There’s something about driving the open road that’s so liberating for travel junkies. With a full tank and flexible itinerary, road tripping is an awesome way to discover a country. Thanks to an extensive highway network, Europe offers many of the world’s most beautiful drives.
Driving around a country with your own set of wheels lets you expand the places you can visit. Public transport only takes you so far and often doesn’t get you anywhere near destinations untouched by the masses. But those problems disappear when you rent a car to travel around Europe.
If you’re looking for the best road trips in Europe, we have ideas that will entice your adventurous spirit. Sink your toes into sandy beaches, wander hip capital cities, and admire picture-perfect vistas of the Alps all during the same trip. So, buckle up and get ready to hit the road with these 8 unforgettable Europe road trips.
What to keep in mind when road tripping in Europe
Although many things are similar throughout Europe, several of our road trip adventures cross international borders. It’s important to remember that countries could have different sets of driving rules and laws. You don’t want to cross borders and forget what things are illegal when it comes to driving. For instance, some countries make it mandatory to always drive with your lights on, and others require specific safety equipment in your car.
If you’re packing for the ultimate holiday road trip, you should prioritize studying the rules of the road for each country you visit. In addition to these road trip packing list essentials, include a rulebook for the destinations on your itinerary. Getting a pricey ticket would be a sour memory for your Europe trip.
Renting a car in Europe
Having a car is the ultimate freedom when planning a trip to Europe, but there are a few things to consider before booking your ride. Review these tips to get the best value and rental type for your adventure:
- Driver’s License: This might sound obvious, but ensure you have a license accepted by the countries you’ll be driving around. An International Driving License is always a good choice.
- Manual transmission: Manual cars are more common in Europe and renting an automatic will cost extra.
- Airport Pick-Up/Drop Off: Airport rentals will always cost more than renting your car within the city.
- Crossing Borders: Discuss with the rental company to know what countries you’re allowed to drive your car.
- One-Way Rentals: While a tempting option to continue your travels, dropping off your car in a different country comes at a higher cost.
- Type of Fuel: Some cars run on diesel, while others require unleaded gasoline. Before driving off the lot, ask the rental company what fuel to use.
- Rental Insurance: Many companies have insurance fees that add to your rental cost. To save money, book your car with a credit card that includes a collision damage waiver.
When you’re looking for the best car rental company, Europe has many options for you. Some of the internationally recognized companies include SIXT, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, and Alamo. To find the best car rental price for your Europe road trip, use Auto Europe to compare rates.
Best road trips in Europe
From coastal highways to windy mountain roads, these European road trips let you explore every corner of the continent. Cruise at your desired pace and discover the secrets of Europe that you can only access by vehicle. Whether you’re dreaming about Norwegian fjords or the Adriatic coast, buckle up and hit the road with these epic itineraries.
1. Spain and Portugal
- How long: 14-21 days
- Best for: Sun-worshippers, surfers, self-proclaimed food critics, and wine connoisseurs.
- Things to keep in mind: Be extremely mindful of where you park your vehicle in Spain due to unorganized parking rules.
The Iberian Peninsula has some of Western Europe’s sunniest weather and perfect conditions for a great road trip. Spain’s extravagant capital of Madrid is an ideal base for a central starting point. After visiting world-renowned museums, head south for the balmy Andalucía region and lounge on sun-kissed beaches. The Sierra Nevada Mountains form a majestic backdrop, and Seville is a cultural mecca worth stopping for the cuisine and flamenco alone.
As you cross the border into Portugal, beach freaks will be in paradise on the sandy shores of the Algarve. The Faro District boasts golden beaches, craggy cliffs, turquoise waters, and fishing villages for a relaxed visit. With 832 km (517 miles) of Atlantic coastline, Portugal provides a huge list of beautiful destinations often skipped by tourists. Arrábida Natural Park, Praia da Arrifana, and Comporta only scratch the surface of wild coastal landscapes of Portugal.
