The major cruise ports of Spain – What cities to visit on a cruise to Spain?
After more than 40 countries and hundreds of cities I visited, Spain is one of my favorites. The country of tapas, paella, flamenco, sangria, Picasso, Gaudi, Spain is among the most visited countries in the world. Due to its favorable geographical position, a lot of cruise ships regularly come to Spain.
Cruise ship passengers have the opportunity to visit dozens of Spanish cities as the cruise ships dock in some of the major ports of Spain, from where they can explore the countryside and book shore excursions going to other cities.
I had numerous opportunities to visit major ports in Spain and join dozens of shore excursions, as I’ve worked as a Shore Excursion staff onboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships for a few years now.
In this article, I want to share with you some basic tips & practical information on the cruise ports of Spain and tell you about the major attractions and must-do things in each of the ports.
The article doesn’t include the Spanish islands. If you want more information on Palma de Mallorca and the Canary Islands cruise ports, check out the articles:
- Canaries Cruise: Best of the Canary Islands
- 8 Best Things to do in Lanzarote Cruise Port
- Palma de Mallorca Cruise Port Guide
Also visit our cruise port guides for Alicante, Bilbao, Vigo, Barcelona, La Coruna, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Palma de Mallorca, Gibraltar, Lisbon
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
3. LA CORUNA
7. JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA
8. VEJER DE LA FRONTERA
19. SAN SEBASTIAN
You may have or haven’t heard of the port of Vigo, but it is a charming little town located in the northwest of Spain, north of the border with Portugal. Vigo cruise port is located in the city center, which makes it easy for cruise ship passengers to explore the area and taste the delicious seafood in the nearby market. It takes a 10-15 minute walk to reach the pedestrian zone from the Vigo cruise terminal, and you need to be ready to walk uphill through the narrow streets of the historical quarter of the city.
If you are not willing to or simply can’t walk, there is a shortcut to the city center. All you have to do is climb to the third floor of the shopping mall you’ll find right in front of the ship on the pier, and from there you can cross a small bridge taking you into the center.
What to Visit in the Port of Vigo?
Galicia, the region where Vigo is situated, is famous and known for oyster farms and excellent seafood, which you should definitely try when in Vigo.
What I recommend you to do in Vigo is to visit the seafood market located a 5-minute walk from the cruise terminal. The market is full of seafood restaurants where you can eat a variety of seafood at a reasonable price (portions vary from 8 € onward).
Besides food, Vigo boasts premium quality wines and you can go for a wine tasting in one of its wine cellars spread across Galicia’s countryside. Cruise ship shore excursions’ offer includes a visit to numerous wine cellars, and I would definitely recommend Granbazan wineries, located a 45-minute drive from Vigo. There you can enjoy the premium quality Albarino wines and take in the views of the picturesque Galician countryside.
Whatever you choose to do in Vigo – visit the historic quarter, enjoy its food and wine, go shopping, do cycling or have some beach time (Samil beach is great!), I’m sure you’ll have a fulfilled and memorable day in this lovely Galician city.
Read more about Vigo port in my article VIGO CRUISE PORT GUIDE (+ THINGS TO DO, SHORE EXCURSIONS)
2. Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is a centuries-old pilgrimage city that can be reached from two port cities where cruise ships dock: Vigo and La Coruña.
The driving distance between the port of Vigo and Santiago de Compostela is 87 kilometers (around 1-hour drive) and between La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela is 78 kilometers (also up to 1-hour drive). Cruise ships usually offer shore excursions taking you to this historic heart and the capital of Galicia, but you can also take a cab (negotiate the price!) or arrange a private tour / private transfer to take you there.
Suggested article: Pros and Cons of Booking Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
What to visit in Santiago de Compostela?
Santiago de Compostela has been an important religious pilgrimage site for Christians for more than a thousand years. In the past, this ancient city used to be the symbol of the Spanish Christians’ resistance against Islam and has remained ever since the spiritual heart of Spain.
The city landscape is dominated by the main historic landmark of the city, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, where the legend says Apostle St. James was buried. The Cathedral was completed in the early 13th century, and in 1985 was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Nowadays, it is possible to visit the cathedral for a fee (check the working hours and prices on the Cathedral’s official website), and if you have more time, you can check out the museum and the library as well.
In front of the Cathedral, there is a large square where you can see many pilgrims kneeling and praying: a very impressive sight I must admit.
Apart from the Cathedral, there are other medieval churches and historic monuments to explore, as well as narrow cobbled streets of the old town, where you’ll find many restaurants, souvenir shops, cafes, and hotels. The city has preserved the spirit and the old looks of ancient times, so you’ll feel as if you had been taken back to the Middle Ages as you walk the streets of the Old Town.
The only thing I disliked was the prices at the restaurants: I remember they were quite high and the food wasn’t great (I went to two restaurants, where I had the same experience).
Important note for cruise ship passengers taking a tour to Santiago de Compostela: As your ship normally stays in port (Vigo or La Coruña) only one day, keep in mind that you won’t have much free time in the city. The tours are guided and they include some free time as well, but that time is limited.
