Tuscany's patchwork landscapes of vineyards and rolling hills are perfect road-trip country © Peter Zelei Images / Getty Images
Packed with ancient history, sophisticated cities, cultural treasures, fine food and even finer art, Europe has an embarrassment of riches and is a dream for all kinds of travelers. And with landscapes boasting rugged coastlines, rolling country fields and mighty mountains (to name but a few), this is a region that suits road-tripping down to a T.
These nine diverse and dynamic countries – all featured in our Europe’s Best Trips guide – represent some of the top spots to hit the road in Europe. Discover what makes them so special and kick your trip planning into gear with our recommended road trips.
Rome is the starting point of this Italian World Heritage wonders road trip © f11photo / Shutterstock
Best Italy road trip: World Heritage wonders
The route: Start – Rome; finish – Venice
Length: 14 days, 870 km/540 miles
Few countries can rival Italy’s wealth of riches. Its historic cities boast iconic monuments and masterpieces at every turn, its food is imitated the world over and its landscape is a majestic patchwork of snowcapped peaks, plunging coastlines, lakes and remote valleys. And with many thrilling roads to explore, it offers plenty of epic driving.
From Rome to Venice, this tour of Unesco World Heritage Sites takes in some of Italy’s greatest hits, including the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and some lesser-known treasures.
The South of France is a true gem for road-trippers © pipalana / Getty Images
Best France road trip: Champagne taster
The route: Start – Reims; finish – Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Legnth: 3 days, 85 km/53 miles
Iconic monuments, fabulous food, world-class wines – there are so many reasons to plan your very own French voyage. Whether you’re planning on cruising the corniches of the French Riviera, getting lost among the snowcapped mountains or tasting your way around Champagne’s hallowed vineyards, this is a nation that’s full of unforgettable routes that will plunge you straight into France’s heart and soul. There’s a trip for everyone here: family travelers, history buffs, culinary connoisseurs and outdoor adventurers. Buckle up and bon voyage – you’re in for quite a ride.
From musty cellars to vine-striped hillsides, this Champagne adventure whisks you through the heart of the region to explore the world’s favorite celebratory tipple. It’s time to quaff!
Winding around the fells and peaks of the Lake District is an unforgettable experience © Tim Graham / Getty Images
The best Great Britain road trip: mountains and coasts of Britain
The route: Start and finish – London (via Edinburgh and Cardiff)
Length: 21 days, 1815 km/1128 miles
Great Britain overflows with unforgettable experiences and spectacular sights. There’s the grandeur of Scotland’s mountains, England’s quaint villages and country lanes, and the haunting beauty of the Welsh coast. You’ll also find wild northern moors, the exquisite university colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, and a string of vibrant cities boasting everything from Georgian architecture to 21st-century art.
Swing through three countries and several millennia of history as you take in a greatest hits parade of Britain’s chart-topping sights.
Ireland beckons road-trippers with wild and dramatic coastal roads © grafxart8888 / Getty Images
The best Ireland road trip: the long way around
The route: Start – Dublin; finish – Ardmore
Length: 14 days, 1300 km/807 miles
Your main reason for visiting? To experience the Ireland of the postcard – captivating peninsulas, dramatic wildness and undulating hills. Scenery, history, culture, bustling cosmopolitanism and the stillness of village life – you’ll visit blockbuster attractions and replicate famous photo ops. But there are plenty of surprises too – and they’re all within easy reach of each other.
Why go in a straight line when you can perambulate at leisure? This trip explores Ireland’s jagged, scenic and spectacular edges; a captivating loop that takes in the whole island.
The Way of St James, one of the idyllic spots along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain © Tusea / Getty Images
The best Spain road trip: Northern Spain pilgrimage
The route: Start – Roncesvalles; finish – Santiago de Compostela
Length: 5-7 days, 678 km/423 miles
Spectacular beaches, mountaintop castles, medieval villages, stunning architecture and some of the most celebrated restaurants on the planet – Spain has an allure that few destinations can match. There’s much to see and do amid the enchanting landscapes that inspired Picasso and Velàzquez.
