Known as the Cradle of Civilization, the Mediterranean Sea is a dream cruise destination. With a history stretching back for millenia, it is one of the richest cultural destinations in the world, the home of Aristotle and Plato, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, Charlemagne and Saladin. From Spain to the Middle East and from North Africa to the Swiss Alps, a Mediterranean cruise offers an array of treasures unmatched anywhere else in the world.
From walking through historical sites and exploring art galleries and museums to gorging on stunning cuisine and browsing the finest and most eclectic boutiques, not to mention gazing in awe at stunning landscapes, the Mediterranean has so much to offer. Exploring it properly would most likely be the work of a lifetime, or at least several separate vacations! But if you are choosing a cruise itinerary for a trip to Europe next year and want to see the best that the Med has to offer, you’ve come to the right place.
It is hard to make bad choices when picking places to visit in the Mediterranean. But it can be hard to decide between all of the amazing destinations that you want to see! So if you are stuck and need a little nudge in the right direction before you pack your bags, here is a list of seven of the best Mediterranean cruise ports to visit on a European cruise vacation.
Barcelona is Spain’s second-largest city, and one of its main cultural hubs. Although rivalry with the capital city Madrid is fierce, from a cruise perspective Barcelona is the clear winner! The capital of the Catalonia region, it was founded by the ancient Romans and has been a center for trade, culture, and learning for centuries. These days it offers the excitement of La Rambla, the charming, historic delights of the Barri Gotic, the amazing architecture of Gaudi in the form of the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, and some of the finest cuisine in Europe.
Despite its war-torn and at times tragic recent history, Dubrovnik remains an astonishingly beautiful city and wonderful place to visit. Fought over during the Croatian War of Independence in the early 90s, it is hard to believe that Yugoslavian shells rained down on this city only a couple of decades ago. Nowadays its 900-year history is shining brightly, and it is one of the most picturesque historic cities on the Mediterranean (a fact demonstrated by it featuring as the set for much of the hit series Game of Thrones!). Stroll the cobbled streets, admire the city walls, and marvel at the sheer intensity of the blue seas that wash against the ancient foundations of this remarkable spot.
Istanbul is the connection point between East and West, the historical crossroads between cultures, and a genuinely magnificent city to visit. Filled with stunning religious and historical sites, from the Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque, it is also an extremely cosmopolitan and vibrant metropolis. Enjoy a Turkish breakfast in Asia, then cross the Bosphorus for an Armenian lunch in Europe, pausing to relax in the steams of a hammam before dining out on top of a roof overlooking the sea. Istanbul is one of the oldest and most exciting cities in the world and should not be left off any European cruise itinerary.
There’s something captivating about Portugal’s small, hilly capital that is hard to put into words. Perhaps it’s the iconic custard tarts, or the perilously steep cobbled streets of the Alfama district, or even the melancholy yet beautiful strains of fado music that seep out of every restaurant and bar when the sun goes down. Or maybe it’s just that the pace of life here is surprisingly relaxed for a European capital city. Whatever the reason, it makes a trip to Lisbon a great idea…and that’s before you get into the mouth-watering cuisine or the year-round perfect weather!
If Athens is the birthplace of European civilization, then Rome is where it was exported from. Founded (according to legend) in 753 BC by Romulus after defeating his brother Remus, it became the capital of the Roman kingdom, the cornerstone of the Roman Republic, the seat of the Roman Empire, and the center of the ‘known world’ for centuries.
It was probably the most powerful, largest, wealthiest, and most important place in Europe for nearly a millennium, as it became the rock on which the Catholic Church was built. It is an astonishing vacation destination, with millenia-old ruins rubbing shoulders with modern buildings as casually as you like, and something fascinating and exciting to discover around every single corner.
From the foothills of the Alps, the independent microstate of Monaco, and the gorgeous coastline of the French Riviera, the Cote D’Azur has long been the ultimate luxury vacation destination for Europe’s rich, famous, and fabulous faces. Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of the most eye-catchingly beautiful towns along this dramatic coastline, with splendid views that have inspired generations of artists from Renoir to Picasso. Explore the charming villages, explore the hidden inlets and picturesque beaches and coves, and drink in the best that southern France has to offer.
Despite its tiny size, Malta has been a strategic asset in the Mediterranean for centuries, and has been fought over (and occupied) by almost every major political and military force in the region. It has been ruled by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Arabic Aghlabids from North Africa, Norman adventurers (and kings of Sicily), Byzantine emperors, Spanish and French Kings, the Knights of the Order of St John, and the British. As a result, it has a truly unique and remarkable history and an absolutely outstanding variety of cultural influences that make it a fascinating place to visit. Although the island is small, you can find medieval castles, prehistoric archaeological sites, as well as museums, restaurants, galleries, and fantastic shopping opportunities in the vibrant and bustling capital of Valletta.