Also, the tours normally include a significant amount of walking (up to 2 hours) once you reach Santiago de Compostela, so if you are not in good physical condition, you might reconsider taking a tour (streets are cobbled).
Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items
Book a private transfer to Santiago de Compostela from the port of Vigo
Book a private transfer to Santiago de Compostela from La Coruna cruise port
3. La Coruña
La Coruña is a vibrant city located in the northwest of Spain, boasting a rich Roman cultural heritage and long maritime history. La Coruña cruise port is located in the very heart of the city, and La Coruña cruise terminal is only a 5-minute walk from the pedestrian zone and Plaza de Maria Pita – the main city square.
Crew members working on a cruise ship, including myself, love La Coruña port! It has something for everyone: a great shopping experience, historic monuments of significant architectural value, a waterfront promenade ideal for jogging and cycling, a long, sandy beach to relax on, and much more!
What to visit in La Coruña port?
The iconic landmark and symbol of La Coruña is the Tower of Hercules, an ancient Roman lighthouse still in use since the 2nd century A.D. and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to Greek mythology, the hero Hercules fought against the fearsome giant Geryon for three days and three nights on the site, and after he defeated him, Hercules ordered that a city be built on the battlefield place.
The lighthouse is situated around 2.5 kilometers from the city center and La Coruña cruise terminal, so you can either walk to it, grab a cab or join one of the cruise ship’s shore excursions taking you there.
The lighthouse is 55 meters tall and stands on top of the hill overlooking the north Atlantic coast of Spain. The surrounding area is scenic and offers amazing views of the ocean, so this place is definitely worth visiting!
However, if you decide to stay in the city, La Coruña Old Town is right across from the cruise ship terminal.
La Coruña is also part of the Galicia region, and therefore is known for delicious wines and tapas – for wine lovers, I highly recommend one of the wine tasting tours where you get to enjoy Galician food and wine pairing. I joined a sommelier-led food and wine tasting at Finisterre hotel, located only a 10-minute walk from the cruise terminal, and I had a blast!
Read more about La Coruna port in my article LA CORUNA CRUISE PORT GUIDE, THINGS TO DO, SHORE EXCURSIONS
For all of you who appreciate history and Roman cultural heritage, the city of Lugo is a great place to explore! It is possible to visit it through cruise ship shore excursions when the ship is docked in La Coruña cruise port, in the northwest of Spain. The distance between the port of La Coruña and Lugo is around 98 kilometers and can take up to a 1-hour drive to reach Lugo.
Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items
It is the most populous city in Galicia, and the only city in the world entirely surrounded by fully intact fortified Roman walls, with its 71 imposing towers along the Miño River.
What to visit in Lugo?
Lugo tours normally include a walking part where you get to walk alongside a pedestrian pathway under 3rd-century gates and over ancient bridges, admiring the 1st-century mosaics, museums, and the views over the 12th century Romanesque Lugo Cathedral, the main religious structure in the city. You can take a walk, visit the cathedral, or enjoy the typical Galician meal in one of the city’s great restaurants.
Book a private transfer to Lugo from La Coruna cruise port
Cádiz is a bustling city located in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the province of Cádiz, one of eight autonomous provinces of Andalusia, and one of the major cruise ship ports included in the Mediterranean cruise itineraries.
Cadiz cruise terminal is located in the city center, which makes it perfect for cruise passengers who can explore the city without booking the cruise ship’s shore excursions. However, if you want to take a guided tour, walking tours can be a nice option.
The port of Cádiz has one of the best shopping areas ever! I spent a fortune when we were doing Mediterranean cruises, and it was one of the best shopping experiences I’ve had! You’ll find many local, Spanish brands, and a lot of discounts everywhere.
What to visit in Cádiz cruise port?
Cádiz is a typically Andalusian city, featuring a mixture of Moorish and Western European influences. It has a rich history and cultural heritage: it has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the 18th century, and it was from here that Christopher Columbus’ ships set sail to the New World three times (and arrived back to the same ports).
I suggest you explore the Old Town’s squares, narrow streets, and its numerous historic monuments. A must-see place is the 15th century Plaza de San Juan de Dios square where an imposing building of the Town Hall stands out.
You can visit the Cádiz Cathedral, or the magnificent Monument to the Constitution of 1812, located on the Plaza de España square, only a 10-minute walk from the cruise terminal.
The city is a mixture of old and modern, and has something for everyone’s taste! It also has a long public beach – La Cortadura, a great spot to relax at, located a 15-20-minute walk from the cruise terminal.
However, if you decide not to stay in Cádiz, cruise ships and independent tour operators offer various tours to other cities and places in Andalusia, such as Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, and Vejer de la Frontera.
Check out top-rated Cadiz tours
Read more about Cadiz port in my article CADIZ PORT GUIDE, THINGS TO DO, SHORE EXCURSIONS
Seville was my biggest surprise when I first visited it. The city is absolutely gorgeous and so beautiful, that I can’t put it into words! Like other places in Andalusia, the city’s architecture is a blend of Moorish and Western European influences, as Arab Muslims occupied this part of Spain in the early 8th century, and remained in Andalusia until the 13th century.
