The Mediterranean is not an area one typically associates with cities. The sun-drenched region is more about the sleepy seaside towns, boating pilgrimages, and clifftop villas. However, some holidays call for a little more than relaxation, quiet beaches, and local tavernas - as lovely as these all may sound. Sometimes, we crave a little bit of the hustle and bustle that only comes with city life.
Each city on the famed Mediterranean Sea is unique. Some have been marked by history with quaint cobblestone streets and towering fortresses, while others are slightly more contemporary, with a dazzling array of festivals, Michelin-star restaurants, and upmarket fashion boutiques. Fortunately, these cities are similar in the way they all embody the irresistible charms of the Mediterranean, the laidback, easygoing lifestyle, the exquisitely fresh seafood, and that incredible warmth - in the people and the favourable climate.
Palermo is a fantastic base for exploring the spoils of Sicily. Head west and you have got the stunning white sand beaches of San Vito Lo Capo, head a little further and you are just a boat ride away from the mountainous Aegadian Islands. And then to the south of the city is Agrigento, a vast archaeological site boasting some of the best-preserved Ancient Greek artefacts and architecture. But Palermo is so much more than just a base, the city is an attraction all on its own.
In its city centre, you will experience an all-encompassing introduction to authentic Sicilian street food. Head to one of the major street food markets like The Ballaro Market, and tuck into a crispy ball of aubergine arancini - hearty fried balls of risotto - or panelle - simple fried chickpea fritters best enjoyed inside a soft bread roll.
If the heat gets a little too much (Sicily can have non-stop sun in summer), take a well-earned break inside one of the coastal city’s museums, such as Museo Archeologico Regionale.
It’s one of France’s biggest cities, but it certainly does not feel like it. With its stunning beaches, elegant promenades, picture-perfect views, and fine dining, Nice offers a coastal escape with all the perks of a city escape.
The French city has long been a magnet for artists, serving as the muse for Picasso, Monet, and Cezanne. As such, you can absolutely expect to get your art fix in the city, so pay a visit to the Fine Arts Museum (Musee des Beaux Arts), for art from the 16th to the 20th century within a gorgeous villa, or National Sport Museum, for something a little unique but indicative of the wider French culture.
Of course, Nice is the jewel of the French Riviera for its beaches. Venture to Carras Beach for a refreshing dip and spend a long afternoon people watching at La Réserve.
If you enjoy planning a holiday around the hidden gems, then book a ticket to Malta. Malta is one of the Mediterranean’s most underrated destinations. The island's historic capital, Valletta, is a must-visit. Wind your way through the compact streets to the stunning Grand Harbour and marvel at Caravaggio’s masterpieces housed within the beatific St John’s Co-cathedral. While Valletta is fringed by the sea, there are no sandy beaches in and around it. Fortunately, there are plenty of world-class bays and daredevil swimming holes dotted around the island, plus Gozo - another island in the Maltese archipelago - is just a brief boat ride from Valletta.
The Maltese city is ideal for those travellers desperate for a cosmopolitan escape that doesn’t feel too overwhelming - Valletta happens to be the smallest capital city in the European Union.
And now for one of the most beloved cities on the list. Barcelona is unquestionably a big hitter, a beloved destination for travellers from all over the world. And for good reason!
The Spanish city is the lively home to a ferocious football culture thanks to Camp Nou, with its 99,354 seating capacity. The stadium is the largest stadium in Europe and the former home to star Lionel Messi. Contributing to the city’s electric atmosphere is its iconic skyline featuring Gaudí’s gorgeously unfinished La Sagrada Familia and a bustling culinary scene of the Mercat de la Boqueria, tapas bars, and waterfront fine dining.
We get it - Monaco can be an acquired taste! With its Monte Carlo, superyachts floating inside the harbour, and Formula One cars surging down the track, the sovereign city-state is a place of extreme wealth. This on its own can be fascinating to observe, but there is also rich history, culture, and beauty alongside the glamour. The city’s Art Nouveau architecture is striking, offering varying facades and bursts of vibrant colour as you amble through the streets, and the Rock of Monaco, a 62-metre tall monolith, offers sensational views of the port and the deep blues of the Mediterranean sea.
While the church is undoubtedly a Barcelona icon, the most renowned exponent of Catalan Modernism is responsible for a number of different buildings in Spain. If you’re looking to discover them in person, here are four Gaudí buildings not to miss
While culture, cuisine, history, and spectacular views are guaranteed on your adventure in the Mediterranean nation, carefully selected accommodation is what will take your holiday to the next level. From antique Parador hotels to contemporary wine resorts, we have rounded up some of the most beautiful hotels in Spain.
If you’re dreaming of a stay that offers ample opportunities for cultural and historical enrichment, as well as variety (but not overwhelming variety), start your holiday planning with Spanish accommodation group Parador.
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