From Nordic fjords to Mediterranean islands, there’s no shortage of beauty you can experience when you explore Europe by ferry. This continent boasts some incredibly scenic ferry rides that bring you up close and personal with UNESCO heritage sites, thousands of miles of coastline, preserved architecture, and even rare birds or animals during your crossing.
Below is a curated list of Europe's top 10 most beautiful ferry routes. If you're a ferry enthusiast looking for your next favorite route, continue reading for inspiring options.
1. Split to Dubrovnik (Croatia)
With more than 1,777 km of coastline, Croatia is an unbeatable destination for ferry enthusiasts. There’s no shortage of historic seaside cities you can explore when you set foot in this part of Europe. While Croatia has numerous ferry routes you can take to crisscross the country, the ferry ride from Split to Dubrovnik is easily regarded as the most alluring.
Throughout your time on the ferry during this trip, you have uninterrupted views of the country’s famed Dalmatian Coast. As you sail south on the Adriatic Sea, fix your eyes on the left side of the ferry. You’ll pass by islands like Brac and Hvar, which boast near-perfect white shorelines and red-roofed houses that are synonymous with Croatian architecture.
From there, you’ll continue on toward Dubrovnik, where its fortress walls serve as your introduction to the city. As your ferry prepares to dock, you’ll get a good, long look at the Croatian countryside. This dramatic stretch of land slopes uphill beyond Old Town and gives you your first taste of all the region offers.
We couldn't skip this fantastic route as our first choice, as the views are worth way more than the price of your ferry tickets!
2. Ancona to Split (Italy to Croatia)
Ferrying into a Croatian port is just as remarkable if you do it from Italy. Ancona, a port city on Italy’s eastern coast, serves as the starting point for one of Europe’s most scenic ferry rides (Ancona-Split). When you set sail from this Italian destination, the city’s sand-colored buildings will slowly fade away behind you as you make your journey to Croatia.
Expect few to no swells or jolts as you cross the Adriatic Sea, which Croatians famously say is as “calm as oil.” As you travel along the serene waters, you’ll gradually see the rolling hills and higher mountains of the Croatian landscape come into view.
When you near the end of your ferry, you’ll emerge in front of the city’s white and camel-colored buildings, which sit flush with the seaside. From there, you’ll be able to journey onward into Split or to another coastal city.
3. Athens to Mykonos (Greece)
Many would have expected this one as our first choice, but we like the views of the castles and antiquities in Croatia more…
Exploring the Greek Islands by boat is one of the most traditional and memorable ways to experience the country. Greeks and their neighbors have explored the Aegean Sea by ferry for centuries.
In fact, this iconic Greek experience is renowned for a reason: It’s guaranteed to give you some gorgeous views of the country and its surrounding bodies of water.
While there are numerous Greek islands you can ferry to from Athens, the route to Mykonos is one of the most scenic.
This bite-sized trip is usually less than three hours long, giving you enough time to drink in the region’s shimmering, blue waters before disembarking on the island.
And the best part? You’ll have easy access to many of the country’s other famous islands if you want to take another ferry ride when you leave Mykonos. This island is well-connected to other famous parts of the Cyclades, like Santorini and Naxos. Each offers its picturesque city views, so be sure to visit them by ferry, too, when you get the chance.
Even seen Santorini from below?
Santorini is, of course, a must ‘see' location! The scenic views alone are worth your trip!
4. Venice to Burano (Italy)
If you’ve never been to Venice, you might be surprised to learn it’s built on a series of islands off the coast of Italy’s mainland, making it a water lover’s dream destination. Because of its unique geographical makeup, one of the most popular and convenient ways to explore the various parts of the city is by gondola. These famous boats crisscross the city’s numerous canals and transport you to various corners of the city.
However, if you’re craving a more extensive excursion that takes you to a quieter part of the city, hop on one of the local vaporetti (the Italian word for “steamboats”). These ferries will take you to Burano, a nearby island you’ve almost definitely seen in pictures of Venice online or in magazines.
You’ll know you’re approaching the cheery island when you see slender houses painted in all shades of the rainbow:
Before you arrive, your ferry will meander in between and alongside some of the other Venetian islands that rest in the lagoon. During this 30-45-minute ride, you’ll never be without a new site to see as you sail alongside historic buildings and other boaters enjoying the captivating experience.
It's time for more Northern European scenes around spot #5 of our top 10 best ferry rides in Europe!
5. Stockholm to Helsinki (Sweden to Finland)
The overnight ferry between Sweden and Finland’s capitals takes significantly longer than flying between the cities. However, the views you’ll see while you’re on the water make it a worthwhile way to spend 17 hours or so.
As your ferry disembarks in Stockholm, you’ll first navigate the Swedish archipelago and meander around the various islands that make up this part of the country:
During this time, you’ll have pristine views of green, Swedish nature before you head out to open water.
About halfway through your trip, your ferry will stop at the Åland Islands before sailing along their southern coastlines. Here, you’ll have another opportunity to drink in a panoramic view of the Nordic countryside as you look on toward the islands.
To close out your trip, you'll have one final chance to experience the serenity of the Baltic Sea before docking in Helsinki. Even though this is an overnight ferry ride, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to soak up the region’s beauty before and after you rest for the evening.
