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Some of the most spectacular cities in the world have a waterside setting. Think of Sydney, with its breathtaking harbour; or Paris, with its iconic Seine River; or the Bosphorus in Istanbul; and the list goes on. The best way to really appreciate the beauty of these cities is often from the water. Most of these cities have tourist boats to take visitors on a leisurely cruise, with guides on board to point out the sights. In many of these cities, there’s also a water transport network such as ferries and water taxis, which visitors can also utilise. Here are my favourite city cruises around the world:

sydney-plane-window-view-photo
View of Sydney Harbour from a plane window.

Ten city cruises for stunning views

I’ve been on many city cruises and local ferries around the world and quite a few of them were absolutely worthwhile for the stunning views. However, I’ve limited myself to listing ten of my favourite city cruises. If you’re in any of the cities below, get on a boat and enjoy the views!

Cape Town, South Africa

Take the Robben Island ferry from the V&A Waterfront for spectacular views of the Cape Town skyline with its famous Table Mountain backdrop, one of the top things to do in Cape Town.

Book a champagne sunset cruise.

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Cape Town view from Robben Island.

San Francisco, USA

San Francisco is blessed with one of the most magnificent harbours in the world. For some absolutely stunning views of the city skyline and the harbour, hop on a ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf to Angel Island (a gorgeous state park). An alternative is to hop on a cruise that takes you from Fisherman’s Wharf around Alcatraz island, under the Golden Gate Bridge, to the harbour entrance.

Book a catamaran sunset cruise.

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

New York, USA

One of the best ways to appreciate the Lower Manhattan skyline as well as Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and the impressive Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is to hop on the world-famous Staten Island Ferry. The best part is: it’s free!

Book a New York cruise.

New York skyline (image courtesy of Mike Valdivia/Unsplash)

Paris, France

I can’t leave Paris out of this list can I? There are numerous river cruises in Paris to choose from for a leisurely ride down the Seine past iconic monuments such as the Notré Dame and Eiffel Tower.

Book a sunset Seine River cruise.

Join an evening cruise along the Seine to see the Paris lights! (Image courtesy of Anthony Delanoix/Unsplash).

London, England

Another European city cruise that can’t be missed is along the Thames River in London! See the mix of old and new, from the towering Shard to the elegant Tower Bridge and the impressive Houses of Parliament and Big Ben!

Book a London Eye cruise.

London Thames river cruise (image courtesy of Luca Vavassori/Unsplash).

Sydney, Australia

The Sydney water transport network is extensive, making it a breeze to use public ferries to enjoy the wonders of Sydney Harbour. From Circular Quay, I can recommend the ferries to Manly (a popular ocean-side town) and Taronga Zoo. Both lines offer truly unforgettable vistas of the harbour and the Sydney skyline.

Book a BBQ lunch cruise.

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Sydney Harbour Bridge seen from Circular Quay

Hong Kong, China

The ‘Manhattan of Asia’ surely lives up to its name. The best way to view the stunning skyscrapers on both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon (on the mainland) is to take a ferry along Victoria Harbour, one of the best things to do in Hong Kong. Of all the ferry services, the Star Ferry is the most famous and plies between various points along the north shore of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. An alternative is to take the ferry to the outlying Lamma or Lantau islands, or further afield, to Macao.

Book a harbour cruise by junk boat.

See the Hong Kong skyline from a Star Ferry (image courtesy of Jason Lam/Unsplash).

Istanbul, Turkey

A cruise across the Bosphorus is an absolute must for anyone visiting this amazing city. There are many tourist cruise lines that take visitors past the gorgeous sights such as the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Golden Horn, the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosques, and the many splendorous villas and palaces that dot the Bosphorus. A cheap alternative is to take the municipal ferry from Eminonu. The ferry route offers unrivalled panoramas of the city skyline and passes various palaces (including the Dolmabahçe) and fortresses, as well as quaint villages and smart neighbourhoods as it zigzags between the European and Asian banks of the Bosphorus.

Book a Bosphorus cruise.

A Bosphorus cruise is a must-do in Istanbul! (Image courtesy of Desert Morocco Adventure/Unsplash)

Shanghai, China

Located at the mouth of the Yangtze river, Shanghai certainly has one of the most impressive skylines in the world. A great way to experience the sights and sounds of this magnificent city is the Huangpu River cruise. It takes visitors along the Bund, with its stately colonial buildings, and past the glittering skyscrapers in Pudong such as the Jin Mao Tower and the World Financial Centre. Along the way, the never-ending flow of boats that ply the river will keep you entertained if your neck starts to ache from looking up at some of the tallest buildings in the world.

Book a private tour and evening cruise.

The impressive Shanghai skyline (image courtesy of Ralf Leineweber/Unsplash).

Amsterdam, Netherlands

And of course, my hometown, Amsterdam! A cruise along the Amsterdam canals is definitely a must-do, especially for first-time visitors to Amsterdam. There are many canal cruise companies which offer a variety of cruises, from the standard sightseeing cruise to candlelit dinner cruises. An Amsterdam canal cruise is a fantastic way to see this beautiful city and learn about its history.

Book an Amsterdam canal cruise.

Amsterdam canal cruise

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