Europe is packed with so many things to do spread across each of its very different countries. Fitting these into a vacation itinerary can be tricky but European road trips are the best way to not only fit plenty in but also to see different parts of a country. If you’re not sure where to start, these recommendations from members of the FTB community have you covered!
Note: This post contains affiliate links meaning that although your price won’t change, FTB will make a small commission on any tours you book using these links.
- 1 7 Of The Best European Road Trips
- 1.1 1. Portugal
- 1.2 2. A Road Trip Circuit from Paris across three typical French regions
- 1.3 3. Schwarzwaldhochstrasse or Black Forest High Road, in Germany
- 1.4 4. Traversing Luxembourg in one day
- 1.5 5. Roadtripping Ireland
- 1.6 6. Driving Transylvania: Cluj-Napoca to Belis-Fantanele via Marisel
- 1.7 7. A road trip along the Albanian Coast
7 Of The Best European Road Trips
Two Traveling Texans: Portugal is a hot destination these days and the best way to see the country is by driving. We had a great time on our 8 day European road trip through Portugal last year. The roads were great, similar to what I am used to in the US with a few more roundabouts. There is so much to see and it is not all in the major cities so having a car gives you a lot more flexibility.
We started and ended our road trip in Lisbon and made stops in Sintra, Obidos, Nazare, Coimbra, Porto, Fatima, and the Algarve. You can see our route here. Some of the highlights of our Portugal vacation were exploring the Lisbon neighborhood of Belem, visiting the palaces in Sintra, doing the city wall walk in Obidos, port tasting in Porto, and taking a boat ride to see the Algarve caves. We made so many memories that will last a lifetime.
It was a lot to fit in 8 days. Looking back I would have liked to do the same trip over 10 days and also spend some time in the Duoro Valley and maybe another small Portuguese village. I guess it’s a great reason for me to go back to Portugal.
Don’t forget to plan activities for your Portuguese road trip!
2. A Road Trip Circuit from Paris across three typical French regions
My Favourite Escapes: Paris is a lovely place to visit, but can you say that you’ve seen France if you’ve only been to the capital? This six-day European road trip circuit from Paris takes you for 1,300 km around three beautiful French regions: the Loire Valley, Brittany, and Normandy.
A drive around the Loire Valley will take you to castles you’ve always dreamt of in a region also reputed for its wineries. How could you resist? You’ll find around 3,000 castles 70,000 hectares of vines in the Loire Valley region to keep you busy during your road trip. Believe me; it’s hard to choose which ones to visit. We arrived at night in Amboise and spent two days in the Loire Valley. This was just enough to check out one winery in Chinon (where we spent the night) and six magnificent castles: Amboise, Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau, Villandry, Usse, and Saumur. The castles were all different from each other, and I liked to imagine Royal History in Chenonceau, Fairy Tales in Usse and Gardening in Villandry.
The second part of the road trip will take you to Brittany, from the city of Nantes to the lovely and authentic Vannes, Dinan and Saint-Malo. Not only are each of these towns beautiful, but they also offer the opportunity to taste fresh seafood and the local specialty “la galette” – a local crepe with a special flour that you drink with local cider. After a couple of days in Brittany, it’s time to explore Normandy before going back to Paris.
The third part of the road trip starts with the second most visited places in France after Paris: the Mont Saint Michel. The visit to Normandy continues in a very different atmosphere as you reach the wealthy seaside resorts of Deauville and Honfleur port. The last day offers scenic views of the cliffs of Etretat, and the last stop in Rouen is a journey back in time with a walk around the pedestrian town center that has some of the most impressive architecture.
French roads are excellent, and you shouldn’t have issues finding your way or anything else you may need while on the road. The hardest part of this road trip will be to skip beautiful places on the way: you could easily spend two weeks exploring each of these regions. Every time I am on a road trip in France, I struggle to stick to the itinerary as I wish to stop in every village we drive through.
Start your French road trip off with these activities in Paris!
3. Schwarzwaldhochstrasse or Black Forest High Road, in Germany
Erin at Large: This route through the Black Forest in southwestern Germany has been a route for holiday European road trips since the 1930s. Beginning in the spa and casino town of Baden-Baden, you wind your way through beautiful forests, with glimpses down into the valleys dotted with traditional farmhouses. The route officially ends 60km later in Freudenstadt, but you can take any number of detours along the way. It’s easily completed in a day, but we enjoy taking our time and staying overnight in one of the many Gasthäuser (guest houses) and enjoying some local cuisine like Käsespätzle (cheese-smothered fresh egg noodles topped with fried onions) and Wildfleisch (meat hunted in the forest, often wild boar or venison), and the excellent local wine.
It’s well worth stopping at the Mummelsee, a round little lake with its very own fairy king if you believe the stories! The ruined castle above Baden-Baden is free to visit and has quite a bit still standing to explore. Our favorite detour is the Schwarzwald Vogtsbauernhof (Black Forest Open Air Museum) where you can explore 300-year-old traditional farmhouses, see artisans at work, and have a slice of proper Black Forest cake. Keep your eyes peeled for signs along the High Road for nature trails, there are many along this route – in fact, the Black Forest has one of the oldest hiking clubs in Europe.
Driving the Black Forest Route is easy, just remember to always stay out of the left-hand lane unless you are passing someone, and enjoy the well-maintained road surface and well-banked corners.
Take a break from road tripping and check out tourist attractions 🙂
4. Traversing Luxembourg in one day
The Travelling Stomach: Complete the ultimate Luxembourg road trip traversing the length of the country and hopping over the border into France, Belgium and Germany during your travels. As you explore, you will drive through wine regions and forests to reach magical castles and quaint towns along your way.
