14 Best Walkable Cruise Ports You Don’t Need Excursions For

A lot of the time, cruise ports aren’t actually in the city they’re named after. Or at least they’re not right in the city – they’ll be on the outskirts, so your view as you dock will be more shipping container than scenery.

But there are some ports where you are dropped off right in the heart of the destination, or at worst just a mile or so away – easy enough for most people to reach on foot, and so no need to book an expensive excursion to make the most of the day.

The bustling atmosphere at Port Zante in St. Kitts, with two large cruise ships moored at the terminal. The perspective shows passengers walking along the dock, enjoying the sunny Caribbean weather as they possibly prepare to explore the island or return to the ships after a day out. The ships are impressive in scale, dominating the background, while the foreground features people of various ages in casual vacation attire, emphasizing the tourist-friendly environment. The inclusion of vibrant greenery in a large circular planter adds a touch of the island’s lush natural beauty, contrasting nicely with the industrial elements of the port. This scene effectively portrays Port Zante as a key entry point for visitors to St. Kitts, serving as a gateway to the island's rich culture and scenic landscapes.

Here’s a look at some of the best walkable cruise ports, perfect for enjoying at your own pace.

1. Helsinki, Finland

A breathtaking view of Helsinki, Finland, showcasing the iconic Helsinki Cathedral dominating the skyline with its green dome and white exterior. The cathedral is a focal point against the backdrop of Helsinki's cityscape, which includes classic European architecture in shades of pastel, bustling harbor activities, and modern infrastructure. The scene is alive with both marine and urban elements, with boats moored at the docks and people likely enjoying the waterfront. This panoramic view under a partly cloudy sky vividly illustrates the blend of historical significance and contemporary lifestyle that Helsinki offers.

Helsinki, the capital of Finland, has a range of harbours that are used by cruise ships – six in total.

Most of the bigger cruise ships will dock at Hernesaari, which is around 4km from the main city centre, but if you’re on a smaller ship you might dock at South Harbour which is an easy 1km trip.

From South Harbour, you can be amongst the Market Square within around 10 minutes, with the Russian Cathedral, the Lutheran Cathedral and the Rock Church all close by – beautiful architecture to wander around.

The area around the waterfront is also a fun place to wander if you’d rather stay close to the ship, with various stalls and outdoor seating for cafes during the summer months.

2. Juneau, Alaska

A striking view of Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, set against a dramatic natural backdrop. Nestled at the water's edge, the city's buildings are modest in height, reflecting the small-scale urban development typical of this remote area. Behind the city, a lush, green mountain rises steeply, shrouded partially by low-hanging clouds that add a mystic quality to the landscape. The calm, greenish waters in the foreground reflect the tranquility of this picturesque setting, emphasizing Juneau's unique blend of urban life and wild, natural beauty. This view highlights the city's isolated and scenic location, surrounded by the vast wilderness that is characteristic of Alaska.

Some of the Alaskan ports are great for people who don’t want to travel far once their ship has docked – Juneau is the first of two on this list.

Cruise ships dock right in the middle of the town and the wharf area is home to some fantastic souvenir shops, bars and restaurants, perfect if you like your seafood as fresh as it comes.

The Mount Roberts Tramway close by offers great views, but if you’re really feeling energetic, you can walk up to the top and then ride it back down, which will then drop you either directly outside your cruise ship or just a short walk away, depending on which berth your ship is using.

3. La Coruna, Spain

The grand City Hall in La Coruña, Spain, located in the Maria Pita Square. This iconic building is renowned for its ornate architectural design, featuring elaborate stone carvings, intricate facades, and two prominent domed towers. The clear blue sky and the spacious square in front provide a perfect backdrop that highlights the building's historic elegance. The area is mostly devoid of crowds, offering a calm and open view of this majestic city landmark, making it an inviting scene for visitors and locals alike to enjoy the cultural and architectural heritage of La Coruña.

La Coruna is a beautiful port that offers a couple of beaches within easy reach, while the old town is only a short distance away if you prefer to walk it over taking the shuttle buses that are often available.

Within the old town you’ll find lots of shops, bars and restaurants you can explore, though there are some great options along the promenade if you prefer to keep the beaches in sight.

A Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines ship docked at the port of La Coruña, Spain. The vessel, characterized by its large size and distinctive red funnel with the Fred. Olsen logo, is moored at the harbor, surrounded by a bustling marina filled with smaller boats and yachts. The background features a clear blue sky and the urban landscape of La Coruña, providing a scenic view. The foreground of the photo shows a spacious, well-maintained promenade along the waterfront, where a few pedestrians are seen enjoying the sunny weather. This setting highlights the integration of cruise tourism within the coastal cityscape, offering visitors an accessible gateway to explore the region’s cultural and scenic attractions.

