Hamburg to Lisbon: Expedition Cruise along Europe’s Historic Atlantic Coast

Hamburg to Lisbon: Expedition Cruise along Europe’s Historic Atlantic Coast

Hamburg to Lisbon: Expedition Cruise along Europe’s Historic Atlantic Coast

Hamburg to Lisbon: Expedition Cruise along Europe’s Historic Atlantic Coast

Travel information 13 Days MS Spitsbergen
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Discover the rich history and cultural heritage of Europe’s Atlantic coast as we sail from Hamburg to Lisbon.

Ancient abbeys, medieval masterpieces, and D-Day battle sites

From the moment we set sail from Hamburg, sometimes called Germany’s ‘Venice of the North’, you’ll take a deep dive into European history. Explore the web of canals in Amsterdam before sailing to England’s Dover, famed its white cliffs and sprawling castle. Then sail to Normandy and walk a beach where the Allied troops landed on D-Day. Then we visit Caen, the medieval town where William the Conqueror left his indelible mark.

In Brittany, you’ll stroll through the old quays of Roscoff, for centuries a home to pirates and smugglers. Then it’s down through the Bay of Biscay to the rugged northern coast of Spain, looking out for marine wildlife along the way. In Galicia, see the world’s oldest still-functioning extant lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules. Then seek out Celtic links to the past in A Coruña.

Culture, cuisine, and cruising

Get lost in the charming maze of streets around Vigo’s Old Town. When hunger strikes, its many bars and restaurants won’t disappoint. Sample exquisite local Gallego cuisine and savor authentic tapas with your Galician cider. Our cruise of discovery comes to an end in culture-laden Lisbon, the jewel in Portugal’s crown.

Our experienced and knowledgeable Expedition Team is on hand to ensure you have the best possible experience on your cruise. Aboard the comfortable MS Spitsbergen, they host informative lectures about our destinations.

Hamburg to Lisbon: Expedition Cruise along Europe’s Historic Atlantic Coast Hamburg to Lisbon: Expedition Cruise along Europe’s Historic Atlantic Coast
  • Day 1
    Hamburg, Germany

    The adventure begins in the ‘Venice of the North.’

    Estimated time of departure is 6:00 PM

    Your expedition cruise sets off from Hamburg, a great place to start an adventure! Germany’s second-largest city is one of the greenest cities in Europe, boasting parks, botanical gardens, and nature reserves. It also offers fascinating history, loads of culture, and magnificent museums, as well as excellent shopping.

    Often called the ‘Venice of the North,’ you can enjoy a boat tour to explore the city’s canals and harbor front. You can also easily explore by foot, bike, or hop-on, hop-off bus service.

    Visit the old Landungsbrücken floating dock, see the old ships and shipyards, waterfront buildings, and the Old Elbe Tunnel. Climb the 433 foot bell tower of the famous St. Michael’s Church for stunning views over the city.

    Many places of interest are concentrated in Altstadt (the Old Town). Visit St. Catherine’s Church and the St. Nikolai Memorial. Discover the timber-framed houses of Deichstraße Historic Street and see the impressive city hall on Rathausmarkt Square.

    The world’s largest warehouse complex at Kontorhausviertel and Speicherstadt, along with the unique architecture of Chilehaus, are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you must choose just one museum to visit, Hamburger Kunsthalle ranks as the nation’s best art museum. You can break up the sightseeing with some browsing on Mönckebergstraße, or stop for some traditional Hamburger fare like aalsuppe, a ham soup with dried fruits, or labskaus, corned beef with potato and pickles.

    Later, your comfortable expedition ship, MS Spitsbergen, will be ready and waiting for you at the port. Find your cabin and attend a mandatory safety demonstration as we prepare for the journey ahead. After a welcome dinner, where the Captain will toast our journey, sink into an armchair in the Explorer Lounge & Bar with your favorite drink and relax—your expedition is underway!


