The Best Mediterranean Cruise Activities: Things to do in Italy, Greece, France, & Beyond

Friday, January 31, 2020
By Azamara

What do you think of when you think of the Mediterranean? Here’s what comes to mind for us: great food. No, more than great. Mouthwatering, mind-blowing, write-home-about-it meals. Incredible scenery. The kind of epic cliffs, ancient ruins, and masterful architecture that’s so beautiful it’s poetic. Warm, friendly people who welcome you into their homes with open arms.

Our onshore experiences in the Mediterranean capture all of this and more. We offer a wide range of shore excursions that not only appeal to the varied interests of our guests but also truly represent the unique facets of everyday life in each port of call.

We want to help plan the perfect Mediterranean cruise for you. These are just a few of the incredible things to do when you journey to Greece, Croatia, Italy, France, and Spain with Azamara.

Things to Do in Greece

Cruising is a particularly wonderful way to explore Greece because it makes island-hopping so easy. Getting from one tiny Greek island to the next isn’t a chore when you’re relaxing at the spa or enjoying a sunset yoga class. And at each stop along your journey, you can choose from dozens of incredible onshore experiences.

The Med is famous for its beaches. We love Elia Beach in Mykonos for its warm, crystal-clear waters and chic sunbeds.

Greece is also a dream destination for history buffs, offering so much to see and do. If beaches aren’t your cup of ouzo, leave Mykonos behind for the wonders of ancient Delos. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites. The stunning remnants of temples, mosaics, homes, and markets—combined with the island’s own mythology as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis—make it an astounding place to visit.

The Terrace of the Lions in Delos, Greece.

Explore Greece’s ancient history further in Athens by visiting the renowned Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. After a fascinating narrated tour of the famous site, you’ll have an even deeper appreciation for the museum’s collection of artefacts.

Greek history isn’t all about ancient ruins, though. Dive into the country’s traditions as you discover the ever-evolving traditions of olive oil production, or connect to Greek culture by learning a folk dance. Opa!

Things to Do in Croatia

The secret has long been out: Croatia is one of the most alluring destinations in the Mediterranean.

An aerial view of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Dubrovnik, arguably the most famous Croatian tourist destination, oozes medieval charm. To get a good sense of the city, take a walking tour of Old Town or visit some of the Dubrovnik landmarks made famous in the HBO series Game of Thrones. Get a feel for the city’s atmosphere after dark by sailing along the coastline during a romantic cruise—aboard a replica 16th-century pirate ship, no less.

Croatia’s stunning coastal scenery and laid-back cities are a great fit for our bike tours. They’re the perfect way to see the sights at a leisurely pace. Cycle your way through some of Croatia’s most charming towns like Hvar, Zadar, Korcula, and Split on two wheels.

Perhaps even more appealing than Croatia’s medieval cities are its sun-kissed islands. From Hvar you can visit smaller islands like Vis and Bisevo, exploring pristine beaches, quaint fishing villages, and the stunning Blue Grotto.

Things to Do in Italy

Every region in Italy offers its own distinct experience. The cuisine, the traditions, even the dialects of the Italian language can vary from place to place. During your Italian cruise, partake in activities in each port that connect you with local life and focus on the region’s unique qualities.

Things to Do in Venice

Part of the charm of Venice is allowing yourself to get lost. But when you want a little more direction, an Azamara shore excursion is a fantastic way to unearth a new layer of the city.

Gondolas in a Venice canal at sunset.

You could depart Venice and glide across the lagoon to discover the charms of other islands, like Burano and Murano. This tour will introduce you to each island’s unique artisan traditions—glass blowing in Murano, and lace making in Burano.

Or, let an Azamara chef help you uncover the secrets of the city through food. There are few better ways to become immersed in the culture of a city than by exploring its market. Frenetic, aromatic, and convivial, markets are where local life takes place. During this shore excursion, you won’t just get to tour the market. You’ll also get to enjoy a delectable dinner onboard later, prepared with the market-fresh ingredients purchased that day.

You can’t leave Venice without partaking in its most famous activity, a gondola ride. Let us handle the details so you can focus on making the memories during this evening gondola serenade.

Things to Do in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, meaning “five lands”, is a string of picturesque cliffside villages on the Ligurian Sea. Cinque Terre is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Portovenere.

