MAÓ (Mahón in Castilian), the island capital, is likely to be your first port of call. Perched high above the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, the town’s compact centre is no more than ten minutes’ walk from one end to the other. Its architecture consists of an unusual hybrid of classical Georgian townhouses, which reflect a strong British connection, and tall Spanish apartment blocks shading the narrow streets. Port it may be, but there’s no real gritty side to Maó, and the harbour is now home to a string of slick – if rather sedate – restaurants and cafés that attract droves of tourists. Wandering the maze of alleyways and peering into the gateways of the city’s collection of handsome old mansions are its charm, rather than any specific sight, and you can explore the place thoroughly in a day.
From near the ferry terminal, set beneath the cliff that supports the remains of the city wall, a generous stone stairway, the Costa de Ses Voltes, leads up to the series of small squares that comprise the heart of the old town. The first, Plaça Espanya, offers views right across the port and bay, and houses Maó’s bustling fish market, in operation since 1927.