Harbour holidays in Europe

Matthew Payne finds there’s much more on the coast than beach holidays in this guide to some of Europe’s most beautiful harbours.

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A beautiful harbour setting can certainly add a touch of class and culture to wherever you are. Not only does it contribute to the stunning coastal views, but it it’s also a great place to discover local history from times gone by. If all you fancy is a peaceful walk in stunning surroundings, these harbours and ports are completely free to visit, too (which in this economic climate should never be taken for granted!). 

Port de Soller, Majorca

The harbour of Port de Soller is on the northwest coast of the island. Diverse mountain scenery surrounds the horse shoe shaped bay, which was once a quaint fishing spot. Today, it caters to luxurious cruise liners and attracts holiday makers who fancy a more tranquil getaway on the island of Majorca. Once walking along the harbour, turn round and admire the Tramuntana Mountains, which are known for welcoming sports enthusiasts. In the evening, the promenade which runs parallel to the harbour offers an array of traditional Spanish restaurants serving local cuisine. After a night in Soller, take the historic vintage wooden train to Palma, the island’s capital.

Rhodes Landmark Mandraki Port

Rhodes Landmark Mandraki Port

Rhodes, Greece

Mandraki harbour is located in the north of the Greek island and is famous for its stone statues of a male and female deer, which stand guard at the sea opening. These deer statues have been in position for thousands of years and it’s believed this was where the famous Colossus of Rhodes was raised.  Mandraki was once used as a military port, where the mouth could be closed by chains to prevent invasion.  Today, the harbour boasts excellent cafes and restaurants for holiday makers and locals to enjoy as they soak up the sunshine and the scenery. As you look out to the breakwater front, you will notice three medieval windmills which were once used to grind grain from merchant traders.  This harbour would be ideal for those who value a less mainstream vibe and want to escape mass tourism.

Waterfront of Funchal, Madeira

Waterfront of Funchal, Madeira

Funchal, Madeira

Admittedly Funchal by no means the biggest harbour in Europe, but for what it lacks in size it makes up for in quaint charm.  Despite its beautiful setting, the harbour was bombed ferociously in World War l, when eight ships were sunk in 1916. It has undergone great restoration over several years to make it the popular harbour that is it today. Enjoy succulent seafood on the Vagrant boat, a floating restaurant famous because it was once owned by the Beatles. After your seafood lunch, why not take a boat ride out of the harbour and spot humpback whales swimming in the Atlantic or take a ferry to Porto Santo Island for a relaxing afternoon on the beach? In the evening, the harbour promenade comes alive with tasteful street art and evening markets where you can pick up souvenirs.  With great weather in Madeira all year round, there is no wrong time to visit Funchal.

Adriatic Sea Dubrovnik landscape

Adriatic Sea Dubrovnik landscape

Dubrovnik, Croatia

The Old Harbour in Dubrovnik has been used for trading since the middle ages. However, it now hosts small yachts and leisure boats, which make it ideal for travelling to the nearby Croatian islands.  Charter boats run frequently, which make it really easy for tourists to get involved in travelling along the coast too. On the eastern side of the harbour entrance is the impressive St John’s Fort, used to defend the city in the War of Independence in 1991.  Today the harbour is an ideal holiday destination for tourists; the entire promenade area is completely pedestrianised, which makes a stroll in the warm sun exceptionally peaceful. After a walk along the fort, make your way to the Maritime Museum or perhaps the open-air theatre.

Javea Xabia Mediterranean street facades in Alicante Spain

Javea Xabia Mediterranean street facades in Alicante Spain

Javea, Spain

Javea is one of the classiest resorts in the Costa Blanca region and the harbour here lives up to that reputation.  If you’re a tapas lover then this is the place for you, with plenty of intimate tapas bars dotted around the port, overlooking stylish yachts and cruise liners. The Piripi Tapas Bar, by the seafront, is very popular with both locals and tourists. At the north of the harbour, the marina still acts as a fishing port, meaning that there’s a real abundance of fresh seafood available in the restaurants and local markets.  Although the Fisherman’s church is not directly in the harbour, a visit to this stunning building will give you an idea of the history of this intimate Spanish town. During the day, you can discover small boutique stores and traditional markets. Then there’s the Javea Cinema, which shows both Spanish and English films and can also be found along the port.

A harbour holiday destination guarantees you somewhere to explore.  Whether you’re craving something with plenty of local history, or you want to enjoy charming seafood restaurants and quirky boutique shops, you’ll never be short of things to do.

Last modified: December 26, 2020

Written by 8:49 am Travel

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