If you are looking to stay closer to home this year and want to experience the very best of what Europe has to offer lets take a look at the Best ports in Europe. With towns and cities that are easily accessed by boat Europe is one of the best spots to Catch river cruise and see some real culture and try some amazing food. From Portugal to Italy there is something for everyone and cruising Europe is a fantasic way to see some of the best hi lights. Where should you pick on your next cruise in Europe?
Best port destinations in Europe.
With its newly built cruise ship terminal just a stone’s throw away from the historic Alfama quarter, Lisbon is one of the Best Ports in Europe. Top sights worth seeking out include the Jeronimos Monastery in Belém and the Carmo Convent. The latter is a church that was destroyed in the disastrous 1755 earthquake and has purposely been left roofless, as a reminder of this pivotal event in Lisbon’s history. There’s now a small museum inside, but the highlight is gazing up at the blue sky from inside the church.
Lisbon has become a street art hotspot in recent years, and kids and adults alike will love the many murals dotted around town. Look for the Big Trash Animals series by local artist Bordalo II, who uses scrap metal and other junk to create large sculptures of foxes, pelicans, bumblebees and other animals. Some of the best art can be found on the city’s outskirts in neighborhoods not often visited by tourists, such as the 100+ murals in Quinta do Mocho.
The best part about a visit to Lisbon, though, is just wandering aimlessly around the colorful streets and making discoveries along the way. The narrow cobblestone streets of Alfama are a great place to explore, but do be respectful of the locals who live here. Keep in mind that Lisbon is a very hilly city, and the traditional paving stones known as ‘calçada portuguesa’ can be quite slippery, especially in wet weather. Tread carefully and wear shoes with good grip, and think twice about bringing a stroller if you have young kids.
Contributed by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan
Dubrovnik in Croatia is actually a really popular destination for a weekend trip with kids. When you visit it, you go on a kind of time travel: The historical old town and the old harbor are surrounded by mighty city walls and the alleyways of the city Centre form a kind of labyrinth in which one simply wants to get lost. But not only the famous old town of Dubrovnik is popular, the so-called “Pearl of the Adriatic” has a lot more to offer!
There is a wide range of activities to pursue during a visit, and families with children also get their money’s worth. Whether city trip, action or beach holiday, this town meets all requirements. The beaches in Dubrovnik are beautiful, the water is wonderfully clear and glows in the most beautiful colors. If you like, you can grab a kayak with the kids and paddle down the beautiful coast on your own. You will discover beautiful sea caves and hidden bays. Or you go on a boat trip and explore the beautiful island pearls like Lokrum, Lovran, Korcula or Mlijet.
Really cool and a cool highlight for children is a Game of Thrones tour, where you explore the original locations of the popular series with a trained guide. Another highlight is the ride on the Dubrovnik cable car, where your family will enjoy an exciting ride with a wonderful view of the city and the Riviera.
Thanks to its own international airport (Čilipi Airport) and the many cheap flight offers, Dubrovnik is ideal for a weekend trip or short trip from nearly anywhere in Europe!
Thank you to Martina & Jürgen at Places of Juma
Considered the cultural capital of Russia, the city of St. Petersburg has a long history, dating back to the early 1700s. During this time it has gained a multitude of architectural and artistic treasures, making it the perfect weekend getaway. Even though it lies outside of the central European zone, it is easy enough to get to with the multitude of airlines and cruises stopping there making it one of the best ports in Europe.
The historic centre of this imperial city and surrounds are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No visit to the city is complete without a stop at some of the main attractions. Highlights include the Mariinsky theatre, the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof place and the Winter Palace, housing a massive collection of historic items from around the world. The cruise terminal is the largest transport centre of Russia and one of the more popular cruise destinations in the Baltic region. Larger ships dock at Marine Facade on Vasilyevsky Island, located three miles north of the city centre. While most cruise ships allow sufficient time to explore the main tourist sights, not enough time is given to see everything of interest, making a return trip almost a given.
Santorini is one of those places that lives up to its hype. It’s just as beautiful as its pictures make it out to be, if not more! The only trick to really enjoying all that Santorini has to offer is to pick the right time to visit! Avoid the peak summer season which sees the most tourists and you will see why it is one of the best ports in Europe.
