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Comprehensive Guide to the Most Unique European Cruise Ports

Planning a European cruise but don’t know where to go? While the popular cruise ports in Europe like Amsterdam, Southampton, and Athens may sound appealing, some of the smaller cruise ports in Europe offer amazing opportunities.

I guarantee your European cruise will feel more intimate and less touristy when visiting some of the most unique and uncommon European cruise ports. Whether you are looking for fun 70th birthday destinations in Europe or looking to escape for a week from your 9-5, these spots are remarkable!

From Valletta, Malta to Klaipeda, Lithuania, we are going to go over all the top small cruise ports in Europe for you to add to your ultimate Mediterranean cruise itinerary!

So grab your free travel planner and stick around, as we are going into the nitty gritty of everything you need to know about uncommon European cruise ports.

pinterestcruise ports in europeValletta Malta cruise ports in Europe

Valletta, Malta

Most cruise ships visiting the tiny island nation of Malta dock in the capital city of Valletta. This is one of the most uncommon European cruise ports and is actually the continent’s largest natural harbor— expanding several kilometers inland.

Most cruise ships dock at the Valletta Waterfront which is situated on nearly half of the massive harbor.

Many cruise lines offer cruises to this tiny nation from the bigger cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line to the smaller lines in the cruising industry.

What to do in the Valletta cruise port:

Malta’s common language is Maltese, but the majority of venders and city tour operators found in Valletta understand and can use English if they need to.

There are plenty of things to do in Valletta, but a fabulous first stop in this tiny island country’s capital is Fort St Elmo. Here you will discover a historic bastion and fort which was originally built on the Grand Harbour back in 1565. 

For more historic tours in Valletta, head over to Grand Haven— a natural harbor with a strong tie to World War II as the spot where Malta was violently bombarded. Next, head to the Grandmaster’s Palace which was built back in 1565 by Grand Master Jean de la Vallette.

Sarande Albania unique European cruise ports

Sarande, Albania

While many don’t typically associate Albania when considering the top European cruise ports, the Sarande cruise port allows cruisers to explore the vast Albanian Riviera with ease.

This fascinating Albanian cruise port is one of the most unique European cruise ports and has been long overlooked over the years by travelers because of Albania’s isolation from the rest of Europe. However, this 80-kilometer area on the north end of the Ionic Sea offers quaint seaside towns and remarkably blue waters, perfect for your European cruising vacation!

While Sarande is one of the most unique cruise ports in Europe, it is actually very popular by other travelers– especially in the summertime where the tiny city’s population triples.

What to do in the Sarande cruise port:

Sarande’s main beach, Horseshoe Bay, offers a perfect mix of soft sands and cool pebbles nestled along the shore of the relaxing Ionic waters. This public beach boasts all the facilities you would ever need on your unique European cruise.

Another popular spot in this uncommon cruise port is located slightly south of Sarande at Mirror Beach. This secluded natural bay is highly rated by visitors as the best on the entire Albanian Riviera.

This unique European cruise port has no shortage of historic sites for your to visit as well. Whether touring Lekuresi Castle, the Sarande Synagogue Ruins, or the Monastery of Forty Saints, you are going to have the time of your life at one of the best European cruise ports.

Valencia cruise port in Europe

Valencia, Spain

The Valencia cruise port is one of the best unique cruise ports in Europe to add to your cruise port bucket list! This bustling city is filled with life as cruise ships dock and passengers explore the inner workings of this Spain cruise port.

Smaller ships tend to dock at the Valencia cruise terminal while the larger cruises tender in or dock at the further away, outside piers. 

Most attractions in Valencia, as one of the most unique European cruise ports, are located in the heart of the city, close to the Plaza de Reina.

What to do in the Valencia cruise port:

As one of the most unique cruise ports in Europe, Valencia is home to some fascinating attractions and historic landmarks for you to explore. The biggest draw to Valencia is the City of the Arts and Sciences which offers a staggering arrangement of ultra-modern structures taking you to a fantasy reality.

Check out one of the best historic landmarks in Valencia at La Lonja de la Seda— a majestic 15th-century gothic monument earning the title of a UNESCO site. Other historic areas include Valencia Cathedral, El Miguelete, and Casco Historico.

If you are looking for the most bohemian area of Valencia, definitely check out Barrio del Carmen. Located on the northeastern area of old-town, this area of Valencia offers trendy boutiques, hip bars, and shaded alleys to visiting cruisers.

Svalbard Islands Europe cruise ports

Svalbard Islands, Norway

Another one of the most spectacular unique Europe cruise ports is located halfway between the North Pole and Norway, Svalbard Islands.

This remarkably rugged archipelago is only accessible through expedition cruises on smaller ships, with the Svalbard Islands main port located in Longyearbyen on the largest island, Spitsbergen.