Start off in the southern town of Schengen, where you can get your dose of political history on the border with France then start by meandering up alongside the River Moselle, bordering Germany. On both riverbanks, you will begin to see the endless rows of striking vineyards appear, in the region famous for its sparkling and still wines. After stopping off for a quick tasting at Caves St Martin, head north again and enjoy the rolling scenery, maybe even crossing over the river for a quick trip into Germany!
As you break away from the river and head north, the landscape changes to luscious forests and hills and you will explore a number of beautiful towns adorned with towering chateaus. Vianden is the most famous of these, with a volume of tourists to match, but equally worth a visit is Larochette, Clervaux and Dietrich, home to the country’s beer!
As the sun begins the set, your final destination at the northerly Belgian border awaits, with the landscape changing again to a more rural country full of wheatfields. With the length of Luxembourg completed and four different countries ‘visited’ in one day, there is plenty of time left to head back to the capital in time for dinner or to catch your flight home.
Take a break from driving and let someone else show you around.
5. Roadtripping Ireland
The Family Voyage: Ireland is a country that’s best seen on a road trip – when most would-be travelers envision their time their, they imagine rolling emerald green hills dotted with grazing sheep and small towns where locals gather in the evening to listen to traditional music and have a craic. To experience this idyllic (and attainable!) vision of Ireland, you’ll have to get the heck out of Dublin! This itinerary will require only around 700 km of driving and would be ideal for a trip of close to two weeks.
Start your trip off with a few days to explore Ireland’s capital city, Dublin. The city feels much smaller than you might expect and we were able to explore it entirely on foot. In our opinion, the best thing to do in Dublin is a guided tour of Trinity College. The guides, many alumni of the university, offer a quirky inside look into the history of both the school and the city in which it resides. The tour concludes with a visit to Trinity’s famous Long Room (its library) and an opportunity to see the beautifully-illuminated Book of Kells up close.
Beer aficionados will appreciate a visit to the Guinness Storehouse – you’ll learn everything about the company’s history, including manufacturing, marketing, transportation and more. Our favorite part? Learning the secret of how to pull that elusive “perfect pint”.
After a day or two in Dublin, it’s time to hit the countryside! Driving on the left side of the road can be intimidating to some drivers at first, but we were fine after a few days. You’ll be heading down to County Kerry, on Ireland’s west coast, but a lunchtime stop at the Rock of Cashel, a near-ruined hilltop castle, in Tipperary is a great time to stretch your legs climbing the hill to the ancient castle. Once in Country Kerry, Killarney or one of the small towns nearby is a great hub to explore the area – there’s so much to explore that we spent a full week there! Visit the beautiful Torc Waterfall, spend a day at the Muckross estate, bike through the Gap of Dunloe (if you’re crazy like us!) and more.
Your next stop is the beautiful Dingle Peninsula. We just spent a day there, but it turned out to be one of our favorite places in Ireland! If you have a few extra days we recommend spending them in sleepy Dingle. The scenery is breathtaking and the pace is even slower than in the more central parts of County Kerry. It’s a great place to experience real Irish culture – the Irish language is alive and well in this area, as is the beautiful traditional music!
Your final place to stay is in or around Shannon in southern County Clare. You’ll be able to easily visit Bunratty Castle and even take an easy day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. These dramatic seaside cliffs are one of the top tourist attractions in all of Ireland and on a clear day, it’s easy to see why. In addition to the natural topography, you’ll get to watch nesting seabirds on the nearby rock outcroppings. If you’re lucky, you can book a return flight that departs from the Shannon airport, otherwise, you’ll say goodbye to the rolling green hills of Dublin, just a 2.5 hour drive away.
Full details of our Ireland road trip are here
If you’ve got time, make sure to add in a brewery tour or sightseeing cruise.
Road trips can be expensive! Make sure you check out our suggestions for ways to save money to get you on the road sooner!
6. Driving Transylvania: Cluj-Napoca to Belis-Fantanele via Marisel
LooknWalk: Transylvania is a really scenic area in Romania and while you can definitely explore it by public transportation, it gets quite interesting if you rent a car and go on your merry way.
One sizzling August day (in 2016), my cousin decided she wanted to drive a scenic road from Cluj-Napoca to Belis-Fantanele via Marisel. Word of advice: if you rent, make sure it’s a four wheel drive as the road isn’t in the perfect shape.
But nature and the rolling hills of Transylvania so are! I was tempted to ask her to stop quite often to take photos and my husband ended up filming quite a bit of the trip.
Pack a picnic basket if you wish and stop for a lunch break in nature. Or just stop at one of the cottages along the way.
The drive to Belis is about 2h one way.
The article on my blog is here
Why not break up your adventure and tour Dracula’s Castle!
7. A road trip along the Albanian Coast
Our Life, Our Travel: Albania is a lesser known destination in Europe, and the best way to explore it is by car, as the public transportation only works well between bigger cities. The coastal road is about 300 km long (one way) and takes at least 3 days, but we recommend you to spend a week there. You can continue your journey to Greece or Montenegro too if you wish.
During our one month in Albania, we drove along the seaside from north to south and visited as many beaches as possible. Durrës, our first stop resembled Italy in the 90’s with its long and crowded beaches. The coastline on the southern part of the country shows another face: tiny bays and small beaches fitted between the steep rocky shores. Needless to say, the sea is crystal clear and warm. We stopped for a swim in almost every village. Besides the bigger settlements like Vlore, Dhermi, or Saranda, villages like Borsh, Bunec and Lukova also worth stopping by.
When you had enough water, you can visit an ancient ruin village, Apollonia, and the Castle of Porto Palermo too.
Read more about road tripping and beaches in Albania
Explore more of Albania with some day trips and activities!
Have you been on any European road trips? Let us know where you went!
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