Back in the day I used to hate road trips. In fact, I wrote an entire post about how to make a road trip not suck because I grew up focusing more on the destination than the actual journey. But that has since changed: I’ve gone on epic road trips all over the world, including places like Costa Rica, Oman, and Puerto Rico. Those road trips were awesome and adventurous, but definitely a driving challenge. But for those that are looking for fun and safe road trips with seriously epic views should consider a road trip in Europe.
There are plenty of cool places to road trip in Europe. However, I’m sharing my top 9 Europe road trips based on my personal experiences and recommendations from friends. If you’ve been been staring at the globe and can’t make up your mind yet, these are the best places to road trip in Europe, in terms of drive-ability, safety, and of course, amazing landscapes.
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Europe Road Trip Ideas
Before you start your road trip, you’ll need to rent a car. I personally uses Expedia for car rentals because it lets me compare multiple agency options. Plus, this way I can make sure I rent an automatic car (very important since most European cars are stick shifts).
Once you’ve decided where you’ll rent a car from, it’s super important to get supplemental car insurance. I can’t stress this enough – the first time I rented and drove a car was in Spain and I accidentally scratched the side of the car. Thank goodness I had purchased supplemental insurance. If you’re traveling from the United States, I recommend checking out this car rental insurance policy option that you can purchase in advance.
And now without further ado – the best Europe road trip ideas!
Ireland is easily one of my favorite places to road trip. So much so that I’ve actually done two road trips here: one around the country and one focusing on the food of Eastern Ireland. Not only is Ireland incredibly safe and easy to navigate, it’s also rich with world-renowned literature, cheerful music, ancient castles, rolling-green landscapes and rocky coastlines. There are plenty of warm pubs and cozy cafés scattered here and there where you can grab something to eat, enjoy a mug of coffee, or just hang out with the locals.
Within Ireland itself, Dublin is the most popular city to visit, easily accessible thanks to its giant international airport. It’s cosmopolitan and has plenty of attractions such as Kilmainham Gaol Prison, Christ Church Cathedral, and Trinity College Library. But don’t make the mistake of only visiting Dublin. Some of Ireland’s most charming towns are the smaller ones you can only experience on a road trip like Galway, Cork, and Killarney, amongst others. With its live music, street performers, and unexpectedly amazing food scene, this is one European road trip that can’t be missed!
Even though I’ve spent a total of six months traveling through Spain across several trips, I still haven’t done and seen everything in the country, although I have seen quite a lot. It’s impossible to road trip all of Spain in 1-2 weeks like you can with Ireland, so I suggest picking one of the many different road trip itineraries you can do within the country. My favorite and most recommended is actually a road trip through Southern Spain, which can easily be done solo.
Although I love the Basque Country (heyyyy Bilbao and San Sebastian), Andalucia is the one part of Spain where you feel like you’re truly transported to a different country. The culture and architecture is heavily influenced by the Moors and you can still see evidence of that within the walls of the old cities. Many visitors come to Spain for city breaks in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia, but a road trip through one of Spain’s regions is where it’s at!
I’m totally guilty of visiting The Netherlands twice and only visiting Amsterdam, but there’s actually so much more to the country than its capital. Because the country isn’t that large, you can easily explore its highlights in a week.
Popular cities to visit include Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, but there are a ton of smaller, charming cities that easily accessible from Amsterdam. Consider a visit to Gouda, the town where Gouda cheese originated (and yes, you can visit a gouda cheese farm) or Utrecht, the unassuming city with one-of-a-kind wharfs within canals. How cool is that? Plus, all the cities in The Netherlands are bike-friendly, making it a great country to park a car and explore towns with alternate transportation.
But of course, no Dutch road trip would be complete without a visit to Amsterdam. The Netherlands’ vibrant and cosmopolitan capital enthralls travelers with its lovely canals over the river Amstel, surprisingly delicious snacks and food, and world-renowned attractions such as the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum. I’ve written about how The Netherlands is one of the few cities I’ve visited where the outskirts are more interesting than the actual city center, and the capital definitely has more to offer than the famed Red Light District and “coffee shops.”
Ultimately, The Netherlands’ small size, fascinating (and distinctly different) cities, and cool architecture makes it the site for one of the best road trips in Europe.
Number of times I visited England and only stayed in London until I finally ventured out of the capital: five. Yeah, you read that right. I visited London FIVE separate times before finally leaving and exploring other cities (Oxford, Bath, The Cotswolds and Southampton, in case you were wondering). So, although there are lots of amazing things to do in London for first-time visitors and for those who have already visited, there’s also PLENTY to do outside of London and most of it is best accessed by a road trip.
