A city’s architecture often provides a gateway to its history and culture. Churches, museums, houses of government, palaces and theaters -- these are all structures that can reveal a place’s character. The culturally rich cities surrounding the Black Sea offer a mixture of styles from European and Islamic influences.
The Ukrainian port of Odessa boasts one of the world’s largest opera houses, the Opera and Ballet Theatre. Many famous composers, such as Tchaikovsky, performed in this baroque-style performance venue, which is decorated with statues of mythological subjects and scenes from works of Shakespeare.
A city on two continents, Istanbul is a prime example of the blending of cultures that exists in Black Sea ports. Having been the capital of three empires, this unique metropolis offers historic synagogues and mosques, impressive aqueducts and opulent palaces sprinkled amid the more modern lures of bars, restaurants and shops. Most visitors head to the Blue Mosque, known for its domes, minarets, blue tiles and expansive courtyard; the Byzantine Chora Church, with its beautiful frescoes and mosaics; and the Hagia Sofia, which has seen life as a church, a mosque and now a museum.
Cruises around the Black Sea often slip through the Bosphorus Strait to call at Athens, allowing travelers to explore its monuments to the past. Two highlights in Greece’s capital city are the Parthenon, the fifth-century temple, and Old Olympic Stadium.
In the Russian city of Sochi, vacationers get a taste of some of the region’s more contemporary architecture, including the neoclassical Sochi Art Museum, built in 1939, resorts and health spas and, soon, ultra-modern Olympic venues.