I’m a road trip fanatic. I love cars and I love driving on the open road. My bucket list of road trips to take worldwide is a long one. For most people planning to visit Europe, a road trip is not the first choice. Western Europe especially has absolutely fantastic public transportation options and it is quite easy to visit many of the highlights of Europe without ever needing a car. That being said, a road trip through Western Europe can be an excellent way to have a unique travel experience and to see Europe beyond the cities. Having a car and the freedom to go where you want allows road-trippers to see out of the way places and to bypass the tourist crowds.
If you are up for the adventure, here are my top picks for best road trips in Western Europe:
The Basque Circuit – Spain and France
This gorgeous route covers a few hundred miles from the Spanish town of Bilbao to the French town of Biarritz. It is a great way to explore the Basque region, known for amazing food, a great coastline, and a feisty local community. The drive will take you along both mountain passes and the Basque coastline with some great places to stop in between. Highlights include the world famous Guggenheim Museum and the city of Pamplona, famous for the running of the bulls.
The Auvergne – France
For many people, a visit to France includes nothing but a stay in Paris. This is an absolute shame as the French countryside is some of the most picturesque in the world. No matter what you plan for your French road trip, you won’t be disappointed but for a real highlight tour, might we suggest the Auvergne region. Known for among other things, great cheese, Auvergne is also a great place to get out of the car. The region is home to excellent opportunities for fishing, hiking, rafting, and even hang gliding.
The Romantic Road – Germany
The Romantic Road in South Germany is just that, a romantic trip back in time. Originally a medieval trade route, the Romantic Road is now a popular road trip route that connects dozens of small medieval towns and villages. You will stumble upon old-walled cities, historic castles, and fascinating baroque churches. The route is about 220 miles long and offers a glimpse into quintessential German country life. If there was one site not to miss it would be the Neuschwanstein castle, where you will literally feel like you have stepped into a fairytale.
The Grand Tour – Switzerland, France, Italy, and Beyond
If you have the time and money, consider the ultimate European road trip or the “Grand Tour.” The name originally derives from the tradition of a “Grand Tour” of Europe by young men and women of means. The route is not set in stone like many other popularized road trip routes but usually includes Northern Italy, up through Switzerland to Geneva, and on to France. From there the route can take any number of detours – east to Germany, south through France and on to Spain, or now, thanks to the Chunnel, up to England.
A European road trip is not for the faint of heart. Traffic can be difficult, parking impossible, and the “rules of the road” are quite different. If you have the will and a good attitude though, your road trip through Western Europe is bound to be a trip of a lifetime.