Cultural trips provide the opportunity to discover what’s distinctive about a country. By exploring a country during a cultural tour, we can plunge ourselves into different experiences each day, while learning about its character. Whether a cultural tour involves stepping back in time to wander around World Heritage Sites or tasting a traditional meal, each experience will touch all your senses.
Then when all the sights have been seen and all your questions have been answered it’ll be time to relax for a few days before heading home. You could spend the latter stages of your cultural trip reflecting on your experiences under a waterfall, next to a pool or on a sandy beach.
We have sourced some of our favourite cultural trips in different destinations across the world. Some allow you to plot your own path. Others are worth exploring with a local guide to experience a country’s culture in more depth. Either way, we’ve tried to include some lesser-known destinations to provide you with a range of cultural trips to consider.
1. A Cultural Trip to Bilbao by boat
A Spanish holiday destination usually guarantees sunshine. However, if you venture to the northern city of Bilbao you’ll experience more of Spain’s traditions. For instance, attend a music festival (BBK Live) or join in with a colourful fiesta such as the festivities for Saint Agatha.
To begin your cultural trip by boat, set sail from Portsmouth. Sail for two nights before drifting into the Bay of Biscay and up Bilbao’s backbone – the Nervión River. Sitting on the site of Bilbao’s old shipyards is its grand Guggenheim Museum. Built using contemporary architecture it gives a nod to Bilbao’s past of iron, steel and shipbuilding industries.
To learn more about Bilbao’s past follow the Bridge Route Waterway. Start at the old town of San Anton and finish at Frank Gehry Bridge to capture Bilbao’s bridges on camera. The most unique is the red Vizcaya, “hanging bridge”. Not only does it connect two port towns together, but it’s also a World Heritage Site because it was the first example of a transporter bridge.
During your walk past the bridges don’t forget to stop at Bilbao’s largest, three-story Ribera food market for pintxos (pinchos). Pintxos are a traditional Basque snack and one of many foods which are inspired by the fusion of sea and mountain cultures that thrive around the city.
Bordeaux is a UNESCO-listed city due to the thread of innovative classical, Roman and neoclassical trends that run throughout its architecture. Plus, it has over 300 protected buildings such as 11th-century church Saint-Seurin Basilica. As a port city, visitors have brought and exchanged religious and cultural values here for over 2,000 years. Dock into the Port of the Moon (world heritage site) to begin a cultural trip full of unique experiences.
First, the aroma of baked canelé (Bordeaux’s caramelised, crusted pastries) may tickle your nostrils, while walking around the Marché des Capucins -‘ the belly of Bordeaux’. However, to learn about Bordeaux’s signature wines visit the Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux (a wine and trade museum), during a tour. Many tours include wine tastings. Although during your cultural trip why not embrace slow travel by following the Bordeaux wine trail by bike?
It’s easy to explore Bordeaux by bicycle. For instance, cycle to the Cathedral of Saint Andrew. This 11th-century cathedral has many stories to tell. From the entrance, peer up to see the golden statue of Notre-Dame, which watches over Bordeaux.
Then when you reach the top of the cathedral’s gothic bell tower – the Pey-Berland- capture views of the city on camera. Also, listen out for music coming from the Grand Theatre. Once the seat of the French parliament, this protected monument is a fine example of neo-classic architecture.
You may have stumbled upon ancient architecture while walking around the Colosseum in Rome. However, Bologna is another beautiful city to observe Italian architecture and learn some of Italy’s top culinary secrets.
Although built in the Bronze Age, Bologna has many modern twists and turns. For instance, its full of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture and due to this became the European Capital of Culture in 2000. To admire Bologna’s most symbolic monuments – the Two Towers – book a walking tour within its historical red city centre.
Bologna is also seated within the heart of the Emilia-Romagna Region. This “City of Food” is where you can tuck into traditional Italian dishes, such as lasagne Verdi al ragu and Parma hams. See yourself as a foodie? Book one of many food tours in Bologna to cook up your own pasta accompanied by the best cheeses, vinegars and wines produced in the region. Return in spring for Bologna’s Finger Food Festival, which celebrates the best of Italian cuisine alongside live music.
