Hitting the Open Road - Europe's Best Driving Holidays
If you want to find the best scenery in Europe, there’s no better way than from behind the wheel. Our own Wild Atlantic Way can definitely be counted among the most beautiful road routes in the world, but if you want to head further afield we’ve picked out some of the most interesting - and challenging - road routes from across the continent.
So get your motor running and steer your way through our list of Europe’s most spectacular road trips.
Top 5 European Driving Holidays
Alpine Road, Germany
Deservedly one of Europe’s most popular driving destinations, this stunning 500km route is the perfect way to take in the majesty of the Bavarian Alps. Start your journey off in the historic island city of Lindau, before making your way to the luxurious spa town of Oberstaufen and on to the tumultuous white waters of the Breitachklamm gorge. After this you’ll join the “Romantic Road”, which passes some of Bavaria’s most famous fairy tale castles.
You can then brave the heights of the longest concrete span bridge in the world, the vertigo-inducing Echelsbach, before reaching the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This popular ski resort sits at the foot of the towering Zugspitze, the peak of which is reachable by cable car and has views of Italy, Switzerland, and Austria. End your trip at the alluring emerald waters of the Konigsee, a beautiful glacial lake just south of Salzburg.
The Atlantic Highway, Spain
You can make this journey in less than two hours by motorway, but where’s the fun in that?
Start your trip off in Biarritz, once an elegant getaway for Hollywood royalty, now more famous as one of the continent’s surfing capitals. Join the Atlantic highway just outside of town and cruise down the Basque coastline while marvelling at a succession of place names with more x’s than Taylor Swift.
After a night sampling pintxos (the region’s miniature variation on tapas) in one of the city’s many fantastic bars, hit the road again for the final stretch of your journey to Bilbao. You’ll really know you’ve arrived when you spot the unmistakable twisting metal sheets of the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum, still an architectural marvel almost twenty years after it opened.
North Coast 500, Scotland
Ok, so it might not be the most exotic location on our list, but this rugged stretch of road circling northern Scotland can match anything on the list for natural beauty. Set off from the Highlands’ unofficial capital, Inverness, before making your way through the hairpin bends of Bealach na Bà, while enjoying unrivalled views of Skye and the Hebrides. The peaceful village of Torridon makes a nice stopping point here.
From there, head to the North West where points of interest include Lough Broom, Knockan Crag, and the remotest beach in the UK, Sandwood Bay, which is accessible only by a 4 mile hike. As you begin to head east you’ll pass John O’Groats, before circling around and driving south through the Berriedale Braes where the road falls and rises by an eyebrow-raising 13%. After that, it’s a comparatively sedate trip back to Inverness through the many charming villages of Easter Ross.
Trollstigen and the Atlantic Road, Norway
For a truly breath-taking experience, nothing beats these two famous roads in Norway. After arriving in Oslo, you’ll need to take a plane to the western city of Molde. From there it’s a short drive to The Atlantic road, which is just over 8km long but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in drama.
This awe-inspiring route cuts straight through the sea across a chain of islands and seven bridges. You’ll never forget your first sight of the Storseisundet Bridge, which thanks to its unusual construction appears to drop off to nowhere. But thankfully, it’s just an optical illusion.
Once you’ve recovered from that it’s on to The Trollistigen, which snakes its way up the side of a mountain around eleven hair-raising hairpin bends at an incline of 10%. Needless to say, this is not a route to be attempted in winter. It’s only open from May to October, so plan your trip accordingly.
The Grand Tour, Italy
The original European road trip, The Grand Tour, was the not so holy pilgrimage made by upper-class young Englishmen in search of the heights of Renaissance culture from the 17th to 19th centuries.
If you want to attempt a scaled down modern-day version of the Tour, start in Geneva, before plunging into the seven-mile Mont-Blanc tunnel. After that it’s on to the gateway to Turin, before hitting the coast at the ancient sea port of Genoa.
Feeling peckish? Head east to Bologna, one of Italy’s food capitals, where Spaghetti Bolognese is definitely not on the menu. A trip to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without taking in the artistic glories of Florence either. Although be warned, first time visitors have been known to get a little light-headed at the sheer quantity of masterpieces on display. Then decompress with a trip to the magnificent piazzas and cobbled streets of Siena. And to finish? Well, they do say all roads lead to Rome…
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