There’s no better time to explore Europe than in the balmy, mid-summer months of the year. Sure, you could fly into your destination, but prices routinely shoot up in the summer, so it makes more sense to take a road trip across the continent. Having your own wheels gives you added freedom, and the journey will give you even more time to rekindle old friendships or make new ones.

    Load up the car, grab your friends and get your summer playlist on. The country lanes cutting through forest glades and the odd hair-raising cliff-top curve only add to the experience.

    1

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    Road tripping to the Dutch capital

    Amsterdam makes for an unforgettable road trip from the UK. From its museums and canal-side walks to the coffeeshops and bars of the De Wallen neighbourhood, the city prides itself on its liberal ideals. Warm welcomes are assured for a wide spectrum of travellers – from art-loving couples to counter-culture teens and everything in between.

    Spend some time touring the city canals and visiting popular landmarks like the Rijksmuseum and Vondelpark. Once you’ve enjoyed Amsterdam city centre, head to Keukenhof Botanical Gardens in the town of Lisse to see the endless rows of colourful tulips backed by windmills. Thanks to the Netherlands’ compact size, you can easily drive south to the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague, or north to visit the castles of Friesland, all in less than 2 hours. Read more…

    2

    Amalfi Coast, Italy

    Short in length, high in dramatic views

    Despite measuring less than 60 km, the twists and turns of the Amalfi Coast will live long in the memory. Featuring a series of cliff-top curves and ancient villages cut into the hillsides, it’s the best coastal drive in Italy – for our money, far better than Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera.

    Highlights include the picturesque town of Positano and the central hub of Amalfi. If you’re looking to explore the wider area, make sure you stop at Pompeii to visit the Archeological Park of Pompeii, tour the ancient ruins and learn about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It's a good idea to plan for at least 5 days to see stunning landmarks and hidden grottos, as well as have some time to relax on the beach. Read more…

    3

    Porto, Portugal

    A balmy climate, classic architecture, and fantastic cuisine

    Porto can be considered Portugal’s most historical and cultural city, which also has undergone a wave of gentrification in recent years. On a summer road trip from the UK, you can experience the best of Portugal’s compact 2nd city and enjoy the wider region.

    Enjoy a day of sightseeing at landmarks such as Cais da Ribeira promenade and Santa Ildefonso Church before taking a short drive out of the city to the Douro Valley. This renowned wine-producing region is home to many of Portugal’s finest vineyards. If you’re looking for some time at the beach, head to Costa Nova, 1 hour south of the city. Make sure to eat your way through the famed street food of Porto. This includes the meat-tastic francesinha (Portuguese sandwich) and tripas à moda do Porto – a tripe recipe that’s considered the city’s official dish. Read more…

    4

    Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

    A windswept, rugged stretch of Europe

    The Wild Atlantic Way on the west coast of Ireland is a remote stretch of Western Europe. At 1,600 miles, it's one of the region's longest coastal road trips. It traverses Ireland from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale, County Cork, in the far south of the country.

    Highlights along this epic road trip include the winding roads of Healy Pass, the charming farming community of Bantry, and the epic scenery of the Dingle Peninsula. If you’re looking for majestic views and some peace and quiet, the Wild Atlantic Way is for you. It’s probable that, for long stretches of the drive, you’ll see more sheep than people. Just be prepared for changeable weather, even at the height of summer.

    5

    Dubrovnik, Croatia

    An ancient walled city that looks and feels like a medieval movie set

    Dubrovnik is a magnificent walled city in the far south of Croatia, once serving as the capital of a powerful city-state known as Ragusa. These days, Croatia’s centre of tourism welcomes monied cruise passengers, honeymooning young couples, and plenty of photographers looking to bask in its ancient charm and pedestrian-only Old City.

    The remarkably well-preserved city walls and iconic terracotta roofs are synonymous with this tourist city on the Adriatic coast. But less well known are the series of excellent beaches and relaxed islands that can be found stretching out into the sea. If you’re looking for a summer road trip combining heritage and beach lounging, Dubrovnik is hard to beat. Read more…

    6

    Palma de Mallorca, Spain

    The capital of the Balearic Islands offers beaches, nightlife and culture

    Mallorca is the largest of the beautiful Balearic Islands and has been a popular summer destination for UK travellers for many decades. The island’s capital of Palma is the cultural hub of the Balearics, with ancient landmarks to explore along with the great beaches, interesting sights, and fun attractions that the island is more famous for – and all this very close to the island’s ferry terminal and airport.

    You can drive around Mallorca in around 6 hours, with bustling beach resorts on the coast giving way to dusty farming villages in the arid mountain regions in the centre. If you’re planning a road trip, make sure to include stops at Puerto Pollensa in the far north and bohemian Deia. Read more…

    7

    Nice, France

    French elegance on the Côte-d'Azur

    Any road trip along the French Riviera will certainly feature a stop in Nice. It’s fair to say British travellers have had a long love affair with this elegant city. The narrow, cobblestoned streets of the Old Town are peppered with interesting landmarks like Lascaris Palace and the Cathedral of Saint Reparata. You’ll find plenty of charming bistros for a leisurely meal and local boulangeries selling freshly baked bread and croissants.

    Wake up early to explore Cours Saleya Market, which has stalls selling fresh flowers, artisanal food, and antiques. Summertime in Nice means long, balmy nights strolling along the Promenade des Anglais – ideal for catching a sunset against the deep blue of the Mediterranean. Read more…

    8

    Romantic Road, Germany

    Quaint villages and imposing castles along Bavaria’s Romantische Straße

    Germany's Romantic Road stretches for 220 miles through the Bavarian countryside in the south of the country. It stretches from Würzburg at the northernmost point of the route down to Füssen in the south.

    Along the route, you’ll see market towns with half-timber houses, quaint villages bordering crystalline lakes, and several Prussian castles, including the jaw-dropping Neuschwanstein, which Walt Disney so admired he modelled Cinderella’s castle after it. The culinary landscape changes with the terrain, as you move from Franconia with its vineyards in the west to Bavaria’s beer scene in the east.

    9

    Athens, Greece

    Road tripping to the birthplace of civilisation

    Sightseeing in Athens is a must thanks to its impressive collection of landmarks that define European culture. The Acropolis of Athens, the Parthenon, the Theatre of Dionysus, and Mount Lycabettus – these ancient marvels have the capacity to amaze and inspire as much today as they did thousands of years ago.

    Once you’ve heard enough of myths and legends, consider a trip to some of the 6,000-odd islands found off the coast. You can reach many Greek Islands from Piraeus Port in Athens, from fashionable Mykonos to romantic Santorini. Read more…

    10

    Paris, France

    The French capital is at its blooming best in summertime

    Paris is at its sparkling best in the summer, when the long evenings bring groups to sit alongside the banks of the River Seine and at al fresco cafés in Montparnasse. The journey from the UK is quick and, with your own transport, you can explore many interesting sites surrounding the French capital.

    The ancient market town of Provins is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with historic monuments and city walls that evoke France in the Middle Ages. Several gilded palaces of France are also within easy reach of Paris. Don’t let the crowds of tourists deter you from visiting Chateau de Versailles – quite possibly the most lavish castle in Europe. Read more…

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveller

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