You can spend your days feasting on seafood in coastal Galician towns, feel the heartbeat of Spain at soul-stirring flamenco shows or hike across the flower-strewn meadows of the mountains. The journeys in this region offer something for everyone: beach lovers, outdoor adventurers, family travelers, music fiends, foodies and those simply wanting to delve into Spain’s rich art and history.
Travel in the footprints of thousands of pilgrims past and present as you journey along the highroads and backroads of the legendary Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail.
The Algarve's plethora of beautiful beaches and coastal views are perfect for scenic pitstops © Elena_Sistaliuk / Getty Images
The best Portugal road trip: Douro Valley vineyard trails
The route: Start – Porto; finish – Miranda do Douro
Length: 5-7 days, 358 km/222 miles
Portugal’s mix of the medieval and the maritime makes it a superb place to visit. A turbulent history involving the Moors, Spain and Napoleon has left the interior scattered with walled medieval towns topped by castles, while the pounding Atlantic has sculpted a coast of glorious sandy beaches. The nation’s days of exploration and seafaring have created an introspective yet open culture with wide-ranging artistic influences.
The eating and drinking scene here is a highlight, with several wine regions, and restaurants that are redolent with aromas of grilling pork or the freshest of fish. Comparatively short distances mean that you get full value for road trips here: less time behind the wheel means you can take more time to absorb the atmosphere.
The Douro is a little drop of heaven. Uncork this region on Porto's doorstep and you’ll soon fall head over heels in love with its terraced vineyards, wine estates and soul-stirring vistas.
Drive through the picturesque town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber along Germany's Romantic Road ©jenifoto/Getty Images
The best Germany road trip: the Romantic Road
The route: Start – Würzburg; finish – Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau Castles
Length: 10 days, 350 km/218 miles
Grandiose cities, storybook villages, vine-stitched valleys and bucolic landscapes that beg you to toot your horn, leap out of the car and jump for joy – road-tripping in Germany is a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of brilliant landscapes and experiences.
On this trip, you’ll experience the Germany of the bedtime storybook – medieval walled towns, gabled townhouses, cobbled squares and crooked streets, all preserved as if time has come to a standstill.
Go from cute towns to green meadows and mountaintops in a morning's drive Switzerland © ake1150sb / Getty Images
The best Switzerland road trip: the Swiss Alps
The route: Start – Arosa; finish – Zermatt
Length: 7 days, 612 km/382 miles
A place of heart-stopping natural beauty and head-spinning efficiency, Switzerland lies in the center of Europe yet exhibits a unique blend of cultures. Dazzling outdoor scenery, such as the ever-admired Alps, pristine lakes, lush meadows and chocolate-box chalets, combines with local traditions, cosmopolitan cities and smooth infrastructure.
In short, Switzerland makes it easy for you to dive deep into its heart: distances are manageable and variety is within easy reach. You can be perusing a farmers' market for picnic provisions in the morning, then feasting on them on a mountaintop come lunchtime. At nightfall, try gazing at stars in the night sky from cozy digs or reveling in the cultural offerings of one of Switzerland’s urbane cities.
From Arosa to Zermatt, this zigzagging trip is the A to Z of Switzerland’s astounding Alpine scenery, with majestic peaks, formidable panoramas, cable-car rides and local charm.
Drive into the heart of dramatic landscapes and spellbinding scenery on Austria's Grossglockner Road © Pakawat Thongcharoen / Getty Images
The best Austria road trip: Grossglockner Road
The route: Start – Salzburg; finish – Bregenz
Length: 5-7 days, 644 km/401 miles
Austria is a road-tripper's fantasy land. Not only are there spectacular backdrops of spellbinding landscapes and storybook architecture, but opportunities abound to get out and experience them. Along these routes, you can scale soaring peaks, ski year-round, raft white-water rapids and pelt down toboggan runs.
When you’ve had enough thrills and spills, Austria’s multitude of cultural pursuits span medieval castles to monumental palaces, art-filled museums and magnificent churches. You can taste cheese at Alpine dairies, schnapps at distilleries, and beer and wine in monasteries where they’re still made by monks. Or just hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage to clip-clop through cobbled, lamp-lit city streets.
Austria’s most exhilarating trip takes you on a wild roller-coaster drive over three legendary Alpine passes and packs in outdoor activities from year-round skiing to windsurfing and white-water rafting.
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