    If you have time prior to embarkation to spare, Hamburg is definitely worth spending some time getting to know. We recommend booking our optional Pre-Program, which includes a city tour that takes in the main sights of this modern-yet-historic city. Also included is a visit to the amazing Elbphilharmonie concert hall’s observation deck.

    Day 1
    Hamburg, Germany

    The adventure begins in the ‘Venice of the North.’

  • Day 2
    Sea day

    Amsterdam bound

    Today we’ll sail south, following the outer coast of the Frisian Islands as we head toward the Netherlands. These sandy islands form a low-lying archipelago that fringes the eastern edge of the North Sea. Even though many of them are populated, the Frisian Islands are mostly sandbanks and are constantly reforming and reshaping.

    Our onboard Expedition Team will start its lecture program. They give talks in the Explorer Lounge and offer insights into the history, heritage, and natural science of our upcoming destinations. Why not follow our biologists to the outdoor decks as they scan the seas for wildlife?

    This is also the perfect time to really get to know the ship and all its facilities. As we set off on our journey, spend some time getting to know the crew and your fellow explorers. Strike up a conversation at the bar and see what you have in common with your shipmates, or relax in a comfortable chair by a window and watch the sea calmly roll by.

    Day 2
    Sea day

    Amsterdam bound

  • Day 3
    Amsterdam, Netherlands

    The city where land meets sea

    Behold, Dutch soil! Wander the quaint cobblestone streets and see the reflective canals of Amsterdam, the city where land meets sea. This famously liberal capital is a showcase of architectural styles and is saturated in history.

    Founded in the Middle Ages, Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city with a rich cultural heritage. Located at the estuary of the river Ij, the original settlement was built on islets of moving sand linked by a thousand bridges. Water remains all pervasive and this city still looks to the sea.

    The concentric, semi-circular rings of canals found in the city’s original core look somewhat like a spider’s web on the map. All streets and bridges seem to spread radially from Singel, the inner city and the oldest part of Amsterdam. It’s a good idea to begin exploring here and then continue later with the western and eastern canals.

    Walk around beside these iconic canals and across the old bridges between the rivers Amstel and Ij. Admire the charming townhouses lining the canals of the Grachtengordel. They were built in the 17th and 18th centuries by wealthy merchants and are now protected by UNESCO.

    Head over to Museumplein, where three of the world's top museums await. The Rijksmuseum hosts one of Europe’s greatest galleries, known for its unrivalled collection of Dutch masters, including Rembrandt. Meanwhile, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum has the world’s largest collection of paintings from the troubled genius, while the Stedelijk Museum is one of the best places to view modern art.

    If you’re tired of walking, you could go on one of the many canal boat tours on offer. There are many different operators, and some provide a hop-on-hop-off service at the main sites.

    Day 3
    Amsterdam, Netherlands

    The city where land meets sea

  • Day 4
    Dover, United Kingdom

    Iconic white cliffs and medieval fortifications

    Located facing the narrowest stretch of the English Channel and flanked by spectacular chalk cliffs, Dover has been the gateway to Britain since prehistoric times. Founded during Roman times, the settlement of Dover quickly became the main port between the provinces of Britannia and Gallia Balgica. Its strategic position has remained important ever since.

    Start your day with dazzling views of the Channel on a visit to sprawling Dover Castle, just a short walk from the port. History buffs won’t be disappointed by this huge fortress. Admire the Roman lighthouse, the 13th-century gates and the massive outer defenses built during the Napoleonic Wars.

    Consider paying a visit to the underground barrack tunnels that served as the fire command post during the Great War and later as the headquarters of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay during the evacuation of French and British soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940.

    Still hungry for historical sites? Make your way to Dover’s only remaining Norman church, the 12th-century St. Mary’s, which survived the heavy bombing of World War II. Or explore another medieval building that survived the war, the 13th-century Hospital of St Mary, also known as Maison Dieu, now part of the Town Hall.

