Looking for history and culture? Cruise the Mediterranean
- Daniel Weight
- 22 June 2012
Visit the historical cities of Rome, Istanbul and Barcelona
The Mediterranean is steeped in more history than almost any other place in the world, and no places better highlight this than in the capital cities of the nations that sit on this beautiful sea. Rome, Barcelona, Istanbul – just the names of these great cities evoke a sense of history and grandeur.
And the most stress-free way to explore multiple cities in one trip is to sail between them with P&O Cruises. Often these cities grew up around the port, so by sailing in you see the city as its architects intended. Most Med cruises take in a string of large cities, with a few relaxing sea days in between to give you time to recover.
Here are my top three Mediterranean cities:
Rome has so much history that it would take weeks to explore just the key buildings and sites. With a story stretching back over 2,500 years, Rome has been the centre of empires, religion, culture and trade over millennia. Today it’s a bustling city, but echoes of its great past can be seen everywhere. From the grand Coliseum and the Pantheon, to Vatican City – a city-state within Rome – the city seems like one big, bustling museum with priceless buildings at almost every turn.
Another remarkable city is Istanbul – not least because it sits on two continents. Straddling the mighty Bosphorus in Turkey, the city sits in both Europe and Asia and with a population of over 13
million it’s one of the largest cities in the world. This unique position has made Istanbul the centre of world trade and culture for thousands of years and a melting pot of different cultures. This is one of the reasons that the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other reason is the amazing architecture on display; ranging from ancient Roman, through Byzantine and Ottoman eras right though to modern skyscrapers – highlights being the magnificent Hagia Sophia, once the biggest Cathedral in the world before being converted into a mosque and now a museum, and the truly stunning Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque – its buildings can hold 10,000 worshipers and its distinctive dome and striking minarets puncture the city’s skyline.
Finally on this whistle-stop tour of the Med’s best cities is Spain’s beautiful Catalonian capital Barcelona. Highlights abound in this beautiful city, no matter whether you’re looking for world-class historic, cultural or sporting thrills. Of course, no trip to Barcelona would be complete without a trip to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia – whilst a little bit of a tourist cliché these days, you won’t fail to be wowed by the amazing and intricate design. You can even climb its distinctive spires for a view of the city and an opportunity to see the ornate stonework up close – although it’s not for the faint-hearted as the spiral stairs are extremely narrow in places.
Barcelona is positively awash with cultural highlights beyond its famous church though, and boasts no less than seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. For me a highlight is the Park Guell – a public park designed by Gaudi that contains many beautiful sculptures and is the perfect escape from the bustle of the city. Also worth a visit is Las Ramblas, the 1.2km long pedestrianised shopping street that boasts hundred of shops, street performers and cafes. On the sporting side, there is only one place to head in Barcelona – Camp Nou. This near 100,000 seater stadium is home to FC Barcelona and is a place of pilgrimage for football fans thanks to its awesome size and the cauldron-like atmosphere when FC Barcelona – one of the top club sides in Europe – play at home.
The Mediterranean is so much more than beaches and resorts (although it has plenty of amazing ones). Venture into the major cities that ring this beautiful sea and you’ll discover historic and cultural highlights abound.
P&O Cruises Mediterranean holidays all depart from Southampton, meaning no flights or airport queues. Lasting from two weeks upwards, these holidays depart throughout the year and generally visit either Western Mediterranean or Eastern Mediterranean destinations (Eastern Med cruises tend to be a little longer as you obviously have to travel further to get there and back). For information on all P&O Cruises Mediterranean holidays, visit the website.