You could easily spend a day in any one of the five towns just sipping wine, snapping photos, and soaking up the relaxed atmosphere of the Italian Riviera.

This Azamara shore excursion takes you to the towns of Manarola and Monterosso al Mare. In Manarola, take a quiet stroll through the town’s famous hilltop cemetery to take in the breathtaking panoramic view of the town.

Meanwhile, this option will take you to Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza. While walking the length of the Sentiero Azzurro between each of the five towns is an ambitious endeavour, a short (albeit uphill) hike from Vernazza to a look-off point along the trail will deliver one of the most spectacular views the region has to offer.

A view of Vernazza in Cinque Terre.

Things to Do in Tuscany

Close your eyes and picture Tuscany. What comes to mind? We bet it’s rolling hills of vineyards and, of course, great wine. It’s hard to top a wine tasting when it comes to Azamara shore excursions in Tuscany. This one will take you to the renowned Torre a Cenaia winery to tour the estate, learn about local wine from a sommelier, and yes, sample wine.

If you’d prefer an urban experience, head to Florence for the day. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, it’s one of the most cultured cities in the world. Before you go, read up on Florence’s famous family, the Medicis. Once you know where to look, you’ll find evidence of their influence all over the city.

A skyline view of Florence, Italy.

Or, consider visiting one of Tuscany’s many medieval towns. We’re partial to Lucca, thanks to its incredible architecture. Lucca’s ancient city walls, romantic piazzas, and stunning cathedral make it one of the region’s most captivating towns. This Azamara shore excursion not only takes you to there but brings you inside a grand family villa.

Is climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa is on your bucket list? Check it off with ease by letting us handle the details. In addition to climbing the tower’s 294 steps and learning all about this world-famous architectural gaffe, you can visit the site’s other landmarks like the Duomo and Baptistery, then take your time relaxing in the Field of Miracles. (Since Pisa is one of Italy’s most popular university towns, you may notice a number of students lounging on the grass reading textbooks.)

An aerial view of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Things to Do In and Around Rome

Rome is a city one can visit again and again. Of course, there are the major sights, like the Colosseum and the Vatican. But if you’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to Rome’s most famous landmarks, there’s still plenty to be discovered in the Eternal City.

Go off the beaten path by exploring some of Rome’s lesser-known neighbourhoods. This Azamara shore excursion takes you to two such neighbourhoods, Testaccio and Trastevere. Both are favoured stomping grounds with foodies, so bring your appetite!

A quiet street in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood.

Speaking of your appetite, just thinking about this shore excursion is going to make you hungry. On this tour, you’ll venture into the Etruscan countryside that surrounds Rome to visit a traditional farmhouse and learn the art of pasta making from a local chef. Then, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour by enjoying your pasta for lunch, alongside fine wine pairings. 

Things to Do Along the Amalfi Coast

Journey further south in Italy to the Amalfi Coast, where the golden sun sparkles against the bright blue sea and the scent of lemons wafts through the air. It’s a place so beautiful it’s almost hard to believe it exists. Maybe that’s why this hiking trail is called “The Path of the Gods”—because it looks like heaven on earth. The hike, about three hours long, takes you past stunning natural scenery and charming cliffside villages.

The town of Positano along the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

If you’d rather take in the hustle and bustle of a city than take a hike, try this bicycle tour of Naples. Given that Naples is the birthplace of pizza, it’s only natural that the excursion includes a trip to a local pizzeria for a sampling. After exploring the city on two wheels all day, you’ll have earned the indulgence!

History buff? Then this Azamara shore excursion to Pompeii is a must when you’re cruising the Amalfi Coast. An expert guide will lead you through one of the world’s most famous excavation sites, where you’ll simultaneously be transported back to ancient times and marvel at the modern excavation efforts.

Things to Do in France

Will your Mediterranean cruise bring you to the south of France? Ooh la la! Enjoying your time here is all about embracing la belle vie.

So, how should you relish the beautiful life in France? You can’t go wrong by spending the day in some of the quaint Mediterranean towns that scatter the Provençal countryside, like Grasse and St. Paul de Vence. Grasse is renowned as the perfume capital of the world. Fragrant fields of roses, jasmine, lavender, and other flowers surround the medieval town, where dozens of perfume companies operate. You’ll tour the Fragonard Perfumery, where you can learn about the aromatic art of creating perfume and buy a little something to take home.

