If the open road is calling your name, and you’re ready to conquer a new continent, Europe has a plethora of beautiful road trips to satisfy your highway holiday cravings. Whether you want views of mountains, lakes, beaches or cities (or all of the above!) there’s a once-in-a-lifetime European road trip awaiting you.
Check out our pick of the best European road trips below, to inspire you on your next automobile adventure. With 15 awesome routes for you to drive/bike/ride, spanning 15 countries, this might just be the only European road trip planner you’ll ever need!
1. Cologne to Berlin, Germany (Distance: 621 miles)
Germany’s federal highway system, the Autobahn, is notorious with petrolheads the world over due to its long stretches and (mostly) absent speed limits. This road trip across northern Germany incorporates this thrilling highway experience, as well as stops in several of Germany’s best cities. Begin your journey to Cologne, where you could take a cruise on the river Rhine, or pay a visit to the Chocolate Museum. If you’ve chosen to begin your road trip in November or December, make sure to check out the Christmas markets for some festive magic, mulled drinks and traditional gifts aplenty.
After you’ve made friends with Cologne, continue on to nearby Dusseldorf, for some shopping and fine dining in this modern city. Swap the hustle and bustle for sleepy Muenster and chill out in its farmers’ markets and cafes. Next, drive on to Bremen, one of Germany’s most beautiful historic towns, where you can check out the UNESCO world heritage town hall. Pass through trendy Hamburg, then head up to Rostock on the North coast to soak in this characterful town and take some pictures of colorful merchant houses for the ‘gram. Conclude your road trip in Germany’s capital, hip, and happenin’ Berlin, where you can experience some of the best nightlife Europe has to offer.
2. Amalfi Coast, Italy (Distance: 24 miles)
Any part of Italy’s breathtaking UNESCO world heritage site, the Amalfi Coast, makes for a truly picturesque road trip, packed with beautiful beaches and sea views. Although you can complete it by car, this road trip is particularly great for the motorcycle rider, as the roads can be narrow and winding. Start your journey in postcard-perfect Positano, where you can admire the colored villas against the backdrop of coastal cliffs and blue-green sea, and explore the narrow streets on foot.
From Positano, ride on to Praiano, to check out the famous Church of San Giovanni Battista. After this, head to Furore, to see Italy’s only fjord – an impressive valley in the rocky coast. Descend the stairs to check out the small beach, lapped by turquoise water. Next on the agenda is the historic town of Amalfi, which again is best explored on foot. Don’t forget to try some lemonade made from Amalfi lemons! Travel on to the seaside village of Cetara, famous for its anchovies and vineyards, before finishing your Amalfi Coast adventure in Vietri Sul Mare, where you buy colorful ceramic souvenirs to remind you of your vibrant Italian road trip.
Related Post: 7 Best Road Trips in Italy
3. Geiranger to Trollstigen, Norway (Distance: 66 miles)
Trollstigen (‘the Troll’s Road’) is Norway’s most visited tourist road – and it’s easy to see why. Choose to include this short, winding route on your European road trip and you’ll be spoilt with views of breathtaking mountains, deep valleys, and green fjords. This is a route for nature lovers. Start your drive in Geiranger, stopping at the Flydalsjuvet rest point to admire the stunning views over one of West Norway’s most beautiful fjords.
Continue on to Ørnesvingen, for some majestic waterfall views, then hop on the ferry at Eidsdal to cross the river. Next, head on to Valldal, where, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay overnight, you can’t beat the Juvet Landscape Hotel, which offers luxurious hillside cabins with glass walls, to make the most of the wilderness views. You can also check out the Gudbrandsjuvet viewing spot, for more Instagram-worthy vistas of mountains and gorges. Snake your way up the Trollstigen to the viewing platform at the top, to conclude your road trip with yet another once-in-a-lifetime sight – your eyes may never recover!