6. Gudvangen to Kaupanger (Norway)
When your ferry ride transports you through UNESCO sites, you know you’re in for a real treat. That’s the experience you’ll get when you take a local Norwegian ferry from Gudvangen to Kaupanger, both of which are located in the southwestern part of the country.
Note: These 2.5-hour ferries can only be booked in the summer!
This famous ride brings you alongside some quintessentially Norwegian landscapes as your ferry navigates the fjords.
Waterfalls crash down the steep, green mountainsides around you as your ferry passes through Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, the real gems of the trip.
While the ride takes place almost entirely in Norway’s famous fjords, these two are internationally recognized UNESCO sites because of their natural beauty and wonder. Here, the passage is narrow and whimsical, and the mountain walls feel so close you think you could reach out and touch them.
These two passageways are widely considered to be the most beautiful fjords on the planet, so take in every minute of the view during your journey into Kaupanger.
Ps. This is the ferry you'll be traveling on:
7. St. Malo to St. Helier (France to Jersey)
When you think about the most scenic ferry rides in Europe, a trip to Jersey from France might not be the first thing to come to mind. However, just because it’s not the most popular route on this list doesn’t mean you should overlook it.
The self-governing island of Jersey is full of history you can easily observe from the water, which makes it a scenic ferry destination. This island itself sits approximately three hours from mainland Europe, and it’s accessible from St. Malo, a city on France’s northwestern coast.
The highlight of this trip is the view (especially during sundown) you’ll have of St. Helier as your ferry sails toward the harbor in Jersey.
One of the city’s main attractions, Elizabeth Castle, juts into the English Channel on your left as you sail toward St. Helier. You’ll have a chance to view the Tudor-style architecture from a variety of vantage points as your ferry approaches the shoreline, which is dotted with shops and other buildings.
While unsettling waves can cause this trip to feel a little rockier than you might like, it’s not a cause for worry. The ferry you’ll take to cross the channel is large enough to absorb much of the rolling and jostling you’d feel otherwise.
8. Aran Islands to Galway City (Ireland)
The Aran Islands are an easy ferry ride from Galway City or Doolin, both of which are located on Ireland’s western coast. Boating to any of these islands is a worthy way to spend a day on your Irish vacation. The journey comes with exceptional views of the islands’ sweeping cliffs, which are famous in this part of the country.
However, the crown jewel of this excursion presents itself when you’re sailing back to the mainland. Before your ferry heads toward Galway from Inis Mór, Inis Meáin, or Inis Oír, some of the most popular Aran Islands, you’ll soon find yourself staring down the famous Cliffs of Moher.
Aran Island Ferries make it a point to head south before turning back toward Galway so you can get an unobstructed view of the famous cliffs. If you want to see one of the country’s most famous natural wonders, this ferry ride gives you the best opportunity to do so from a variety of vantage points.
During your time on the ferry, you’ll have the opportunity to sit face-to-face with the cliff’s skyscraping rockfront. (It's a +/- 50 minutes extra detour) Watch the waves pummel into the landscape or catch a glimpse of the region’s famous birds zipping around the area before heading back to Galway.
9. Barcelona to Mallorca (Spain)
Situated on the northeastern corner of Spain’s coast, Barcelona is a transportation hub connecting many of the country’s Balearic Islands to the mainland. While the city itself is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Spain, it’s also the best jumping-off point for visiting Mallorca.
Mallorca is the biggest of the Balearic Islands, and it’s the most scenic to visit via ferry.
The Balearic Sea is the portion of the Mediterranean that stretches between Barcelona and Mallorca. It’s known for its calm, warm waters that serve as the perfect backdrop for your ferry excursion.
While much of the ride takes place on open water, what you do see is gorgeous. Plus, you’ll have a picture-perfect view of Palma, Mallorca’s famous seaport, when you sail into the harbor.
10. Algeciras to Tangier (Spain to Morocco)
There aren’t many places in the world that are a day’s trip away from another continent, but this is true for a variety of cities in Southern Spain. In this part of the world, it’s entirely possible to sail from Europe to Africa in the morning and make it back to your hotel in time for a late dinner.
While many of the ferry routes that leave from Spain’s Costa del Sol are lovely, the one that sails from Algeciras to Tangier gives you the most photo ops.
When leaving Spain’s Algeciras port, you’ll first navigate alongside the famous Rock of Gibraltar, which towers over your ferry as you sail beside it. Then, you’ll head into the historic Strait of Gibraltar, which is a novel experience for ferry and boating enthusiasts.
From there, be ready to experience rocky seas as you pass over waters rushing in from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. The views will be worth it, though, when you finally dock in Tangier and take in the city’s sun-bleached architecture.
When and how to Book these fantastic rides
Europe is a popular summer travel destination, and for good reason. Every year, the continent’s cities and beaches fill to the brim with travelers looking to experience all the beauty Europe has to offer. Because of this, many of the ferry routes mentioned in this article are in high demand throughout June, July, and August.
In order to guarantee a spot on your ferry of choice, reserve your ticket online as soon as possible. This used to be challenging because many European ferry routes are independently operated. If these companies had websites in the past, it wasn’t common for them to be difficult to navigate or written in the local language only.
Now, booking an international ferry ride is easier than ever when you use our site to help you find and reserve the passage of your dreams. Search the destination you want to visit, select the route you want, and let your dreams come true!