Europe is a continent which is packed with enticing city breaks. Whether you are looking for modern metropolises or ancient conurbations, you are bound to find something that captures your interest. Renting a car gives you that extra bit of freedom to roam around and explore the surrounding regions without having to go through the effort and confusion of taking public transport. But with so many different cities to choose from, you may be asking: which are the best cities in Europe to rent a car? Well, this blog post is here to give you 10 sources of inspiration which could form the basis of your next adventure.
The stunning Mediterranean port city of Barcelona has exploded in popularity over the past few years, but don’t let this put you off. While you may be better off avoiding the peak summer months, the spring and autumn are both beautiful seasons, while winter is best if you are looking to beat the crowds entirely. The city may not be huge, but if you have a car, you can explore the surrounding area. The Costa Brava is the most beautiful coast in the country, and you can get there in less than an hour by car. Wonderfully preserved towns like Palafrugell and Tossa de Mar are waiting for you. Head further north and you are in the Pyrenees, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a winter sports paradise during the colder months of the year. Inland, you will find plenty of medieval towns such as Pals and Vic. The options are endless when you have your own set of wheels!
While Galway may be a tiny city, it is the surrounding countryside which is so special. The west coast of Ireland boasts rugged rural scenery, which is quite unlike anywhere else in the world. Head north slightly along the coast and you will access the remote Connemara region, which boasts the eponymous national park as one of its main draws. You can explore tiny fishing villages like Cleggan and take a ferry out to the even more secluded islands. Drive a couple of hours south and you will reach the famous Ring of Kerry, where some of Irelands most fabled scenery can be found. Make sure that you bring your GPS to stop any arguments along the way! Since Ireland is such a small country, just a couple of hours driving will see get all the way to the other side to enjoy a pint of Guinness in the famous factory in Dublin. Ultimately, you have a host of day trip options which will enhance your visit to the Emerald Isle.
Iceland is a country which feels like it was made to be explored on four wheels. Without a doubt, it is one of the most compelling and original tourist destinations on Earth, despite the crowds which have been flocking there in recent years. Most of the population is concentrated around the capital city of Reykjavik, and you don’t have to go far to reach some of the sparkling scenery. Everything from towering mountains to steaming geothermal tools are within driving distance. In fact, you can circumnavigate the entire country on the ring road, which conveniently links many of the major attractions. One of these is the Blue Lagoon, a stunning geothermal spa. Another is the famous multi-section waterfall of Gullfoss. Again, you should pick the time of year you travel wisely, so you are not overwhelmed by the number of visitors.
In the heart of the Scottish Highlands, the location of this city makes it feel like a remote outpost in Great Britain. But there are plenty of attractions within the city limits which are worth visiting including Inverness Castle, the Cathedral, and the Victorian market. Once you have had your fill, you can hop in your rental car and explore this area of breath-taking natural beauty. Many people make a beeline straight for Loch Ness to see if they can spot the mythical monster for themselves. But there are a wealth of other sights and attractions to enjoy. If you are feeling fit and active, you may decide that you want to scale the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Otherwise, there are plenty of remote castles and battlefields to keep history buffs interested. The newly-opened North Coast 500 road which takes you around the edge of the country has been attracting more and more visitors in recent months. If you have your own car, you have the option to drive as much or as little as you would like.
The Bavarian capital of Munich has a modern feel, but it does not forget its historical roots. Obviously, if you come here for the Oktoberfest celebrations, the city is packed with people from all over the world who come to enjoy a stein or two of local lager. However, if you visit outside this two-week period, it is easier for you to properly enjoy the historic center and beautiful parkland which sit side-by-side. With a rental car, you can explore the Bavarian region in more detail. One of the most popular places to visit is the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein, which is just a couple of hours away by car. Head over to the east and you will reach the traditional town of Berchtesgaden, where you will see plenty of people wandering around in lederhosen. As well as beautiful mountainous scenery, you will also find historical places of interest like Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest mountain retreat. Head south of Munich and you will reach the ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a former Winter Olympic host city. From here, you can ascend to the top of the country’s highest mountain, Mt. Zugspitze.