4. Klausen Pass, Switzerland (Distance: 29 miles)
If mountains are your thing (and why wouldn’t they be?!), you’ll probably also want to consider driving the Klausen Pass in the Swiss Alps. This scenic alpine drive is usually only open from May to October, as heavy snowfall in the winter can make it impassable – and it’s a narrow road with lots of hairpins bends as it is. A popular way to complete the drive is by motorcycle, but it’s also perfectly fine to bring a car or campervan.
Begin your road trip in Altdorf, and ascend the paved road to the mountain summit via Bürglen, Spiringen, and Unterschächen, beautiful alpine villages that will make you want to pack it all in and move to Switzerland. Make sure to bring your camera, you’re going to want to remember these views! At the top of the pass, stop at the Bruder-Klaus-Kapelle, a historic chapel, for more stunning views. After enjoying even more spectacular mountain scenery on your descent – including snowy peaks, icy waterfalls, and endless greenery – finish your exploration of the Klausen Pass in Linthal (perhaps with a warming Swiss hot chocolate!)
5. Ruta de la Plata, Spain (Distance: 497 miles)
The Ruta de la Plata (meaning ‘route of silver’) is Spain’s second-longest motorway and spans the west coast of Spain. It starts from Seville in the south, and ends in Gijón in the north, taking in 8 provinces on the way, and makes for a great way to see the best of the west of Spain. Begin your Spanish soiree by soaking up the sun in Seville, and partaking in a traditional Spanish evening of tapas and flamenco dancing, to get your road trip off the right start (¡olé!)
From Seville, head to Merida to check out some Roman monuments, including one the best-preserved theatres in the world. Next, stop in Cáceres, a picturesque village that also happens to be a UNESCO world heritage site. After that, don’t miss the opportunity to see Salamanca, a sandstone city and another UNESCO site – make sure to stay for sunset to see the city turn golden. End your sparkling Spanish silver route in Gijón, a cosmopolitan city full of Roman history, where you can spend your time exploring museums, marinas, and beautiful beaches.
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6. Transfagarasan, Romania (Distance: 56 miles)
After a brief deviation from mountain roads, we’re back on it with the Transfagarasan Highway in Romania. Passing through the Fagaras mountains in Transylvania, this breathtaking road was named one of the best in the world by Top Gear, and is sure to impress with its hairpin corners and unrivaled mountain views. But beware – the road is narrow and bordered by sheer drops in places, so it’s not for the fainthearted, and be sure to check your brakes before embarking on your road trip!
Once your brakes have been triple-checked, begin your journey on the Transfagarasan in Cartisoara. Ascend past the Balea waterfall to the peak of the mountain, where you can stop at Balea Lac, to take in the snowy landscape and have lunch at the edge of this alpine lake. Continue on your journey to Lake Vidraru, to admire the second largest dam in Romania, before passing by Poienari, the ruins of the real Dracula Castle (a must-see for any Transylvanian tourist!) End your road trip in the small town of Curtea de Arges, making sure to stop and see the impressive Biserica Episcopală Curtea de Arges cathedral, built in the early 16th Century, on the outskirts of the town.
7. La Route des Grandes Alpes, France (Distance: 425 miles)
Had enough of beautiful, rugged mountain scenery? We thought not. La Route des Grandes Alpes is another legendary alpine road trip, this time through the French Alps. At 425 miles long, it’s a great option for those looking for a longer road trip through some stunning mountain landscapes. Again, it is only open during the summer months, so plan to complete your trip sometime between June and October. Begin your drive/ ride in Thonon-Les-Bains by Lake Geneva, and travel south, through 18 passes and some of France’s best alpine towns, to Menton on the Mediterranean Coast.
Along the way, make sure to stop to take in the snowy scenery, and stay overnight in a cozy chalet or two. Mountain villages such as Morzine offer chances to partake in a variety of winter sports, whilst cheese lovers can stop in Le Grand Bornand to sample some local Reblochon cheese – and many other kinds of cheese on the way. Continue on your trip and you’ll pass by Mount Blanc and into the Beaufortain, where you’ll be rewarded with historic towns, lush forests and shimmering lakes on completion of your French voyage.
