By Craig Middleton

The Mediterranean coast is brimming with incredible sites, cultures, food, and experiences. Here are five must-see sites on the Mediterranean coast worth the cruise.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is a two-thousand-year-old city. It was the economic and political center of the Western Mediterranean during the Medieval Period, and it is still a marvel today, in short, any trip through the Mediterranean would be incomplete without a visit to Barcelona. This city is rich in history, art, museums, and music. But there are also sports (FC Barcelona, anyone?) great food, hiking, scenic walks, a roaring nightlife, and of course the beach. Barcelona is used to tourists, so there are bike tours, bus tours, helicopter tours, hotels, restaurants, and travel blogs on how to tour Barcelona at the best price.
Barcelona won a well-deserved RIBA gold medal for its architecture, including the Gothic Quarter, Parc de la Ciutadella, La Sagrada Familia, and lots of Gaudi buildings. Experienced travelers recommend going between late March through April or late September through October in order catch the best weather, avoid the crowds, and still get to see some of Barcelona’s festivals.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna began as a Roman military encampment – now it is one of the most historic cities in Europe. And there is so much more than just gondola rides. Vienna is home to palaces from the Medieval Period to the Victorian Period. Music lovers can visit the sites of Mozart and Haydn, art lovers can see the works of Strauss and Picasso, and lovers of architecture can go see the lavish Vienna State Opera House and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There is even a museum dedicated to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology. If gondolas don’t suit you, there are bus tours available. Vienna, like Barcelona, is such a popular tourist destination that lists of all the tours, hotels, and restaurants are easy to find online, just be sure to stop at one or two random Viennese eateries for a famous Viennese sausage and coffee. Vienna is most popular in the summer, but you can dodge the crowds by going during another season.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik is a wonderful mix of history and relaxation. Tourists spend hours in the Old Town, walking along the limestone streets, looking at picturesque old churches, alleys, museums, and ancient city walls, where they can see examples of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. The Minceta Fortress, Rector Palace, Franciscan Monastery Complex, and summer festivals just scratch the surface of what there is to see in Dubrovnik. Restaurants and souvenir shops abound, and then there are the beaches – the best cruise excursions don’t always take you away from the water. Dubrovnik has several beaches that locals and tourists can’t get enough of because of their scenic beauty and fantastic summer climate. Cable cars have been rigged up to show tourists a bird’s eye view of this historical city. The only sad part about Dubrovnik is that there’s too much to see and do in a single day. September and October are the best months to visit.

Athens, Greece

Don’t let Sparta fool you, Athens is the place to go. It’s a walk through some of the world’s greatest history. Many locations across the Mediterranean have architecture, culture, and art from the Medieval Period, the Renaissance, or Enlightenment, but Athens is the one and only best place experience Ancient Greece. The art, science, and philosophy that Greece pioneered make Athens an intellectual pilgrimage. For those wanting a glimpse into the places of the past, there is the Parthenon, Acropolis, and the chance to see a Greek-style performance of Oedipus. There are night tours, food tours, bike tours, and lots of tasty, heart-healthy things to eat. Getting to the National Archeological Museum won’t be a problem because the city is equipped with subways, freeways, and lots of signs in English to point you in the right direction. It’s a great trip to plan for the mid-spring or autumn.

Istanbul, Turkey

Need a taste of eastern culture on your Mediterranean trip? In Istanbul has long claimed the title of “the bridge between the east and the west”. Istanbul remembers the Byzantine Empires, the Christian Crusades, and the Turkish War for independence. Today it is the economic, cultural and historic center of Turkey. In Istanbul, you’ll see grand mosques, bazaars, and hamams – the most beautiful Ottoman architecture you’ve ever seen, including the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia Museum, among many others. Istanbul includes delicious street food, Greek cuisine and Turkish cuisine, ferry rides, music festivals, cultural dances – even its own Legoland. There may be some cultural customs that surprise you, mosque-appropriate dress and bath-house etiquette, but the research is easy. Mark down spring and autumn as the best times to visit this unique city.