Summer is slowly but surely approaching – and when it gets warm, there’s nowhere like the Mediterranean as a place to be! This guest post by Chrysoula from Greece Travel Ideas is about the 10 best Mediterranean cities – how many have you been to?
The word Mediterranean conjures up images of sun-soaked coasts, turquoise waters, ancient alleys with cobblestone streets and crooked buildings. Colours of ochre and burnt sienna, deep dark reds of wine and golden-green hills saturated with sunset.
Mediterranean cities invoke thoughts of ancient civilisations, intrigue and culture, vibrant nightlife and mouth-watering cuisine from street stalls, tiny local tavernas, and more.
Every city along the Mediterranean has a different vibe, whether it’s the glitz and glamour or Nice or Barcelona, or the smells and sounds of Tangier or Athens. Here are some of the best Mediterranean cities to visit.
Alexandria is a bustling city and port on the Egyptian coast of the Mediterranean. It was founded in or around 331 BCE by Alexander the Great, son of Phillip II of Macedon and the King of Macedon.
Alexandria is called the Bride of the Mediterranean and is the third-largest city in Egypt and the sixth-largest city in the Arab world. Hellenistic Alexandria was most well-known for its lighthouse, damaged by earthquakes and eventually reused for the Qaitbay Citadel and the Library of Alexandria, which burned.
Today, Alexandria is an important port and tourist city. Because of extensive war in the ancient past, little of Alexandria’s ancient history remains.
However, visitors to the city can see some of the Roman ruins, including the catacombs, amphitheatre, and baths. There are also great shops and restaurants and Maamoura Beach and Stanley Bridge, two landmarks.
Athens is a fabulous city, one with history, culture, food, wine, and the Greek people’s warm hospitality. It’s one of the world’s oldest cities, but it has a modern vibe and plenty to do.
One of the all-time best things to do in Athens is to visit the Acropolis, one of Greece’s greatest landmarks. The Acropolis is perched atop the city, and it’s home to several temples and treasuries dedicated to various Greek gods.
To gain a richer understanding of Athens’s history, and Greece as a whole, visit the National Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum. The two museums have many artefacts from the Acropolis and other ancient sites around Greece.
Plaka and Monastiraki are two neighbourhoods in Athens that are worth exploring. They have quaint restaurants and bars, tourist shops, art galleries, street art, and more. Athens also offers visitors vibrant nightlife, beaches and islands, and a rich food scene.
Barcelona is one of the most popular Mediterranean cities, and with good reason. It’s a hip city known for its Modernist architecture and art scene. Barcelona boasts miles of beaches lined with golden bodies enjoying the Spanish sun.
After dark, the city lights up with a nightlife that goes till dawn. Some of Barcelona’s most popular attractions include architectural marvels by Antonio Gaudi and Lluís Domènech I Montaner, two of the city’s most well-known Modernists.
These include Sagrada Familia, a basilica that has been under construction for over 100 years, the Parc Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, the Palau de la Musica, and Hospital Sant Pau.
Don’t miss La Rambla, the city’s main pedestrian street, home to restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops. La Boqueria, the city’s most famous market, is also on La Rambla. Go for food shopping or tapas tasting.
Naples, located on the southwest coast of Italy, is the capital of the Campania region and Italy’s third-largest city. It’s known for its pizza – in fact, it’s often considered the birthplace of pizza – and for being the largest historic city centre in Europe.
The city has almost 450 historical churches and nearly 1000 in total, and its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Naples is also known for food – limoncello, pizza, olive oil, and wine. Pompeii is nearby and makes a fantastic day trip. A similar site is Herculaneum, a wealthy seaside retreat that was destroyed in the same eruption as Pompeii.
Both Capri and Ischia‘s isles also make great day trips from Naples, and many people will take a day to go down to the Amalfi Coast.
Nice, France, is the main town on the French Riviera. It lies approximately 13km from Monaco and Monte-Carlo, making it an excellent base for day trips to the principality.
There has been a settlement in this area for millennia; the Greeks founded a settlement and named it Nikaia, after Nike. Over the centuries, its location has contributed to Nice’s importance as a port town and strategic city.
Many writers and painters migrated to Nice, mainly for the weather and sunshine. Visitors to Nice can view works of art dedicated to Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, and Beaux-Arts artists.