You can visit Seville on a cruise when your cruise ship is docked in Cádiz cruise port. The distance between Cádiz and Seville is around 121 kilometers or a 1-hour 15-minute drive. The ride itself is fast and scenic, as you pass through the breathtaking Andalusian countryside. Once you come there, depending on a tour you booked (Seville guided tour or just a transfer), the bus drops you off nearby the historic heart of the city from where you can start the sightseeing.
What to visit in Seville?
If you are coming on a day-trip to Seville, your time will be quite limited, so I suggest visiting the main landmarks of the city: Plaza de España, an imposing 50.000 m2 square, featuring a mix of Art Deco, Moorish, and Renaissance Revival styles; Seville Cathedral with the iconic symbol of the city – La Giralda bell-tower, one of the largest cathedrals in the entire world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Royal Alcázar de Sevilla, the Palace of the Kings with its spectacular gardens featured in the 5th season of the popular HBO series Game of Thrones; Las Setas de Sevilla, an open-air museum and the largest wooden structure in the world, from where you can admire the panoramic view over the whole city.
Book Seville Cathedral and Giralda tower skip-the-line tickets
Royal Alcázar de Sevilla is located across the Seville Cathedral, and if you are well organized, you can manage to visit both sites in one day.
Plaza de España is located a 15-minute walk from the city center (where the Cathedral and Royal Alcázar de Sevilla are), whereas Las Setas is 3 kilometers away, or a 15-minute drive. It is impossible to visit Seville in one day, but you can make priorities and give it a try – you won’t regret it!
Recommended article: 3 Attraction in Seville That Will Make You Fall in Love with the City
Check out Seville tours and activities
7. Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez de la Frontera is another city in Andalusia you can visit on a cruise when your cruise ship is docked in the port of Cádiz. The distance between Cádiz cruise port and Jerez de la Frontera is only 36 kilometers or a 30-minute drive through stunning Andalusian landscapes.
Normally, the cruise ships organize shore excursions to Jerez de la Frontera, but you can also catch a cab or organize a private tour to take you there.
What to see in Jerez de la Frontera?
The city is famous for its sherry production, horses (the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Arts is home to the world’s finest horses), flamenco singing tradition, and its historic city center that has been declared a historic-artistic site.
The main landmarks to visit are the Jerez de la Frontera Cathedral, the impressive 17th-century cathedral representing a variety of architectural styles such as Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical style; Alcázar of Jerez de la Frontera, an 11th-century Moorish fortress, the oldest structure preserved in the city; a beautiful town square and Old Town, where you can delight in delicious Spanish tapas and enjoy live performances of flamenco dancers and singers; or famous “bodegas”, or cellars where you can take a tour and get to know the secrets of the seven-centuries old sherry making tradition (accompanied with an inevitable sherry tasting).
Explore Jerez de la Frontera tours and activities
8. Vejer de la Frontera
Vejer de la Frontera is not a city but definitely deserves its spot among the best 20 places in Spain to visit on a cruise. It is commonly referred to as a “white villages”, due to its white-washed houses standing on a hilltop overlooking the ochre landscapes of Andalusia.
You can get to Vejer de la Frontera by taking a cruise ship shore excursion from Cádiz, or simply by arranging a private transfer or an independent, private tour.
The distance between Cádiz and Vejer de la Frontera is 57 kilometers or a 1-hour drive, so you’ll need to save a whole day for this day trip. Some shore excursions include a visit to Conil de la Frontera, a charming seaside village and tourist resort, infused with Arab influences, so you might consider that option, too.
What to visit in Vejer de la Frontera?
To visit the village of Vejer de la Frontera, you need to be in good physical shape, as most of the tour can be done only on foot, and you climb uphill most of the time. The road is steep, and streets cobblestoned and narrow, so I don’t recommend a tour to people with walking difficulties.
One of the prettiest places to visit is Plaza de España, a town square filled with palm trees, colorful flowers, and an old ceramic fountain; then head over to the Old Town, surrounded by fortified walls, and admire the hidden corners of its streets, delightful patios, and picturesque houses.
The village architecture is typically Andalusian, impregnated with Arab influences, which makes it a unique and picture-perfect spot for all visitors and art admirers.
Book a transfer from Cadiz cruise port to Vejer de la Frontera
A bustling port of Malaga lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean, and represents an eclectic blend of old and modern: it is one of the oldest cities in Spain boasting a rich cultural legacy, the coolest tapas bars, a variety of festivals and events, amazing shopping, and much more!
Cruise ship passengers who come to Malaga cruise port can fully enjoy the city, as the Malaga cruise terminal is located only a 15-minute walk from the Old Town where the majority of city sights are located.
The cruise terminal is brand new, and inside the terminal building there are shops where you can buy last-minute gifts and souvenirs, but I definitely suggest you go into the town, as you can find a much bigger choice at a lower price.
