7 alternative places to visit on a Mediterranean cruise

*affiliate links: find out how we are funded and why this helps us remain free to use.

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie

Ask most people to name a city in the Mediterranean and the chances are they will instantly think of the likes of the well-worn honey pots of Barcelona, Rome or Athens. But what about the lesser-known destinations?

The Roman theatre in Cartagena, Spain © TTLDeez - Dreamstime.com
The Roman theatre in Cartagena, Spain © TTLDeez - Dreamstime.com

One of the great joys of a Mediterranean cruise is that it opens up places that you might never have thought of visiting that are much quieter and might just end up being one of the highlights of your trip.

Forget about these being 'second cities' or poor cousins; these seven cities are all brilliant destinations to savour in their own right.

Getting to the Mediterranean: browse the selection of eastern Mediterranean* and western Mediterranean* itineraries from Marella Crusies* and you could be sailing into one of these alternative ports in no time.

Cartagena, Spain

Once the rundown preserve of the Spanish Navy, Cartagena* has been reborn in recent years. This stately city is built on solid foundations, first emerging over 3,000 years ago when Carthaginian tribes arrived.

For centuries, Cartagena was ruled by both the Romans and Moors with traces of the past everywhere, from the crumbling remnants of Roman rule to the huge docklands that until very recently were a base for the US Navy.

The Roman theatre helps conjure up the days when legionnaire sandals smoothed the city's streets and you can find out more in the Archaeological Museum.

Traces of the US Navy tenure in Cartagena meanwhile are being erased as the whole waterfront is being impressively re-developed and parts of the hulking port are being converted to cater for cruise ships.

Weather in Cartagena

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Ajaccio, Corsica

This proudly Corsican city feels distinctly, gloriously different to mainland France. Ajaccio* is spectacularly set on the sweeping Bay of Ajaccio. The city's graceful boulevards and old quarters just beg idle wandering.

The port of Ajaccio in Corsica © Goyoconde - Adobe Stock Image
The port of Ajaccio in Corsica © Goyoconde - Adobe Stock Image

Ajaccio is also the city of Napoleon and you can visit the house where he was born in 1769, now a museum, that still has the room where he was born and the trapdoor he later used to escape.

Don't miss the mighty Citadel and Palais Fesch, with masterpieces by such masters as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Titian. Swirl in beaches and thriving café culture and you won't want to sail out of this remarkable natural harbour.

Weather in Ajaccio

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Cagliari, Sardinia

The Sardinian capital of Cagliari* may be in Italy, but it is not simply Italian, with a Catalan cultural strain riven through its streets and a modern-day sense that life is lived differently to the mainland in a city that is closer to Africa than Rome.

The food and wine are world-class, as is the sightseeing. This striking port city is alive with attractions; flit between the elegant palazzos and then take it all in from the towering Castello.

Cagliari Cathedral is another must-visit, as is the Archaeological Museum, which soars right back to Roman and Byzantine days.

Beaches tempt, too, if you just want to take it easy or you could sit back and just eat and drink your time away.

Weather in Cagliari

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Koper, Slovenia

Koper* may be a Slovenian port city, but the imprint of Venice looms large and the connections with modern-day Italy still cut deep.

The old town is centred around its old Venetian core on Titov trg, or Tito Square, with its Praetorian Palace, elegant Cathedral and Loggia putting you in touch with St Mark.

You can vault up the Cathedral's belltower (again, unmistakably Venetian) to survey the city and appreciate the awe-inspiring setting gazing out over the Adriatic towards Venice, with Trieste visible just to the northwest.

Meanwhile, Koper's Regional Museum opens up its Venetian (and Roman) history. Both civilisations rated the local wines so you should try a tipple too. The red Teran grape is an earthy treat, forged in the local limestone karst.

Weather in Koper

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Rijeka, Croatia

Dubrovnik may get all the acclaim on Croatia's now-famous coast, but this northern star shines increasingly brightly. A proper port city, Rijeka* buzzes with life.

The Korzo in Rijeka © Robert Harding - Alamy Stock Photo
The Korzo in Rijeka © Robert Harding - Alamy Stock Photo

Just back from the waterfront, the lifeblood Korzo is the heart of the action. Slip your sunglasses on and settle in at a pavement café for a pose and to take the pulse of this dynamic city.

For views of the Kvarner Gulf and the city head up to Trsat Castle. Make time to just stroll around appreciating the pastel-hued Baroque buildings that have been tarted up in recent years. Look for the 'Tourist Route', a series of sights with plaques that helps bring Rijeka's story to life.

Weather in Rijeka

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Thessaloniki, Greece

Don't call this 'Greece's Second City' as everyone in Thessaloniki* knows that their thrilling Mediterranean hub blows Athens out of the water.

Greece's second-largest city is an ancient hub where Roman, Ottoman and Greek ghosts roam. Plateia Dikastirion is home to the Roman Agora; delve in to see the fruits of archaeological digs.

The White Tower on the seafront in Thessaloniki © Preisler - Dreamstime.com
The White Tower on the seafront in Thessaloniki © Preisler - Dreamstime.com

Hike up onto the old Ottoman walls to turn back the centuries while enjoying the views of the city unfurling down below towards the sea.

The White Tower on Thessaloniki's sweeping waterfront is the city's best-known landmark. Climb to the top for a great view of Thessaloniki and learn about its colourful history inside.

Afterwards, join the locals for a stroll along Thessaloniki's waterfront Leof Nikis where cafés and restaurants dot the way towards the White Tower and beyond.

Weather in Thessaloniki

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Kusadasi, Turkey

This vibrant city offers a tantalising taste of Turkey, quite literally as you can devour gorgeous grills and spices quite unlike anywhere else you'll encounter on your cruise.

Most visitors make the day trip to the epic ancient city of Ephesus, but there is plenty to detain you here.

Shops spread out in front of you as soon as you hit land. Nearby, don't miss the historic Kervansaray building, which was central to the old camel and mule trading routes when the caravanserai inns were essential.

For an overview of Kusadasi*, the mountains that loom all around and the sprinkling of offshore islands head up Ataturk Hill'. If you're after a beach it should be Ladies' Beach, so named as it used to be strictly off-limits to men and boys.

Another way to relax is by taking a Turkish bath, where you'll be scrubbed and polished in a tradition dating back centuries.

Weather in Kusadasi

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall
Sea temperature °C

Ready to discover these alternative ports? Don't miss the latest offers on sailings around the Mediterranean with Marella Cruises.

Marella Cruises sale: £300 off ocean sailings 2023/2024

More about the Mediterranean

  • Top deals & discounts
  • Mediterranean weather overview
  • Mediterranean climate averages by month
  • More destinations
  • Best time to go to Mediterranean
  • Mediterranean 5-day weather forecast

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
Posted on Tuesday 10th January 2023 in: City Cruises Europe Marella Cruises

Explore holidays in the sun for less

Related posts

Back to Travel inspiration Top ^