There’s just one attraction that people often like to visit that might be at the extreme side of walking – Torre de Hercules, which is the oldest functioning lighthouse in Europe, with a sculpture park at its base.

You can walk there, which will take up to an hour, but there are bus services right outside the terminal if you want to preserve your energy.

4. Nassau, Bahamas

A lively scene at Junkanoo Beach in Nassau, Bahamas, with a clear view of several cruise ships docked in the background. The beachfront is bustling with activities; people are enjoying the sandy shores, some walking along the beach, while others are playing or relaxing by the water's edge. The cruise ships add a dramatic backdrop to the beach scene, with their massive structures and colorful funnels standing out against the skyline. This blend of beach leisure and cruise tourism highlights Nassau's appeal as a popular Caribbean destination, offering both relaxation on beautiful beaches and the excitement of cruise ship amenities.

Nassau is one of the most visited cruise ports in the world – essentially, every cruise in the Eastern Caribbean will call at the port. So it’s no surprise that there’s been a lot of investment in the port itself and the nearby area.

The streets around the cruise terminal are packed with shops and bars, and you’re very close to the Straw Market, which is great for souvenirs.

Venture a little further – but no more than 15 minutes or so on foot – and you can visit the Heritage Museum, the National Art Gallery, and Fort Fincastle, which has excellent views in all directions. Plus, Junkanoo Beach is around a mile away, so definitely doable within a short walk.

5. Oslo, Norway

The vibrant waterfront of Oslo, Norway, highlighting the harmonious blend of historical architecture and modern development. A cruise ship is moored at the port, adding a dynamic element to the cityscape. The waterfront buildings, with their colorful facades and distinctive European architectural styles, reflect Oslo's rich cultural heritage. The foreground shows a wide, open promenade that appears to be a popular spot for both locals and tourists, providing a leisurely space for walks with a view of the fjord. The backdrop of gentle hills and a clear sky enhances the picturesque setting, showcasing Oslo as a city where historical charm meets contemporary living.

Oslo’s cruise port is extremely central, making it easy to explore the city once you get off the ship.

You have two main options – you can either head right into the city centre, to enjoy the museums and shops, which will take you around 10 minutes on foot.

Or if you prefer, just wander around the Harbour Promenade area right around the cruise port – there are some fantastic restaurants here, while the new development brings together the cultural history and stunning modern architecture that the city’s famous for.

6. Palma de Mallorca

A view from the balcony of a cruise ship docked at the port of Palma de Mallorca. The balcony features a simple set-up with a pair of metal-framed chairs and a small table, perfect for enjoying the scenic views. The railing of the balcony provides an unobstructed view of the bright blue waters of the harbor and the cityscape of Palma in the distance. The overcast sky adds a tranquil, soft light to the scene, making it ideal for relaxation while taking in the beauty of this popular Mediterranean destination.

There are two cruise terminals at Palma de Mallorca, but most use Muelle de Poniente, which is around 5km from the main city centre – so it’s a little bit further out, but I’ve walked it no problem before, taking me around 40 minutes to get from the ship into the main areas.

You can easily reach the Old Town around the bay, which is great for spotting the attractive fishing boats or sampling the local cafes. Or you can head further into the city centre for some retail therapy – there’s a big shopping centre there.

Bear in mind the fact that it is a bit of a longer walk, and it’s usually quite hot, so dress appropriately. You’ll earn that cocktail later in the day, for sure.

Read more: Top 5 Things To Do In Palma Majorca With Kids

7. Papeete, Tahiti

The bustling Port of Papeete in Tahiti, showcasing its unique blend of modern maritime architecture and tropical ambiance. The main building at the port, featured prominently in the photo, is constructed with a large, open-air design, typical of Pacific island architecture, which allows for natural ventilation and light. This structure is accompanied by wooden accents and a high, sloping roof, reflecting local styles. The calm sea in the foreground and the soft glow of the sunset contribute to a peaceful, picturesque setting. Various small boats and a larger ship docked nearby indicate the port's role as a key hub for both local and international maritime traffic, essential for both commerce and tourism in Tahiti.

In Papeete, Tahiti, the cruise terminal is right in the city centre, so you’re already in the heart of the action as soon as you step off the ship. Within walking distance, you’ll find the Papeete Market, where you can buy fresh produce and local crafts.