Stunning white buildings and the deep blue sea make Santorini one of the most picturesque places in the world. Add to that the incredible caldera, the centuries-old history and scrumptious Greek food and you have the makings of the perfect place for a holiday!
Arriving in Santorini on a cruise means you need to know all the best things to do in Santorini so you can make the most of the time you have on the island!
Take in the beautiful towns of Fira (most cruise ships dock outside the old port in Fira) and Oia (the famous blue-domed churches in all Santorini pictures are located here!), wander down the cobblestoned streets lined with beautiful, colourful shops and lovely cafes & restaurants. If you are up for a hike, the walk between Fira and Oia is absolutely incredible with sweeping panoramic views of the sea and the whole island.
Enjoy the sea not only on your cruise but also at the island – Red Beach and Amoudi Bay are beautiful and very unique locations to take in the water.
Santorini is a wonderful bucket-list destination and one where most of the best things to do are very cheap, especially if your accommodation is sorted!
Thank you to Smita at My Faulty compass
Is there anywhere in the UK that has a more prominent maritime history than Liverpool? It started out as being one of the most important British Empire ports, renowned for its trans-Atlantic excellence and the grand, prestigious architecture on the Pier Head that greets you is a reminder of this time.
The ‘Three Graces’ on the waterfront Pier Head are as synonymous with Liverpool’s history as The Beatles are and if you’re wanting to get to know Liverpool, start with a tour of the Liver Building and climb to the 15th floor to enjoy spectacular 360° views of Liverpool. Next door is the Cunard Building, the original home to the Cunard Cruise Line until the 1960s and now the former passenger luggage room has been transformed into an exhibition on British Pop Music.
Take a stroll through this pedestrianised area to find The Beatles Statue, the Museum of Liverpool, The Piermaster’s House, Tate Liverpool, RIBA the national architecture centre and amble your way across to one of the most famous docks in the world, the Royal Albert Dock. Visit the Maritime & Slavery Museum, book a night aboard a narrowboat that calls these waters its home or walk the King’s Parade and admire the Mersey and the views over to The Wirral.
No stay in Liverpool is complete without trying the local dish ‘scouse’ and the Victorian, Pumphouse, which sits in the docks serves up a mean bowl. Liverpool has a reputation as one of the best UK cruise ports and it’s for good reason! Liverpool is heaving with family-friendly bars, pubs, restaurants and shops. Everybody has heard of the shopping centre Liverpool One, but make your way to Castle Street and try out the Gin Emporiums and Liverpool’s very own, locally made gin or have lunch at one of my favourite restaurants, The Restaurant Bar & Grill on Brunswick St. The Ropewalks Area of Liverpool is a delightfully, quaint set of higgledy, cobbled streets with boutique style shops and backstreet eateries. Bold Street is a good place to start but meander down the alleyways and find Frost Burgers. This needs to be high on your list of places to try and also check out the Bombed Out Church for its array of markets. Liverpool has the largest Chinese Gate outside China and just a short walk away you’ll find China Town with supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants. If you’re feeling peckish, we recommend popping into The Nakery for a quick snack to replenish tired feet.
One of the highlights of Liverpool is the nightlife but if you’re travelling with kids that can be difficult to manage. An amazing compromise is the infamous Baltic Market where there’s a number of restaurants, bars and live music. It’s one of our favourite places to go in Liverpool and we recommend that you try Thai Tatertots from Wholesome Junkies, the sharing box from Little Korea and fried plantain & rainbow curry from Eat Up Gud. The Baltic Market has amazing energy and vibrance where you share tables with people and food from around the world. Specifically for kids, we love the cafe Sugar & Dice, where you can play board games for £5 per family, you could visit the weird, underground Williamson Tunnels or go on a family treasure hunt. There’s also the free River Festival is held every year in May where there are multitudes of tall ships which you’re allowed to board. Liverpool is a wonderful city and one of the best ports of call in Europe. Make sure you visit soon!