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8. Zagreb to Dubrovnik, Croatia (Distance: 398 miles)
The route from Zagreb to Dubrovnik takes in some of the best scenery in Croatia – which is some of the best in the world. Expect historical architecture, spectacular national parks, and stunning coastline. Begin your road trip in Zagreb (aka ‘Little Vienna’), before heading to the awe-inspiring Plitvice Lakes National Park, where you’ll find dreamy waterfalls cascading into azure lakes, surrounded by lush green forests.
From Plitvice, continue on to the old Croatian town of Sibenik, before stopping in Split, to take in the Roman architecture. If you want to leave your car or bike behind for a bit, this is a great place to catch a boat to some of Croatia’s paradisiacal islands. Finish your road trip in the walled city of Dubrovnik, made famous by Game of Thrones, where you can park up, wander the cobbled streets, and pretend to be Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons.
9. Ring of Kerry, Ireland (Distance: 111 miles)
It’s over to Ireland (known as the ‘Emerald Isle’) for our next road trip, the Ring of Kerry. This picturesque loop encompasses Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula and takes in some of Ireland’s wildest landscapes – as well as some of its famous Irish pubs!
Begin in the town of Killarney to soak up the Irish atmosphere and try a pint of Guinness (or 3), then simply follow the horseshoe-shaped N70 road, looking out for Celtic ruins, castles, and cows along the way. Stop in the town of Cahersiveen and take a trip to the Skellig Ring for stunning beaches and views. If beaches are your thing, a stop in Derrynane is also recommended, whilst shoppers will love the eclectic town of Kenmare. Pass through Moll’s Gap to get your fix of mountain scenery, then finish with a drive through the rugged Killarney National Park, making sure to watch out for leprechauns.
10. Route 1, Iceland (Distance: 828 miles)
If driving through a magical sub-Arctic wonderland with the chance of spotting the Northern Lights sounds like your kind of thing, head to Iceland to complete the Route 1 – a picturesque ring road which runs around the edge of Iceland. This 2 lane road takes in some of Iceland’s most spectacular natural attractions, including the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, and will guide you through every landscape, from lava fields and meadows to glacial rivers, snow-capped mountains, villages, and fjords.
Start and end your road trip in the capital, Reykjavik, and follow the ring road around this spectacular country, stopping to admire all the many natural formations and cinematic scenery along the way. Highlights of your road trip might include the geysers at Strokkur and the Blue Lagoon for the famous geothermal spa (you’ll have to detour slightly from the ring road for this). After a long day’s driving, cozy up in a log cabin in one of the many remote hotels, and, on a cloudless night, set the alarm to check if you can see the Northern Lights (from September to March). What a perfect end to this icy road trip that would be!
11. Athens to Meteora, Greece (Distance: 220 miles)
The road from Athens to Meteora encompasses a plethora of Greek history and stunning scenery. There are beaches and mountains to please nature lovers, whilst culture buffs will love soaking up the ancient Greek history along the way. Taking you from Greek gods to Byzantine monks, this educational and enjoyable road trip is a great introduction to mainland Greece.
Begin your journey in the capital, Athens, where you can check out the Parthenon, the Acropolis, and multiple other impressive historical structures. Then, hop in your vehicle and hit the road towards to Meteora. You’ll pass several small beach towns on the way; stop in Lamia for lunch, then continue on to the vibrant town of Trikala to spend the night. You’ll want to allow at least a full day to explore Meteora, to appreciate the kind of scenery that will take your breath away. Ascend the winding road and visit some of these mountainous Byzantine monasteries, to complete your central Grecian adventure.
12. The Military Road, Isle of Wight (Distance: 13 miles)
The Military Road on the Isle of Wight is one of the United Kingdom’s most scenic drives. Located just off the south coast, the Isle of Wight is a small island that can be reached by ferry from Southampton. The Military Road is a winding, scenic road on the south of the island. You might not have long to do this one, as it is reported that some sections of the road are at high risk of landslides, given that it is located very near to the cliff edge. It’s a great road trip for kids though, as it’s short, with plenty of activities along the way, and some great picnic spots.