Although London is easily accessible thanks to The Tube, once you get out outside of London, you’ll be thankful that you rented a car. Given that England is on the larger side, it’s pretty tough to see all the cool places in one visit, so I recommend choosing a particular section of England and making a road trip out of that, instead.
One part of the country I especially love for road tripping is The Cotswolds in Western England. You can start in Chipping Camden and head south, ending your trip in Bath. Along the way, you’ll be treated to plenty of quintessentially British villages and a lush green countryside. Alternatively consider a drive along the A39, running from Bath to Falmouth. You’ll get views for days! There are plenty of options in England, and no matter which you pick, you’re guaranteed an amazing Europe road trip.
It’s no secret that the best way to explore Iceland is on a road trip (unless you’re on an organized tour). Iceland is a gorgeous destination that can easily become your favorite destination in the world because its scenery is out of this world! Its stunning landscapes offer visitors plenty of things to do and experiences to enjoy. From exploring Reykjavik, its capital city, to diving the Silfra Fissure to hiking a glacier, gazing at the Northern Lights or dipping at the beautiful Blue Lagoon, Iceland won’t disappoint.
Like some of the other countries on the list, it’s nearly impossible to experience all of Iceland in just one trip, so there are plenty of road trip routes depending on your interest. The most popular route is the 800 mile Ring Road, which circumvents the island. Not only is this road trip route particularly easy to follow, but it includes some seriously otherworldly sites, including glaciers, waterfalls, geysers and more! It’s one of the best road trip routes for those spending a week or more in Iceland.
If you’re shorter on time, consider doing a road trip like the Golden Circle, another incredibly popular route focusing on just one region of Iceland. It’s approximately 200 miles long, and can easily be explored in 3 days or less. What makes this route particularly appealing is its proximity to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, which is also a must-visit.
Continuously ranking #1 on the Global Peace Index, Reykjavik is eclectic, laid-back, beautiful and filled with picture-perfect attractions. One of the biggest draws of Iceland’s capital is its ultra-modern and unique architecture – you won’t find anything like it! Whilst here, you can also explore local street art, take a dip in a thermal pool, or visit one of the many quirky museums.
No matter which part of Iceland you choose to visit on a Europe road trip, it’s guaranteed to be an otherworldly experience.
Despite the fact that Wales borders England, it doesn’t get a lot of love from tourists – or at least, not enough. In fact, I’d argue that few people consider it a great place for a European road trip. But trust me – it’s a gem of a country that can’t be missed. Wales will seduce you with its breathtaking scenery with a drive through Snowdonia National Park. It’s home to truly epic hikes, plenty of ancient castles and beautiful panoramic views. The best part? That’s just one of Wales’ many spectacular national parks. If you continue your route out west, you’ll eventually arrive to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, hitting plenty of towns and various landscapes along the way.
At Pembrokeshire Coast, you’ll find stunning views, unique flora and fauna, beautiful beaches and even some historical centers! It’s a dream. And of course, Cardiff, Wales’ capital city, offers plenty of theaters, museums, and shopping centers for those that are looking for a little city break. No matter which part of Wales you visit, its extensive and well-maintained road network is perfect for those looking for a place to road trip in Europe.
I still remember visiting my college roommate while she was studying in Scotland. I had been studying in Ireland and boldly declared that Edinburgh was the perfect capital city and I could see myself living there. Mind you, I made this decision after a short three days in Scotland – it was love at first sight. So, if you haven’t already visited this charming country, book a flight, rent a car, and get ready to fall in love with the people, animals, and scenery.
Like its southern neighbor, Scotland is another popular place for a European road trip, thanks to stunning landscapes and friendly locals. And depending on which part of the country you’re looking to explore, you’ll have plenty of options.
One of my personal favorites is the Argyll Coastal Route. Starting just north of Glasgow and spanning 129 miles, this scenic route explores Scotland’s epic west coast. The landscapes are astonishingly diverse, taking drivers through mountains, shorelines, and plenty of green pastures. Mind-blowing doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Alternatively, consider some of the longer routes, like the North Coast 500. It was named one of the top coastal road trips in the world and is fondly known as Scotland’s Route 66. This 516-mile route follows a loop along the northern coast of Scotland, exposing visitors to an impressive variety of landscapes, nature and animals. You’ll see everything from caves to mountains and dolphins to cows. It’s easily the best road trip you can take in Scotland.
