5 Breathtaking UNESCO Sites in the Mediterranean

View of Holland America Line cruise ship in Malta on Mediterranean cruise.

Embark on an unforgettable Mediterranean cruise with Holland America Line. This region, known for its stunning landscapes and rich cultural history, is home to an array of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each site tells a unique tale of human civilization, its triumphs, and its enduring spirit. We’re here to guide you through five of these extraordinary destinations, each with its own story. If you’re touring the Mediterranean by cruise ship, don’t miss the opportunity to go ashore to experience these sites.  

The Historic City of Valletta, Malta 

View of Valletta city landscape along coast.
Experience the breathtaking views of Valletta in Malta.

The fortified city of Valletta is the capital of Malta. Built by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century, Valletta is a living testament to the grandeur of this order. Its narrow streets are adorned with Baroque architecture, grand palaces, and ornate churches. The city’s star attraction, St. John’s Co-Cathedral, houses the famous painting “The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist” by Caravaggio. Also, don’t miss the Grand Master’s Palace and the magnificent view of the Grand Harbour, one of the most spectacular ports in the world.   

Fun Fact: Despite its small size, Valletta is packed with historical sites, with over 320 monuments. It is often referred to as “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen.” 

The Amalfi Coast, Italy 

View of hillside buildings and flowers along Amalfi Coast in Italy.
Experience the beauty of the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

The picturesque landscape of Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a harmonious blend of natural beauty and cultural wealth. The pastel-colored houses perched on steep terraces, the azure sea, and the lush Mediterranean vegetation create captivating views. The diverse landscape is home to some of the most productive citrus groves, olive orchards, and vineyards in all of Europe. Visit the historic centers of Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, and more to experience their unique charm, with plenty of architectural and artistic delights to explore.   

Fun Fact: The area is a renowned cultivator of lemons known as “sfusato Amalfitano,” which are typically double the size of other lemons and are used in making the famous Limoncello liqueur. 

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece 

View of acropolis and ancient ruins in Athens, Greece.
Explore the history of Athens, Greece.

Perched high above the city of Athens, Greece, the iconic Acropolis is a testament to the grandeur of Ancient Greece. It is home to several monumental buildings, but the most famous is undoubtedly the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena. The Erechtheion, known for its Caryatid Porch, and the Propylaea, the grand entrance to the Acropolis, are also must-see sites. The Acropolis is not just a historical site but a symbol of Western civilization.   

Fun Fact: The Parthenon is considered the most perfect Doric temple ever built. Despite appearing to be straight, there is not a single straight line in its design. This optical illusion was created by the ancient Greeks to make the temple appear flawless to the human eye. 

The Old City of Dubrovnik, Croatia 

View of city and rocky landscape along coastline in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Marvel at the stunning architecture and shimmering sea in Dubrovnik.

The “Pearl of the Adriatic,” the Old City of Dubrovnik in Croatia, is a well-preserved medieval city encircled by massive stone walls. Walk along the city walls for panoramic views, explore the Gothic-Renaissance-styled Sponza Palace, and don’t miss the oldest functioning pharmacy in Europe at the Franciscan Monastery. The city’s rich history, stunning architecture, and the shimmering Adriatic Sea make it a must-visit destination.  

Fun Fact: The city walls of Dubrovnik have never been breached by a hostile army during the city’s history, making them a symbol of invincibility. 

The Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain  

View of city park and landscape in Barcelona, Spain.
Soak up the sights of stunning stained glass and architecture in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona, Spain is home to two remarkable UNESCO sites. The Palau de la Música Catalana is an architectural jewel of Catalan Art Nouveau that enchants visitors with its intricate design and stunning stained glass. The concert hall is a symphony of light and color, and its music performances are a treat for the senses. Nearby, the Hospital de Sant Pau, a masterpiece of modernist architecture, showcases the unique vision of architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. This former hospital is a city within a city, with pavilions set in beautiful gardens connected by a network of underground tunnels.   

Fun Fact: The Palau de la Música Catalana is one of the few concert halls around the world to be lit during daylight hours entirely by natural light. 

Sailing the Mediterranean with Holland America Line is more than just a cruise; it’s a journey through time, a voyage across centuries of human endeavor, and a celebration of our shared heritage. Join us and immerse yourself in the living history and timeless beauty of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and many more. Set sail on an adventure that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.  

Ready to start planning your next trip? Explore our Mediterranean cruises for an opportunity to experience another corner of the world’s history and culture.   


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