Heard of Sweden’s second city? It’s authentically Swedish and home to many street artists. To see how they express themselves throughout the city follow Gothenburg’s unique West Sweden Street Art Trail. The artists also seek to challenge Sweden’s advertising boards too – so keep an eye out.
When you reach the city’s river listen out for music coming from the Opera House (Göteborgsoperan). Here, you can watch modern dances, ballets, movies, and musicals. To celebrate the world of culture and appreciate Sweden’s best music and cuisine, attend Gothenburg’s culture festival – Kulturkalas – which runs across the city in September.
On the other hand, in Gothenburg’s old town of Haga, you can admire its 17th-century timber homes. These iconic wooden houses are crafted in a unique style called “landshövdingehus”. Although, what really stands out in the old town is Skansen Kronan “the Crown Sconce” fortress.
Built to protect Gothenburg from the Danes, if you find yourself in this hillside fortress pause for a picnic. Also, embrace the Swedish tradition “fika”. Simply relax with a coffee and cinnamon bun, while taking in the pretty, panoramic views of Gothenburg’s granite cliffs and friendly fishing villages.
5. A Yucatan Peninsula Cultural Trip in Mexico
On Mexico’s southeast coast, you’ll find the Yucatan Peninsular which is made up of three states called Yucatan, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. A culture trip here (after flying into Cancun), provides refreshing walks through rainforests, snorkeling in sparkling waters, and restful days on a Caribbean Coastline. However, there are colonial cities to explore during a two-week adventure as well.
First, learn about the first people who lived in Yucatan Peninsula – the Mayans. Plus, what’s left of their civilisation within the colourful port city of Campeche. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1999) due to the Mayan ruins and colonial houses. You can admire these during a walking or food tour. Either way, you’ll have the chance to taste fruity cakes and fresh vegetables, such as the prickly pear cactus, which is a surprising addition inside a taco!
Afterward, go east for a refreshing dive into Yucatan’s underground natural wonder – The Ring of Cenotes of Chicxulub Crater. Another UNESCO Heritage Site due to its round natural pits/sinkholes, the Ring of Cenotes is a tranquil place for snorkeling and swimming.
Finally, the ancient Maya city of Chichen Itza awaits! It’s not just an archaeological site but one of the seven wonders of the world. Covering an area of 1.9 miles hear more stories of Mayan culture.
To learn more about the people who’ve lived in Southern America fly to colourful Cuba…
6. Cultural Trips around Cuba
It’s advisable to explore Cuba by booking guided cultural tours. For instance, during a walking tour in Havana, you’ll see colourful, colonial, and 1950’s American architecture. Next, hear stories of Cuban revolutions at Cienfueg (Bay of Pigs). Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s an elegant place to appreciate architecture built by French immigrants.
Colonial Trinidad shouldn’t be forgotten either. Wander along its coastal, cobbled streets with a strong Cuban coffee or join a walking tour to discover la canchara – the city’s most famous drink. When you’re in Trinidad, book a private tour to explore the Topes de Collantes National Park (Collantes Highs), which is a tranquil place to escape the heat.
There is plenty of culture to be found in the Cuban hills and mountains, too. Here, you can demonstrate eco-tourism practices by following walking trials, which will lead you to family restaurants to sample Cuban cuisine. Influenced by Spanish, African, and Caribbean cultures, tuck into Ropa Vieja – a plate of shredded beef, onions, and bright bell peppers within a warm tomato sauce.
Remember to give Free Spirit a call after booking your cultural trip…
Travel Insurance for cultural trips
Have we inspired you to book a cultural trip or private tour within one of these destinations above? Or will you be plotting your own path to enjoy a range of unique experiences on holiday?
Whichever destination you discover, people or culture to you wish to learn about don’t forget to pack Free Spirit Travel Insurance before venturing somewhere new.