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Mahón and neighboring Villacarlos still show traces of British occupation in their gorgeous Georgian architecture and Chippendale reproductions. There's also Golden Farm, the magnificent mansion north of the capital, overlooking Mahón harbor, where in October 1799 Admiral Lord Nelson enjoyed a brief rest and, according to local legend, hid out with his ladylove, Emma Hamilton. In truth, Nelson was here alone working on Sketches of My Life.

The largest city on the island, Mahón is an east-coast port. In the Minorcan language, it is called Maó. Mahón has allegedly lent its name to one of the world's most popular sauces, mayonnaise.

Mahón was built on the site of an old castle standing on a cliff overlooking one of Europe's finest natural harbors, some 5.5km (3 1/2 miles) long. The castle and the town wall erected to dissuade pirates are long gone, except for the archway of San Roque.

The first Christian king from the mainland, Alfonso II, established a base in the harbor in 1287. It became known as Isla del Rey (Island of the King). When the British constructed a hospital here to tend to wounded soldiers, it was called "Bloody Island."

Since 1722, when the seat of government was moved here from Ciudadela, Mahón has been the capital of Minorca.