Small Ship Cruises: European Ports of Call

Wandering around Europe via small cruise ship is an opportunity to explore big cities like Athens, Venice, or Barcelona. In addition, smaller ships are able to dock or anchor in remote places seldom visited by large ships. Places with castles, palaces, cultural treasures, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites are waiting.

Corfu 491 00, Greece
When you arrive in Corfu, you may notice it doesn’t look a great deal like the other Greek islands—in fact, it has a distinctly Venetian feel. That’s because, unlike the rest of Greece, Corfu was never ruled by the Ottomans. The Old Town is a perfectly preserved Venetian town and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Renaissance, baroque, and classical touches can be found between every alleyway and square. Some points of interest: the Old Fortress, Spianada (the largest square in the Balkans), and the Liston (an arcaded promenade where wealthy aristocrats used to gather).
Ul. od Sigurate 7, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
A city of red-tiled rooftops, pine- and cypress-shaded hills, and sparkling turquoise waters, the Old Town of Dubrovnik stuns with both its architecture and scenery. Its surrounding stone walls, built between the 11th and 13th centuries to protect the city from war and epidemics, stretch for a full 1.3 miles, comprising an immense system of forts, bastions, and walkways that offer breathtaking views. Hike along them, then be sure to check out the Lovrijenac Fortress, built atop a 100-foot rock looking out toward Venice (Dubrovnik’s historic rival). The Old Town’s main street of Stradun, known locally as Placa, is also worth exploring. It’s especially nice in the late afternoon, when the sun shines off the historic buildings and swallows soar in the blue sky above.
C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
The art nouveau buildings of Antoni Gaudí, the 19th-century architect whose works are some of Barcelona’s most iconic sights, can be seen throughout Catalonia, but Barcelona has the best examples of his genius at work. Former residences of upper-class families, the Casa Milà (or La Pedrera), at 261-265 Provença, and Casa Batlló, at 43 Passeig de Gràcia, have their fair share of intricate wrought iron balconies and striking mosaic work to catch the eye. They can’t compare, however, with Gaudí’s imposing, and to date unfinished, church, the Sagrada Família. At a minimum, take a tour of one of these buildings—we recommend making time for all three.
80067 Sorrento, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy
I arrived in Sorrento on a hot Summer day. The sun was shining and the Bay of Naples sparkled under the clear blue sky. In the distance, I could see and Mt. Vesuvius on my right and to my left I could make out the Isle of Capri. After I checked into my hotel which stood high atop a cliff, I decided to check out this charming little medieval town, the sites, and the marina. Sorrento used to be a little resort that was a favorite of princes and aristocrats. Since the mid- 20th century, the town has grown and now visitors enjoy its charm and beauty. Sorrento is best known for its yummy limoncello -there are lemon trees all over. Almost every home in town has even a small lemon tree, and the lemon theme is on pottery and tablecloths. Walnuts, olive oil, and ricotta cheese in traditional handmade baskets are very popular items. Sorrento specializes in wood inlay and marquetry items. Then there is the lacework of Sorrento - intricate and very beautiful. The Piazza Tasso is the main square of the town. Make sure to stop and visit the Duomo. While in Sorrento, a trip to the Isle of Capri by ferry or hydrofoil is recommended. Don’t forget the Amalfi Coast. The drive down the coast is awesome. The beauty is stunning -the view around each bend is more gorgeous than the last! Sorrento is so Italy of 50 years ago. Very different from say, Rome or Venice. I’m glad that I didn’t skip this town. Hopefully, I will return. A good guide to Italy will give you info and web sites.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Food + Drink
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East