At Euronews Travel, we’re firm believers that every European country has something special to offer in the way of road trips. Being able to drive from coastlines to cities in a matter of hours is an exclusive benefit of the European experience. It’s one that isn’t taken advantage of nearly enough by a lot of us.
To paraphrase an old maxim - the journey is just as important as the destination, and being able to span the breadth of entire countries in just a few hours by car is ideal means of getting the best of both.
We’ve chosen a selection of routes in different countries that can accommodate every requirement. Each is brimming with masses of interesting things to see along the way, and the kind of views you just can’t get from the aisle seat of an aeroplane.
Ireland: best from east to west
Recommended route: Kerry - Galway - Dublin
Total driving time: 6 hours
Ireland doesn’t get the credit it deserves for some of the most beautiful drives Europe has to offer, so we’re starting with that. We recommend beginning in the south with Kerry’s lush scenery, progressing north to Galway and traversing across to Dublin as your final destination.
If you’ve visited Kerry and never taken a spin around its ring roads you’re missing out. The Kerry Ring is a 179km-long circular route of scenic brilliance - a procrastinator’s dream. It creates the perfect circumstances to take everything around you in. You’ll find all sorts of spots on your travels that go deep into the country’s history. We suggest seeking out the rocky islands and abandoned religious buildings as they are well worth exploring before you reach any cities, if anything just to be reminded of Ireland’s sheer immortality.
Making your way up to Galway will take three hours at a push. It is purely coincidental and a not at all narcissistic move for me to suggest going via Limerick to use the River Shannon as a navigation guide.
To spend a few nights in Galway you’re going to want to be in a good mood - it’s just been voted the friendliest city in Europe and people really will stop anybody for a chat. It was appointed last year’s European Capital of Culture but is yet to reap the benefits due to the pandemic, so make that your goal. Go at a time where you’re completely unrestricted to experience some of the best live music the country has to offer in one of its many famous pubs down Eyre Square. We love O’Connells for it’s unusual architecture and beer garden where all of the action takes place.
Another three hours will take you across the entire country from east to west. It hasn’t always been that easy - Irish people will concede they’re a bit late to the party when it comes to infrastructure advancements and motorways are no exception. The M6 was completed a little over a decade ago now gets you from A to B in next to no time.
Arriving in Dublin scales the trip up to a fully realised city venture. Try not to lean too much on the obvious exploits while there because there’s much more to do beyond the obvious Temple Bar gatherings and cathedral-centric tours. Head to the world-famous Trinity College campus for architecture that spans over 400 years - the library is to die for.
If by this point you’ve worked up an appetite you’ll be spoiled for choice. The Old Mill’s traditional plates of pies and stews are so huge you could probably make that your sole meal of the day and be totally satiated. In fact, you could say that about most of the city's eateries. The Irish just want to make sure you’re well fed. That is their mission. You can sit with your belly full, safe in the knowledge that you’ve seen some of the best places in the Emerald Isle at your complete ease.
Italy: the best of the Amalfi coast
Recommended route: Ravello - Sorrento - Positano
Total driving time: 3 hours
We don’t need to explain to you how beautiful the Amalfi coast is, but we’re going to because your Italian road trip starts and ends within a World Heritage site no less. The coast attracts artists, foodies and filmmakers year-round because of its allure. If it was good enough for Harry Styles to drive around with the wind blowing in his hair, it’s more than good enough for the rest of us.
Landscapes in this part of Italy often require car travel - you might want to hire something a little sturdier if you’ve got concerns that your Corsa won’t make it. Those hills look great to wander down to the coast’s many attractions, but are a real pain to get back up again.
Begin your time here in Ravello and you’ll immediately recognise why this area seems to inspire so many. It has to be seen to be understood, but do believe us when we say the colour palette of this village is as if someone has turned the saturation in your retinas up to 10 without the inevitable headache. Visit the town's own tourist villas with seafront views and infinity terraces to get a real sense of it. How about picking up some of the coast’s custom Italian ceramics from Ceramiche d'Arte Carmela to bring some of that colour back home with you?
The next step is to drive through the hills and back along the coast into further idyll. You’re headed to the ‘gem of the coast’, Sorento. While not technically part of the Amalfi, its view over the bay of Naples with its gorgeous fishing ports and renaissance buildings will leave their mark. The cream coloured apartments with rust-orange tiled roofing are always widely available here on various accommodation sites to fulfil your Italian fantasies. Sorento is about as Italian as Italy can get.
Built by Romans, like any good road, the Amalfi Drive will take you from Sorrento back to the coastal strip. The place is built into the hillside with sun loungers looking out to the sea, which doesn’t hurt its appeal either. You’ll be finishing up in the village of Positano’s tucked away enclave at the tip of the area for more food and sun. Sorry - is an Italian road trip plan even legitimate without a mention of food? For a boutique culinary experience conclude your road trip in Positano because it has food so good it is almost romantic to think about. There you’ll find a restaurant called Terrazza Celè that is situated in the Hotel Marincanto, widely recommended by both word of mouth and the sea of 5 star ratings they’ve been swimming in online. Take a plunge on a tasting menu whether you’re a lone traveller or in a group - it’ll be worth it when your plates are empty from dishes like their squid ink ravioli.
