The best cruise ports in Spain from north to south include Bilbao, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Cartagena, Mallorca, Malaga, and Cadiz. The coast of Spain and its ports offer historic, cultural, and relaxing attractions and activities that make a Spain cruise
an adventure in discovery. For information about exploring the country’s port cities by the sea, reach out to one of our travel experts.Bilbao
The small port city of Bilbao
plays host to visitors looking for the Bosque Country of Northern Spain. Its old and new parts of town are divided by the Nervión River.
On the left bank of the city sits the Guggenheim Museum, an iconic landmark that started an architectural movement in the city. Nearby is the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, an impressive space that houses works of Spanish and Basque painters including Arroyo, El Greco, and Goya.
On the left bank is Casco Viejo or the old center of the city. Named the’ Seven Streets,’ by the locals, it's home to the Santiago cathedral, Iglesia de San Antón, and the Iglesia de Los Santos Juanes. This is the place to wander, find a tapas or pintxos bar, and visit Mercado de la Ribera-Europe’s largest covered food market.
Each area of the city is an intriguing blend of new and old architecture, bringing the Basque culture to light in the present and the past. BarcelonaBarcelona
is the second-largest city in Spain and boasts architecture from some of the country’s famous contemporary artists, balanced by the historic districts were roman walls sit next to cathedrals and squares.
The works of Antoni Gaudi include the unfinished Sagrada Familia Basilica and the Park Guell. Gaudi started the Basilica in 1883 and in the years following his death Domènec Sugrañes took over until 1938. The succession of architects from 1938 to the present is an impressive list, and the complex is expected to be completed in 2026.
Gaudi built Park Guell between 1901 and 1914 and it opened as a park in 1924, the green space is the city’s most visited park. The Hansel and Gretal gatehouses, a giant mosaic dragon, a forest of stone columns, and Gaudi's house up to the years of his death are a few of the features of the 40-acre park overlooking the city.
Other artists who spent time in Barcelona are Pablo Picasso and native Joan Miró. The Picasso Museum chronicles the artist’s work in the city leading up to his Blue Period and 58 canvases donated by Picasso based on Velázquez's 'Las Meninas'.
The Joan Miró Foundation houses works from Barcelona’s native son. The complex of buildings are works of art in their own right, and inside and on the grounds are Miro’s statues, drawings, and paintings spanning his lifetime.
Las Ramblas street bordering the Gothic Quarter also has one of Miro’s works. A mosaic on a walkway leads to the streets eateries, shops, and bars where the likes of Earnest Hemmingway, Dali, and Picasso spent time.
The Gothic Quarter of Barcelona is in the city’s historic center. Roman walls line maze-like walkways where the Barcelona Cathedral, the Royal Square, and the Plaça de la Generalitat give glimpses into the rich history and government buildings of the city.
Platja de Sant Sebastià and Barceloneta Beach are two of the best beaches close to the Olympic Port. Both offer long stretches of sand, views along the coast and of the city, and restaurants catering to all types of eaters. A seafront promenade at the end of Barceloneta Beach is the place to find bars, a great selection of eateries, sports arenas, and the Barcelona Aquarium.Palma de Mallorca
The largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca is Spain’s low key answer to the Riviera. The capital, Palma de Mallorca
is a perpetually sunny spot on the coast where the gothic Palma Cathedral, the historic district, Joan Miró’s studio, and the Bellver Castle vie for the attention.
The Palma Cathedral or La Seu was built over a span of 600 years. The king of Aragon made a promise to construct a cathedral on the island after surviving a tremendous storm and the cornerstone was laid in 1229. Over the centuries Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque influences contributed to the building.
In the 20th century, Antoni Gaudí added to the interior renovations of the cathedral with an iron canopy over the main altar, restoration of the stained glass windows, and the recovery of the nave and the Chapel Royal.
The historic district of Palma between Plaça de Cort and the seafront is a showcase of Moorish influences, Modernist architecture, and a great selection of galleries, shops, bars, and restaurants.
Joan Miró’s wife and mother were from Mallacora and the artist set up shop on the island in the 1950s. The Sert Studio gives a glimpse into the artist’s mind. His sketches, brushes, painting, and collections of everyday objects inspired him to fill the ‘L’ shaped studios spaces.
The same king that commissioned the Palma Cathedral started construction on the Bellver Castle, sitting high above the bay overlooking the island. Designed as a royal residence, the castle only saw one king live with its walls. During the Spanish Civil War, it was used as a prison for ‘radical’ thinkers whose graffiti is still etched into the terrace walls. Today the first floor of the castle houses a city museum that outlines the history of the island from the Talayotic civilization to the present.ValenciaValencia
, Spain’s third-largest city is an exciting mix of the historic and the modern. Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences has eye-popping architecture, the El Carmen neighborhood and historic center put forth cathedrals and streets that permeate with history. Also, El Jardín del Turia is a sprawling green space on a converted river bed where locals go to play.
The City of Arts and Sciences was inaugurated in 2005. It is home to the largest aquarium in Europe, the Prince Felipe Museum of Sciences, an IMAX cinema and planetarium, an opera house, and the Umbracle-a four-acre garden under a network of arches that give great views of the neighboring structures.
The buildings of the park are as fascinating as the halls and spaces of their interiors. Beauty rivals function and the limits between architecture and sculpture are put to the test in Calatrava’s designs. The park is a must-see for any visit to Valencia, but even a whole day here wouldn’t cover the immensity of the complex.