Written by Emma from Journey Of A Nomadic Family
Strasbourg is located in the North East of France on the banks of the Rhine River. The capital of the Alsace region draws tourists from all over Europe.
Rhine River cruises either stop at Strasbourg on a cruise between Amsterdam and Basel or they start and finish at Strasbourg. Quai does Belges Strasbourg Port is a10-minute walk away from Team line F heading into the Strasbourg old town.
If you are in Strasbourg for one day, be prepared for a visual and taste experience.
The Strasbourg Cathedral was once the tallest building in the world. The Rohan Palace located adjacent is now home to 3 of the best Strasbourg Museums. Everyone’s favourite is the La Petite France area of the city with its colourful wooden houses. If that is not enough you can visit the European Parliament. The cobblestones of Strasbourg are well worth exploring with small city squares located around the city. If you have not already had enough time on a boat a cruise on the canals of Strasbourg is unforgettable as new sites come into view around every bend. You will find carousels spread around the city for kids
Don’t forget to try the local Alsacian specialties such knuckle of pork with sauerkraut, Flamkussen and wash it down with a glass of the regional Gewurztraminer wine.
Thank you to Mark at Wyld Family Travel
A trip to Malta is almost guaranteed to include beautiful landscapes, good food, friendly locals, a good mix of cultures, and a whole lot of things to do. A huge drawcard is that the island is well suited for families making it also one of the best ports in Europe. As one of the safest countries in the world, it makes for exploring the country as a family a welcome experience.
Malta is a year round destination even while the rest to Europe experiences less than ideal conditions, particularly during the winter months. Public transportation is cheap and well suited to get around to most parts on the island. Don’t miss a visit to Valetta, Mdina, Balutta Bay, and the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean, the region has a rich past and is ideal for history lovers. Adventurous families will also enjoy partaking in the numerous activities on offer at any time of the year, including exploring the coastal areas and swimming in the cool waters. Expect to find a wide variety of accommodation options, including a sufficient amount of family friendly places. Famed for its diving, architectural sites, and festivals, the island comprises interesting places and is well worth the visit. Don’t pass up the chance to sail into this charming port on your next trip.
Genoa is home to one of the largest harbours in the Mediterranean and is a port of call for many cruise lines – plus it’s a seriously easy city to travel overland to with excellent bus and train connections. This stunning Italian city is where Christopher Colombus spent much of his childhood – and yes you can visit his former home! Genoa is a glorious city for getting lost in – the maze of tiny cobbled streets in the old town aren’t big enough for cars and are great places to discover hidden gems. The birthplace of pesto and focaccia, Genoa is a foodies paradise – and much of the flavours of the city are available as street food, so it’s not an expensive place to eat either! Children and adults alike will love Europe’s biggest aquarium – you’ll likely spend most of the day there! The UNESCO World heritage palazzos of old Genoa are equally enthralling and contain stunning works of art inside glorious architecture. As the city is a cruise stop, many people spend just one day in Genoa, but there’s certainly plenty to keep you occupied for longer! An audio walking tour or the Hop on Hop off bus will give you your bearings and when you’re ready for a break there are lots of gorgeous pavement cafes to take sustenance from.
Whilst the Mediterranean coast receives more attention, there is plenty worth visiting on Spain’s north coast. With cruise ships arriving regularly from the UK and Ireland, Santander has lots of highlights and, just an hour and a half from Bilbao, is a popular destination for many visitors. Sardinero Beach is one of the prettiest city beaches in Spain with beautiful garden viewpoints looking out to the distant mountains. While across the bay is the popular surfing town of Somo with its own long, golden stretch of sand and impressive waves.
Away from the beaches you’ll find a lot of street art in Santander as well as Palacio Magdalena, the former summer residence of the Spanish Royal Family. The views from the peninsula where the palace sits are spectacular. Looking across the bay towards Somo you’ll see the distant mountains and green Cantabrian countryside. At the entrance to the bay is Isla de Mouro with its lone lighthouse.
If you’re travelling with a young family then Santander also has a lot of parks with plenty to keep the kids distracted. Jardines de Pereda close to the port (where you’ll also find the ferry to Somo) has a double-decker carousel and children’s play area while the playground at Palacio Magdalena has recently been renovated with many exciting features.