Cruise ships normally organize shuttle buses to get their passengers into the town, but if you want to enjoy a walk and get some Mediterranean tan, you can use the promenade filled with restaurants and shops, leading you right into the heart of the city.
Read my full guide to Malaga cruise port
What to visit in Malaga?
Once you start your walk through the Old Town, you’ll spot a 16th century Renaissance gem of Malaga – Malaga Cathedral, that you can visit inside for a fee (it is free of charge for the residents of Malaga, disabled people, and children under 13. Check out Malaga Cathedral website for more information).
The Cathedral dominates the city landscape and is located in the vicinity of other city landmarks, such as Alcazaba de Malaga (only 850 meters, or a 10-minute walk from the Cathedral), an 11th-century fortress and the best-preserved Moorish castle in Spain, or the Picasso Museum (a 5-minute walk from the Cathedral), the birthplace of this genius Cubist artist.
A bit further, 1.4 kilometers from the city center is situated Gibralfaro Castle, offering unique city, mountain, and sea views, as it sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The 10th-century castle had an important role in the history of Malaga, and therefore is one of the most iconic and visited landmarks of the city.
There are many more places to explore while in Malaga. You can do the sightseeing, but you can also enjoy tapas and wine tasting, tapas cooking class, a market visit, flamenco show, or simply sunbathe at the beach located a 10-minute walk from the cruise terminal.
There are endless possibilities in Malaga, but if you decide to explore other places in Andalusia, you can book shore excursions to Alhambra, Marbella, Puerto Banus, Caves of Nerja, Granada, Cordoba, and a few others.
Read more about Malaga cruise port in my article MALAGA PORT GUIDE, THINGS TO DO & SHORE EXCURSIONS
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and home to one of the most beautiful palaces and finest examples of Moorish architecture in the world – Alhambra palace, the city of Granada is simply breathtaking.
You can visit Granada on a cruise ship shore excursion, or arrange a private tour when your cruise ship is docked in Malaga. However, if your ship stays in the port a half-day, the shore excursions to Granada, Cordoba, and Alhambra may not be offered, as they are quite far and it is impossible to visit in such a short time. The distance between the Malaga cruise port and Granada is 150 kilometers, or up to a 2-hour drive.
What to visit in Granada?
Alhambra, a 9th-century hilltop palace and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its magnificent gardens is definitely a number one place of interest in Granada. If you choose to visit Alhambra, you should either book a shore excursion (which I highly recommend, as there is a slightly complicated procedure to enter the palace, and with shore excursion that part is handled by the tour guide) or book a ticket in advance!
The palace is huge and takes a whole day to visit, so you won’t have time to visit other Granada city sights on the same day.
When in Granada, you should definitely visit the Albaicín, the city’s oldest Arab district, known for its white-washed houses and churches that replaced the original mosques after the reconquest of Granada by the Catholic Kings in the late 15th century. Head over to the St. Nicolas Square (Plaza de San Nicolas) that got its name after the St. Nicolas church standing at it, and marvel at the most beautiful views of the city, Alhambra Palace, and Sierra Nevada mountains from Mirador de San Nicolas viewpoint.
You can visit Juderia, or the Jewish quarter, and learn about the Jewish local community’s cultural heritage, or head to the Alcaiceria market, housing a Great Bazaar of Granada, a perfect spot to shop for Arabic craftwork, ceramics, and Moroccan herbs.
Another must-see site is Granada Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Incarnation, the 4th largest cathedral in the world and a 16th-century Renaissance-style masterpiece. It was built by Queen Isabella after the conquest of Granada, on top of the city’s main mosque. Next door is located the Royal Chapel, a funeral chapel, and a resting place of Spanish monarchs Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. It was built in the early 16th century and represents one of the finest examples of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles.
Explore Granada tours and activities
Book a transfer to Granada from Malaga cruise port
Córdoba is another city that can be reached from the port of Malaga: the distance between Malaga cruise port and Córdoba is 164 kilometers, and it takes up to 2 hours to reach Cordoba.
Suggested article: Pros and Cons of Booking Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
Depending on the cruise itinerary, Córdoba can be offered as a shore excursion by the cruise company, but if the ship stays shorter in the port of Malaga, it can be quite challenging to go to Córdoba and I don’t really recommend it (as it takes time and you might miss your ship). Another option, and probably the best one, is to book a private, customized tour, and in that case, make sure you inform the tour agency of your cruise ship arrival and departure time.
Recommended article: 10 Things That Can Negatively Impact Your Cruise Vacation
What to visit in Córdoba?
Córdoba is the third-largest city in Andalusia and another city infused by Arab influence, as Arab Muslims occupied this part of Andalusia in the 8th century and stayed here until the Spanish reconquest in 1236.
The most emblematic structure in the city is the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, known also as Mezquita de Córdoba (Great Mosque of Córdoba), a perfect reflection of the city’s turbulent and diverse history, tracing the stories from ancient Roman times and Islam, to Catholicism.