Lavender fields in Provence, France

When you think of floral notes and earthy undertones, does your mind wander to wine rather than perfume? Well, then we have an excursion for you. From Cannes, you can embark on a wine-tasting journey through Provence to visit vineyards and chateaus, and of course, sip some ice-cold rosé. Winemaking has existed in Provence for thousands of years, ever since the ancient Greeks founded Marseilles in 600 BC. In fact, the vineyard at Chateau Saint Martin, where you’ll visit during this excursion, can be traced all the way back to the 2nd century BC. The beautiful, historic property will impress you almost as much as their incredible wines.

If you think sniffing perfume or sipping wine sounds rather sleepy, fear not. We have just the jolt of adrenaline you need: fast cars. In Cannes, you can hop behind the wheel of a Ferrari or Lamborghini and take off for Nice. There’s nothing quite as exciting (or romantic) as zipping along the winding coastal roads of Provence in a luxury car. Then there's the delights of Bastia, Corsica - on the edge of the Cap Corse peninsula - a port not to be missed with rugged hiking opportunities and ancient architecture to explore for sightseers. 

Things to Do in Spain

Our trip around the Med wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Spain. Fantastic cuisine, bewitching music and dance, complex history, fine art…Spain’s got it all!

Things to Do in the Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands includes four major islands—Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera—as well as many smaller islands and islets. Each island has a distinct atmosphere.

A beach on the island of Mallorca in Spain.

If you’re an outdoorsy type, look for a voyage that calls on Menorca, where trips to the beach and bird-watching excursions are sure to delight. This is one of the more rural Balearic Islands and these tours will introduce you to that authentic, unspoiled beauty.

Ibiza is the party capital of the Balearic Islands (and maybe the Mediterranean in general). Take a break from the island’s sun-drenched beach bars and glitzy nightclubs and tap into the island’s other claim-to-fame: wellness. (Yes, in addition to being a hotspot for partiers, Ibiza is renowned for its wellness retreats, spas, and sanctuaries.) This Azamara shore excursion will take you to the beautiful agrotourism hotel, Xereca, for a rejuvenating yoga lesson. After the class, you’ll sip fresh juice, refresh with a rain shower, and take a dip in the pool. By the end of the excursion you’ll be saying you could Nama-stay in Ibiza forever!

Things to Do in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most captivating cities on the Mediterranean, offering so much to see and do. It’s no wonder then that our Azamara shore excursions here are such an eclectic mix.

Anyone and everyone will tell you, don’t leave Barcelona without seeing the great works of architect Antoni Gaudi. Parc Güell, the Sagrada Familia, and other works are world-renowned. But you can do better than going to Barcelona and simply seeing his great masterpieces of design. Why not dig a little deeper and come away truly understanding his great contributions to the landscape? During this special tour, a knowledgeable local architect will guide you through Gaudi’s works, sharing a professional perspective along the way.

Parc Guell in Barcelona, Spain, at sunset.

Antoni Gaudi isn’t the only legendary mastermind to emerge from Barcelona. Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain, and later moved to Barcelona. Today, Barcelona is home to the Picasso Museum. The museum boasts an impressive collection of more than 4,000 works. On this Azamara shore excursion, you’ll visit the museum, along with landmarks in the city’s Gothic Quarter and El Born neighbourhoods that were of importance to the artist.

You can’t talk about quintessential Barcelona experiences without talking about Flamenco. The rhythms of Flamenco are like the city’s heartbeat. This nighttime shore excursion will give you a front-row seat at one of Palacio del Flamenco’s acclaimed shows. 

Spain is famous for wine, but did you know the country also has a rich history of brewing? You can learn all about Spanish beer during this tour of the historic Moritz Brewery. Pair your beer with some delicious tapas prepared by a Michelin-starred chef—don’t forget to toast to good health with “Salud!” before you sip.

Planning Your Mediterranean Cruise

Are you lost in a Mediterranean daydream yet?

It’s easy to make that daydream a reality. The travel experiences highlighted in this article are just a small taste of what awaits you during a Mediterranean cruise. Our Azamara shore excursions have been expertly curated to introduce even the most seasoned travellers to new layers of each destination we visit. You’ll forge genuine connections not only with local culture but with local people—and make memories you’ll cherish forever. What’s more real than that?

Begin by choosing your ideal Mediterranean itinerary.

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