Most cruisers are interested in cruises to Svalbard Islands for their fascinating polar bear populations. Other rare wildlife spotted in Svalbard Islands include Artic foxes, puffins, and reindeer.

What to do in the Svalbard Islands cruise port:

Longyearbyen is home to some of the top attractions in Svalbard as one of the most unique Europe cruise ports. As the world’s northernmost city, this town offers no-name streets, wandering reindeer, and locals who utilize snowmobiles as their most popular form of transportation.

To learn about the history of Svalbard, head over to the Svalbard Museum or the North Pole Expedition Museum, both teaching visitors about the geology, history, and wildlife found on the Svalbard Islands.

One of the most unique attractions in Svalbard is the Global Seed Vault. This vault houses over 2.5 billion seed as the world’s safety net in case of a global disaster. Make sure to book a Polar Bear tour to see one of the rarest animals on the planet in the Svalbard Islands.

Klaipeda cruise port - uncommon cruise ports in Europe

Klaipeda, Lithuania

As Lithuania’s third largest city, Klaipeda is by far one of the most unique European cruise ports. Nestled on the Baltic coast at the country’s ice-free riverfront, Klaipeda boasts a rich history in regards to Lithuania’s trading history.

Like many small European cruise ports, Klaipeda mixes Lithuania’s German history with medieval architecture offering small museums and castles alike.

As the only Lithuanian cruise port that has the capacity to host modern mega-ships, Klaipeda is truly one of the best unique European cruise destinations.

What to do in Klaipeda cruise port:

Start off your European cruise port adventure by heading into downtown to the history Friedrich Passage, This attraction was founded in 1692 and is now home to courtyards filled with quirky shops, quaint cafes, and local restaurants.

Head into Klaipeda’s unique old town where features beautiful architecture through the old town square heavily influenced by Germany.

Another one of the best attractions in Klaipeda is the Memel Castle ruins (also known as Klaipeda Castle). Originally constructed in the 13th century by the Teutonic knights, all that remains of this historic landmark has transformed into a small museum.

Thorshavn cruise port - unique european cruise destinations

Torshavn, Faroe Islands

As both the capital and the largest town found in the Danish Faroe Islands, Torshavn is the perfect escape on a unique European cruise.

While this tiny city isn’t located near Denmark, these European cruises end up at the Faroe Islands about halfway between Iceland and Norway.

This northern city was originally founded by the Vikings (named for Thor) and currently only has a population of about 17,000. Cruises enjoying their unique European cruise will notice Torshavn’s brilliantly colored homes featuring grass roofs, pristine fiords, and a scenic, rugged coastline.

What to do in Torshavn cruise port:

One of the top attractions in Torshavn is the historic Nordic House featuring Scandinavian architecture as one of the most beautiful buildings found in the Nordic region. The Nordic House mixes the community’s priorities for local history and culture seamlessly.

Explore more of Torshavn’s fascinating sites at Torshavn Cathedral, Skansin Fortress, and Kirkjubour Cathedral. All three of these attractions offer a glimpse at the Faroe Islands’ intriguing history.

Later, walk along the quaint streets at Tinganes and witness the charming turf-roofed cottages in person. Tinganes is known as the cradle of Viking parliamentary democracy and is a perfect Torshavn cruise port excursion.

Hebrides cruises  - unique cruise destinations

The Hebrides, Scotland

The Scottish Hebrides cruises are definitely one of the most alluring and unique cruise destinations in not only Europe, but the entire world. While you may find more wildlife than people here, you can also experience stunning lochs, beautiful castles, gushing waterfalls, towering mountains, and other striking landscapes.

Very few European cruises make the trek up to the Hebridean Isles of Skye, Mull, Barra, St Kilda, the Uists, and inland to the Caledonian Canal.

Several Hebrides cruises are offered from 5-7 nights bring passengers to some of the most awe-inspiring and remote cruise destinations in the world.

What to do in the Hebrides cruise port?

A popular stop in these unique European cruise ports is at the Isle of Barra. Here you will find a beachy isle boasting a population of slightly over 1,000 people. Here you can enjoy wonderful hikes to the Dun Cuier Iron Fort or check out the ruins of the Hebrides traditional black houses.

Both the North and South Uist Islands have fascinating wildlife opportunities to spot some of Norway’s most rare species of birds. These include the corncrake, dunlin, redshank, and lapwing. For those who prefer the beach over birds, head up to the white Clachan Sands beach on North Uist to relax on your European cruise.

Stops at Mingulay and Vatersay are popular on Hebrides cruises, so make sure to check out the rich Viking history of these islands  when exploring these European cruise ports. A great sight to explore is Biruaslum— a famous sea stack located west of Vatersay towering over 70 meters high.

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  1. Megan says:

    Ahh I would love to pull up and get off in the Faroe Islands. What a great stop!

  2. Loved Klaipeda! Didn’t have very many visits there during my contract but it was definitely a hidden gem I wish I had more time in.