    The Western Heights of Dover are worth a visit if you’re looking for more fortifications to explore. Rhese vast defenses are within walking distance from the port and comprise forts, strongholds, and ditches built in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    No visit is complete without snapping the perfect shot of the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, just east of Dover Castle. Continue eastward to the South Foreland Lighthouse for magnificent views or explore picturesque St. Margaret’s Bay, four miles away.

    Day 4
    Dover, United Kingdom

    Iconic white cliffs and medieval fortifications

  • Day 5
    Ouistreham, France

    D-Day landings and battlefields

    Normandy has a rich and turbulent past and forms an inextricable part of European history. From the Viking Rollo’s arrival in 911 to being the seat of the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066—not to mention the D-Day landings in 1944—Normandy is a captivating mix of medieval abbeys, sprawling beaches, and emotive World War II memorials. Ouistreham is known for its D-Day landing sites connected with Operation Overlord. A 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast was sectioned into five areas, with Ouistreham codenamed ‘Sword’. The invasion here was the responsibility of the British Army, with backup from the navies of Norway and Poland. At the Musée de Debarquement No 4 Commando, learn more about the landings and the heavy battle fought here.

    Visit the extensive German fortifications at the restored Grand Bunker Mur de l’Atlantique Musée, dedicated to the Atlantic Wall. Then pay tribute to the fallen at the war cemetery of Hermanville-sur-Mer, three miles west of Ouistreham. Afterward, feel the salty Atlantic breeze as you stroll along the beautiful Riva-Bella beach. Consider visiting the nearby 12th-century church of St. Samson and the 1905 lighthouse. Located 11 miles from Ouistreham, Caen was named ‘Catumagos’ by the Romans, derived from a Celtic term for battlefields. Fortified by William the Conqueror, who preferred it to Rouen, the city changed hands repeatedly and was occupied several times. Despite heavy bombing during World War II, Caen was rebuilt and retains considerable charm. Don’t miss the impressive 11th-century Romanesque church of Saint-Étienne.

    Stroll the pleasant streets and take in the small shops, pavement cafés, green parks, and restaurants. Lovers of fine art will enjoy the Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed in the remains of the Château de Caen.

    Day 5
    Ouistreham, France

    D-Day landings and battlefields

  • Day 6
    Roscoff, France

    Buccaneers’ hideout, corsairs’ den

    Sheltered by the island of Batz, old Roscoff is a delightful little port that is heavily influenced by its pirating past. Simply strolling up and down the quays of the old tidal harbor and observing the bustle of boats heading to the island of Batz, the fishing boats and modern yachts, is a pleasure that shouldn’t be missed. And don’t be fooled by the ferry port, as it doesn’t hold a candle to the charm of the old port. Built in the 1970s just east of the historic town center, the deep-water port has been a blessing to Roscoff by preserving the traditional seafront.

    Old Roscoff’s success story is intimately related to the conflicts with England. Shipowners, corsairs, and smugglers were engaged in and profited from a centuries-long struggle with their northern neighbors across the channel. Corsairs from Roscoff sailed from the old port to join in the battle for control of the seas that raged for ages between France and England. In parallel, though less bloody, many merchants achieved success by trading for centuries with the Hanseatic League, Flanders, Portugal, and Spain.

    The city benefited from its wealthy citizens, who left behind an abundance of lavish buildings. Take your time enjoying the picturesque streets of the historic town overlooking the sea. Visit the church of Notre-Dame de Croaz Batz, walk up and down the street on Rue Albert de Mun, and admire the houses built in the 16th century. Then, make your way to the Pointe de Bloscon with its tiny Chapelle Sainte-Barbe and gaze out over the Bay of Morlaix. And if you are an adventurous eater, there are many restaurants where you can taste local specialties, such as fresh fish, seafood platters, and the traditional and world-famous Breton crêpes.

    Roscoff is the gateway to Haut-Léon, the northernmost area in the department of Finistère, the Land’s End region of France. If you want to explore more of this fascinating corner of Brittany, don’t hesitate to join one of our optional excursions to some of the gems of Breton heritage.