Around the area, there are several bars and restaurants too. The main ‘attractions’ of the destination are a bit further away, and it’d be better to take a bus in order to reach places such as the Museum of Tahiti and The Islands. But, if you’re happy sipping on cocktails or picking up souvenirs, then there’s enough to keep you entertained for the day close to the port.

8. San Francisco, California

The vibrant Embarcadero waterfront area of San Francisco, showcasing a sweeping view of the cityscape along with the iconic Bay Bridge stretching into the horizon. The Embarcadero is bustling with activity, visible from the cars on the road and people along the sidewalks, adjacent to the historic Ferry Building and various cruise ships docked at the piers. The backdrop features a mix of modern skyscrapers and classic San Francisco architecture, highlighting the dynamic urban landscape. This setting is a popular spot for both tourists and locals, offering scenic views, dining, and shopping opportunities, and acts as a critical transport hub in the city.

Cruise ships visiting San Francisco will typically dock at Pier 27 of The Embarcadero. Once you get off the ship, you’re around a 15-minute walk from the exciting area around Fisherman’s Wharf, including the renowned Pier 39.

It’s here where you’ll be able to enjoy the traditional wooden piers and the wide range of restaurants, bars and shops. The seafood in particular is excellent, while there are some fun attractions to explore, including an aquarium, although you may see sea lions out in the ocean anyway.

A bit further on, you can reach a pleasant beach area along with Ghiradelli Square, home to the famed Ghiradelli Chocolate. It’s around 30 minutes on foot, but most people are happy with the attractions around Pier 39 anyway.

9. Skagway, Alaska

Holland America Line cruise ship, Nieuw Amsterdam, docked at the port of Skagway, Alaska. The large, impressive vessel, painted in dark blue with white superstructures, is set against the rugged and scenic backdrop typical of Alaskan ports. The photo captures the ship's sleek design and multiple decks, highlighting its capacity for luxury travel. The surrounding environment, with its mountainous terrain and clear waters, emphasizes the natural beauty and remote wilderness that attract visitors to this part of Alaska. This setting provides cruise passengers with a unique opportunity to explore the historical and picturesque town of Skagway, known for its role in the Klondike Gold Rush.

Skagway is another Alaskan cruise port that’s really easy to access from the cruise port – by the time you’ve walked away from the dock, you’re right in the downtown area. Skagway is small, so you can explore most of the best attractions really easily.

The town is very historic, and you’re only a few minutes’ walk from museums and landmarks dedicated to the gold rush, as well as the famous brothel museum within the Red Onion Saloon.

There are some beautiful excursion options further afield, but on a first visit to the port you’ll find plenty around the Skagway docks area to keep you entertained.

10. Tallinn, Estonia

The skyline of Tallinn, Estonia, from the perspective of the sea, featuring a clear view of the city’s diverse architectural styles against a vibrant blue sky. The scene includes modern high-rises, which contrast with the historic and medieval elements that Tallinn is famed for, although these are not visible in this particular shot. A cruise ship is docked at the harbor, indicating the city's popularity as a cruise destination in the Baltic Sea region. The calm waters in the foreground mirror the tranquility of the city, and the overall composition of the photo emphasizes Tallinn's blend of old and new, making it a fascinating city to explore.

Cruise ships visiting the Estonian capital of Tallinn dock around 500 metres from the main city centre, and it’s around twice that distance to the beautiful Old Town region – so definitely walkable in around 15 minutes or so.

However, while the Old Town does have some beautiful sights along with great shops and cafes, the streets are winding, so you’re advised to either use a map or track your route on your phone, depending on whether you can use your phone’s internet without racking up big charges.

The streets are cobbled too so not the best if you have stiff joints, and make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes. Not a port to explore in flip-flops!

11. Valletta, Malta

The stunning waterfront of Valletta, the capital city of Malta, viewed from the sea. The historical architecture of Valletta, characterized by sandy-colored stone buildings, is prominently displayed against a backdrop of bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds. The city's dense and layered urban layout rises up from the coastline, featuring various spires and domed rooftops that illustrate its rich history. In the foreground, the clear turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea enhance the picturesque setting. A traditional Maltese boat with its distinctive red and yellow stripes adds a touch of local flavor to the scene, highlighting the maritime culture of Malta.

Valletta is a really beautiful destination – one where you’ll ideally want to be on your balcony or an open deck to watch as the ship approaches if it’s not too early, and definitely for when the ship departs. You’ll dock around 20 minutes from the attractive Old Town, but be warned – the walk is really steep.

