Europe is world-famous for its rich history, diverse culinary delights and picturesque beauty. Its biggest draw is the abundance of cultural attractions, from Greece’s ancient ruins to Italy’s Renaissance cities and Spain’s vivid architecture.
One of the best ways to explore this captivating continent and experience the different cultures is with a cruise. Here’s a round-up of some of best European cruise ports for culture vultures.
Barcelona is one of the Mediterranean’s most popular cruise ports and it’s easy to understand why. With its unique architecture, modern art, delicious cuisine and fantastic shopping, this cosmopolitan city offers an unparalleled range of cultural experiences.
Barcelona has been the home to many great artists and architects over the years, the most notable being Antoni Gaudí. You’ll find many examples of Gaudí’s distinctive work dotted across the city, from Park Guell on Carmel Hill to the towering La Sagrada Familia church.
For great tapas and markets, take a stroll down the tree-lined La Rambla street, or spend the day visiting the many galleries to see masterpieces from the likes of Picasso and Miró.
Nestled on Italy’s west coast in the beautiful Tuscany region, the bustling port city of Livorno is the main gateway to Florence and Pisa. While it can be tempting to dock and dash to these famous cities, take the time to explore Livorno’s attractive waterfront and canal-laced New Venice area, with its ornate churches, palaces and forts.
Head north along the coast to Pisa to see the iconic Leaning Tower and enjoy the vibrant street life, or make your way inland to Florence to enjoy some of the world’s most treasured art and architecture. The city’s historic centre is dominated by recognisable sites such as the Duomo and Giotto’s Campanile bell tower, while masterpieces from Botticelli and Michelangelo can be viewed in the Accademia and Uffizi galleries
Dubrovnik has become an increasingly popular cruise destination in recent years, and with good reason. With its historic city walls, tangle of cobbled alleyways and baroque buildings, it’s no wonder this enchanting city is a firm favourite on most Mediterranean schedules.
Head to the atmospheric old town through Pile Gate and visit the 17th-century cathedral, before making your way to Rector’s Palace to admire the impressive collection of artefacts. Wander the winding streets beneath terracotta rooftops, stop off for a bite to eat at one of the quaint street-side cafés, and end the day with a relaxing boat trip from the old harbour.
For history buffs who want to explore the birthplace of western civilisation, the port of Piraeus marks the beginning of your journey into ancient Greece. The port has served Athens since the 4th century BC, and some relics from the time can still be seen today. Most cruise passengers make a beeline for the capital’s historic core. Here, you’ll be amazed by the breathtaking sight of the Acropolis, standing guard over the city on its dramatic outcrop.
Take the time to admire the citadel’s other-worldly monuments, such as the Parthenon, and visit the National Archaeological Museum or the Acropolis Museum to learn more about Greece’s fascinating past.
If you’re looking to explore Europe’s cultural hotspots by ship, remember to shop around for cruise itineraries to find the best one for your budget and lifestyle.