The best places to visit in the Mediterranean feature incredible cultural treasures, idyllic landscapes, and some of the most well-known landmarks in Europe.
From exploring the ancient sites of Rome and Athens to discovering the fascinating culture of Barcelona and Ephesus, or unwinding in the Greek Islands, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca or Dubrovnik, the Mediterranean is one of the top destinations in the world to visit.
Here are some of the best Mediterranean destinations to experience on your next vacation.
Greece’s capital city is also the heart of ancient Greece. Exploring 5th century BC ruins like the Parthenon that sits atop the Acropolis of Athens, the Temple of Zeus, and the Old Temple of Athena; the Roman ruins of Hadrian’s Library; and the white marble Panathenaic Stadium is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The ruins are the main attraction here, but they’re just one reason Athens is one of the best places in the Mediterranean to visit.
Stroll the cobblestone streets of Plaka, the city’s oldest neighborhood that sits in the shadow of the Acropolis. Shop for beautifully fashioned Byzantine jewelry, Greek wines, olive oil, and other local treasures while street musicians serenade you.
Savor traditional Greek cooking, like moussaka, pastitsio, grilled market-fresh fish, and homemade baklava at a family-owned taverna, then set off for Mount Lycabettus, the city’s highest point. Ride a funicular to the summit for a glorious, panoramic view of Athens and the surrounding sea.
History, beauty, and culture come together to make Barcelona a top Mediterranean destination.
Wander Las Ramblas, the landmark boulevard that runs through the city center. Walk on Joan Miro’s tiled street mural, then head down the boulevard to can’t-miss city sights including the Medieval Gothic Quarter’s small shops and art-filled churches.
Shop like a local at La Boqueria, the famous marketplace, grazing as you go on tortilla de patatas, croquetas, and a glass of cava, the local sparkling wine.
Tour Artigas Gardens, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, the enchanting mosaic wonderland of Park Guell, and the spectacular and famously unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral, all works of Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona’s most famous architect.
Get your fill of museums: Barcelona has more than 55, showcasing the art of Picasso and Miro to contemporary culture, design, and even perfume. At night, stop in different tapas bars to enjoy some of the best food and wine in the city.
Read: Three Days in Barcelona
Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, is the scenic backdrop for a visit to Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city. Discover the mighty mount on private tours or on all-terrain adventures that get you close to the volcano’s rim.
Explore the city’s Benedictine Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Castello Ursino, which houses the Civic Museum; the Teatro Romano, an amphitheater from the 2nd century BC; and the old city’s Piazza Del Duomo.
Visit a winery that sits at the base of Mt. Etna, sample cannoli and other luscious pastries at one of the city’s many cafes, or take a beach break at a favorite local spot with a breathtaking view of the mountain.
Catania’s location is a perfect launching point for day trips to Taormina, a walled, hilltop town and one of the best places to visit in Sicily.
It’s also close to Syracuse, where you can see Greek and Roman ruins and taste some of Sicily’s best food, like arancini (rice balls), pasta alla Norma, fresh fish, and local sweets that incorporate locally grown pistachios and almonds.
When approaching Dubrovnik, Croatia’s capital, it’s easy to see why this walled medieval town has been the site for recent hit movies and an award-winning television series.
Majestic limestone fortresses, old city gates, a Jesuit staircase fit for a queen’s walk, cobblestoned streets, and spectacular sea views make it one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean.
Stroll the Stradun, the city’s main pedestrian mall, to visit the Sponza Palace and the imposing Onofrio’s Fountain, then stop in the surrounding shops, cafes, and restaurants.
A walk on the ancient city wall is a must, as it’s among the most beautiful places in Croatia. The view of the clear blue Adriatic Sea, the island of Lokrum a short distance away, and the Minceta Fortress at its highest point are a few of the highlights.
For breathtaking coastal and sea views, ascend to the city’s highest point on a cable car ride, go kayaking along the city ramparts, visit the nearby resort town of Cavtat, or unwind on a sunbed along one of Dubrovnik’s beautiful beaches.
The Renaissance lives on in Florence through incredible art, architecture, and centuries of Italian tradition. Throughout the city, museums housing spectacular art and artifacts, palazzos, churches, and buildings show off their glorious history with pride.
Stroll piazzas leading to spectacular sights at every turn, like the impressive Duomo, the carved bronze doors of the Baptistry, the “outside” replica of David at the Palazzo Vecchio, the jewelry and leather shops spread across the Ponte Vecchio, and Michaelangelo’s magnificent sculpture of David inside the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Florence’s central location makes it easy to explore the bountiful countryside and try traditional Tuscan food, visit vineyards, taste local olive oil, and try a pasta-making class.
Pisa, home of the iconic leaning tower, cathedral, and baptistery, and the Piazza dei Miracoli, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is just an hour away.
Situated in the sparkling blue Mediterranean off the coast of Spain, Ibiza is one of the quartet of the Balearic Islands. Snorkel or swim in secluded lagoons, then unwind on any one of the island’s 80 gorgeous golden sand beaches.
It’s also the perfect place to enjoy leisurely bike rides to tranquil villages, where life revolves around a landmark church, a local bar and restaurant, and small, well-kept homes.
Pause to admire the area’s vineyards and try a glass or two of the young, fruity red wine accompanied by fried almonds, dried figs, bread, and sausage.
See flocks of pink flamingos gracing Las Salinas, Ibiza’s 2,000-year-old salt flats on the south side of the island. It’s one of the best places on the island to witness a spectacular sunset. Enjoy a cocktail of sangria made with cava (Spain’s sparkling white wine) before savoring a dinner of local seafood.
The walled capital city of Montenegro is bound to captivate you with its dramatic natural beauty, coastal Italianate palaces along the Bay of Kotor, and Baroque and Romanesque churches with ornate interiors.
