Sailing from Spain
Setting sail from Barcelona
Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, is one of our favourite ports of call. From the warren-like medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic to the fantastical modernist architecture of Antoni Gaudí, from the dizzy heights of Mount Tibidabo to the golden sands of Barceloneta, there's never a dull moment in this most beguiling of cities. Take a stroll along the Ramblas, soak up the wonderful art of Picasso and Miró, or watch Lionel Messi work his mesmerising magic at the Camp Nou. Barcelona is truly a city with something for everyone.
For the ultimate boozy lunch head to Can Paixano, also known as La Xampanyeria, where local residents, office workers and the odd adventurous tourist crowd around the bar and tuck into sandwiches washed down with Cava.
The down-to-earth port of Sète, sandwiched between the Mediterranean and the Etang de Thau lagoon, is a working town rather than a tourist hotspot, though the canals and colourful buildings have a certain charm. It’s also a great spot for a seafood lunch, and a visit to the nearby citadel of Carcassonne is a popular excursion.
The rumbustious port of Marseille often gets a bad press, but the city has been transformed in recent years, with a host of new cultural attractions. The vibrant Vieux Port remains at the heart of life in Marseille, however, and is the best place to begin your exploration of the city’s many historic sights.
Monaco: Monte Carlo
Renowned for its casino, its Grand Prix and its oligarch-friendly tax policies, Monte Carlo is glamour and hedonism personified, with a price tag to match. This little principality enjoys a lovely setting, the villas and penthouses tumbling down the hillside towards the sweeping blue expanse of the Mediterranean.
Italy: Florence / Pisa (Livorno)
The faded port town of Livorno serves as a gateway to Tuscany’s star attractions. Wonderful Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, is resplendent with beautiful architecture and unrivalled artistic treasures, while nearby Pisa is of course famous for its precarious Leaning Tower.
Italy: Rome (Civitavecchia)
One of the world’s great cities, Rome continues to dazzle and delight visitors with a potent mix of architectural marvels, continent-defining history and buzzing nightlife. The Colosseum, the Vatican and the Forum are among the big ticket items, with the crowds to match, though in truth you will find history around almost every corner.
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed centre of Naples rewards exploration, and in addition to the many cultural treasures waiting to be unearthed Neapolitans are rightly proud of their food; this is where you’ll find the best pizza in Italy. The city also acts as a gateway to the fascinating remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the beautiful Amalfi coast.
Situated on the north eastern tip of Sicily, so close to the Italian mainland you can almost touch it, Messina is the busy main entry point to the island. The city was flattened by an earthquake in 1908, and again by Allied bombing in 1943, so few historical sights remain, although the cathedral is one of Sicily’s most impressive.
Greece: Souda Bay
The Turkish port of Kusadasi is the gateway to Ephesus, one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the Eastern Mediterranean. This was the Roman capital of Asia Minor, and the remains constitute the most complete classical city in Europe.
Arriving in Athens (Piraeus)
Athens is a city awash with historical and cultural significance. Towering over the city are the gleaming columns of the Parthenon, surely one of the most iconic sights in the whole of Europe. And yet Athens is much more than an open air museum; this is a dynamic, bustling metropolis, and a place where history is still very much unfolding. For all its faults, the Greek capital possesses an energy and an optimism that are manifest in everything from the burgeoning art scene to the restaurants and bars that continue to pop up on a regular basis.
Obviously don’t miss the Acropolis, nor the new adjacent museum, where space has pointedly been left for the frieze we call the Elgin Marbles – it is really excellent. Then take time to stroll on the hills and slopes around the outcrop.
Your home from home
Viking’s hugely successful river cruise operation is now expanded with contemporary 930-guest ocean ships – six lovely sisters to start with – featuring attractive inclusive pricing and interesting itineraries.
What we love
The airy contemporary style of the ships, with fresh Nordic décor, is most appealing. Add to that the huge choices in dining and other facilities, and veranda staterooms throughout, not to mention included shore excursions and an excellent spa, and you have a winner.
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On Viking it is all about the destination. Back on board, expect to socialise with like-minded travellers, in an easy, spacious and understated hotel style environment.
Tailor-make your trip
Where to stay in Barcelona
The lovely Hotel Arts on the sea front is perfectly located for a pre- or post-cruise stay, and has great restaurants too.
Take a day trip to the attractive city of Girona, with its fascinating mix of Gothic, Moorish and Modernist architecture, as well as an exceptionally well preserved Jewish Quarter.
Extend your stay in Athens
At Mundy, we have long been hunting for the perfect Athenian hotel - our favourite so far is the Electra Palace in Plaka.
Excursions from Athens
Delphi is an absolute must – you’ll need a full day though, it’s quite a drive.