For great views and cheap fares, take the ferry or water bus

Pretty Danube River in Budapest
Pretty Danube River in Budapest

For great views and cheap fares, take the ferry or water bus

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Ever notice that some of the best views of an urban landscape often incorporate a watery foreground? Taking in a city or making a photoshoot from across a river or harbor is easily done when said town offers boat, canal or harbor cruises. While those tailored to tourists can be lots of fun, they often come in at a cost hitting a frugal traveler’s budget like a cannonball. But locals need to get from A to B too, which means many cities offer ferry services as part of their public transportation networks. What gets commuters back and forth to their daily grinds can spell an inexpensive means to see a city from a new perspective. If you already hold a day pass for use of the city’s buses and trams or a city card, you might find the cost of your cruise on over to the other side is included.

Amsterdam: some half dozen ferry routes whisk passengers (and their bicycles) across the IJ to destinations in Amsterdam Noord. A couple of these stops are located just behind Amsterdam Central train station. A digital countdown board lets you know when the next ferry is due. Use of the GVB Amsterdam ferry service is free.

Berlin: six routes service the German capital as part of the VBB public transportation network. Perhaps best enjoyed in the summer months is the F10 ferry route, crossing the Wannsee Lake to Kladow. A curiosity is the F24, which is operated by rowboat.

Budapest: the BKK public transportation network offers four routes along the Danube. Schedules vary according to the season. Lines D11 and D12 cross the historical city center, passing under seven bridges and offering great views of the iconic Parliament building and other impressive landmarks.

Copenhagen: Ferries in wonderful Copenhagen are referred to as “havnebusserne”, literally, harbor busses. These bright yellow ferries call in at nine stops, including those at popular tourist sites including the Kongelige Bibliotek (Black Diamond Library) and Nyhavn. Use of the service costs the same as a regular bus ticket.

Hamburg: Germany’s famed port city on the Elbe is easily explored with HADAG Harbor Ferries. Seven different lines afford the tourist with views of a working port with its huge container ships. Further out, you can see the elegant villas of the well-heeled. Use the services with an HVV ticket or Hamburg Card.

Malta: Locals use Valletta Ferry Services to travel between Sliema and Valletta, a journey of less than minutes and inexpensive at that: a one-way journey costs 1.50 euros.

Lisbon: five commuter ferries link up various areas of the city, giving tourists a cheap alternative to the numerous river cruises on offer. Among Lisbon’s most scenic ferry routes are the services between Belem and Porto Brandão, along with the one between Cais do Sodré and Cacilhas.

Rotterdam: for great views of this city and its ultra-modern architecture, get out onto the Maas with the RET public transportation system. To travel to nearby tourist attractions such as historic Dordrecht or Kinderdijk and its windmills, opt for a water bus day ticket.

Stockholm: On a city built on 14 islands, travel by water makes perfect sense. Three commuter ferry lines are included as part of the SL public transportation network, with Route 80 being of the most interest to sightseers.

Venice: the ACTV public transportation authority operates extensive water services on some 20 lines. Single-route journeys aren’t cheap, so consider buying a day pass and confining your exploration by “vaporetti” to a single day. For a quick trip across the Grand Canal, fork out 2 euros for a ride on a traghetto, the thrifty traveler’s answer to a gondola.

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