The Promenade des Anglais is one of Nice’s most recognisable features, extending 4 miles along the coast. There are also several pedestrian-only sections of the old town, perfect for shopping and dining in Nice’s historic centre. It’s definitely one of the best Mediterranean cities to visit!
6) Rhodes Town
Rhodes Town is located on the island of Rhodes, which is much closer to the Turkish coast than to the Greek. For this reason, and others, it has many Turkish influences – located at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Historic Rhodes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. The Knights Hospitalier built the fortified city of Rhodes in the 14th century, and it still stands today. Though the city has existed far longer, having been settled by the Greeks in the 5th century BCE, and the island has been inhabited since the Neolithic period.
Major tourist attractions in Rhodes include the fortifications, including several gates, the Suleymaniye Mosque, the Acropolis of both Rhodes and Lindos, and the Byzantine harbour’s ruins. Food and drink in Rhodes transcend borders.
Visitors can find Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern, and African influences in both food and culture.
Tangier is a Moorish city near Morocco’s northern tip, close to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Spanish coast. It began as a Phoenician colony in the 10th century BCE and rapidly developed into an significant trading port. It is set to be one of the most important ports of the 21st century with the Tangier-Med port development.
In the 15th century, Tangier was conquered by the Portuguese. It was then that the major mosques were transformed into Catholic churches. In the 16th century, it was ceded to the British as part of a dowry, and finally fell to Morocco in the 17th century.
Tangier’s British influences and home to American, British, and European diplomats allowed the city to grow as a multicultural and cosmopolitan society. In the years leading up to World War II, it was a tax-free haven for many.
Notable landmarks include the old town medina, Dar el Makhzen (Sultan’s Palace), the Grand Mosque, the Grand and Petit Soccos, or the big and little souks. One of the best Mediterranean cities to visit in all seasons!
8) Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is the largest city in Israel and one of the most vibrant and up-and-coming economies in the Middle East. It is a new city compared to the others in this list, having only been founded in 1909 as a modern housing estate on Jaffa’s outskirts.
Tel Aviv’s White City was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. This comprises the world’s largest concentration of International Style buildings, including Bauhaus and other related modernist architectural styles.
Other things to do in Tel Aviv include exploring the old port of Jaffa, relaxing on the city’s hottest beaches, trying delicious foods, and experiencing the buzzing nightlife.
Valencia is the third-largest city in Spain, after Barcelona and Madrid. It is located on the east coast, on the Gulf of Valencia, and is the 5th largest port in the Mediterranean. The Romans founded the city in the 2nd century BCE and was occupied by the Moors in the 8th century CE.
Due to its long history, Valencia is host to several cultural events. One of them is Fallas, a Carnival-style party that takes place for a week, with fireworks and burning statues in the streets. Fallas was designated an Intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in November 2016
In the 1990s, Valencia shifted from a port city to a more touristic one, with the growth and rehabilitation of several historic sites, including the towers of the medieval city and the Saint Miquel dels Reis monastery. Valencia is a great addition to a Spanish itinerary that includes perhaps Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada, for its uniqueness.
Valletta is the capital of Malta, a small island nation between Italy and Tunisia. It is most well-known today for being one of the filming sites for Game of Thrones.
Valletta is the smallest capital city in the EU, and Malta itself is a fairly small country, easy to explore by public transport. The Knights Hospitaller built the city in the 1500s. Many of the fortifications remain and are a great example of Baroque architecture, as is much of the city.
Other important buildings and tourist attractions include Fort St Elmo, St John’s Co-Cathedral (which houses the only signed Caravaggio painting in the world), Triton Square, the Lower Barrakka Gardens, and the city walls.
Valletta also boasts a number of Baroque palaces, gardens, and churches, some of which are privately owned. However, a walk down the street will suffice to see these beautiful buildings.
There are many amazing cities located along the Mediterranean, from Rome to Istanbul to Venice. The cities listed above are known for their long histories, rich cultures, and how they’ve been influenced over the centuries by a number of different civilisations.
They span not just the breadth of the sea but also the peoples who lived there over the millennia, and it’s clear in the cities’ growth that they have taken something from each. I’m sure you will agree that these are some of the best Mediterranean cities to visit.