Just outside Porto, the Douro Valley is a splendid farewell to Portugal and a fantastic place to taste port wine. Northern Spain’s Basque Country has a unique culture that spoils you with delectable cuisine and picturesque beaches. Don’t forget to include a pit stop in Barcelona to sunbathe on golden shores and admire some of Europe’s greatest architectural wonders.
What to do
Both Portugal and Spain offer plenty of opportunities to go sightseeing and taste some delicious local food. But they also both have a beautiful coast line that are great for water sports and activities. Simply click on a button below to view incredible guided tours, day trips and even multi day adventures in these countries:
2. Bergen to Trondheim (Norway)
- How long: 5-7 days
- Best for: Adrenaline junkies and nature lovers.
- Things to keep in mind: It’s the law to carry a red warning triangle and visibility vest inside the car in case of emergencies.
Starting from the colorful wooden houses of Bergen, this route tackles the wildest rides of Norway. Sparkling fjords and snowy peaks surround the town and beckon you with dramatic viewpoints. Drive the winding roads of the Gaularfjellet Scenic Route for jaw-dropping views of Sognefjord, Norway’s deepest fjord. The Sognefjord ferry is a heart-racing section of this road trip destination in Europe as you gaze at the sparkling waters and sheer cliffs around the vessel.
Lofty peaks, immense glaciers, and crystal-clear lakes dominate the landscape as you drive past charming villages. Videseter sits in a sharp, glacial valley with snow-capped mountains forming the backdrop. While it takes a little longer, Gamle Strynefjellsvegen has hairpin turns that snake through a deep valley and around a rushing river. Part of the road is gravel, but the mystical drive has stone barriers, rugged mountains, and turquoise-blue Langvatnet lake.
After that harrowing section, feast your eyes on the bewildering vistas at the Geiranger Skywalk. The winding route into Geiranger gives you glimpses of the Seven Sisters Waterfall tumbling into the fjord. For the final portions of this spine-tingling journey, drive the hairpin turns of Trollstigen and hit the Atlantic Road into Trondheim.
What to do
Norway’s stunning nature with mountains, fjords and colorful villages, this road trip in Europe provides plenty of opportunities to undertake some great activities. Think for example of hiking and cruising, but for a complete overview, simply click on one of the buttons below.
3. UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland)
- How long: 10-14 days
- Best for: Winding backcountry roads, medieval history, and craggy coastlines.
- Things to keep in mind: Don’t forget that this part of Europe drives on the left!
The British Isles reward drivers with some of the most scenic countryside anywhere in Europe. Using London as your base, head to the English coastline to view the chalky White Cliffs of Dover and the fabulous beaches of Cornwall. After enjoying the water, veer north to the rolling hills, wide valleys, and moorlands of the Peak District. Make pit stops in quaint villages or spend time in the bustling cities of Manchester and Liverpool before hitting the England-Scotland border.
If you have time, England’s Lake District National Park is heaven for nature lovers with its deep-blue lakes, rocky peaks, and epic viewpoints. Just an hour apart, Edinburgh and Glasgow are Scotland’s two biggest cities dripping with medieval history. Wander the Edinburgh Castle, shop on the Royal Mile, or admire the enchanting Glasgow Cathedral.
After exploring medieval alleyways, it’s time to venture into the Scottish Highlands for hauntingly beautiful nature. Some stops that should be high on your itinerary include the intimidating Ben Nevis, picture-perfect Glencoe Valley, and the rugged Cairngorms. And you should definitely reserve 2-3 days for the Isle of Skye. Mystical landscapes like the Old Man of Storr, Fairy Pools, and Quiraing will leave you speechless.
Riding the ferry in your car from Scotland to Northern Ireland is an exciting part of this Europe road trip. When you touch land in Northern Ireland, witness the resurgence of Belfast and the volcanic basalt columns at the Giant’s Causeway. And enthralling castles like the Carrickfergus Castle and Dunluce Castle are among the United Kingdom’s best-preserved medieval structures.
What to do
The rugged terrain and stunning views won’t get you bored for a second during this road trip in Europe. But if you don’t feel like driving for a day, or want to do some off-road exploring, don’t hesitate to check out some incredible tours by clicking on one of the buttons below.
