It’s common for anyone who travels to Europe to start with visits to its most well-known cities—Paris, Barcelona, or Rome. But the Adriatic Sea and its ports offer a unique European experience not to be missed. Between the eastern coast of Italy and the western coast of Croatia, the sea is crystal clear and intoxicatingly blue. Ancient walled towns lead to forested hills and mountains. The maestro winds blow across ancient olive groves. Come see a new side of Europe on an Adriatic cruise.
The area is rich with a variety of offerings. Art lovers will be enthralled with the Renaissance architecture that can be found in Dubrovnik, Kotor, and Venice. Foodies will love the range of cuisines throughout the region—Croatian, Greek, Slovenian, Italian, Macedonian, and more. The ports of the Adriatic Sea boast some of the most welcoming, fascinating places to visit.
One of the most picturesque ports to visit is Dubrovnik, Croatia, known as the pearl of the Adriatic Sea. "Those who are looking for paradise on earth should come and see Dubrovnik," George Bernard Shaw famously said.
The city’s fortified old town juts out dramatically into the Adriatic Sea, and the top of the wall can be walked along for stunning views of the terracotta colored roofs and teal blue water. Inside the walls, with cobblestoned streets and a maze of alleyways and courtyards, is a perfect spot for strolling and exploring. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site full of beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. It’s no wonder the Old Town of Dubrovnik has served as filming locations again and again.
Travel a bit down the Balkan coast to Kotor, Montenegro, which offers some of the most well-preserved architecture in all the Adriatic coast, with landmarks such as the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon. Built in 1166, there are frescoes dating back hundreds of years, and much of the gold and silver relief work done by the city's master craftsmen of that time are found within its walls. Tucked at the secluded tip of a tranquil bay and watched over for millennia by the surrounding mountains, Kotor is also a UNESCO World Heritage treasure.
The town’s history dates back before the epic age of Homer, but it’s the medieval wonders in Old Kotor that draw visitors today. Marbled avenues meander with no apparent order, and, even for locals, it’s quite common to get lost. The good news is, few places are more fun to get lost in than Kotor.
Vacations here would not be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Fresh seafood is always on the menu and the hearty fish soup is a tradition not to be missed. Old churches, shops, and bars line the avenues, and don’t be surprised to wander upon a charming piazza right out of the blue. In the summer, lavish yachts of the ultra-rich fill the marina, offering a striking contrast to the rustic romance and ancient beauty of Kotor.
Of course, another must-visit in this area of the Med is the Greek island of Corfu, replete with warm Mediterranean sun and serene beaches. Corfu vacations have risen in popularity in recent years, and luckily Corfu takes its popularity in stride. After all, Corfu’s elegant cobblestoned streets and stunning blue sea make it a quintessential stop on a Mediterranean cruise. But beyond Corfu’s charm and beauty, you’ll find unequalled history and culture.
Corfu itself means “peaks,” referring to the island’s famous two hills, each featuring their own massive fortress to ward off invasion. This Ionian island is located at the mouth of the Adriatic Sea, making it a critical port for trade, commerce, and maritime warfare throughout the centuries. Its rich history includes occupations, but with that came an unforgettable mix of Venetian-style art and architecture, French design during the 17th and 18th centuries, and a classically Greek spirit all rolled into one island.
While on cruises to Corfu, Greece, explore Old Town, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Leave plenty of time for attractions like Achilleon Palace, the Old Fortress, and the Corfu Museum of Asian Art, to name just a few. Take in the exhilarating scents of olive trees, lemon trees, and fresh sea air. Corfu welcomes you with every winding alley, terrace, and hillside.
Making your way to the western coast of the Adriatic brings you to one of the world’s most beautiful cities which also happens to be one of its most unusual. Venice, Italy, is actually spread over 120 islands in the Adriatic Sea. Because the city is connected by canals instead of streets, a good way to see Venice is by boat or, if you prefer, a romantic gondola ride. The epicenter of the city is St. Mark’s Square, where you’ll find the 900-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica. Once in Venice, you’ll admire all the buildings that line the banks of the Grand Canal and enjoy morning espressos, in this capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region.
The city has been immortalized in art, literature, and film over the centuries and one of the prime buildings found reflected in these media is the Palazzo Ducale. This proud, ornate building on the waterfront represents Venice’s seat of power. Make your way to the countless galleries and landmarks this city has to offer, and once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll be thrilled to be in a city that takes its food very seriously. Squid-ink spaghetti, risotto with prawns and zucchini, and marinated sardines are a specialty, while the world-favorite tiramisu, originally invented in nearby Treviso, has found a happy second home in Venice.
Summer is a great time to visit the ports of the Adriatic Sea, so start planning your cruise there now.