Norway: scenic drives through the Western Fjords
Recommended route: Bergen - Flåm - Loen
How long does it take: 6 hours
A road trip of this kind happens when you’re looking to be zen and constantly fed seafood. There is so much to take in throughout the cavernous terrains of Norway’s west side. It’s recommended as a prime campervan opportunity for those able to rent one - so long as you allow for regular intervals for hiking routes across the fjords.
Start off by driving through Bergen before things get rugged. In the city you’ll find Bryggen harbour sitting among a backdrop of huge mountains. It takes a while for your brain to compute, a serene spot with plenty of places to stay in the midst of it. Seafood restaurant The Unicorn Fish offers a three course set menu showcasing the best of the land’s local produce.
At this point you really could drive in any direction for a selection of hiking routes to suit all abilities, but we think Flåm is a good follow-up for the waterfalls alone. Plural - multiple waterfalls. Much of the driving route takes you along the water but those wanting to get closer can book boat tours for a closer look. Aim to reach our favourite the Brekkefossen waterfall as it offers views into the valley that would make an old Windows’ screensaver weep. In an exciting plot twist to the trip it’s important to tell you now that there’s always a chance you might encounter animals on this particular portion of the road trip - many visitors spot golden eagles, sheep and seals.
End the road trip on a real-life high note with the Loen skylift as it’s one of Europe’s steepest at over 3,000 feet. It has only been operational for a few years but has made a huge impact on visits that undertake trips of this kind. You’ll need to take your vehicle on a short half-hour ferry for this portion of the trip but it is well worth it just to see the views from this height.
Portugal: from one sun-filled city to the next
Recommended route: Lisbon - Porto
How long does it take: 3 hours
It’s easy to forget how small Portugal actually is in comparison to the rest of Europe - it is almost five times smaller than its neighbour, Spain. This trip in particular can be done either way around as it’s a relatively straightforward adventure from one city to another. Stop offs between these two are merely optional here as there is so much to pack in between the pair.
Lisbon is known for being the ultimate mix of ultra modern cultural hotspots and older, elegant vibes. You’re in for some incredible views, and could always visit one of its 25 free museums. There are some niche ones out there - from medicine to interior design.
Alfama, its oldest part, survived the city’s devastating earthquake back in 1775 and has a lot to show for it. Traverse narrow passageways in search of it’s famous flea market, where bespoke crafts are sold on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Driving north to Porto can easily be done in three hours, but if you like stopping off to enjoy some in between locations we think The Pena Palace in Sintra should be your first choice. Used for state events by the Portugese president, its colourful exterior can actually be seen from Lisbon’s tallest spots.
Not arriving into Porto by train doesn’t mean you can’t make São Bento Train Station a priority when you visit - voted one of the world’s most beautiful, you’ll be stunned by it’s high ceilings, huge windows and tilework. Less than five minutes from there by foot is Ribeira, the capital’s tourist hive of delicious seafront foods and wines. Jimão Tapas and Wine is one of the square’s highest ranked restaurants, serving small plates such as octopus and paprika and pesto stuffed courgettes.
Keeping with the theme of short walking distances, we recommend the Pestana Vintage Porto, a quirky four star retreat taking very reasonably priced bookings over the summer.
England: exploring the Norfolk broads
Recommended route: Norwich - Wroxham - Cromer
Total driving time: 2 hours
City breaks in England are by no means in short supply, but we believe Norwich should be a bigger contender when choosing your next one. It’s quaint to some but masterful in the range of things to do. A perfect starting point for a road trip that can take you through villages, Norfolk’s endless broads, concluding in a seaside retreat.
Internal car travel is less of a need here if you get yourself someplace nice to stay as much of the city centre is pedestrianised. This includes its award-winning marketplace that serves delicious falafel, curries and ice cream. We also recommend dinner and drinks at one of St. Stephen’s street’s many specialist bars. Cocktail bar The Arboretum has a vast antiques setup and no trip is the same as the last. If you like the glasses they serve your drinks in enough you can offer to buy them.
Following that, a drive to Wroxham is the ideal opportunity to take in the Norfolk broads, home to some of England’s most intricate waterways that span 200 km. Herbert Woods has a range of holiday boats to hire for periods ranging from one day to weeks at a time that operate year-round.
This is the shortest of the road trips on this list, so fans of cultural sites may want to swing by Sandringham, the small village where Lady Diana grew up surrounded by endless green. Alternatively, take a look at Jacobean wonder Blickling Estate for a spot of afternoon tea.
Looping round to Cromer is a further taste of the countryside, an underrated spot for a true British seaside experience. It is home to some of the best fish and chips shops I have ever tasted - No.10 and Mary Jane’s sit mere feet away from each other, constantly competing for the indulgence of locals and tourists. Watching the sunset from the pier with a meal from either (we’re staying impartial) would be an unmissable end to your Norfolk adventure.
Each country is subject to its own COVID-19 travel restrictions, make sure to check before booking.
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