There is a solution, though—the Upper Barrakka Lifts are elevators that take guests from the harbour area right into the Old Town. They cost 1 Euro return, and it’s definitely worthwhile since you’ll get much more time to see the sights without exhausting yourself. 

12. Vancouver, Canada

A stunning view of Vancouver, Canada, showcasing its bustling waterfront and distinctive skyline. Prominent in the scene is the iconic Vancouver Lookout tower, offering panoramic views of the city, alongside modern high-rise buildings that define Vancouver's urban landscape. The famous white sails of Canada Place are visible, a landmark that doubles as a cruise ship terminal, underscoring Vancouver's status as a major gateway to the Pacific and a popular stop on numerous cruise itineraries. A cruise ship docked at the terminal adds to the dynamic feel of the harbor, highlighting the city's importance as a maritime hub. The clear skies and fluffy cloud above contribute to the vivid and picturesque setting, capturing the essence of this vibrant coastal city.

Vancouver is one of the biggest ports in the world to have its cruise terminal right at the heart of the city. It’s seen as Canada’s main gateway to cruising, and a lot of cruise lines use Vancouver as the departure port for Alaska cruise itineraries, but if you’re calling here as a visit for a day then there’s loads to see and do within walking distance.

The Gastown district is where you want to go. It’s around 10 minutes away on foot and home to some excellent restaurants and shops, although you might prefer to walk to The Pacific Centre shopping mall and the nearby Vancouver Art Gallery if you want some culture.

There’s also a seawall walk that leads to views of the North Shore Mountains but expect a longer trek – good if you’re feeling energetic and don’t mind a couple of hours walk.

13. Willemstad, Curacao

Vibrant and colorful architecture of Willemstad, the capital city of Curaçao. The waterfront is lined with brightly painted buildings that reflect a blend of Dutch colonial architecture and Caribbean flair, making this view instantly recognizable. These historical buildings, with their unique facades and hues ranging from pastel pinks to deep blues and bright yellows, mirror beautifully on the calm waters of the harbor, enhancing the picturesque quality of the scene. Willemstad is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also a lively cultural hub, and this image beautifully represents its inviting and cheerful atmosphere.

There are two potential places your cruise ship might dock if you’re visiting Willemstad on the island of Curacao. Both are within walking distance of the main town, with one just a few minutes away and the further one closer to a 15-minute’ walk.

Once you reach the town, you’ll be able to explore the colourful buildings and the many shops and restaurants. There are cultural attractions, too, including a couple of museums that tell the story of the island, and there’s a Floating Market.

Sadly, it’s just a name; the stalls aren’t actually floating, but they’re good for trying local foods and buying souvenirs.

14. (Almost) Any River Cruise Port

A serene view of an A-Rosa river cruise ship docked along the waterfront in a picturesque European city. The scene is set against an urban backdrop with elegant, historic buildings and a distinctive white suspension bridge, suggesting the location could be along a well-known river in Europe, possibly the Danube in Budapest. The cruise ship, long and white with red accents, is designed for navigating the narrower and shallower waters of riverways, offering passengers a close-up view of cityscapes and landscapes. The calm water and clear skies contribute to a peaceful and inviting travel atmosphere, ideal for exploring the cultural and architectural beauty along European rivers.

If you really want to enjoy the ports you visit without paying for touring excursions, consider a river cruise. Almost all river cruise ports are right in the heart of the cities you’re visiting – you step off the ship and you’re amongst all the action already.

There are still tours you can book, but you rarely need to – most cities are built around the river and so you have great shopping, dining and culture all within just a few minutes’ walk. And the more relaxed nature of a river cruise makes it great for hopping on and off the ship during the day – explore the big attractions, head back to the ship for lunch, then go get some shopping done before the ship departs.

And there are plenty of great options available across Europe and further afield, including stunning capital cities, historic castles and more – so there’s a ton of variety right at the end of the gangway each day.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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4 thoughts on “14 Best Walkable Cruise Ports You Don’t Need Excursions For”

  1. Thanks for this, very useful. Don’t forget Koto, Montenegro which is a beautiful little very old town, just across the road from the port.
    Also, Malaga, which is a lovely walk into the centre. Oh and Ajaccio!

  2. Barcelona surely!

    • Depending on where your ship docks you may need to pay for a shuttle into town in Barcelona. Some of the berths are more than an hour’s walk from the city centre.

  3. Don’t forget Sydney Australia. If the ship docks at the Overseas Passenger Terminal you get off right in the heart of the Rocks historic district, while the CBD is walking distance, or light rail can be used if preferred.

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