The best places to stop and visit on a European road trip

A European road trip can be a great adventure for the whole family, whether you’re off camping in the French mountains or hitting the Spanish beaches.

And having your own car means you can stop-off on the way to check out some of those great attractions you’d definitely miss if you flew or took the train.

There’s more than dreary petrol stations to be seen!

To help inspire you to take your road trip to the next level, here are some of our favourite European road trip stop-offs.

Jump to:

Nausicaá Aquarium, Bologne-sur-Mer
World War 2 cemeteries, Normandy
Bayeux Tapestry, Bayeux
Rouen
Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy
Bruges
Parc Asterix, Paris
Palace of Versailles, Versailles
Mini-Europe, Brussels
Walibi Belgium, Wavre
What do I need to remember before driving in Europe?
What do I need to remember before I start my road trip?
Do I need European breakdown cover to drive in Europe?
What happens if I break down abroad?

 


 

Nausicaá Aquarium, Bologne-sur-Mer

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Conveniently located just across the Channel in the plucky seaside resort of Bologne, Nausicaá is Europe’s biggest aquarium and the perfect place for you to explore the wonders of the world underneath the waves.

Nausicaa’s massive tanks are home to 60,000 sea creatures of all shapes and sizes, and the kaleidoscopic show put on by the aquatic inhabitants rivals anything else you’re likely to see on the rest of your trip.

Perfect for: Kids, parents, marine enthusiasts, basically everyone due to its proximity to Calais.

World War 2 cemeteries, Normandy

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It might be almost 75 years since the end of the Second World War but it’s never too late to visit the war graves in Normandy, where thousands of soldiers from across the world are commemorated near where they lost their lives.

The sight of hundreds of white crosses stretching as far as the eye can see is one of the most humbling sights in Europe, but the graveyards are well worth the visit for those looking to pay their respects to the fallen soldiers.

It’s the perfect place for some thoughtful reflection and fresh air midway through a long trip.

Perfect for: Road trippers passing through Normandy

Bayeux Tapestry, Bayeux

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Depicting the historic events that led up to the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the Bayeux Tapestry is one of Europe’s most impressive artefacts, said to date from the 11th century, just after the invasion took place.

The tapestry itself is a staggering 70m long, housed in its own dedicated museum in the historic heart of Bayeux, a charming Normandy town with a medieval centre of tight, bustling lanes.

It’s way better than the replica in Reading anyway...

Perfect for: History buffs looking for a relaxing stop off en route to the west coast.

Rouen

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Once one of the most prosperous cities in medieval Europe, these days Rouen attracts visitors all-year-round with its enchanting mix of historic streets, lively culture and celebration of its most famous resident, Joan of Arc.  

The city centre is dominated by the gothic Notre-Dame cathedral – popular with famous French impressionist, Claude Monet, whose paintings can be seen in the city’s Museé des Beaux-Arts – and is the ideal place to while away a day or two.

Perfect for: Culture vultures on their way to the west coast from Calais.

Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy

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The sight of Mont Saint-Michel’s dramatic spires rising up from the battering waves is one of France’s most iconic sights, and definitely not to be missed if you find yourself driving through the Normandy countryside.

Twisting up the rocky outcrop, Mont Saint-Michels’ narrow lanes will transport you back to the middle ages with ease – just be aware that the island is completely cut off by the sea once a month, so check tide levels ahead of time to avoid having to go for an impromptu swim.

Perfect for: Fans of dramatic geography and day-trippers camping in Normandy or the Loire Valley.

Bruges

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If your kids are into fairy-tales, why not take them to Bruges? With its cobbled streets, glistening canals and cosy market squares, Bruges will leave them expecting some chatty woodland creatures to pass by and burst into song at any second.

Best visited midweek to avoid the crowds, Bruges is just a 90-minute drive east of Calais and ideally placed for a day trip if you’re on your way through to the Netherlands, Germany or Denmark.

Perfect for: Any parents or children looking to live their Disney prince or princess fantasy.