A short drive outside Santander are typical picturesque Spanish towns like Santillana del Mar and Comillas or the Picos de Europa mountain range. Comillas has its own Gaudi designed house while Santillana is a cobble-stoned village with narrow lanes and medieval buildings.
Thank you to Stuart from Just Travelling Through
While Athens isn’t a port itself, it has the largest port in Greece-Piraeus, nearby. Getting to the center of Athens only 12 km from the port is easy enough. There are public buses available but the metro is the most convenient option. The walk from the cruise terminal to the metro station in Piraeus takes about 25 minutes. The metro will take you directly to the center of Athens at Monastiraki station. A ticket costs 1.20€ but you can also choose a 24 hours pass for 4.10€.Depending on how much time you have in the city, you should sketch an itinerary of the things you want to see in Athens. My suggestion is to start with the Acropolis of Athens early in the morning before it gets crowded. Also, the sun can be ruthless in Athens, so it’s better to avoid the noon hours on the Acropolis as there isn’t a lot of shade on its slopes.Wear comfortable shoes for your walk and don’t forget to take a hat with you. Sunscreen is a must too, especially for the little ones.For lunch, take a stroll through the Plaka, the colorful area full of restaurants and shops just at the foot of the Acropolis. You’ll find plenty of inviting restaurants in this beautiful part of Athens.For the rest of the day, you can choose from a lot of historic landmarks. One idea would be to visit the Temple of Zeus, then pass through the National Gardens, a lovely park close to Syntagma Square and exit just in front of Panathinaikos Stadium.
Thank you to And a at Travel for a while.
Cartagena, Spain, being the second-biggest region in Murcia, is one of Europe’s best ports to travel on weekends. Cruises to Cartagena take visitors to a captivating, ancient-city in the South-Eastern district of Murcia in Spain.
So, the place is worth visiting and helpful for those who want to explore a fascinating combination of tradition, history, and new adventures, along with discovering how cruise ships operate there.
Cartagena holds several established ports in Europe, which are only a few minute’s walk from the city center. Most cruise-ships generally moor’s at Cartagena’s marina that is close to the hub of town. Moreover, Mediterranean cruises to Cartagena will let you encounter every last bit of it firsthand.
Additionally, there’s a long list of things to do in Cartagena. It includes exploring the city’s mansion/peaks, strolling along the historic-dock, meandering around the walled Old-Town, touring nearby villages, appreciating the beautiful seashores and squares, etc. Furthermore, Cartagena offers a tourist bus/boat on the main-street before the cruise port as a fun and educational approach to travel the city.
Besides that, this destination is a site to visit with family. You’ll pick up experiences into the past as your guide describes your course—ideal for kids intrigued by history. Make your children explore top-historical sites/museums, like Conception Castle, Arsenal de Cartagena, Barú Bird Sanctuary, Roman Theatre Museum, or the Museo Naval.
Alongside this, don’t forget to taste varieties of refined-traditional cuisine, and go shopping. However, the best time to visit Cartagena with children is especially during December-April.
Thank you to Paulina on the road
Malaga is one of Spain’s main cruising harbours, with many ships arriving often, especially during high season in summer. Because the harbour is practically in town, depending on the size of the ship, you can get off and start exploring straight away.
Malaga is a very children friendly city, with so many activities in which they can take part. Firstly, Malaga is a small city which can be easily explored by foot, even by the smallest members of the family. Malaga has two main beaches which are in town, both equipped with playgrounds for children. La Malagueta, which is the most popular and close beach to the city centre, even has a waterpark suitable for both tots and tweens. Water sports lovers can rent paddle boats with slides for some near the shore fun.
There are many museums that the entire family will enjoy and learn from in Malaga, from Picasso Museum to the Centre Pompidou. Children will be over the moon to visit the Imagination Museum, a one of a kind space for taking creative photos and play exciting games that trick your mind.
During a weekend in Malaga, going out on the sea to spot dolphins in the wild is a must. Boats with see-through bottoms are leaving all day long from the touristic harbour, searching for the friendly marine creatures.
Thank you to Joanna at The World in my pocket.
