The top 10 best road trips in Europe

The top 10 best road trips in Europe
If you're looking for a European getaway for you and your special one (we mean the one with four wheels) – look no further.

Taking your car on the ferry instead of flying can save a lot of money, especially if you’ll be camping overnight.

And we always recommend reading our Driving in Europe checklist before setting off on a trip to the continent.

Jump to:

  1. The Lakes, Italy
  2. The Romantic Road, Germany
  3. Les Corniches, France
  4. Cantabrian Coast, Spain
  5. The Troll Path, Norway
  6. Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
  7. Scandinavian Explorer, Denmark & Sweden
  8. Canals and chocolate, Netherlands & Belgium
  9. Furka Pass, Switzerland
  10. Best of Normandy, France

 


 

1. The Lakes, Italy

European driving holidays

The glorious Italian Lakes region has long been a favourite destination for holidaymakers, admired for its tranquil blue waters, sleepy fishing villages and mountainous backdrops.

And thanks to its northerly location it’s relatively easy to get to from the UK by car, at around a 10-hour drive from Calais.

Be sure to spend some time soaking up the atmosphere of Lake Como. Surrounded by alpine peaks and wooded hills, it’s one of the most picturesque places in Italy – not to mention a favourite with A-listers including George Clooney and Madonna.

Park up and wander through the exquisite resort of Bellagio, before hitting the road again and heading west to Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano and the smaller surrounding lakes.

Italian lakes road trip top tip:

Road signs in Italy are quite different from those in the UK and can be confusing, so make sure you have a good map or sat-nav with you.

2. The Romantic Road, Germany

Euro driving holidays

With its fairy-tale castles, walled towns, palaces and hidden monasteries, it’s no surprise this scenic drive through Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg is one of Germany’s most popular motoring adventures.

The 220-mile route leads you from Wurzburg in Franconia wine country to the historic town of Füssen in the foothills of the German Alps.

As you follow the Tauber river upstream, you’ll come across the spa town of Bad Mergentheim and the impressive Rothenburg ob der Tauber with its medieval streets and colossal city walls.

Other highlights include the Disney-like Neuschwanstein Castle, attractive town of Nördlingen and lively city of Munich, with its sprawling parks and traditional beer halls.

The German Romantic Road trip top tip:

Spread your journey over several days to allow for plenty of sightseeing along the way. And make sure you have European breakdown cover.

3. Les Corniches, France

Euro driving holidays

Feel the wind in your hair as you drive this iconic trio of coastal roads in the French Riviera, taking in dramatic sea views, exotic gardens and elegant villas as you go.

Starting in Nice and heading up to dazzling Monaco and the baroque Menton, the routes all travel along the same itinerary, but at different altitude levels. This gives you different options for exploring everything that the French countryside has to offer.

If you take the Low Corniche (Basse Corniche), you’ll discover the quaint fishing village of Villefranche-sur-Mer and fortified medieval village of Eze.

The Middle Corniche (Moyenne Corniche) offers the most picturesque panoramic views over the glamorous resorts dotted along the French Riviera coastline, with their millionaire yachts floating in the background.

The Upper Corniche (Grande Corniche) has fantastic views over Monaco. It’s also where Hitchcock filmed Grace Kelly driving her roadster in To Catch a Thief.

If you want to see more of the South of France, start your journey in Lyon and visit Aix-en-Provence and Avignon on the way to the Riviera. You can catch a ferry from the UK to Calais, Brittany or Le Havre and make your way south.

The French Les Corniches road trip top tip:

Make sure you keep a reflective vest and hazard signal in your car as is required by French law. Read our driving in France guide to find out all French travel requirements.

Driving in France Kit from £24.99

Did you know, you could be fined up to €530 for not carrying the right kit?

4. Cantabrian Coast, Spain

European driving holidays

While the Costas are Spain’s most popular holiday hotspots, the northern coastline is a hidden gem relished by motorists, with its lush emerald green countryside and spectacular sea views.

You can explore it by taking the ferry from either Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander or driving down through France.

After spending time in Santander itself, head out of the city along the A8 to Bilbao in Basque Country.

The route runs largely parallel to the motorway but hugs the coast, passing through the delightful small towns of Hoznayo and Beranga, where you can stop off for a bite to eat in a roadside inn.

On that topic, Northern Spain is famous for its gastronomic bite-sized delights including churros with chocolate, and rich roasted pepper romesco dip, so make it a foodie holiday as well as a sightseeing trip.

The Spanish Cantabrian Coast road trip top tip

Watch out for toll roads if you’re heading into Basque Country. You can check the highways that require payment here.

5. The Troll Path, Norway

European driving holidays

Nestled deep in the snow-covered mountains of the western coast of Norway, the Trollstigen is a vast stretch of road zig-zagging across the Unesco-protected Geirangerfjord region.

With a steep incline and 11 hairpin bends – coupled with the fact that it’s barely wide enough for a single car in places – it’s best left to experienced drivers.

The road is dotted with viewing platforms offering countless photo opportunities and the chance to gaze out across the magnificent Stigfossen waterfall.

As the name suggests you also need to watch out for, er, trolls. Legend has it they roam through the mountains every night before turning back to stone again when the sun rises in the morning.

The easiest option is to catch a ferry from Dover to Calais and drive up through Germany and Denmark. Ferries run twice a day from Hirtshals in northern Denmark to Kristiansand in southern Norway. The journey up through the fjords is spectacular.