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Parc Asterix, Paris

Is there anything more quintessentially French than an adrenaline-fuelled day at an Asterix-themed amusement park? Non, so channel your inner Gaul and jump into the family-friendly day of adventure at Parc Asterix.

With high-speed rollercoasters, wild water rides and the chance of meeting all your favourite characters from the iconic comic books, it’s a perfect (and much cheaper) alternative to Disneyland Paris, just down the road.

Perfect for: Comic book fans, animation fans and anyone who loves the world’s favourite Gaul.

Palace of Versailles, Versailles

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The word ‘grand’ doesn’t quite cut it when describing the elegant Palace of Versailles, France’s most famous palace and the country’s seat of power until the 1789 revolution, which saw the removal of France’s royal family.

A short drive west from Paris, Versailles offers visitors the chance to explore the palace’s 2,300 stylish rooms or wander round the immaculate gardens, which extend out across lawns, canals and even a hedge maze.

Perfect for: Those looking to add a slice of Marie Antoinette to their lives. Who isn’t?

Mini-Europe, Brussels

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Located beneath the famous Atomium, for many the symbol of modern Brussels, Mini-Europe encapsulates the very best sights the continent has to offer – but in charming, miniature form.

Around 350 buildings and landmarks from 80 EU cities are represented in the park – from the Trevi Fountain in Rome to Bath’s Royal Crescent – so the whole family will be able to enjoy pointing out their favourite miniature sights.

Perfect for: Families heading north through Belgium who want to see Europe in an afternoon and feel like a giant doing it.

Walibi Belgium, Wavre

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Think Belgium is a quiet, reserved country? Well, the scream-inducing thrills and spills at the exhilarating Walibi Belgium theme park might have something to say about that.

Belgium’s premier family destination has a whole host of rides and attractions for every taste, from the bloodcurdling Vampire rollercoaster to the more sedate Dragon Boat ride. Well worth the detour!

Perfect for: Thrill-seekers who like their waffles with a side order of adrenaline.

What do I need to remember before driving in Europe?

Driving on the other side of the Channel is different from in the UK, so before setting off make sure you prepare yourself (and your car) for the laws and requirements in every country you pass through.

These range from carrying Crit’Air clean air stickers in France to warning triangles when driving through Belgium, so make sure you do your research and stay on the right side of the law.

The RAC Driving in France kit will help you meet some of these laws in France, but you should always research the specific requirements for you and your car if driving in another country.

European Cover from just £6 per day^

​The RAC provide you with up to £1,250 worth of roadside assistance in Europe, starting from just £6^ per day.

What do I need to remember before I start my road trip?

Before heading off on any long journey, it’s always important to carry out some essential maintenance checks at home to ensure your car is in tip-top condition and you’ll get to your destination and back safely.

The RAC encourages drivers to remember the acronym ‘FORCES’ when carrying out car checks: Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics, and Screenwash. Check our tips for avoiding a breakdown for more information on FORCES.

You should also remember to take along a few road trip essentials for the journey; including a first aid kit, additional engine oil and water, mobile phone charger and snacks and games, especially if you’re travelling with children.

Do I need European breakdown cover to drive in Europe?

Wherever you’re heading across Europe, RAC has great value European breakdown cover options that give you comprehensive cover if you break down on your way, offering roadside assistance in Europe and a 24/7 English-speaking helpline.

What happens if I break down abroad?

Depending on the level of your European breakdown cover, the RAC will pay towards any garage labour costs, onward travel expenses and accommodation fees – something to consider if you’ve got a booking to make.

To find out everything you need to know about breaking down on the continent, and to get the right quote that meets your needs, check out our complete guide to RAC European breakdown cover.

Want more travel inspiration? Check out our other guides here…

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^Price for 1 day cover for up to 9 people travelling in a vehicle up to 1 year in zone 1.

*Comparison based on top standalone cover levels from other major providers. Visit www.rac.co.uk/eurocompare for full details.

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