Gibraltar is a tiny but beautiful British peninsula on the southern tip of Spain and a strong contender for the title of ‘Best Port of Call in Europe’.
These days Gibraltar is famous for its Britishness, its monkeys and its rock. The novelty of wandering around a British enclave in the Mediterranean never quite wears off! You can get decent fish and chips or an English fry up in the same restaurants that serve up tasty tapas. Enjoy your fish and chips/tapas while listening to the locals chatting away in the local dialect. Gibraltarians speak Llanito, a dialect of Spanish with tons of English words. Think Spanglish rather than Spanish!
If you’re visiting Gibraltar for a weekend, there are a few things you can tick off your must-see list. Firstly, Gibraltar is incredibly safe and incredibly tiny. You can walk around the whole peninsula in two hours, and I recommend you do so. Starting from Main street, you can walk around the rock, stopping on the way to see the 100-ton gun, Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque and Europa Point. At Europa Point, you can look out across the Strait of Gibraltar at stunning views of Morocco, Ceuta and Spain.
Next, it’s time for the piece de resistance! Catch a cable car up the rock to visit the monkeys! The Barbary Macaques living in Gibraltar are the only wild monkeys in Europe. These monkeys can be mischievous so the top tip you must remember is not to take any food, drinks or plastic bags out around them. After visiting the ape’s den, I’d recommend visiting one Gibraltar’s five beaches, relaxing and enjoying the Mediterranean sun.
Thank you to https://ambersdestinology.com
Along the Eastern coast of Spain, you’ll find the effervescent city of Barcelona. This bustling seaside and metropolitan city is famous for its inspiring Gaudi architecture, delicious restaurants filled with Spanish tapas, and its distinctive barrios (neighborhoods) found throughout the city. Situated in the heart of Barcelona and across from the majestic Montjuic Hill, is the Barcelona port. This port plops tourist right near the bottom of a famous street called La Rambla, located in the Gothic Quarter. This double wide street is known for its vibrant atmosphere created by various restaurants, boutiques, and lively street performances.
Near La Rambla, you’ll find the vibrant outdoor market called La Boqueria. Here you’ll witness decadent candied nuts, fresh baked empanadas, and other places to grab a quick bite. A short distance away is the impressive Gothic Barcelona Cathedral. There you can adventure through the narrow cobblestone streets of the Gothic Quarter and take a free walking tour to learn more about the city’s history.
If you’re a museum lover there are several notable museums found in the Gothic Quarter that are also kid-friendly. There’s the Picasso Museum featuring artwork from Picasso, or the Maritime Museum showcasing different historic ships. Additionally, there is the National Art Museum of Catalonia, situated on top of Montjuic Hill. Upon this hillside you’ll also find kid-friendly botanic gardens, the Montjuic Castle, and a cable car with a scenic panoramic view of the city.
Moreover, there are several budget-friendly activities in Barcelona near the port. I also recommend visiting Sagrada Familia, and exploring the Gracia neighborhood where the remarkable Park Guell is located.
Thank you to Ciara From Wellness Travel Diaries
One of the best and often overlooked weekend destinations in Europe is Copenhagen, Denmark. The Danish capital is also a popular cruise port for Baltic cruises but has a lot to offer no matter how you arrive.
One of the best things to do in Copenhagen is admire the beautiful architecture and unique Nordic design of the city. A canal boat ride can be the perfect way to view the city and get a quick overview of the history and layout of Copenhagen. Two main companies provide canal tours and both have locations in Nyhavn, the iconic Copenhagen harbor. Nyhavn is a great place to spend a little extra time, snap some photos of the city and even enjoy a cup of coffee.
If you’re visiting Copenhagen with children, nothing beats a family trip to Tivoli Gardens. It’s the enchanting amusement park located in downtown Copenhagen just steps from City Hall. The old world charm of Tivoli is what inspired Walt Disney to build his own amusement park in the United States after he toured the grounds in Denmark. Tivoli is beautifully decorated and landscaped and each season the park adapts the decor with changes for Halloween, Christmas and Winter.