Jewish Quarter is another place of interest, the best explored with a licensed tour guide who can explain its history and share anecdotes on notable Jewish intellectuals who used to live and create in Córdoba throughout centuries. This historic center and the whole district is recognized by UNESCO, and the most iconic landmark located in the very heart of it is Córdoba Synagogue, built in the 14th century and one of the best-preserved synagogues in Spain featuring the Mudéjar style in architecture.
Whether you choose to simply roam the narrow streets of the historic quarter while enjoying Andalusian delicious tapas, or visit some of these notable buildings, I am sure you will return back to your ship full of impressions and unforgettable memories.
Book a transfer from Malaga cruise port to Cordoba
Cruise ships docked in Malaga cruise port usually organize shore excursions to Marbella and Puerto Banús, two of Costa de Sol’s chic resort destinations. The distance between the port of Malaga and Marbella is only 60 kilometers (or a 45-minute drive), and from Marbella to Puerto Banús is only 9 kilometers (a 10-minute drive), which makes it a perfect day-trip destination from Malaga.
What to do in Marbella?
Marbella is one of the most popular tourist resorts in Andalusia, boasting a rich Moorish cultural heritage mixed with modern tendencies. It has a beautiful, typically Andalusian historic quarter at the heart of which is Plaza de Los Naranjos (Orange Square), built after the Christian conquest from the Moors in the 15th century, still preserving its ancient looks. The bustling square is one of the busiest areas in Marbella, boasting a variety of cafes, shops, restaurants, and a few other historical buildings such as the 16th century Town Hall, definitely worth taking a glimpse of.
Marbella is also a heaven for golf lovers, as there are numerous golf courses in the area and other sports facilities. It has a long stretch of amazing coastline, featuring luxurious 5-star hotels, exclusive restaurants, and high-class designer stores.
Puerto Banús, a glamorous nearby town with excellent marina facilities attracts celebrities and wealthy people from all over the world. It is a prime resort destination, a perfect playground for the rich and famous, often compared to Saint Tropez in France.
Check-out: Marbella Full-Day Tour from Malaga
Overall, there are so many things to do in both Marbella and Puerto Banús, and a day trip to these destinations is definitely not enough! However, if your intention is just to take a glance at the luxurious Spanish lifestyle, you should definitely take a tour and visit these places.
Book a transfer to Marbella from Malaga cruise port
Cartagena is an ancient Mediterranean port city located on the southeastern coast of Spain, in the province of Murcia. Cartagena cruise terminal is situated only a 10-minute walk from the historic center of the city, which makes it great for cruise ship passengers as they can explore the port of Cartagena on their own.
Cartagena cruise port has had a long maritime tradition, and the entrance to the port is guarded by castles and coastal batteries dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Throughout its long, tumultuous history, Cartagena was inhabited by many great civilizations: Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Byzantines, Moors, and Christians: each one of these civilizations left behind its cultural touch, which makes Cartagena a city of diversities, a blend of past, present, and future.
What to See in Cartagena?
The most iconic landmark of the city is the Roman Theater, located in the very heart of the Old Town, only a 15-minute walk from the cruise terminal. The ancient theater was built between the 5th and 1st century BC, and today houses a magnificent museum where temporary exhibitions take place, as well as different tours, activities, and workshops. There is a fee to enter the Roman Theater (check the Roman Theater website to check the prices) and usually there is a line to get in, but shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to get inside.
Another place of interest is Conception Castle, from where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the city. The castle is a medieval fortress dating from the 13th century, located at the highest point of the city that nowadays houses an interesting museum where you can learn a lot about the history of Cartagena. To get there, you can either walk from the cruise terminal to the castle, which takes around 20 minutes walking uphill (1.2 kilometers), or you can take a cab. However, the taxi cannot take you straight to the castle, as the surrounding area is closed for vehicles. You still need to walk 10 minutes uphill to reach the entrance to the castle, which might be challenging for people with walking issues.
Punic Wall ruins are the third place I would recommend you to visit. It was Cartagena’s first defensive wall built by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century BC. Today, there is a visitor center where you can see the remnants of the wall and learn about its historical purpose and strategic importance. It is located 1.5 kilometers from the cruise terminal (a 20-minute walk) and it takes up to 1 hour to visit the highlights of the museum.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to spend your day touring historical sites, you can simply explore the city’s Calle Major or Main Street. Try the delicacies of the authentic Murcian cuisine in numerous main street restaurants, or go shopping and wine tasting. The shopping experience is absolutely fantastic! There are a large number of local branded stores where you can purchase quality things at a relatively low price. The city is generally not that expensive, so don’t expect to pay a fortune for a decent meal at the restaurant! Cartagena also has a beautiful seafront promenade, so if you only want to unwind and take a long walk, that might be one of the options. Cartagena has a lot to offer, so expect to have a fun-filled and active day in this amazing city!
Explore Cartagena tours and activities
Read more about Cartagena cruise port in my article CARTAGENA CRUISE PORT GUIDE, THINGS TO DO AND SHORE EXCURSIONS
Murcia is another city in southeastern Spain, located 55 kilometers (or a 45-minute drive) from Cartagena cruise port. The cruise companies usually offer shore excursions to Murcia, which is a nice opportunity to visit this city if you have never been there before.
Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items
What to visit in Murcia?
Murcia is the seventh-largest city in Spain, boasting a remarkable history and many places of interest worth visiting. Monastery of the Virgin of Fuensanta is a Baroque-style abbey built on top of the hill offering unique views over the city. It is located several kilometers away from the city center but is definitely worth visiting as you can get the best views over Murcia (but, beware, as there is uphill walking involved).
Murcia Cathedral of Santa Maria with its 93-meter tall bell tower (the second tallest after La Giralda bell tower in Seville) is another emblematic structure representing a fusion of several architectural styles – Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassical style.
The third, must-see attraction is the Royal Casino of Murcia, the most visited building in the whole province of Murcia, featuring extravagant eclectic architecture and fascinating decoration. Despite being a private club, it is open to the public and everyone is allowed to enter (for a small fee) and enjoy its opulent, breathtaking interior.
The casino is normally included in the shore excursion Murcia day-trip itinerary, so if you choose to visit Murcia, the visit to the Royal Casino should be included as well.
Book a transfer to Murcia from Cartagena cruise port
Alicante is a lively port city located on the eastern coast of Spain, famous for its white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of the warm Mediterranean Sea. The port of Alicante is located around 3 kilometers from Alicante downtown, and normally the cruise companies provide shuttle buses for their passengers to transfer them to the city center.
What to visit in Alicante Port?
La Explanada de España is a seafront promenade, one of the most popular urban spots in the city filled with shops, bars, and restaurants. On both sides, it is lined with rows of palm trees and the floor features a colorful marble mosaic, symbolically representing the waves and the sea.
Another landmark of Alicante cruise port definitely worth visiting is the 9th century Castle of Saint Barbara, built on top of Mount Benacantil, 166 meters above sea level, overlooking the bay of Alicante. To get to the castle, you can either walk (1.7 kilometers, a portion of it is uphill) or take the elevator located at the foot of the hill. Inside the castle’s area is located the Museum of the City of Alicante, telling a story about Alicante’s rich Moorish and Spanish historical and cultural heritage. When I went there, the rain was pouring but still, we could enjoy the amazing views of the city and its coastline.
Castillo de Santa Barbara website
Besides these two sites, there are many other places to explore. Town Hall Square, Museo de Fogueres, and El Barrio – the historic center boasting narrow, cobbled streets and colorful facades – are only some of the must-see spots in this lovely town.
I suggest you take your time and take in the downtown atmosphere and vibes. You’ll absolutely love it, and an interesting fact is that most of the ex-pats coming to Spain choose Alicante as their residence place.
Check out Alicante tours and activities
Read more about Alicante cruise port in my article PORT OF ALICANTE CRUISE GUIDE, THINGS TO DO, SHORE EXCURSIONS
Valencia is the third-largest city of Spain and a popular cruise destination often included in Mediterranean cruise itineraries. The port of Valencia is located around 7 kilometers from the city center, and normally there are shuttle buses provided for cruise ship passengers to take them to the city. The ride lasts approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on the traffic. The shuttle bus usually drops you off at the beginning of the Old Town area, where most of the city’s landmarks are situated.
What to visit in Valencia cruise port?
The Old Town area and Valencia’s city center take one whole day to explore. I had the opportunity to visit Valencia twice, and both times the shuttle bus dropped us off in front of the Torres de Serranos, or Serranos Gate, made up of two 14th century well-preserved towers that used to be part of the ancient defensive city wall. Time-permitting, you can climb the towers and admire a 360-degree panoramic view of the Old Town and the city of Valencia.
Plaza del Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall Square, is another place of interest you should visit. It is the largest square in the city dominated by the impressive building of Town Hall with its clock tower. Most of the city’s events and festivals take place here, and the area is full of fountains, restaurants, cafes, and places to relax. Besides administrative offices, the Town Hall is also a museum open to the public, and you can visit it for a small fee (up to 5 € per person). It is located only a 15-minute walk from Serranos Gate (the place where a cruise ship normally drops guests off), so I definitely recommend you to visit it.
A 5-minute walking distance from Town Hall Square, there is another must-see place, Estaciòn del Norte, or the North Station, the main train station in Valencia. The building was built in the 19th century in Art Nouveau style, and right opposite is the famous Plaza de Torros de Valencia, the city’s bullring, inspired by Rome’s Colosseum, built between 1850 and 1859 in the Neoclassical style.
Read my full guide to Valencia cruise port
Plaza de la Reina is another charming square located in the historic quarter right next to the Plaza de la Virgin – dominated by the Cathedral of Valencia, an imposing religious structure with a baroque façade and gothic interior, well worth visiting. The cathedral has the oldest museum in the city which contains the Holy Chalice of Valencia, or the Holy Grail. You can enter the Cathedral for free, but if you want to enter the Holy Grail Chapel, there is a small fee to pay.
One of the must-see Valencia attractions is Mercado Central, or Central Market Place, situated in the center of the Old Town, a bustling place full of colors, tastes, and exotic smells, surrounded by a large number of tapas bars, restaurants, and street cafes.