4. Amsterdam to Berlin
- How long: 4-5 days
- Best for: City slickers and fast drivers.
- Things to keep in mind: Although hard to believe, the Autobahn does have some speed limits that range from 80 km/h to 130 km/h (50mph to 80mph)
While this is our shortest Europe road trip, it connects two of the continent’s greatest cities. After tasting cheese, visiting museums, and cruising canals in Amsterdam, drive through the beautiful Dutch countryside. As two native Dutchies, we’ve explored much of our home country, and it’s dear to our hearts. Some of the best day trips from Amsterdam include Zaanse Schans, Muiden, and Giethoorn.
When you cross the Dutch-German border, you get the thrilling experience of driving the Autobahn. Famous for its stretches without speed limits, the massive highway lets speed junkies push the pedal to the floor. But if you don’t have a need for speed, stay in the right lane at all times. Before visiting the iconic monuments and artsy neighborhoods of Berlin, make a pit stop in Hanover or detour to the port city of Hamburg.
What to do
If you really want to explore these cities, we advise you to do some guided trips. Just pick one or two that really suit your interests. Whether it’s food tasting, a museum ticket or a guided cycling tour to the highlights of the city, it will provide you a great day out and better insights in the city life!
5. Italy, Slovenia, Croatia
- How long: 14-21 days
- Best for: Travelers who have a budding love affair with beaches and mountains.
- Things to keep in mind: Headlights must be turned on at all times in Slovenia, while Croatia requires them to be on from November to April.
Save plenty of time to immerse yourself in stunning nature and sprawling cities while driving the Adriatic coast. Study the remnants of Italy’s past empires in the gorgeous towns of Venice and Verona. If you’re craving an urban escape, head to Slovenia’s Julian Alps for fresh mountain air and glossy lakes. With a glorious backdrop of snowy peaks, Lake Bled is a must-see.
Before veering towards the Adriatic Sea, witness the magical emerald-green Soča River and tumbling cascades of Plitvice Lakes National Park during this road trip in Europe. Rijeka is a reigning European Capital of Culture and springboards you to the Croatian Islands. Lošinj, Krk, and Cres beckon your name with pebble beaches, crystal-clear waters, and charming red-roof buildings.
The Dalmatian coast has several of Croatia’s most beautiful towns and islands for fun day trips. Zadar is a beacon of medieval treasures, while the fortified walls of Dubrovnik overlook the deep-blue Adriatic waters. And if you need more downtime on the islands, park the car and sail to the picturesque Hvar, Brač, or Vis.
What to do
Covering three countries at the Adriatic sea, this Europe road trip is perfect for getting out of the car every now and then for some water activities. But if you prefer to stay on the mainland, that’s perfectly possible as well, as all these countries have beautiful nature to explore. Click on one of the buttons below to find some incredible guided tours on Get Your Guide in Italy, Slovenia or Croatia.
6. Eastern Europe (Romania & Bulgaria)
- How long: 7-10 days
- Best for: Mountain lovers and white-knuckle drivers.
- Things to keep in mind: The entire length of the Transfăgărășan Highway is only open from July-October, so plan this itinerary for summer or early fall.
It’s a shame that Eastern Europe doesn’t get as many visitors compared to their Western European neighbors. The region has a rich history, hospitable people, and incredible scenery that receive far fewer crowds. For road trippers in Europe, this scenic route through Romania and Bulgaria is a mountain lover’s dream.
Start in the vibrant Romanian capital of Bucharest before driving to the mysterious Transylvania region. The Carpathian Mountains surround the town of Brașov and its gorgeous Baroque and Gothic architecture. Arrange a day trip to the legendary Bran Castle before hitting the serpentine roads of the Transfăgărășan Highway. Weaving through the southern Carpathians, this mountain road presents mind-blowing images of sharp valleys, craggy peaks, and dense forests.
