Jammed tour buses and guides holding up numbered “lollipops” not your thing? If you’re the type of cruiser who loves to explore independently, your on-shore experience will be easy, breezy, and enjoyable in these 10 most walkable cruise ports. Just read up on the sights, grab a map, and saunter down the gangway.
Whether you want to wander the medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), take a stroll along Barceloneta beach, or join the throngs on pedestrian-only Las Ramblas, the location of the cruise port in this sunny Spanish city makes it all possible. Barcelona is sprawling and some top sights—including most of Antoni Gaudi’s beguiling buildings—are quite a hike away, so consider a hop-on/hop-off bus to get to must-see neighborhoods.
Known as the “Jewel of the Adriatic,” Dubrovnik’s red-roofed Old Town is pedestrian only (you’ll need to first take a tender if anchored or a shuttle if docked outside the city) and the best way to appreciate its beauty is to circumnavigate its 14th-century stone walls. But this is definitely not a walk in the park—it takes about 90 minutes, there are a few hundred uneven steps to navigate, and the summer heat can be oppressive—so for something less challenging, stroll the Stradun and its restaurant- and gallery-lined side streets.
You’ll cruise right into the golden-hued, medieval heart of the Maltese capital and from the port it’s fairly easy to explore Old Town’s historic highlights, either via a steep, 15-minute walk or an elevator ride (for a small fee). Don’t miss the elaborate, 16th-century Grandmaster’s Palace (home to the Maltese House of Representatives), the art-filled Baroque Co-Cathedral of St. John, the elegant Auberge de Castille, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens with its stone arches and sweeping harbor views.
Walkers, you’ve got to love a country that’s smaller than New York’s Central Park—the principality of Monaco is just 0.75-square miles in size—so its capital is easily tackled on foot (that is if you’re not visiting in April or May before, during or after the annual Grand Prix Formula One race when barricades abound). From the port, head for the elevators that will take you up to Monaco-Ville (Old Town), where you can see the Prince’s Palace, Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the Oceanographic Museum and Saint-Martin Gardens.
After a short tender ride from your ship to Mykonos Town, get ready to wander a charming labyrinth of traditional whitewashed houses with vibrant, primary-hued shutters and flowering window boxes. Shop for leather sandals and beachwear, find a small taverna to dine on tzatziki and Greek salad and venture down bougainvillea-covered alleyways echoing with the meows of resident cats. End up in Little Venice, where you can toast the sunset while enjoying views of Mykonos’ centuries-old, Venetian-built windmills.
New York City
Yes, you’ll disembark on the far western edge of the Big Apple, but just cross 12th Avenue to walk east on 50th Street toward Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue, and the lower parts of Central Park. Or turn right and walk the pedestrian/bike path along the Hudson River to 34th Street where you’ll find an entry point for the High Line: an elevated park that meanders through Chelsea to the Meatpacking District and offers splendid views and people watching.
There’s so much to enjoy along the Embarcadero on San Francisco Bay—from views of the Golden Gate Bridge to barking sea lions and steaming sourdough bowls of clam chowder at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf—that walking is the best way to experience it all. Snap photos of the Coit Tower and Alcatraz, peruse the food stalls at the Ferry Building Marketplace and enjoy happy hour with one-dollar oysters at Waterbar. You can even walk across the Golden Gate Bridge—but do give your feet a rest and ride the legendary Powell-Hyde cable car, too.
Four months after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, cruise ships are again calling on the capital of Puerto Rico, where the atmospheric colonial streets of Old San Juan are best explored on foot. From the port, it’s a short walk to the Paseo de la Princesa, which leads to to a seaside path and the ancient gate of Puerta de San Juan. From here, walk to San Juan Cathedral and then find a cozy bar to enjoy mojitos and mofongo (mashed plantains and garlic) before exploring vast 16th-century Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
If your ship docks at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Cay, the city’s top sights—the Sydney Opera House, Botanical Gardens, Woolloomooloo Wharf, and the historic Rocks neighborhood—are just a short walk away. Adventure seekers can sign up for the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, a guided tour along the catwalks to a mid-span height of 440 feet, or the SkyWalk atop the 1,000-foot Sydney Tower. If your ship is at the White Bay Cruise Terminal, just hop a ferry to Circular Cay.
Perhaps the most walkable cruise port on our list, this British Columbia city makes independent exploration easy. Walk off your ship right into the city center, where you can head for the fresh air and panoramic views of Stanley Park, the retro-hip boutiques and eateries of Victorian-era Gastown or the fabulous line-up of food trucks scattered around downtown. Visit FlyOver Canada to virtually soar over the country from East coast to West coast or hop a ferry to Granville Island to explore the Pubic Market.