La Lonja de la Seda, or the Silk Market, is located opposite Mercado Central. The building housing the market has been recognized as a World Heritage Site and has a remarkable interior, definitely worth taking a glimpse of. This is where silk merchants of Valencia were trading their goods in the 15th century, the golden economic age of the city.
Last but not least, the architectural complex of the City of Arts and Sciences is one of the most visited places in Valencia and one of the 12 Treasures of Spain. It is located a 20-minute drive from the Old Town and is included in several shore excursions offered by cruise companies. The complex is huge, built in the futuristic style to celebrate the arrival of the 21st century, and has educational purposes. It contains several museums, including the Oceanographic museum, Europe’s largest marine park, and home to 500 species of fish and sea animals. Some tours include a visit to the museum as well, so if this place is on your bucket list, go ahead and book!
Suggested article: Valencia Port Guide, Things to Do, Shore Excursions
Overall, Valencia is an amazing city with countless things to do and see! You get value for money, and the vibes you feel in the city at every step will make your day fulfilled and memorable.
Check out Valencia tours and activities
Read more about Valencia cruise port in my article VALENCIA PORT GUIDE, THINGS TO DO, SHORE EXCURSIONS
One of the most visited European cities where art, culture, style gastronomy, ancient and modern come together, Barcelona is one of the major cruise ship ports in the western Mediterranean.
Barcelona cruise port is large and located a 10-minute drive from the city center (less if not congested), where La Rambla avenue begins. Shuttle buses are normally provided by the cruise companies, and cruise passengers can easily reach the city center.
There are numerous taxis outside the cruise terminal too, so you can take one of them if you want to go to La Sagrada Familia, the symbol of Barcelona. The cathedral is located a 15-20 minute drive from the cruise terminal (8.5 kilometers) and the last time I was there, the taxi charged me 15 € (although it was not crowded, so we arrived fast). Always negotiate the fare with the taxi driver, to avoid an unpleasant scenario.
If you want a complete guide to Barcelona cruise port, check my article: A Day in Barcelona Cruise Port
What to visit in the port of Barcelona?
La Sagrada Familia, the iconic symbol of Barcelona and the most visited cathedral in the whole of Spain, is a must! You can reach it by taxi, but you can also book one of the shore excursions taking you there. Once you are there, you can explore its exterior, or you can purchase the entrance ticket and get inside – whatever you choose to do, the cathedral will blow your mind away! My suggestion is to book the tickets in advance, as there are always lines to enter. The cathedral is the masterpiece of the world-famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, who left his mark all over the city by designing Barcelona’s most famous attractions. Besides La Sagrada Familia, his other works of art – La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, and Park Guell, are well worth visiting!
Another place I recommend you to visit is La Rambla street, a 1.2 kilometers long pedestrian avenue full of restaurants, bars, shops, and happenings! It is the urban hub of the city and is quite expensive if you decide to have lunch there, but still is well worth visiting! If you are coming on a cruise ship, you need to take the shuttle bus at the cruise terminal, and after the bus drops you off, you need to cross the street and reach the imposing Christopher Columbus Monument. It is only a 5-minute walk from the place the shuttle bus drops you off, so you won’t have a problem finding it. Opposite the Columbus monument is the beginning of La Rambla avenue, which ends at Plaça de Catalunya, one of the main squares in Barcelona.
If you want to admire a marvelous example of Gothic architecture, go to the old Gothic Quarter and visit the Cathedral dating from the 19th century. You can get inside without paying the fee. The whole quarter is interesting to explore, and I definitely think you should do it.
Finally, if you want to enjoy the spectacular, panoramic view over Barcelona, the place I would suggest you go is Montjuic Hill – a very touristy place, but offering the best view of the city.
To conclude, Barcelona is a huge city where you should spend at least several days if you want to fully enjoy it. But if you are coming on a cruise ship, you should definitely visit its highlights I suggested. If not, try wandering around its markets, tasting delicious Spanish tapas, or visiting the Picasso museum.
Read more about the port of Barcelona in my article BARCELONA CRUISE PORT GUIDE, THINGS TO DO, SHORE EXCURSIONS
The largest city in the Biscay province and in the whole of northern Spain, Bilbao is also one of the ports-of-call included in cruise ship itineraries. Bilbao cruise port is located in the Bay of Bilbao, around 13 kilometers from Bilbao city center. Cruise companies normally provide shuttle buses for all cruise passengers to get them to Bilbao Old Town, and the ride itself takes around 20 minutes.
What to visit in the port of Bilbao?
Bilbao is a fast-growing city whose main attraction is the Guggenheim museum, a symbol of innovation, the city’s development, and renewal. The museum is housed in an impressive contemporary art building aimed to amaze even the ones who don’t appreciate this style of architecture.
It is located 14 kilometers from the cruise terminal, so I suggest either booking a shore excursion, or taking a taxi (I am not quite sure about the prices, but check beforehand). For museum entrance fees and opening hours, check the Guggenheim museum’s website.
