Top 10 European Cruise Ports for History Buffs

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Take a cruise through Europe and the Mediterranean and experience European history up close, whether it’s ambling along crumbling Roman and Greek ruins or sipping the secrets of ancient Tuscan vineyards. You might stand where heads of state ate, drank and were merry or see the towers where heads rolled.

Some Eastern Mediterranean cruises go as far as Turkey and Egypt, adding pyramids and bustling Istanbul to your potential must-do list of on-shore adventures. History is alive and well — and yours to see, feel, taste and discover.

1. Naples, Italy

The historical ruins of Pompeii in Europe's famous cruise ports

Underneath a thick blanket of volcanic ash, archaeologists uncovered a treasure trove of artifacts depicting everyday ancient Roman life in the city of Pompeii. See intricate mosaics in opulent villas, bawdy paintings in brothels and Latin graffiti carved on walls. Stand in the middle of the forum, Pompeii’s open-air marketplace and social hub or take a seat in the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater, where chariots raced and gladiators battled.

2. Athens, Greece

The historical Panathenaic Stadium is completely built of white marble in Athens, Greece

The Panathenaic Stadium, reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium, was the venue of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. More than 2,400 years ago, the original Panathenaic Games were held in honor of the Goddess Athena (with all athletes competing in the nude).

3. Istanbul, Turkey

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is open and available for cruisers to enjoy  and discover a great bargain in the Mediterranean

At the Grand Bazaar you can haggle for jewelry, rugs, silk clothing, antiques and other merchandise in one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, dating back to the 15th century, when Istanbul was the epicenter of the Ottoman Empire. Back then, more than 100 soldiers guarded the Grand Bazaar throughout the night.

4. Venice, Italy

Molten Glass being blown into fascinating designs

Just outside Venice are the tiny islands that make up Murano, famous for glassmaking since the 13th century. No machines here — watch artisans in action as they blow, bend and shape magnificent works of glass, many of which are available for you to purchase and take home.

5. Alexandria, Egypt

Cruise Through History

The Great Prymaid of Giza. You’ve seen it in history books and documentaries. Now’s your chance to get up close and personal to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, erected with extraordinary mathematical precision more than 4,500 years ago. It’s about a three-hour ride each way, but so worth it once you’re in the presence of the Great Pyramid and the one-and-only Sphinx.

6. St. Petersburg, Russia

The historical Catherine Palace Dining Room with gold chairs, door and picture frames in St. Petersburg, Russia

Prepare your jaw — it will drop once you enter the famous Originally constructed in the early 18th century, this exquisite chamber within Catherine Palace (where the Russian czars spent their summers) is decorated completely with amber panels, gold leaf and mirrors.

7. Oslo, Norway

Legendary viking ships designed as the tail of a dragon in Northern Europe

Check out the Viking Ship Museum for many fully or nearly fully intact Viking longships, which menaced the North Atlantic more than a thousand years ago.

8. London, England

The famous London Tower standing tall on a clear blue winter sky in England

Tour the Tower of London and you'll see the Crown Jewels, including the crown, scepter and orb used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Walk along the front of the White Tower where many traitors including some of Henry VIII’s wives met their fate. And be sure to get a good look at the remains of London’s original Roman wall nearby.

9. Rome, Italy

The historical Colosseum in Europe's famous cruise ports

The Colosseum is considered one of the greatest architectural and engineering feats of the Roman Empire. This is where gladiators fought to the death, great sea battles were re-enacted and popular comedies and tragedies were staged. And you’ll want to see the recently restored hypogeum, a multilevel, subterranean network of tunnels and cages, where gladiators and animals were held before show time. The Colosseum is still used today for events, although the interior can seat just a few hundred. Performers such as Ray Charles, Elton John and Paul McCartney played at the Colosseum, but they performed just outside, with the Colosseum as a backdrop.

10. Paris, France

The historical Louvre Palace and pyramid is open for visitors to experience during their cruise in Paris, France

The vast maze-like Louvre was originally a royal palace until Louis XIV packed up and moved to Versailles. Although you may not get to see all of the 400,000-plus objects and works of art, don’t miss the Venus de Milo and da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa.

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