I'd like to go to Portugal from France west coast (example: Brest or Nantes / Saint-Nazaire).

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Of course we can go there by car, but:

  • I'd like to avoid the 2 days driving for 1562 km (Saint-Nazaire to Lisbon), I don't particularly enjoy driving 4 days (round-trip), it's exhausting, etc.

  • I like being on a ferry, generally a 1 day cruise is something enjoyable, especially for kids

Question: is there a ship/ferry that goes from France to Portugal?

Note: I did something similar a few years ago to go to Sicily via ferry: Genova to Palermo instead of driving Italy from North to South, it was great, I highly recommend it!

  • 1
    I couldn't make it work but this might be due to my poor geography of the area, bit incase you don't know France has a number of rail routes where you take your car on the train which might at least take you to the Pyrenees. railtravelshop.com/holidays/motorail or seat61.com/Motorail.htm
    – skifans
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 13:14
  • 4
    Even if the ferry you want did exist, bear in mind that the Bay of Biscay is a fog trap in summer and a storm trap in winter. Not the best place for a pleasure cruise, either way, and a direct route would be out of sight of land for more than half the trip.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 16:05
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    There might be cargo ships: travel.stackexchange.com/q/598/45949 Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 19:38
  • 1
    @alephzero I didn't know that, thanks for this information! Why the Bay of Biscay is Dangerous for Ships?
    – Basj
    Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 5:51
  • 1
    You should consider taking a plane, and then renting a car in Lisbon, is that a viable option? Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 10:51

4 Answers 4


It seems that there is no direct option

From this quite old (2012) discussion on Le Routard.com (the website of a popular French tourist guide), there is no direct ferry route between Bretagne and Portugal. Ferries goes to Spain, in Gijon or Bilbao for example. This website confirms it was still the case in 2015.

This makes sense, as Portuguese main cities, namely Lisbon and Porto, are on the Atlantic Coast and reaching them would make the trip longer.

I found such a trip with Brittany Ferries:

Brittany Ferries vous conduit jusqu'en Espagne, à Bilbao ou Santander. Depuis ces ports, vous pouvez facilement rejoindre le Portugal avec votre voiture. Comptez environ 6 heures de route pour aller de Bilbao à Porto par exemple.

My translation:

Brittany Ferries brings you to Spain, in Bilbao or Santander. From these ports, you can easily reach Portugal with your car. It takes about 6 hours of driving to go from Bilbao to Porto for example.

Also, their website mentions that it is possible to reach Spain through a short stop in UK:

Il existe d'autres possibilités via des lignes avec escale courte en Angleterre. C'est le cas de Roscoff - Santander via Plymouth, ou de Caen-Ouistreham / Le Havre / St Malo jusqu'à Santander ou Bilbao via Portsmouth. Il est également possible de faire une étape à Cork.

My translation:

There exists other possibilities through lines with a short stop in England. It is the case of Roscoff - Santander via Plymouth, or Caen-Ouistreham / Le Havre / St Malo to Santander or Bilbao via Portsmouth. It is also possible to make a stop in Cork.

This is what I could gather using French websites. Since there is an important Portuguese community in France, I am pretty confident that if there was another option, I would have found it.


The ferry you chose before was a 21 hour ride. The trip you imagine would be twice that, nowhere within sight of land (except on the Spanish end), and through not particularly polite seas. Regardless, that ride does not exist.

I concur with not driving, having just done a driving trip twice that long myself, it would be a 2-day trip if you push, when you have the neeeds of family to balance against forward progress.

It's an easy flight, of course.

For a ferry style experience, consider the train. Get from where you are to Hendaye, France via whichever French trains (regular or TGV) will get you there. Then, ride the fairly nice Sud Express to Lisbon.

  • There is a TGV line from Nantes to Bordeaux, but not from Bordeaux to Hendaye, so that Nantes - Hendaye is at least 8h from what I can find. As for the Sud Express, the reviews I could see are fairly disappointing, complaining that the website presenting a "luxury" service is completely at odds with the actual experience; did you take the train yourself recently? Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 19:02
  • @MatthieuM. you don't seem to be refuting anything I said. Are you suggesting I should remove mention of the rail option because it isn't "luxury", isn't all-TGV, or has salty reviews on the internet? Commented Aug 19, 2019 at 19:18
  • I am asking whether "fairly nice" comes from personal experience, or from potentially misleading advertisements, as well as asking what the total time would be as I didn't find how long Hendaye - Lisbon takes. Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 6:42

It's hard prove a negative, but: Nantes to Lisbon is a two hour flight, easyJet, Transavia and Air France all do it, can't imagine there being a high demand for a ship this way. Even the Saint Nazaire-Gijon route was suspended five years ago and that's much shorter. That year is no coincidence -- the Perpignan–Barcelona high speed rail line opened in 2013 connecting the French TGV to the Spanish high speed network so those who do not want to fly could take the TGV. Thus, the 15 hour ferry from Saint Nazaire-Gijon was now only competitive for those travellers who went to Northern Spain, if they wanted to go further inland, the train was faster. Squeezed by flights and train, this ferry died. No wonder an even longer ferry is just not viable.

Getting back to Portugal, World travel guide says

There are no international ferries into Portugal. If travelling from the UK, you need to take the ferry to France or Spain and continue down to Portugal by car, coach or train.

Some sort of cruise is an option but https://www.oceaniacruises.com/baltic-cruises/amsterdam-to-lisbon-MNA190917/ I do not think the pace and price matches your needs.

  • I agree, several ferry search sites did not show up any ferries along the west coast of France but the UK/Ireland to Santander/Bilbao routes.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 8:33

Did you look at the Saint Nazaire to Gijon Ferry>? This would still leave a 7.5 hour drive down to Lisbon, though. Ah, it may be that this service is no longer available :-(


Sorry, our Saint Nazaire - Gijon page is no longer available due to this service not running anymore. For an alternative, please visit the following pages


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