You should also visit the Bilbao Old Town neighborhood (also named Las Siete Calles – Seven Streets), starting with a visit to the Santiago Cathedral, constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries, in the Gothic style. You can spend your time roaming the streets of the old quarter, browsing its shops, museums, libraries, or enjoying an amazing gastronomic offer of this part of Bilbao. Delicious tapas, paired with local wine and beer, will definitely wake up your senses. Plaza Nueva, located in the Old Town, is a large square and leisure area where a lot of happenings and events take place. Here you can find some old, traditional taverns serving good food, so if you get hungry – don’t hesitate, this place is calling you!
If you want to explore other places in Bilbao, such as Mount Artxanda, Bizkaia Bridge, Getxo neighborhood, or you want to have a guided Bilbao tour, you can check out these amazing Viator offers.
As for me, I had a chance to visit the Old Town and taste Bilbao traditional tapas, which I truly enjoyed. Old Town walk was followed by a visit to Guggenheim museum, the place that I highly recommend as it won’t leave you indifferent!
Read more about the port of Bilbao in my article BILBAO CRUISE PORT GUIDE, THINGS TO DO, SHORE EXCURSIONS
19. San Sebastian
San Sebastian is a beautiful coastal town located 109 kilometers from the port of Bilbao (a-1 hour 10-minute ride), and a popular seaside resort, only several miles from the French border. You can visit San Sebastian by booking a shore excursion, or arranging a private transfer/tour when your cruise ship docks at Bilbao cruise port.
What to visit in San Sebastian?
San Sebastian Old Town, or the Parte Vieja, is a great place to start your exploration! The area is very picturesque, as it features fancily decorated, centuries-old houses and cobblestone streets. It is a trendy area packed with shops and restaurants, and usually very crowded with tourists.
The Church of San Vicente is the oldest medieval structure in the city dating back to the 12th century, usually included in tour itineraries and well worth visiting while in Parte Vieja. Less than 200 meters from the church, there is the Constitution Square, or Plaza de la Constitución, another bustling place. Once the main square and the bullring, nowadays it is the urban hub of the city, as all major events take place here, including national and religious holidays.
A 15-minute driving distance from the old part of the city is situated another beautiful landmark of San Sebastian – Miramar Palace, a summer residence for the Spanish royal family, built in the late 19th century, designed by an English architect. The palace was erected in the Bay of La Concha, a breathtaking, picture-perfect bay where one of the best European city beaches – La Concha, is located. This beautiful beach boasts crystal-clear, turquoise water with golden sand, and is a paradise for surfers and the younger crowd, as it offers a lot of sports facilities. Right next to La Concha is the Town Hall, an impressive building known for its two gorgeous Belle Époque towers, that used to house the city’s Gran Casino.
Last but not least, the Cathedral of Buen Pastor (or the Cathedral of Good Shepherd), one of the main San Sebastian’s historic and religious structures featuring a 75-meter high bell tower, is located in the new part of the city. It was built in the 19th century in the Gothic Gothic Revival style and is best viewed in the evening when it is fully illuminated.
As you can see, the list is endless. San Sebastian is a fancy resort definitely worth spending a couple of days at.
Set in spectacular mountainous scenery, Montserrat is a highlight of the cruise vacation for many travelers. Located 60 km (37 mi), or a 1-hour drive from Barcelona cruise port, this mountain peak is famous for Montserrat Monastery (Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey), the Benedictine Abbey dating from the 11th century. Montserrat is Catalonia’s most significant religious retreat that attracts a large number of pilgrims and tourists every year.
The Montserrat Monastery can be reached by road, train, and cable car that allows visitors to enjoy breathtaking views of the impressive rock formations and mountainous landscape. Besides the visit to the Monastery, Montserrat is famous for its numerous hiking trails connecting the mountain’s summit Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) that stands at 1,236 meters (4,055 feet) above sea level with the Monastery and the base of the mountain.
Montserrat is not wheelchair accessible and the dress code is requested upon entering the Monastery.
Check out Montserrat tours from Barcelona
Book a transfer to Montserrat from the Barcelona cruise terminal
To Wrap Up
Whether you cruise to Galicia, Andalusia, Catalonia, Valencia, Murcia, or Basque Country, you’ll notice that Spain is a diverse and contrasted country. The customs, mentalities, the way people think and act, laugh, dance, and speak – those are all different.
Spain is an unfinished story, always full of surprises and twists, and that’s exactly what keeps the reader interested and engaged until the very end. It always makes you go back through its pages and read them again, and again. And, the best stories are written on a cruise, right?
Enjoy your stay in Spain, and share your love for Spain with me. I truly hope you enjoyed the read.
Visit our cruise port guides for Alicante, Bilbao, Vigo, Barcelona, La Coruna, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Palma de Mallorca, Gibraltar, Lisbon
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1 thought on “Ports of Spain: 20 Cities to Visit on a Cruise to Spain”
Wonderful..Thankyou for your description of Spain…I was meant to visit April 2020…I so loved reading your experiences ?