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Things to see and do on Spanish and Portuguese river cruises

Spain and Portugal don’t typically spring to mind when it comes to river cruises in Europe, but both countries have a range of Mediterranean gems to explore.

View of Plaza de Espana, in Seville, Spain
Discover the gorgeous Plaza de Espana when you sail through Seville.

Spain and Portugal don’t typically spring to mind when it comes to river cruises in Europe, but these two sibling countries have many beautiful rivers where avid travellers can sail. Here are just a few of the Mediterranean staples and gems you will be able to see from the deck of your river cruise ship, plus some towns and cities where you can spend a day or two stretching your legs on holidays in Europe.

Spanish river cruises…

There is so much to see on holidays in the hot landscape of Spain, a country that has witnessed the rise and fall of empires through history. For trips and tours on the water, it is hard to beat the treasures of Andalucía, for some of the best tourist attractions in Spain.


In the south of Spain you will find the historic Andalusian city of Seville, which stands in contrast to Moorish and medieval Cadiz. Legend has it that Seville was founded by Hercules, the Greek demi-god, and today the city boasts three UNESCO World Heritage sites. Summer temperatures average at around 30°C and festivals come thick and fast to this joyful and historical city, including La Feria de Abril. It is one of the must-see stops on a Spain cruise tour, not least for Alcazar Palace and the Casa de Pilatos, a grand house built in the 15th century for two prominent Sevillian families of the time.


Cadiz, on the other hand, lies on the coast, and commands some of the best views the Spanish coastline has to offer on holidays here. A historic walled city that has seen the influence of the Romans and the Moors, its cobbled streets will have you wandering into forts, churches and the famous watchtower of Torre Tavira, where you can enjoy some fantastic vistas across the skyline.

El Puerto de Santa Maria

Right next to Cadiz is El Puerto de Santa Maria, a port city that houses El Puerto’s natural beauties, like its golden sandy beaches, azure seas, and emerald green pine forests. The town itself is famous for holding festivals throughout the year, with favourites including the Virgen del Carmen festival that celebrates the community’s fishing and maritime history. Don’t miss out on seeing the Castillo de San Marcos on your holidays, a castle that has stood in the centre of town for almost 800 years.

Portugal river cruises…

On to Portugal holidays – sail across the belly of the Algarve, where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The weather is similar to the hot, dry summers on the southern coast of Spain. You can see the cultural influence of Portugal’s sister-nation everywhere, and there are plenty of things to do on holidays in Portugal.


Alcoutim is part of the Algarve, although it is not one of the region’s most famous beach towns, but sits on the banks of the Guadiana River. The town’s personality is different to the sun-bleached coastal communities of the Algarve, and the houses are quaint and colourful. The landscape is greener in this part of Portugal, and visitors can amble along the river banks where wild flowers grow on their holidays, or watch from the deck of their ship, as other boats languidly sail by.

Vila Real

If you want to travel north of the Algarve into the heart of Portugal on your tour, then exploring the country’s capital city of Lisbon, or spending a few days in its pretty riverside city of Porto (the home of port wine), are both great ways to immerse yourself in Portuguese culture.

However, off the beaten track – northeast of Porto – you will find Vila Real, a city founded by King Dinis in Portugal’s Middle Ages. It is situated near the beautiful Douro Valley, making it ideal for an excursion when you are sailing down the river on Portugal holidays.

Disembark to tour the Palácio de Mateus, a palace built in the Baroque style of the 18th century and considered to be a prominent landmark of the town. It was the birthplace of Diogo Cão, the first Western explorer to come across the great Congo River in the 15th century.

If you want to discover the wonders of the Mediterranean by embarking on one of Saga’s river cruises to Europe, then call one of our representatives, and we can walk you through the river cruises on offer. Decide what holiday and which ship to book, and discover an inclusive travel service with airport and home drop-off incorporated. Spend your nights at sea and explore the world on cruise ships, from France to Germany, Italy to Spain and Portugal, there are plenty of European destinations available.

Discover a range of Spanish and Portuguese river cruises from Saga.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.