Start in Blackgang, making sure to visit the small theme park of Blackgang Chine if you’re traveling with kids (or big kids!), then continue your drive west towards Freshwater Bay, stopping in Chale on the way. Although the Military Road ends in Freshwater, you should continue your road trip on to The Needles Headland and Alum Bay Chine, where you can take a chairlift (such fun!) down to the beach, admire the multi-colored sandstone cliffs and relax on the beach after your long drive.
13. Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, Austria (Distance: 30 miles)
Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce the name of this road – you’ll still be able to enjoy its magnificent scenery and views. The Grossglockner High Alpine Road is the highest mountain pass road in Austria, and one of its most popular tourist attractions. The road is only open in summer after the Salzburg snow clearing team have done their work to make the route passable again (usually around April time).
After paying the entrance toll, start your journey in the pretty Gothic village of Heiligenblut, and take your time to transverse the 36 hairpins of this alpine route, which rises to 8215 ft. above sea level. Make sure to drive carefully, as there are steep inclines and will likely be snow on the road. There are several restaurants and photo points along the way – make sure to stop at the highest point, Edelweisspitze, for coffee and a cake at the café, and to admire the awe-inspiring views of the Grossglockner mountain.
14. North Coast 500, Scotland (Distance: 500 miles)
If you fancy checking out some Scottish lochs, listening to bagpipes and maybe trying Haggis (stuffed sheep’s stomach), then the North Coast 500 road trip in Scotland is for you. Dubbed ‘Scotland’s Route 66’, this stunningly picturesque route takes in over 500 miles of rugged Scottish scenery. It’s worth noting that much of the route is made up of single track country lanes, and traffic in the area is on the increase, so it is advised that you take care!
Begin and end your NC500 adventure in Inverness. Along the way, stop at old Scottish castles, such as Dunrobin Castle or the ruins of Ardvreck Castle in Sutherland, to appreciate some of this road trip’s best architecture. Climb one of the many mountain ridges to get the best views, such as Stac Pollaidh in Wester Ross. If beaches are more your thing, you’ll find plenty along the northern Highlands to fulfill all your sunbathing (fingers crossed!), kayaking or surfing dreams. There are also caves to be explored, lochs to be looked at, and dolphins to be spotted off the shore. This is a road trip for nature lovers, och aye!
15. The Algarve, Portugal (Distance: 115 miles)
Rounding off our list of the 15 best road trips in Europe is Portugal’s Algarve. This one is perfect for beach lovers, with miles of golden sand and azure sea, bordered by dramatic limestone cliffs and sleepy fishing villages. Start your road trip in one such village, Sagres, the southernmost point of Portugal, where you can visit the old fortress and watch the sunset over the water from the Cabo de São Vicente lighthouse. Take your time exploring some of the many remote and beautiful beaches in this area (the Praia do Beliche is popular, and there are some great surfing spots – Ponta Ruiva is good for beginners). When you’re ready to move on, head east to the lively city of Lagos, where you can sample some local gelato, and the local nightlife.
From Lagos, head to Albufeira, one of the cheapest and most popular destinations on the Algarve. After a few more beach days, continue on to Faro, a historic city packed with charming Roman architecture and 18th Century churches. Take a break from sightseeing to enjoy a ‘pastel de nata’ (like a small custard tart) in one of Faro’s many cafés. Conclude your journey in Tavira, with a dinner of freshly cooked octopus rice, washed down with some delicious white wine. The perfect way to end this coastal road trip!
So, there we have it – 15 incredible European road trips, packed with stunning scenery, culture and UNESCO world heritage sites, that are guaranteed to make you fall in love with this part of the world. We’re in no doubt you’re going to want to do them all – the only question is, which one first?
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- 19 Best Road Trips in Europe To Add To Your Bucket List, Skyscanner
- 10 great European road trips you must do in your lifetime, The Telegraph