While the city of Florence itself may not be a place you want to drive around, you can use it as a base to explore the surrounding Tuscany region, one of the most beautiful and iconic parts of Italy. Of course, before you rush out of the city, you will want to spend some time soaking up the Renaissance art and architecture. Most famous of all is Michelangelo’s David. Make sure that you book in advance to beat the crowds! The other well-known city is Pisa, which obviously has the Leaning Tower as its major draw. You will feel like you have stepped back in time as soon as you take a stroll around the medieval city of Siena. For lovers of countryside scenery, you will see some of the most classically Tuscan scenery in the Val d’Orcia region. Rolling hills, medieval castles, and remote villages are all waiting for you to visit. And if you simply want to take a trip to the beach, you can do this in Elba, which boasts wide stretches of sand and sheltered coves.
While much of western Europe already feels like it has been over-explored and developed, you can head east to find spots of untouched wilderness. Transylvania is a region which you may have only read about in books and seen in movies, but it is very real! The beautiful medieval city of Brasov is a good place to base yourself. Some of the top attractions within the city limits include Black Church, the white Tower, Weavers Bastion or Tampa Mountain. When you are ready to do some more exploring, rent a car and grab your GPS. Bran Castle, otherwise known as Dracula’s Castle, is right at the top of the list for most people. Built more than 600 years ago, you can visit the castle and museum which spans over four floors inside. Arguably even more beautiful is Peles Castle, which is an important historical monument from the 19th century. Many book-lovers are attracted to the Royal Library instantly, which even features a secret passageway behind a bookshelf! If you are interested in getting a feel of rural life in the region, there are plenty of Saxon villages to clamber around.
The pigeon-packed historic main square of Krakow is certainly one of the most beautiful in Europe. As you would expect, this is a place which is brimming with history. While the Jewish Quarter is now a trendy bar area, it has been well-preserved from the dark chapter of modern history when it was used as a ghetto for the local population. The infamous former concentration camp of Auschwitz is also not far away and is a place worth visiting if you want to get to grips with the tragic recent history of the country. For something a little different, you can pay a visit to the UNESCO world heritage site of Wieliczka Salt Mine, a place where sodium chlorine has been produced since Neolithic times. Drive a couple of hours south and you will reach one of the most beautiful scenic spots in Poland, the Tatra Mountains. The town of Zakopane is the main base to head out on the various hiking trails which are beloved by locals, but still largely overlooked by most visitors to Europe. Morskie Oko lake is perhaps the most famous sight, and you can even access it by horse-drawn carriage!
A trip to France is about so much more than going to Paris and seeing nothing else. Avignon is a picturesque and historic city which is worth taking your time to explore. Since you don’t have to worry about public transport timetables, you have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you would like. Provence feels like a region which is bursting with color at all times, but the spring months are when you will really appreciate the red poppies and deep purple lavender fields. Even the local fabrics are popping with color! This is a region which inspired many artists, and when you start visiting the scenic villages and secluded fishing ports, you will get a better understanding of why. If you are used to a fast-paced, non-stop lifestyle, this region of France provides the perfect antidote – it is the kind of place where you can’t help but go slow! And it is also a place which boasts incredible diversity. One minute, you can be exploring Roman ruins and the next gasping at the luxury yachts in the trendy coastal towns!
There is no doubt that the beautiful Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik has become over-touristed in recent years, especially due to the twin giants of Game of Thrones and Star Wars being shot here. But there is no doubt that the old city is still stunningly beautiful. Simply wander around the city walls and you will get spectacular views across the red-roofed houses and sparkling water beyond. However, if the number of visitors starts to feel like too much, there is plenty more to enjoy in the surrounding region. You can get out to smaller settlements such as Ston and Cavtat, which are ideal spots to get into that tempting water. Another option is to head over to the tiny neighboring country of Montenegro. The beach resort of Budva is one of the most popular places to visit. It also boasts a well-preserved Old Town, as well as its stunning beaches. Also not to be missed is a trip over to Kotor, which is a gem of a city that ranks on the UNESCO world heritage list. Located in a beautiful bay, you can take a hike up to an old fortress which offers you panoramic views of the city and beyond.
In this guide of 10 cities to rent a car in Europe, we have tried to give you a diverse set of choices to suit all kinds of traveler. Ultimately, if you have your own car, you have the freedom to explore a city at your own pace, but you can also access areas which would have otherwise been very challenging to reach. Essentially, you have the best of both worlds!
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