Although Danish food may not be a staple in every city, Copenhagen is a foodie’s paradise. The city is home to Noma, frequently rated the best restaurant in the world. It also sparked the development of New Nordic cuisine, a must-try culinary experience that focuses on fresh, local ingredients. New Nordic brings new life into traditional Sancinavian dishes prepared with modern techniques and style.
Thank you to Derek and Mike at Everything Copenhagen
Monaco has a reputation as a haven for the super-rich and is a popular port of call for small ship Mediterranean cruises. Monaco is one of the safest places in Europe, which makes it a great place to visit as a family.
One of the most famous attractions is its casino but there are plenty of other things to do in Monaco with children. One of the easiest ways to see Monaco in a day is the Hop On, Hop Off bus, which stops in the port. The bus visits all the main points of interest and the ticket includes headphones to access the onboard audio tour.
Don’t miss the changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace, which takes place at 11.55am each day. This ceremony is performed in full dress uniform and has been a tradition for over 100 years. From here you can enjoy the views of Port Hercules.
The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco has aquariums and exhibits with over 6,000 species on display from the Tropics to the Mediterranean Sea. The Museum also has a living simulator that enables you to interact with marine species as if you were diving! This is a perfect attraction for families.
For a more relaxed option, head to the Olympic-size swimming pool at Stade Nautique Rainier III. There are a few beaches in Monaco but the water is notoriously rough at times. The best beach (Larvotto Beach) has a jellyfish net to protect swimmers but is closed due to construction until 2022.Once you scratch the surface beyond the designer shopping and Casino Square, families can definitely enjoy a day in Monaco on a cruise.
Thank you to Laura at Cruise Lifestyle. For more French Cruise Ports check out our port guide.
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is simply stunning. A port town on the Baltic Sea, there are plenty of things to do on a weekend away. It’s definitely one to put on your list.
You’re likely to focus on the city’s old town. Here you’ll find an atmospheric main square, with bars and restaurants where you can sample some of the local food. There’s also a maze of medieval cobbled streets to wander around, as well as the old city walls with its imposing watch towers. At various points you’ll find viewpoints from where you can look out over the old town and take in the view across to the sea.
There’s a variety of museums that you can visit during your trip, some reflecting the country’s occupation by Soviet forces during the Cold War (e.g. The Museum of Occupations, the KGB Prison Cells and the KGB museum at the top of the Hotel Viru). For children, there is a puppet museum and a marzipan shop where you can make and decorate sweets.
Further outside of the old town is Kadriorg Park. This is a gorgeous park with a lake, fountains and beautiful flower beds. Kadriorg Palace is here and is a stunning building, itself surrounded by beautifully tended gardens and housing an art museum.
Being a port city it’s possible to travel to or from Tallinn by boat. Finland’s Helsinki is less than two hours away by ferryboat. Sweden’s Stockholm is further, but can be reached in around 16 hours.
Thank you to Emma at Travel on a time budget for her contribution
One of the best ports to include in your Europe itinerary as is without a doubt Oslo, the capital of Norway. Known for its ancient Viking history, its cutting edge architecture, and its delicious food, you’ll fall head over heels for Oslo in just a few hours! Entering Oslo via ship, you’ll sail straight through the stunning Oslo Fjord before docking right in the city centre.
Fortunately, Oslo is one of the safest cities in Europe, so you won’t need to worry about safety, even if you’re travelling by yourself. What’s more, public transport in Oslo is very simple to navigate, and surprisingly affordable. In fact, in contrast to everything you’ve heard, Oslo can easily be seen on a budget with a bit of careful planning.
To get a flavour for the city, you should spend at least 2 days in Oslo. This will give you a good amount of time to check out the world-famous Viking Ship Museum, snap some photos of the unusual Oslo Opera House, take a boat tour to some of the islands in the Oslo Fjord, snap some photos of the unusual Oslo Opera House and admire the iconic yet bizarre sculptures at the Vigeland Park. For an experience totally unique to Oslo, head to the Oslo Fjord Sauna, which sits right on the Oslo Fjord. Get there at sunset for the best views! Follow up your sauna trip by trying the best Norwegian meatballs ever at Kaffistova.
Thank you Ella from Many More Maps