This guide to the best cities in the Mediterranean was contributed by Claudia.
The Mediterranean is one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Packed with gorgeous beaches with clear waters, rocky shores or fine, white sand, and connecting three continents, along the coast of the Mediterranean you’ll find some truly unique cities. Large or small, international or still retaining their local flavor, all of them are vibrant and interesting to visit.
If you are planning a trip around the Mediterranean Sea – whether it is a cruise or a DIY itinerary – and are looking for the best cities to visit around the Mediterranean, you are in the right place! I have selected the nicest cities for you, with a choice of large, famous capitals as well as mid-sized and smaller towns that are 100% worth discovering.
Ready to find out more? Let’s go!
10 Beautiful Cities In The Mediterranean
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One of the first cities that comes to mind when thinking of the Mediterranean, the capital of Catalonia is a very popular tourist destination – and for very good reasons. Its most iconic attraction is the UNESCO protected Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece whose construction started in 1882 and was never fully completed. But the city has much more to offer.
Fans of Gaudì should make it a point to visit Casa Batllò. For more art, consider going to Picasso’s Museum. Other popular landmarks are the Gothic Quarter, Park Guell and La Rambla, which is perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Hungry? Head to the Mercado de la Boqueria, a lively market loved by tourists and locals alike.
Finally, get out of town and go to the region of Costa Brava to explore the many lovely coves and visit Girona, its quaint capital, and Besalu, the prettiest village in the region of Garrotxa.
The most famous town of the Côte d’Azur exudes charm and Mediterranean vibes. The heart of the city is the Vieille Ville – the Old Town – where you can enjoy a walk through the narrow lanes, taking in the many colorful buildings, and go shopping in the quaint boutiques. That’s where you’ll also find the Cours Saleya Market, a market open Tuesday to Sunday perfect to buy flowers and fresh produce.
Nice’s most famous sight, however, probably remains the 7 km (4.3 mile) Promenade des Anglais, a long waterfront built in the 1820s, where all parades in town take place, including the 14th July, and Carnival. Both locals and tourists enjoy long walks here throughout the year.
If you feel that the vibe in Nice is quite similar to that of many Italian cities it is not by chance! Nice was actually part of Italy until the Treaty of Turin was signed in 1860.
If you fancy getting out of town, head to Cap-Ferrat, along the French Riviera, to spot luxury mansions built at the beginning of the 20th century. You can visit Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and follow the coastal trail for the most impressive coastal views.
Finally, remember that Nice has some lovely beaches – though I shall warn you, they are not sandy.
Founded 2600 years ago, Marseille is the oldest city in France and one of the most interesting cities in the Mediterranean.
The most beautiful part of town is the Vieux Port (Old Port), where you should go to find a delicious seafood restaurant and to ride the Ferris Wheel for the best views of the city. Not far from the port, the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica is perched on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean.
Also a short distance from the port you’ll find Le Panier, the old historic center – a maze of narrow alleys and colorful buildings.
The Palais Longchamp is home to the Museum of Art, the oldest museum in Marseille.
A trip to Marseille is not complete without a boat tour or a bike ride in Calanques National Park. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you may even rent a kayak to go from cove to cove.
Known as the Eternal City, the capital of Italy is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with an incredible array of museums, churches, beautiful squares, archeological sites, and rooted in history as it is.
Summing up the many landmarks in Rome that you shouldn’t miss is virtually mission impossible – there simply are too many. But if it is your first time in town, don’t skip the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill.
Walk along Via dei Fori Imperiali all the way to Piazza Venezia to admire the Altar of the Fatherland – Altare della Patria: a monument dedicated to the first king of unified Italy.
Not far from there, Largo di Torre Argentina is where you’ll see the very steps where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death, and currently one of the best places to see the famous cats of Rome, the city’s most famous cat sanctuary. The Pantheon and Piazza Navona are only a short walk away.
Speaking of piazze – there are many squares in Rome where you’ll be able to spot monumental fountains. I have already mentioned Piazza Navona, where Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers is only one of the three fountains.
Other squares you should make a point to see are Piazza del Popolo, from where you can access the Pincian Terrace and walk to Villa Borghese (the best art gallery in town); Piazza di Spagna – known outside of Italy as the Spanish Steps; and Campo de’ Fiori.
Need more reasons to visit Rome? The amazing food! Go to Trastevere or the Jewish Ghetto for the best local cuisine. Make sure to try supplì, mouthwatering cones of rice stuffed with mozzarella and fried; spaghetti carbonara or even a simple cacio e pepe, a three-ingredients only pasta that is packed with flavor.
Many outside of Europe have never heard of Cagliari. Yet, the capital of the island of Sardinia is the quintessential Mediterranean city and a place you won’t regret visiting.
Perched on the hills and overlooking the sea, the city is packed with interesting sights. History lovers should explore the old historic center, made of the four historic quarters.
Castello is typically the starting point, since it has the highest concentration of tourist-worthy sites, including the Cathedral, the two towers (San Pancrazio and dell’Elefante), the Museum of Archeology, and the terrace of via Santa Croce that overlooks Stampace (another historic district) and offers the best sunset views in town.
La Marina and the above mentioned Stampace are home to a selection of churches and the Roman Amphitheater (one of the many Roman sites in town), and where to go for the best restaurants and bars in town. Villanova, the last historic quarter, is on the other hand more laid back.
