Shipping ports, until the dawn of last century, had been used predominately for trading goods, fishing, migrating, world commerce and warfare etc. However, people have learned to take the sheer fun out of this shipping business by spending vacation onboard, cruising to the most favourite destinations around the world. The maritime history deciphers the anachronism of the beautiful ancient ports which stand the test of time and persist as the topographic points of interest. In this article we present you the world’s top 15 oldest and most beautiful shipping ports and finest destinations.
1. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Arguably the most prominent tourist destination on the Adriatic Sea coast, Dubrovnik is one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Supported by maritime trade, since the middle ages, it has been the only eastern Adriatic city-state to rival Venice. The beautiful shipping port is located about 2.5 km northwest from the Old Town of Dubrovnik, which along with the port of Gruz is considered to be the busiest cruise ports in Europe.
Featured attractions are the architectural heritage of the city which includes renaissance-era monuments like the Sponza Palace, the gothic-renaissance structure Rectors Palace, The St. Saviour Church, Franciscan Monastery and the most beloved St. Blaise’s church.
2. Venice, Italy
Unprecedentedly one of the most popular Mediterranean major shipping ports in maritime history, Venice is the city of gothic style architecture with Byzantine and Arab influences and artworks. The cityscape, artistic cultural heritage and luxury establishments furnish it as one of the most popular tourist destinations.
St Mark’s Basilica, the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco, Lido di Venezia, Ca’ Pesaro and the Ca’ Rezzonico are only to name a few of the places of interests.
3. Lisbon, Portugal
The capital alpha city of Portugal, Lisbon is one of the preeminent marine ports for its rich culture in arts, education, media, entertainment, international trade, finance, commerce and tourism.
UNESCO enlists two World Heritage Sites here, one of which is the turreted Belém Tower built in the 17th-century at the mouth of the Tagus River and the another one is Jerónimos Monastery, built in the 1500s.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
Historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople, Istanbul is the largest city and the cultural, economic, and financial centre in Turkey. Considered as one of the major shipping ports since the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn, the Black sea and the Bosphorus surround the city on all sides. One of the oldest ports in maritime history Istanbul hosts a unique cultural and architectural heritage portrayed by the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 17th-century Blue Mosque, for example.
A short trip from the port to the old city would allow tourists to pay a visit to the museums, palaces, churches, mosques, and bazaars where grand quality carpets, leather goods, jewellery, and antique reproductions are easily available at cheap expenses.
5. Beijing (Tianjin), China
Another historic cruise ship port is in Beijing, the economic, political, educational, and cultural hub of China, located in the northern part of the country not far from the sea. It is about half an hour train ride from the actual port at Tianjin.
Renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, huge stone walls and gates, Beijing is ostentatious for showcasing the Forbidden City which hosts the enormous palace museums, imperial gardens, parks and scenic areas etc. UNESCO has the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) enlisted in its World Heritage Site.
6. Athens (Piraeus), Greece
A half-hour drive from the port of Piraeus would take you to one of oldest and most beautiful cruise ship port in the maritime history, Athens which is about seven miles away from the sea. The 3,400 years old city is the heart of cultural, political, economic, financial and industrial life in Greece. Ancient monuments sometimes with Roman and Byzantine influences and artwork and architectures like the colonnaded Temple of Athena, fluted columns of the Parthenon and the Nike and Hadrian’s Arch etc epitomizes the cultural heritage.
The Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery are the two World Heritage Sites enlisted by UNESCO.
7. Stockholm, Sweden
Another old, beautiful and popular major shipping port is the Stockholm which is the centre of media, culture, politics and economy in Sweden. The Stockholm marine port has nine berths and a mooring buoy which can accommodate up to ten cruise ships all at a time.
Ancient churches, historic merchant houses, open-air Vasa man-of-war museum among others are the places of interest.
8. Kusadasi, Turkey
Located on Turkey’s Aegean coast, Kusadasi caters to the tourists and the cruise ship passengers heading to Ephesus. Luxury cruise liners such as the Grand Princess, among other cruise ships, dock here.
The most interesting places to attract visitors are the Kaleiçi Camii mosque, the Öküz Mehmet Pasha caravanserai, Guvercin Ada peninsula, Kirazli Village, Yılancı Burnu peninsula, a Venetian – Byzantine castle Kadıkalesi, Dilek Peninsula National Park and aqua parks with wave pools, white water slides etc.
9. Quebec City, Canada
Settled within the Capitale-Nationale region and perched on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River, Québec City is one of the oldest marine ports in North America. In fact in 2010, the cruise terminal in Pointe-à-Carcy was awarded the “Best Destination Experience Independent”.
UNESCO declared the fortification walls in Vieux-Québec (Old Quebec) a World Heritage site in 1985.
10. St. Petersburg, Russia
Situated at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Neva River on the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg is the most Western city of Russia and hosts a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the historic centre and related groups of monuments. The passenger port at Morskoy Vokzal, a 20-minute drive from the downtown area of the city, is one of the preeminent cruise ship ports in the maritime history that has been serving International cruise liners for years.
The imperial Russia’s palaces, the Hermitage Museum, cathedrals, libraries, theatres, galleries and exhibition halls, and other cultural establishments attracts huge number of tourists all around the year.
11. Alexandria, Egypt
Extending along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria is Egypt’s largest ship port serving international trading and commerce since the dawn of maritime history.
Besides the pyramids at Giza and the sphinx, this marine port is a popular destination for tourists visiting the ancient monuments, such as the Pompey’s Pillar – a Roman triumphal column, Kom al-Shoqafa catacombs, Kom al-Dikka theatres, el-Alamein war site and military museums.
12. Haifa, Israel
Constructed on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Haifa is the largest ship port in northern Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. The biggest attraction for the tourists is the Bahá’í World Centre featuring a golden-domed Shrine of the Báb. The surrounding Bahai gardens were included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2008.
The Mount Carmel national park, the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space, The Haifa Museum of Art constitute the historical and archaeological sites of importance.
13. Bizerta, Tunisia
The oldest and most European city in Tunisia, Bitzerta dates back to the Phoenicians and has one of the most beautiful marine ports in the Mediterranean.
The ruins of Carthage set against an azure sea, the Dougga and the Bardo Museum, hill-topped villages like Sidi Bou Said, are the most picturesque destinations and sites of antiquity.
14. Miami, Florida
This is not literally one of the oldest shipping ports but is one of the largest and most beautiful cruise ports which has been serving and accommodating the top of the leagues cruise ships, sailed between the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
It is the major plaza for media, entertainment, arts, finance, commerce and international trades. The Port of Miami is also known as the “Cruise Capital of the World” for more than two decades.
15. Nassau, Bahamas
The capital and commercial centre of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Nassau is largest city hosting one of the most significant historic shipping ports in terms of association with popular culture. Its proximity to the USA East coast mainland is one responsible factor for its popularity as a cruise destination.
Moreover, films like Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond films Thunderball, Never Say Never Again and Casino Royale have imposed an impression of swashbuckling adventure with modern-day Pirate-themed attractions.
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