From twisting up the Apennine road in Italy to views of magical fairy-tale castles in Germany, there’s really no better way to see Europe than by car… so here’s a guide to some of the very best road trips the continent has to offer, to get you all set to drive off into your very own European adventure.
The Grand Tour
Not one for the road trip novice, this incredible 500-mile trip takes in some of the most breathtaking sights of Switzerland, France and Italy. Start at Geneva’s Lake Léman waterfront and take in its serene beauty while heading along the south shore and passing from Switzerland into France and embarking on your journey. Along the way you’ll have some amazing experiences, including the almost nerve-wracking thrill of passing through the seven-mile Mont-Blanc tunnel, deep underneath the highest mountain in the Alps; it feels like you’re in there forever… until finally you emerge into the breathtaking sunlight of Italy’s Aosta Valley, the contrast between the dark and light making each experience even more incredible. Continuing through Italy you’ll eventually reach the Med at Savona, then after winding along the Levantine Riviera as far as La Spezia you’ll start to climb up into the Apennines along little country roads, before twisting down once more into the heart of bustling Florence. If your budget will allow, make sure you schedule a stop along the way in Portofino and soak up some old-school Hollywood glamour combined with irrepressible Italian joy for life and charm.
Pas De Calais
At 160 miles this is a much shorter trip that’s just a hop over (or under!) the Channel and could potentially be combined with a longer stay at a Chateau or Villa in the French countryside to break up the driving; it’s also more practical to use your own car here rather than renting one – but if you do check first that you have the appropriate insurance and breakdown cover. Start off by either getting a car ferry or the Eurotunnel over to Calais, and then take the little D940 via Boulogne along the Côte d’Opale to Le Touquet before heading out on the D349 to Hesdin along the river Canache to experience one of France’s prettiest drives. Make it a loop by going back up northwest to Calais via Ardres. Along the way you’ll take in some classic French sights like wide sandy beaches and rural roads lined with trees – it’s like driving through a postcard! Make sure you schedule a couple of nights in the historic port of Boulogne and explore its cobbled streets and squares before sitting down for a fantastic supper at one of its many restaurants… and if you’re feeling brave try out some of the rhubarb wine.