    Day 6
    Roscoff, France

    Buccaneers’ hideout, corsairs’ den

  • Day 7
    At sea

    Sailing the Bay of Biscay

    Today, we’ll enjoy a leisurely sailing across the western edge of the Bay of Biscay on our way to the Galicia region of Spain.

    In Roman days, these waters were named Sinus Cantabrorum after the Cantabri, the Celtic tribe inhabiting the northern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula. Today, the southern portion of the Bay of Biscay, adjacent to the northern Spanish coast, is still called the Cantabrian Sea.

    Relax on deck with your binoculars and look for wildlife. Cetaceans can often be spotted here. In fact, up to one quarter of all the world’s species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been spotted in the Bay’s waters. They are drawn here by the nutrient rich waters around the edge of the continental shelf. You could be lucky and spot a beaked whale, as this is one of the few places in the world where they can be seen.

    If you haven’t already, now is a good time to check out the onboard Science Center. You have abundant information at your fingertips to learn about the marine biology of the seas along our cruise. Take part in hands-on demonstrations, use high-tech microscopes to view marine microorganisms, and learn nature photography tips.

    Join the Expedition Team in the Explorer Lounge for in-depth lectures on different topics related to the days ahead. These might include learning about the history, geography, and environment of upcoming destinations. Don’t forget to make full use of the leisure facilities on board MS Spitsbergen. This is the perfect time to try out the panoramic sauna!

    Day 7
    At sea

    Sailing the Bay of Biscay

  • Day 8
    A Coruña, Spain

    Guided by the light of Hercules

    We continue our Atlantic journey across the Bay of Biscay, towards Finisterre, ‘The End of the Earth’ in northwestern Spain. Despite its apparent isolation at the edge of the Iberian Peninsula, Finisterre and the rest of the Galicia region have played a central role in Atlantic Europe since prehistoric times.

    Ships sailing to and from the Mediterranean had to navigate the rugged Galician coast and seek shelter from the occasional fury of the ocean in its natural rias. They may look like fjords, but these rias are not flooded glacial valleys like the Norwegian fjords, but rather river valleys flooded after the last glaciation. Their gentle banks hold an age-old allure and have caused farming and fishing to thrive in this region.

    The oldest functioning extant lighthouse in the world, known as the Tower of Hercules, bears witness to this enduring relationship with the sea. Built around 2,000 years ago in Roman times, this tower in A Coruña has survived against all odds and still helps ships navigate the tricky Finisterre coast of Spain and safely enter A Coruña’s natural harbor. The lighthouse has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.

    We expect to dock at A Coruña in the evening. This will give you plenty to stroll into town from the port and visit the unique lighthouse. Galicians, it has long been claimed, are among the toughest fishermen in Spain. Maritime heritage permeates many aspects of life here, as you will discover as you explore.

    Day 8
    A Coruña, Spain

    Guided by the light of Hercules

  • Day 9
    A Coruña, Spain

    Gateway to Galicia

    A Coruña is one of the main cities in Galicia, a region of Spain that is culturally distinct and has its own identity. Galicians speak Galician Galego, a language that is closer to Portuguese than Spanish. The people here are also proud of their Celtic roots.

    Settled by Celtic peoples from at least the first millennium, A Coruña flourished under the Romans. It was conquered during the Arab invasion at the beginning of the eighth century and re-conquered shortly thereafter by soldiers under Christian command. As if that wasn’t enough, A Coruña was repeatedly attacked by Vikings in the ninth and tenth centuries.

    Today, the historical center is an enticing mix of charming squares, winding streets, and narrow alleys. It is a perfect city for exploring by foot. It is home to ancient chapels, Baroque convents, and many displays of Neoclassical architecture. Stroll through the old town and admire the famous glass-fronted buildings by the harbor. Don’t miss the architectural structures at Plaza María Pía and the archeological museum located at the old castle.

