How to Have the Ultimate European Road Trip
There’s Just Something About Road Trips
With well-maintained roads, diverse landscapes, centuries of history, different cultures around every corner, and some of the most iconic and beautiful landmarks in the world, Europe is the ideal road trip destination.
Driving through Europe allows you to travel at your own pace, stopping along the way to appreciate the view, explore a tiny village, admire a castle or taste the local delicacy. Read on to learn more about how to make your European road trip a reality.
A Few of The Best Road Trips in Europe
When it comes to driving holidays in Europe, here are some of the most spectacular journeys:
Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria
Okay, it’s a bit of a mouthful — but the name of this road simply means High Alpine Road. You’ll see why, as you climb the dramatic hairpin bends over the range of 37 mountains to an altitude of 2,504 meters.
You’ll pass fragrant meadows filled with wildflowers, pine-clad hills, barren cliff faces and enormous glaciers that have been sliding across the peaks of the Alps for many millions of years. Make sure you plan your road trip for the spring or summer as the road is too treacherous in the winter due to heavy snow.
Bordeaux, France to Bilbao, Spain
This route is the ultimate road trip for foodies. You’ll want to keep a stash of road trip snacks in the car for those long days behind the wheel, but once you reach your destinations it’s all about the local cuisine.
The drive will take you past several Michelin-starred restaurants that have received considerable international acclaim. You can begin with a wine-tasting in the vineyards of Bordeaux and finish in Bilbao with mouthwatering seafood.
You may want to take a detour to Axpe, Spain to visit the Asador Etxebarri, a spot where Basque barbecue traditions combine with fresh ingredients from the sea.
The Ring of Kerry, Ireland
The Ring of Kerry driving route encircles the Iveragh Peninsula and along the way you’ll see mountains, beaches, lakes and picturesque medieval villages. Stay in a friendly local bed and breakfast with views of the sea and end your day of driving with a pint in a welcoming pub overlooking the dramatic chiseled coastline.
If you want to stretch your legs, you could walk a portion of the Kerry Way trail or visit the historic Ross Castle.
Romantische Strasse, Germany
There’s a reason why this route is called the “Romantic Road.” All along the way you will be enchanted with views of palaces, adorable small villages and fairy tale-like castles. This route used to be a major trade route through the region in the Middle Ages and now it is a popular driving route for road trips in Europe.
Be sure to stop in Würzburg, which is famous for its excellent wines and superb cuisine, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage Residence Palace.
If you're willing to look beyond big cities, you may find yourself in some of the coolest small towns that are perfect for budget travel.
Tips for Driving Around Europe
When you are planning your drive through Europe, here are some important tips to keep in mind:
- Stick to the speed limit. The fines for speeding tickets in Europe can be steep.
- If you’re renting a car, choose a small one with a manual transmission. This is the most convenient option on the curvy, steep roads and it will also be better suited to the narrow streets and small parking spots in Europe.
- If you will be driving on a different side of the road than you are used to, give yourself time to get used to it and be extra careful when driving.
- You’ll also need to get used to roundabouts when driving in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. The traffic in the roundabout always has the right-of-way and vehicles entering should yield.
- If you are driving on a road such as the Autobahn in Germany which has no speed limits, be careful and watch out for tailgating.
- The best day of the week to go on a road trip in Europe is Sunday, as the heavy 16-wheelers will mostly be on their day off and the roads will be less crowded.
- There are many fantastic wineries, breweries and distilleries to visit on your adventure, but make sure the designated driver doesn’t partake in the tastings. Pick up a bottle from your favorite vineyard and let the driver enjoy some later when you have safely reached your destination.
- The road tolls in Austria and the Czech Republic work on flat rate stickers that you must stop and buy at the border. If you are caught without one, you can be charged a huge fine.
- Be aware of which countries your rental car is able to enter. For example, some rental companies won’t allow you to drive the vehicle between EU and non-EU countries.
One more thing to keep in mind is that once you reach a city you should park your car and either walk or use public transport to explore. Many European cities are designed to discourage urban driving and are much more enjoyable to explore without a vehicle.