What you’ll love about Cagliari is how much nature you’ll find within the city limits. Poetto is the most popular urban beach, a beautiful stretch of white sand and clear waters that locals enjoy year round. From there you can access Molentargius Nature Reserve, a great place for bird-watching as it is a nesting spot for pink flamingos.
Calamosca, the other beach, is where you’ll find the start of the trail to the Sella del Diavolo – a promontory overlooking the gulf and one of the most popular local landmarks.
The capital of Puglia is getting increasing international attention for it is a really pretty city with lots to see and do, and the best starting point for a trip around the region.
The main area to explore is Bari Vecchia – the Old Town. It’s a series of incredibly narrow alleys paved with the whitest stones, and white or colorful buildings where locals still live.
The main churches here are the San Nicholas Basilica, dedicated to the saint that protects the city, and the cathedral and Piazza Mercantile.
Walking around Bari Vecchia, you’ll end up in Via di Arco Basso. That’s where you’ll spot the pasta ladies – local women sitting outside their doors, busy making orecchiette, a traditional local pasta typically eaten with “cime di rapa” a vegetable similar to broccoli in color and taste.
Speaking of food, make sure to also try the delicious local focaccia, which is topped with tomatoes, olive oil and oregano.
Other interesting sights in town are the Castello Normanno-Svevo, Teatro Petruzzelli, and Borgo Murattiano, lined with Liberty style buildings and the main shopping hub.
The second largest city in Croatia is located right on the coast of Dalmatia and is packed with history, culture and interesting finds.
The main landmark there is the Palace of Diocletian, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose basement was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones. Diocletian only lived there for 8 years until he died in AD313, but the palace continued thriving throughout history.
Not far from it, the Cathedral of St. Domnius (Katedrala Sv. Duje), was originally built to be Diocletian’s mausoleum, and became a church in the 7th century. The 60-meter-tall bell tower, which was built between the 12th and the 16th centuries is a great place to climb for views of the city – though it can be a bit scary if you are afraid of heights.
True to its Mediterranean soul, not far from Split you’ll find a bunch of gorgeous beaches that are perfect to spend a day relaxing in the sun – just before you head back to town for a delicious seafood dinner.
Athens is to Greece what Rome is to Italy – it’s capital, the heart of its history, and so much more. The metropolis is packed with things to see and do, and a trip will hardly be enough to fully appreciate it.
The main landmark you don’t want to miss is the Acropolis, a plateau overlooking the city where you’ll mostly see the remains from the Periclean period, or the Classical Golden Age of Greece, dating back to approximately 430 BCE. For a more complete experience, you should also make sure to visit the Acropolis Museum.
Another museum in town is the National Archeological Museum, which is the largest in the country and with an incredible collection of objects on display that will walk you through the history of the country. You should also make it a point to see the Panathenaic Stadium and the Ancient Agora.
The Plaka and Monastiraki are both great places for a stroll – the latter has a nice flea market where you can look for bargain souvenirs to bring home.
Syntagma Square is where you will be able to observe the famous changing of the guard ceremony.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Located on the shores of the Mediterranean, Tel Aviv is the most thriving, lively and fun city in Israel – in fact, in the Middle East. With an incredibly young vibe, this is a place that literally never sleeps, and where you’ll find something to do at any time of day and night, and whatever your fancy of the moment is.
Tel Aviv’s main historic and cultural draw is the Bauhaus style architecture – the White City is UNESCO protected, and you’ll find examples scattered around town and especially along and near Rothschild Boulevard.
The best museum in town is by far Tel Aviv Museum of Art, on King Schaul Boulevard.
Walk west through the lovely Neve Tzedek and you’ll find yourself on the waterfront. To head to Jaffa, the oldest part of the city, head south. If you head north, on the other hand, you’ll end up walking along the waterfront, along the most famous beaches in town – busy throughout the year with people enjoying the weather, a game of volleyball or matkot, running, surfing or simply hanging out with friends.
Shuk HaCarmel is the most popular market in town – a place where locals try to find fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices, to then head to one of the many nearby eateries to enjoy a freshly made hummus.
If you are a fan of street art, Tel Aviv won’t disappoint. Florentine is a great place to spot murals, as well as the old bus station of Tel Aviv – a funky building where street artists have had the chance to express themselves.
As Tel Aviv is so centrally located in Israel it is a great starting point to explore the rest of the country. Jerusalem is only 45 minutes away – even less if you travel by train! The Masada and the Dead Sea are a 2 hours drive, and definitely worth a trip.
You wouldn’t have thought about Tunis, right? Yet, the capital of Tunisia is a nice place to visit, with lots to see and do to keep you entertained.
The Bardo Museum is the best in the country, with a beautiful collection of mosaics from various historical periods.
The Medina of Tunis is another must see – getting lost there is actually fun. For great views of the city, make your way across the Medina to the Olive Tree Mosque, whose construction started during the Umayyad dynasty in AD 732.
At easy distance from Tunis, Carthage is an interesting archeological site located in the Bay of Tunis which was completely destroyed in the third Punic War in 146 BC. You can visit that together with Sidi Bou Said, the lovely white small town on the coast perfect for a leisurely stroll.
What other Mediterranean cities would you add to this list?
About the author: Claudia Tavani was born and raised in Cagliari, Sardinia, but her father grew up near Rome so the city is her second home in Italy. She recently launched Strictly Rome to bring you the best of the city, with the most famous landmarks and the lesser known ones.
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