    If you didn’t manage to see the Tower of Hercules yesterday evening, be sure to do so today. After your exploration, take a break and visit one of the many bars or restaurants, and sample the unique Galician cuisine. Order a selection of tapas, which might include the classic pulpo a la Gallega (Galician octopus) and sample a glass of famous Galician cider, traditionally poured into a glass from a considerable height.

    A Coruña is an excellent base for exploring the highlights of Galicia, including the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the Roman walls of Lugo and the pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela. Join one of our optional guided tours to explore these two major sites.

    Day 9
    A Coruña, Spain

    Gateway to Galicia

  • Day 10
    Vigo, Spain

    Galician traditions

    Vigo has one of the best natural harbors in Galicia—perfectly sheltered inside a ria and protected by the beautiful Cíes Islands. The city flourished in the 16th century, attracting traders and settlers—along with pirates and other invaders. But Vigo persevered and grew to become Galicia’s main trading and fishing port.

    For centuries, Vigo was the gateway to the Americas. Many Galicians, as well as other Spaniards, emigrated to the New World from here. Even today, people in some Latin American countries sometimes refer to people of Spanish descent as Gallegos, regardless of where in Spain their ancestors came from.

    Vigo expanded eastwards in the 19th and early 20th centuries along the bustling Rúa do Príncipe with an eclectic mix of buildings in neoclassical and Art Nouveau styles. The most impressive structure of all could be the 16th-century Castro Castle and its surrounding park, featuring spectacular views of the town. Nearby, you’ll find the remains of a settlement from the iron age, called Castro—the original settlement where Vigo now stands, from more than 2,000 years ago.

    The port is perfectly located for exploring the city on foot. Vigo is built on the slope of a hill overlooking the ria, which means that almost everything is uphill from the harbor. The old town’s maze of streets are organized around Plaza de Igrexa and the 19th-century neoclassical cathedral of Santa Maria.

    On your way to the square and the cathedral, stop by Rúa da Pescadería, the best street in town to sample the delicious seafood Galicia is famous for. Then stop for a coffee at Praza da Constitución, a lovely square with pretty houses, cafés, and restaurants.

    Day 10
    Vigo, Spain

    Galician traditions

  • Day 11
    Porto, Portugal

    The city of port wine

    MS Spitsbergen will dock at Leixões, an excellent jumping-off point for exploring Portugal. Take this opportunity to head north toward the small fortification of Forte Leça de Palmeira and continue along the beach to Avenida Liberdade. You could also visit the Lighthouse of Leça, the Chapel of Boa Nova, and the beautiful Praia Azul beach.

    A shuttle bus is also available take you the six or so miles to Porto. Famous for its port wine and UNESCO-listed historic center, Portugal’s second-largest city will win you over with its charismatic look and surprise you with its modernity. It’s a place made for strolling, filled with mazes of narrow streets and unique monuments, where everything eventually leads to the Douro River.

    Don’t skip the Church of San Francisco, the Romanesque cathedral with an opulently gilded Baroque interior, or the panoramic views from the top of the Church of the Clérigos. Are you a bookworm? Lose yourself among the magical Neo-Gothic interior of the beautiful Lello bookstore, and then discover the Palácio de la Bolsa and stroll along Avenida de los Aliados.

    Soak up the atmosphere along the bustling riverside promenade at the Ribeira docks, packed tight with pastel houses and beautiful tiled façades. Cross the Douro River via the top deck of the Eiffel Tower–inspired Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge, see the warehouses and port cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia on the south bank, and then cross the bridge again along the lower walkway.

    Reward yourself afterward with a refreshing white port and tonic at one of the many lively bars and restaurants on the pier. Have you built up an appetite? Try Porto delicacies like the francesinha (a popular grilled meat and cheese sandwich) and the local variant of salt cured cod, called bacalhao.