The El Carmen neighborhood in the historic center is a walk into the city’s past. The Valencia Cathedral is rumored to be the home of the Holy Grail and its beginnings date back to the 13th century. Today, visitors can climb the cathedral’s tower for a great view of the city and wander the halls of the Cathedral Museum, where works from Goya and Maella sit beside pieces from the Gothic, Renaissance, and Mannerist schools of art.
The El Carmen neighborhood is a mix of the old and the new. The streets have some of the best street murals in the city, a great selection of shops, bars, and restaurants, as well as a collection of museums ranging from modern art to ethnology.
The Jardines del Turia is the biggest city park in Spain, stretching almost 300 acres. It was created after the Turia River flooded in 1957, causing the city’s fathers to redirect the waterway outside of the city limits.
Space was made into a park where an urban forest, a concert hall, a kid’s park, and a zoo are a few of the attractions outside of the City of Arts and Sciences.Alicante
The capital of the Costa Brava region of Spain’s coast, Alicante’s
charms include the Santa Barbara Castle, the historic district, and the seafront.
The Santa Barbara Castle was first built in the 9th century under Muslim rule and rebuilt in 1248, 1296, and 1381. In 1580 the castle was fortified under Roman rule. Sitting in the center of Alicante high on a hill overlooking the sea and the city, the castle is open to the public. Every year different exhibitions are shown at the castle that includes themes like Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings.
The Historic Center of Alicante has ruined dating back to the walled city’s destruction in 1691, art galleries, the city’s town hall, the San Nicholas Cathedral, and the Basilica de Santa María. Walking the streets takes you back in time with the Santa Barbara Castle standing guard above the neighborhood. Many of the city’s clubs, restaurants and shops are also located here.
The seafront of Alicante has Postiguet Beach, markets, and the Paseo de la Explanada. The shaded promenade hugs the seashore with a tiled walkway and is a busy place where cafes, restaurants, and ice cream shops are fun places to stop and take in the oceanfront and marina.CartagenaCartagena
’s history is easily explored with Roman ruins dotting the city amid modern architecture. The Molinete Archeological Park, the Roman Theater, and Casa de la Fortuna are three sites that give visitors an insight into the past of the region. Elsewhere in the city, waterfront museums and pedestrian-only shopping walkways are fun ways to pass the day in the impressive coastal city.
The Molinete Archeological Park sits on a hillside where Roman ruins are still being discovered. Part park and part archeological site, there are paths overlooking the city and a café between the covered remains of ancient baths and an atrium.
Cartagena’s Roman Theater was discovered in 1988 after being covered by a cathedral for centuries. The restored theater holds performances, can seat 6000 people in three areas originally separated for the different classes of the Roman culture, and has a museum on site where the different archeological discoveries of the site are on display.
Casa de la Fortuna, like the theater, dates back to the first century. The well-preserved villa shows the private life of Roman citizens. Decorative floor mosaics, murals that depict mythology and the stars; and an atrium, reception room, banquet hall, and bedrooms show the lifestyle of affluent Romans.
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology is located on the waterfront and explores all things related to the sea from the area’s past. Models of Roman and Phoenician ships are on display, as well as artifacts like an Islamic serving dish. There is also a section about the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish ship that sank in 1804. The wreck was discovered by a treasure hunting company who were taken to trial by Spain. The results found the return of an estimated 500 million dollars in artifacts including coins that are on display.
Calle Mayor between the city’s town hall and the Plaza de San Sebastian is a pedestrian-only street lined with blue marble tiles. The street has cafes’ shops, tapas bars, and restaurants for those looking to shop and stroll for a few hours during their time in the city. MalagaMalaga
is one of the country’s oldest cities, but recent decades have ushered in a new side to the city. Birthplace of Pablo Picasso, the cultural scene in the city includes the Picasso Museum and the Pompidou Centre. In the historic center are the city’s cathedral and the central market as well as Calle Larios. Another highlight is the port itself, used since the Phoenician times and sporting modern renovations.
The Picasso Museum was started by the artist’s grandson and daughter in law. It houses over 200 works that outline Picasso’s lifetime. Paintings include those the artist did when he was thirteen as well as many works donated by the founders that have rarely been seen in public.
The Pompidou Centre in Malaga opened in 2015 and is located next to the city’s port. The modern art museum’s works include pieces by Frida Kahlo, Francis Bacon, René Magritte, Picasso, and Joan Miro. The museum’s Avant-Garde building and the collection inside is the only branch of the famous gallery of the same name outside of France.
The Malaga Cathedral and the historic center of the city are well worth looking into for their styles of architecture and cultural heritage. The cathedral, nicknamed ‘the one-armed woman’ because only one of its towers was completed, and the massive interior and its intricate carvings are intriguing and shed a light on the history of the city.
Calle Larios is the shopping section of the historic center. It’s a street full of jewelers, cafes, perfumeries, and street performers.
The Mercado Central de Atarazanas is one of Malaga’s central gathering places to buy fresh food and see the grassroots of the city’s culture. A market since 1879, previously space was the city’s shipyard, a convent, and an army barracks. Fish, meat, cheese, and fruit and vegetables are sold here, and an array of stalls serve filling meals to loyal patrons daily.
The highlights of the Malacora Port are the stunning views from the seashore and the bevy of shops and restaurants along the coast. Rebuilt in 2011, Muelle Uno has everything from Michelin rated restaurants to tapas bars. There are also electric bikes and Segways for rent by the half-hour.Cadiz
Over 3000 years old, Cadiz
is one of the oldest cities in Western Europe. Christopher Columbus set sail from the city for the New World and it became an important trading center during the heyday of the Spanish Empire. Its historic center, the seafront beaches of Playa de la Victoria and Playa de la Caleta, and the Cadiz Cathedral are a few of the highlights to discover while wandering the cobblestone streets.