The Norwegian Troll Path road trip top tip:

Although vehicles longer than 41ft are banned from the Trollstigen, watch out for large oncoming vehicles on the tight bends.

6. Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

European driving holidays

Experience the untamed beauty of Ireland as you wind your way down its rugged west coast on a 2,500km route known fittingly as the Wild Atlantic Way.

Running from Derry (just across the border in Northern Ireland) all the way down the western coastline of Ireland, this route will take you past wind-battered headlands, secluded coves and craggy cliffs.

Away from the epic coastline, you’ll be able to explore some of Ireland’s prettiest towns, including the atmospheric Galway and picture-perfect Killarney.

If all that doesn’t sound quite remote enough for your tastes, why not visit the Aran Islands? Located just off the coast, these islands are home to ancient ruins, stunning sunsets and that unforgettable Gaelic charm of the locals.

One of the easiest drives to experience on our list, you can either explore the Wild Atlantic Way from its starting point near Derry in Northern Ireland or take a ferry across to Dublin or Rosslare and head west from there. Ferries to the Irish Republic run from Fishguard (to Rosslare) and Holyhead, Birkenhead and Liverpool (all to Dublin).

The Irish Wild Atlantic Way road trip top tip:

If you’re looking for a slightly shorter road trip in this gorgeous part of the world, check out the Ring of Kerry, a 200km-round road trip that starts and finishes in Killarney.

7. Scandinavian Explorer, Denmark & Sweden

European driving holidays

If your idea of a great night in includes a Scandi-Noir crime drama and an open sandwich, this road trip taking in some of the best scenery Denmark and Sweden have to offer could be perfect.

Start near the Germany-Denmark border and head north across the Jutland peninsula, taking in some stunning rural scenery that’s primed for camping.

Denmark is a kingdom of islands, with plenty of connecting bridges and ferries. The most famous of these bridges is the Øresund Bridge which spans the Øresund strait and links Copenhagen with neighbouring Sweden.

On the other side of Øresund, check out the lively port city of Malmö and the charming university town of Lund before heading north into rural Sweden or hip and friendly Gothenburg.

Until 2014, there was a ferry service linking Harwich in Essex with Esbjerg in Denmark. However, despite rumours another UK-Denmark route may soon start, the quickest way to get to Denmark is to take a ferry to Amsterdam, or a ferry or Eurostar to Calais, and drive from there.

Denmark and Sweden road trip top tip:

Many things are substantially cheaper in Denmark than across the water in Sweden, so make sure you stock up on any essentials before you make the crossing.

8. Canals and chocolate, Netherlands & Belgium

European driving holidays

You might think of the Netherlands and Belgium as being more suited to two wheels than four, but they still offer some excellent adventures for drivers.

After exploring Amsterdam’s picturesque canals, head west to the surf town of Zandvoort before turning your attentions to Rotterdam, once overlooked by tourists but now one of Europe’s hottest destinations.

From Rotterdam, drive south into Belgium by choosing either the coastal route taking you towards Bruges, or the inland route which’ll lead you to Antwerp, Belgium’s trendy second city and Ghent.

Wherever you choose to explore, you’ll be able to fill up on all things Belgian, whether premium beer (although not if you’re driving), fine chocolate, waffles, and, of course, chips and mayonnaise.

Ferries to the Netherlands run from Newcastle, Harwich and Hull, although you may find it more convenient to take the ferry or Eurostar to Calais and simply drive up the coast from there.

The Netherlands and Belgium road trip top tip:

Explore more of the Netherlands by heading north from Amsterdam and taking in the rural tranquillity of Groningen or the remote Wadden Islands off the north coast.

9. Furka Pass, Switzerland

European driving holidays

Amongst the most exhilarating drives in Europe, the Furka Pass is one of the highest mountain roads in the Alps and definitely not one for the faint-hearted.

The pass, roughly located halfway between Lucerne and the Italian border, is around 2,500m above sea level and full of tight hairpin bends as it winds up and down the mountainside.

With steep cliffs lining the route, the Furka Pass can be treacherous, particularly in adverse weather conditions which can occur at any time due to the road’s altitude.

The road might be familiar to fans of James Bond as the route was used in the iconic car chase in Goldfinger, so it’s definitely not to be missed if you’re driving through Switzerland.  

The Swiss Furka Pass road trip top tip:

It might sound obvious, but drive safely. The Furka Pass has a reputation as being one of Europe’s most dangerous routes for a reason, so drive slowly and check forecasts before heading out.

10. Best of Normandy, France

European driving holidays

If you’re looking for an easy introduction to driving on the continent, why not hop across the English Channel to explore Normandy?

From Calais, head south along the coast taking in popular resorts like Boulogne and Trouville-sur-Mer, or explore the many national parks and nature reserves on route.

For an extra slice of local culture, head inland and check out provincial capital Rouen, whose medieval skyline is dominated by the city’s imposing 12th century cathedral.

One of the best things about road tripping through Normandy is that it can be tailored to your needs, so if you want to cut it short you can travel back by ferry from Dieppe, Le Harve, Ouistreham or Cherbourg.

Normandy road trip top tip:

Why not stretch out your trip and explore Jersey and Guernsey as well? The Channel Islands are a short ferry ride from Normandy and the perfect place for a relaxing few days.

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