Take a ride or a hike to the summit of Mount Lovcen on a long winding road with breathtaking views. Walk the old town’s cobbled streets lined with boutiques and cafes, go sea kayaking on Kotor Bay, or explore the city’s fortresses at Castelnuovo and Forte Mare.
Foodies will appreciate Kotor for its wines and prosciutto. Travel to nearby towns for tours of vineyards and smokehouses, and visit a 2,000-year-old olive tree, said to be the world’s oldest.
Ephesus (Kusadasi), Turkey
Beautiful beaches of varied terrains, some of the most exciting excavated Roman ruins in the world, fresh cuisine, and family-friendly amusement parks make Kusadasi one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean.
Explore the open-air museum that is Ephesus, marveling at the ruins of the Celsus Library that once held 12,000 scrolls; the Temple of Hadrian; The Grand Theatre; and the Arcadian Way, where Mark Antony and Cleopatra traveled.
Snorkel, dive or swim at popular beaches or secluded ones, and feel the warmth of the sun as you watch the waves lap the shore.
Watch the fine art of carpet weaving, pause for Turkish coffee and pastries at a sidewalk cafe, or enjoy street food like meat or vegetable kabobs, pide (Turkish pizza), and the sweet, jelly-like squares of Turkish delight.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
The principality of Monaco may be one of the smallest countries in the world, but it’s largest neighborhood, Monte Carlo, has an outsized reputation as a glamorous playground for the rich and famous.
Live the high life as you walk along Monte Carlo Harbor and marvel at docked mega-yachts. Sip a fashionable Aperol spritz or a royal peach mojito at an outdoor cafe. Try your luck at the blackjack, baccarat, or roulette tables at the opulent Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Read: Things to Do in Monaco
The Prince’s Palace is a must-see, as is Vieux Monaco that sits atop a hill next to the palace. The city’s winding streets are filled with shops, restaurants, and museums like the Oceanographic Museum and a museum housing the country’s cultural and military artifacts.
Have your own Grand Prix-style experience driving along Monaco’s three winding corniches, famously depicted in films and television series, on day trips to the nearby towns of Nice, Cannes, or Eze.
Rome, home to some of Italy’s most famous landmarks, is one of the best Mediterranean destinations to visit. Explore the Colosseum, the Catacombs, the Seven Hills, and the Roman Forum to get a glimpse of life in ancient Rome.
Amble down the Spanish Steps and walk cobblestoned streets to shop the fashion world’s best designers. Down every street, you’ll find artisan shops with leather goods, beautifully crafted gold jewelry, and fine foods like olive oils, balsamic vinegar, wine, and traditional and whimsical sizes, shapes, and colors of pasta.
Throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, and find your favorite flavor at a gelato shop. Enjoy a late dinner, Roman-style, and immerse yourself in “la dolce vita” vibe of the Eternal City.
Visit St. Peter’s Square and book a tour to discover Vatican art treasures, including the Sistine Chapel, where the view of Michaelangelo’s “Last Judgement” is simply awe-inspiring.
See Rome from a different perspective on a kayak trip down the Tiber River, passing under centuries-old viaducts. If you’re spending at least three days in Rome, you may also journey beyond the city out into the Etruscan countryside to farmhouses and groves for guided tastings of olive oils, cheeses, and wines.
White-washed buildings and blue-domed churches perched on the cliff of a stunning caldera overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is the iconic view of the Greek island of Santorini.
Cloudless skies, multihued blue waters, and gorgeous white-sand beaches in the Mediterranean complete the idyllic picture.
Explore Oia, a seaside village tucked high into mountain cliffs, to get a feel for Greek island life. White-washed buildings seem stacked on top of each other as they fit neatly into the cliffs, and the residents are as warm and welcoming as the sun that seems to shine endlessly.
Visit the Maritime Museum for a glimpse into local seafaring history. Amble through the charming village streets, stopping at art galleries, artisan craft shops, and cafes. Watching the sunset from Oia while sipping ouzo (an anise-flavored aperitif) is a must.
Savor a dinner of freshly caught fish, grilled simply and deliciously with olive oil and lemon, or one of the beloved Greek specialties like moussaka or pastitsio.
Valletta, named Europe’s 2018 City of Culture, is the capital of Malta and a treasure trove of sites and activities.
From the old town’s massive City Gate to the Baroque and Modernist influences evident in buildings throughout the city, history abounds in Valletta.
Walk the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hagar Qim temple complex, one of the oldest freestanding structures on earth. See the Limestone Heritage, a quarry that’s now a citrus grove.
Visit the island’s stunning Blue Grotto and linger a while in the quaint fishing villages that dot the island’s rocky coast.
The citrus groves of Malta are the reason the island is famous for its limoncello, a refreshing lemon liqueur served cold in the island’s cafes and restaurants.
Bustling shops, vibrant restaurants serving local delicacies, and museums and art galleries featuring exhibits and artifacts about Malta’s history and culture are all worth the time to get to know this enchanting island city.
There’s never a doubt that Venice, Italy’s northern city of canals, is always on the list of best Mediterranean destinations.
A gondola ride through those canals is the quintessential thing to do while in Venice, but the city is much more than just gondoliers and waterways.
Amble along narrow, scenic streets until you reach the expansive St. Mark’s Square, home to some of Venice’s top sights. Tour the 11th century St. Mark’s Basilica and head up to its roof for a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Perpendicular to St. Mark’s Square is Doge’s Palace, which once served as the residence of the doges (rulers) of Venice.
Cross the Bridge of Sighs, characterized by its white limestone exterior and ornate details. Legend has it that the Bridge of Sighs got its name because it once provided criminals with their last view of the outside world before being locked in the dungeon, which would result in a sigh from the prisoners.
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