    Day 11
    Porto, Portugal

    The city of port wine

  • Day 12
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Legendary Lisbon

    Estimated time of arrival is 7:00 AM

    We’ll sail south all morning, so why not join the Expedition Team for more fascinating talks? You could also head on deck to scan the sea for marine life. We expect to arrive in Lisbon in the afternoon, so prepare to discover the ultimate destination on your cruise.

    Located close to the Old Town, Lisbon Cruise Terminal is perfectly situated to explore the historical center of the Portuguese capital on foot. Built on seven hills along the shores of the scenic River Tagus, Lisbon ranks among southern Europe’s most enchanting metropolises—with a fascinating history, to boot.

    The Phoenicians were the first to discover the commercial potential of the Tagus Estuary, but not the last. Lisbon’s strategic location attracted the Celts, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors, each of whom occupied the city and left their mark.

    You simply must walk around Baixa, Bairro Alto, and Alfama, the classical districts of Lisbon. Almost everything of historic interest is here, along with a great number of small shops and boutiques. Start at the Praça do Comercio in the Baixa district and make your way to Praça Rossio to see the statue of King Pedro IV. Then head up to Largo do Chiado to explore the narrow streets of Bairro Alto.

    In Alfama’s labyrinthine of narrow streets around the old Muslim quarter, you’ll find Lisbon Cathedral, the remains of the Roman amphitheater, and Castelo de San Jorge, the impressive 11th-century Moorish fortress which offers the best views of the city.

    There are two historical gems you must leave the center to see. Follow the river four miles downstream and visit Torre de Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Closely connected to Portugal’s Age of Discovery and explorers such as Vasco de Gama, Belém is also home of the famously delicious Pastel de Belém custard tart. Don’t pass that one up!

    Day 12
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Legendary Lisbon

  • Day 13
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Farewell in Lisbon

    Estimated time of arrival is 7:00 AM

    Our expedition cruise ends at Lisbon. After breakfast, bid a fond farewell to MS Spitsbergen and to the people who made your expedition so memorable, including the Expedition Team and crew members.


    We are confident that your cruise through the fascinating history of Europe’s Atlantic coastline has been fantastic, but you don’t need to go home just yet. Want to explore Lisbon and its surroundings before returning home? We recommend joining our optional Post-Program.

    On this Post-Program, you’ll explore Lisbon’s fascinating historic districts and then resorts outside the city, including the UNESCO World Heritage town of Sintra, Monserrate Palace, and a guided excursion to the beaches of Cascais. Then you’ll return to Lisbon to spend the night.

    As you return home, no doubt you’ll already be planning your next adventure. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon!

    Day 13
    Lisbon, Portugal

    Farewell in Lisbon


Available Promotions on This Itinerary:

What’s included

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in the cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in the Aune restaurant
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organizes and guides activities, both on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard activities

  • Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center, which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • The Citizen Science program, which allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • The ship has hot tubs, a sauna with a view, and an indoor gym
  • Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations

Landing Activities

  • Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition photographers will help configure your camera settings before landings

Not included in your voyage

  • Air travel
  • Transfer to/from ship/airport
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team

  • All planned activities are subject to weather and ice conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please ensure you can meet all entry and boarding requirements
  • No gratuities are expected
A large ship in a body of water
Longyearbyen, Svalbard - MS Spitsbergen
Photo: Genna Roland
A group of people posing for the camera
Photo: Stefan Dall / Hurtigruten
Your Ship

MS Spitsbergen

Year built 2009
Year of refurbishment 2016
Shipyard Estaleiro Navais de Viana do Castelo (POR)
Passenger capacity 220
Beds 243
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 7,344
Length 100.54 m
Beam 18 m
Speed 14.5 knots
A large ship in a body of water

MS Spitsbergen is named after the crown jewel of Arctic Norway: the Svalbard archipelago and its biggest island, Spitsbergen. Hurtigruten has a long history of traveling to Spitsbergen, beginning in 1896 with the ‘Sports Route’. 

Read more about MS Spitsbergen

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