructed roads, drained land, improved ports, and built hospitals, fortresses and plush houses for naval officers and wealthy merchants.

The many bow-windowed properties around Mahon and the English furniture within them show their British influence, while numerous defensive structures constructed by the English still attract visitors to this day. Look out for:

  • Illa del Rey

An island sitting in the centre of Mahon’s harbour and locally known as The Bloody Island. In the 1700s, Britain built a large military hospital on the island with 40 wards, doctors and nurses quarters and associated buildings. 

The hospital remained in use until 1964, when a new hospital was constructed in Mahon.

Today the buildings have been converted into a modern art gallery run by Hauser & Wirth

Tickets, including a combined entrance and water taxi fee are available, or you can visit the island alone by water taxi.

  • Fort Marlborough

Built between 1720 and 1726 on Mahon Harbour’s southern side. The fort is named after the British General Sir John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough and was designed to protect the entrance to Mahon Harbour from marauding navies.

In 1782 the fort was badly damaged by the attacking Spanish and required substantial repairs. 

Today, visitors are treated to a re-enactment of a siege situation using special effects and with staff dressed in period costumes.

  • St Philip’s Castle

On the southern side of the entrance to Mahon harbour in the district of Es Castell, St Philip’s (Felipe’s) Castle was initially built in the mid-1700s to a design by Italian architect Giovanni Battista Calvi.

Although the British undertook extensive work on the castle above and below ground during their occupation, it was substantially damaged during the siege against the French in 1756 and again during the successful Spanish Invasion of 1781.

After the signing of The Treaty of Amiens in 1802, the castle was razed to the ground on the orders of King Carlos III.

However, although enough of the old walls and fortifications remain to make for an interesting visit, it is what remains below ground that sparks the interest.

Over three centuries, a complex network of paths, passages and rooms was constructed below ground during various occupations by the French, Spanish and British. 

The labyrinth is so extensive that during the siege against the Spanish in 1782, over 3000 English soldiers, sailors and civilians took shelter in the passageways for over six months. Tours are available.

  • Fornells Tower

If you’re touring the coastal areas of Menorca, you will likely come across these strange cone-shaped towers guarding a number of harbour entrances, and wondered what they are.

Built during the British occupation, they were a first line of defence against raiders or seaborne invasion forces. In addition, the watchtower at Fornells Harbour was constructed to protect the harbour and help defend the nearby Sant Antoni Castle.

Conical in shape, they had three floors with the entrance door on the first floor. Access to the door was via a wooden ladder which was pulled up during conflict.

The towers were built of bricks and mortar and reinforced on the outside by large sandstone blocks. The ground floor held a water tank, munitions and foodstuffs.

The first floor was the accommodation area for the small garrison of troops, while the top floor provided firing points and an artillery platform. Tours are available.

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