After crossing the border into Bulgaria, the dramatic mountain scenery only gets more incredible. The drive from Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv cuts through the Balkan Mountains and has endless fairytale sights of serrated peaks, lush forests, misty valleys, and plunging waterfalls. Stand at mountain passes that survey the landscape and immerse yourself in Bulgaria’s remarkable history. If you’re itching for more cultural gems, visit the Ancient Town of Plovdiv and the Roman-era Theater of Philippopolis.
What to do
The winding roads and incredible views make it very attractive to just stay in the car and drive as far as you can. But off the roads, there are so many more things to see and do. So, park the car and check out some incredible things to do in Romania and Bulgaria:
- How long: 7-10 days
- Best for: Cultural retreats with a laid-back vibe.
- Things to keep in mind: Scandinavia is cyclist-friendly, and you should watch out for bikes along roadways.
This Scandinavian road trip lets you explore the capital cities of three beautiful countries in northern Europe. And between these cultural meccas, you get to witness picturesque countryside and dreamy images of the Baltic Sea. If you start in Copenhagen, don’t miss the entertaining Tivoli Gardens, colorful Nyhavn harbor, or Rosenborg Castle.
Cross the Øresund Bridge into Sweden and drive through miles of verdant forests before arriving in Stockholm. Jönköping sits on the shores of Lake Vättern and is a vastly underrated European road trip destination. In Stockholm, save time to cruise the archipelago, wander the Skansen open-air museum, and visit the Royal Palace. And while in Sweden, have a Fika with new friends over delicious brews of coffee.
The Stockholm to Helsinki leg of your journey is the most surreal since you board two ferries and visit Finnish islands. Board your vehicle at the Swedish coastal town of Kapellskär and sail to the Äland Islands. Consisting of about 6,700 islands, this archipelago is worthy of spending 1-2 nights for its rocky inlets, magical forests, and wooden houses.
The second ferry drops you off at Turku to continue onwards to Helsinki. While many tourists shun the Finnish capital for other Nordic cities, Helsinki captivates those who visit. Market Square bustles with vendors selling street food, sweets, handmade crafts, and more. Situated on nearby islands, the Suomenlinna sea fortress is one of Finland’s most historic attractions.
What to do
City tripping is so much fun! But if you ever feel like you need to withdraw yourself from the bustling city life, nature is on your doorstep. Simply click on a button below to check out some of the most incredible tours and activities in and outside these cities:
8. Iceland Ring Road
- How long: 7-10 days
- Best for: Lovers of otherworldly landscapes.
- Things to keep in mind: Stay updated on weather conditions as the forecast can dramatically change in minutes. Unexpected severe weather can make you alter your schedule. And keep in mind that headlights must be turned on at all times.
The Ring Road is the classic itinerary for an Iceland road trip. Start your journey in the colorful capital of Reykjavik and chase waterfalls along the dramatic southern coast of Iceland.
Feel the rush of Skógafoss and stand behind Seljalandsfoss for a breathtaking panorama. Don’t miss the surreal beauty of the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach or the massive chunks of ice at Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon.
As you turn towards the less-discovered northern parts of Iceland, find geothermal wonders at Lake Mývatn, or go whale watching at Húsavík. After resting in Akureyri, Iceland’s delightful capital of the north, get ready to chase waterfalls again. Dettifoss unleashes its mighty roar inside Vatnajökull National Park, while Goðafoss enchants visitors with its elegance and fascinating story.
When circling back towards Reykjavik, add a detour around the Golden Circle if you have an extra day. Discover Iceland’s historic parliament at Thingvellir National Park, watch the Strokkur geyser erupt and spot the rainbow over the mighty Gullfoss waterfall.
What to do
Iceland surprised us curve after curve. Nature is so diverse and stunning in every aspect. Seeing the country just from your car will only show you the surface of what this country has to offer. So, we highly recommend to get out of the car every now and then, put on your hiking shoes and explore. And if you don’t feel like hiking, there are also plenty of guide tours and activities that show you the most beautiful parts of Iceland:
These were our choices for the best road trips in Europe. If you have questions or if you have other road trip suggestions, please leave a comment below.