The Eastern Mediterranean is increasingly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. It has so much to offer, catering for everyone from fans of history and culture to sun worshippers. Our pick of the top cities in this region attract millions of tourists every year between them, each bursting with its own individual and extraordinary delights:
Athens may be one of the world’s oldest cities, but it is also a 21st century capital with plenty to offer whatever your perfect holiday looks like. It is best visited in Autumn or Spring when there is plenty of sunshine and not so many people.
Most tourists visiting here will head straight for the Acropolis, the ancient citadel above the city that includes several great architectural wonders – the Parthenon being the most famous. Other ruins of interest include the Temple of Zeus, Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library and Hadrian’s Arch, Roman Agora, the Herodus Atticus Theatre and the Dionysus Ancient Theatre. A good way to manage the trip is to buy a combined ticket that covers multiple archaeological sites – a four day pass costs €12 and can be purchased at the Acropolis ticket office.
Another must-see is Athens’ stunning Central Market which has changed very little over the years. The sheer abundance in variety of meat and fish on sale in its grand arcades is worth a visit alone, but it’s also a great place to pick up cheese, olive oil and spices. Tripe soup is also a delicacy there and apparently a good cure for your hangover.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, a visit to Lake Vouliagmeni is another pleasure. Situated 20 kilometres from the City, the underground hot springs keep the temperature of this natural picturesque lake between 22 and 29 degrees year round. The crystal clear waters are infused with salts and minerals and have legendary healing powers said to help a host of conditions. When you’re fully rejuvenated, the restaurant offers tasty Mediterranean food and there are regular jazz nights and events.
Beautiful Dubrovnik overlooking the Adriatic is a UNESCO heritage site and one of the most impressive walled cities in the world. The best time to visit is May to June or September to October. During these times, everything’s open, it’s sunny and the sea is warm – but it’s not too overrun with tourists.
The city walls dating back to the 13th century are top of our must-see list and the best way to see them is by taking the two kilometre walk along the battlements. You’ll enjoy the stunning views over the old town and out to sea, which will also give you some incredible photo opportunities.
The Dubrovnik Cable Car offers more in the way of impressive views. You can board it just outside of the old town, with cars that depart every three minutes transporting you to the top of Mount Srdj. This is another great place to see over the old town, islands and sea, and a spectacular place to watch the sun set.
A slightly different way for you to see the sights is the half day sea-kayaking tours which provide a fantastic way to explore the Adriatic coast. You’ll go from the foot of Lovrijenac Fortress, around the medieval walls and then out to the tiny island of Lokrum where there are snorkelling opportunities.
If you associate Corfu with the party reputation of Kávos in the south, in a word, don’t. Corfu has so much more to offer and tourist development is confined to certain coastal areas, which means that there’s plenty to see and do away from the madding crowd.
Once you’ve exhausted the main town, the Kérkyra old town is the perfect place for a peaceful stroll. The Andivouniótissa Museum there is worth a visit – this medieval church is packed with odd icons, many of which were painted by Cretan refugee artists. The Venetian-built Néo Froúrio fort is also worth a visit architecturally, offering excellent views across the rooftops.
There’s plenty more to do in Corfu for everyone, with a good number of noteworthy museums, waterparks, scuba diving centres, interesting castles and plenty of sleepy villages to wander through. The best time to visit for fair weather without sweltering heat and too many people is late May to late June, and also to the end of September. The maïstros wind which hits the beaches through the afternoon is less intense during those times.
Istanbul is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Founded by the Greeks in the seventh century BC, it is unique in being split between two continents. A visit any time of the year will be enjoyable, although late spring or early autumn offer the perfect weather for exploring.
The old quarter of Istanbul is a must-see, with its oriental skyline made up of domes and minarets, narrow cobbled streets and old wooden houses. The Archaeology Museum is also one of the best attractions, home to some of Istanbul’s finest treasures and providing a walkthrough of its history through its marvellous exhibits.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque – known as the Blue Mosque – is also a wonder not to be missed. Its cascading domes and slender minarets dominate Istanbul’s skyline, and the interior is adorned with the blue Iznik tiles which is where its name comes from.
Athens, Dubrovnik, Corfu and Istanbul are four destinations sure to offer you a memorable holiday. Remember that these are also busy destinations that attract a lot of tourists and therefore a lot of pickpockets. Be on your guard and keep your money out of sight – a money belt is a wise investment. Don’t take all your money out with you – leave what you don’t need, along with any valuables, in the hotel safe. When you’re eating out, don’t set down valuables on your table where they can be snatched, and ensure your bag is always secured. Use a travel money card to pay where you can – this reduces the risk of your card details being stolen as they are not linked to your bank account.
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Images sourced via Discover Greece and Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Pedro Szekely, Elena, Michael Gleave