Of course, no road trip in Scotland is complete without a visit to the country’s two most popular cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, either.
Scotland’s capital is the go-to city for stunning Scottish architecture, entertaining festivals, and fascinating history. Its gorgeous medieval splendor, interesting museums and beautiful Old Town are just a few features that make Edinburgh an unmissable city.
Glasgow, Scotland’s second largest city, is where you’ll find the lesser-known foodie and art scene. Located just an hour from Edinburgh, this is the perfect spot for those looking to delve deeper into Scotland’s art, film, and architecture scene. Plus, in the last few years, the culinary scene in Glasgow has skyrocketed, with creative artisan cafes and restaurants popping up all over the city. Glasgow is Edinburgh’s hip sibling, and visitors are guaranteed to be charmed by its cozy bookstores, cute tearooms, vintage boutiques, and artists’ studios.
Located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is home to gorgeous mountain views, pristine lakes, romantic cities and towns, and plenty of spectacular farm-to-table food. What more could you want?
Although you can easily do a somewhat comprehensive Switzerland road trip over the course of a couple of weeks, you can also visit the highlights of the country in less time, due to the well-connected road network and relatively short driving distances.
One that I particularly recommend is a week-long road trip starting in Bern and ending in Val Mustair, near the Italian border. On this itinerary, you’ll visit plenty of awesome sites such as the city of Gruyeres, where the famed Gruyere cheese is from (and yes, there’s plenty of chocolate for the sampling as well) and Lucerne, known for its preserved medieval architecture. Hiking and camping is also popular in Switzerland and it’s well-worth preparing for plenty of time outdoors on any Swiss road trip.
Unlike some of the other places on this list, Switzerland is one of the few that I’d equally recommend visiting during the winter – that is, as long as you’re comfortable driving in snowy conditions. If so, you’ll be treated to epic snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes – a winter wonderland if you ever saw one.
Lastly, if cities are more your style, a “big city” road trip throughout Switzerland is another guaranteed adventure. Start in Zurich, where you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of museums and art galleries, with one of the country’s many beautiful lakes serving as a backdrop. Continue to Lucerne for a tour of some of the best chocolate factories in the world, before stopping in Bern to soak up the art of Paul Klee. Lastly, end in Geneva, where you’ll be inspired by breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and the Alps, and be impressed by the iconic outdoor clock made of flowers.
All in all, Switzerland is a smaller country that packs a big punch and is a truly spectacular place to road trip in Europe.
Compact, charming, and easy to get around, Belgium is small in size but packed with a variety of natural, cultural, and historical attractions. One of the advantages of visiting Belgium is that it’s easy to see the highlights of the country in just 7 – 10 days, following a fairly common road trip itinerary: Brussels -> Ghent -> Bruges -> Antwerp -> Dinant. Plus, because of its small size, you don’t have to be as strict with time when planning your itinerary.
So what is there to see and do in Belgium, anyway? Well, as the political and economic heart of the European Union, a lot (or more specifically, a little bit of everything). Belgium is a history and architecture lover’s dream, striking the perfect balance between modern and medieval architecture. You’ll be treated to a plethora of 10th century castles and cathedrals, beautiful art galleries, and more museums than you could possibly visit.
Stroll the narrow and meandering streets of Brussels, admiring the beautiful Central Square surrounded by magnificent medieval buildings, Take a picture of the famous Manneken Pis and explore the diverse and interesting museums such as the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Musical Instrument Museum, and more. Brussels is a cosmopolitan and multicultural city that will make you feel welcome.
In Dinant, you’ll encounter a quintessentially charming European town, complete with its own Notre-Dame (considered one of the most beautiful churches in Belgium) and main bridge called the Charles de Gaulle Bridge. Although the bridge itself is beautiful, what makes it particularly unique is that it’s lined with colorful saxophones, each with its own unique design. This area pays tribute to Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, who was born in Dinant.
Although many people don’t necessarily consider Belgium a must-visit destination, this small country will impress anyone looking for a lesser-known place to road trip in Europe.
In conclusion, there are plenty of awesome places to road trip in Europe and this list is just an introduction to some of my personal favorites. Whether you decide to do one of the above-mentioned European road trips or choose a different one entirely, there’s no doubt that the continent is chock-full of beautiful landscapes and charming towns to enjoy. Happy road tripping!
Tell me: What’s your favorite road trip in Europe?
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