Europe has so much to offer that it would be impossible to try and fit it all within one trip. However, distances within towns and countries are reduced (especially to the eyes of someone who is used to vast spaces, like a U.S. or Australian traveller).
This means that with some planning, it’s absolutely possible to visit more than one European country in the space of one holiday.
Of course, there are many ways to travel around Europe and infinite possibilities when it comes to scenic, cultural, and even gastronomic routes. This article is intended for tourists who would like to explore as many European unmissable attractions as possible but without missing out on the enjoyment of a well-paced itinerary.
This page will focus on:
- Road trips and things you should know before driving in Europe
- Exploring Europe with train passes and other transport options
- Different European itineraries for different types of tourists.
Where Is the Best Place for a Road Trip in Europe?
A road trip across Europe is definitely one of the ultimate travel adventures. After landing in one of the continent’s main airports, many decide to hire a car and enjoy the independence given by having their own transportation.
Since Europe is so densely populated, you will always have somewhere to stop for gas, food, or rest. And depending on what type of holiday you’d like to spend, there are tens of stunning drives that will make memories for a lifetime.
If you enjoy breath-taking mountain views, for example, the north of Italy, France, and Switzerland present some of the most amazing roads across the famous Alps. Some — like la Route de Grands Alps in France — were specifically built for tourist reasons. Between a mountain pass and an alpine lake, remember to stop and take pictures as well as enjoying a hike.
Those who are more into stunning coastlines will also be spoiled with choices. The Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, for example, is a concentration of all the best the Bel Paese has to offer. Picturesque fishermen villages, majestic towns of heritage architecture, one of the finest cuisines in the world and friendly and stylish locals are just a few of the things you can expect.
If you like speed, then Germany is the place for you. The German highway is famous for having no speed limits outside of urban regions so put your nerves to a test.
Can I drive across Europe?
If you’re in possession of a full driver’s license, a valid passport, and a travel authorisation for Europe, you should be able to rent a car and drive across the continent without issues.
Here’s a European driving checklist that will help you keep everything under control:
- Full, valid driving license (most European countries accept licenses in English, like an American or Canadian license, but some will ask you for an International Driving Permit)
- Proof of vehicle insurance
- Car registration document (V5 or the ‘logbook’)
- Travel insurance
- European Breakdown Cover policy number and documents
- Reflective jackets for all passengers
- Warning triangle.
Remember that the EU and the Schengen area are not the same thing. Once you successfully obtain a travel permit for the Schengen area, you will be able to drive across its territory and enjoy freedom of movement just like if you were a European citizen. However, be mindful of hard borders between Schengen and non-Schengen European countries and of potential internal Schengen borders (which are mostly temporary).
Car rentals in Europe are used to cater to non-EU citizens and will be able to help with further information.
When should I buy a Eurail pass?
Interrailing is a popular and affordable way of seeing Europe that was originally designed for young Europeans. Only EU residents can purchase an Interrail pass, but seen its popularity, a separate pass (called Eurail) has then been launched for non-EU citizens.
There are different types of train passes depending on the length (from 3 days to 3 months), flexibility, and train class you desire for your travels.
The earliest you can buy your pass is 11 months prior to the date you plan to first validate your ticket. You may have to pay extra booking fees for special trains like some overnight trains once you then decide to reserve your seat.
You can book your spot on specific trains at the station on the day or in advance. In many cases, it’s best to book as early as possible to avoid disappointments.
Interrail and Eurail will give you the opportunity to travel great distances on comfortable carriages while you admire some of the most panoramic routes in Europe — think visiting major cities like London, Rome, and Barcelona without taking a plane, or taking in the beauty of Norwegian fjords and Swedish expanses from a train window.
Keep in mind that there are other transport options — buses and coaches being typically the cheapest one. However, they are also the slowest way to travel around Europe.
Itineraries to Plan Your European Trip
Deciding on the best European itinerary for your holiday can feel overwhelming since there’s so much to do and see. However, depending on the type of traveler you are and what you enjoy the most (and what you don’t), you should be able to figure out the ideal plan for your European adventure.
Southern Europe: itinerary for food and beach lovers
Italy, Spain, and Portugal (as well as a quick visit to the south of France) may be the best European countries for those who enjoy a slow lifestyle. Granada and Seville, Palermo and Naples, Porto and Lisbon, Bilbao and Barcelona — the stunning architecture of these cities will steal your heart if their restaurants don’t. Moreover, they’re all on the beach or just a stone’s throw from it. Perfect for a romantic trip as well as families.
Benelux, Germany, and Austria: itinerary for culture and art lovers
A bit colder, countries like Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands offer a unique atmosphere (think walking around Amsterdam’s canals) as well as world-class museums and cutting-edge contemporary art galleries and music festival. This is an area for tourists who enjoy discovering something new every day and are not afraid to tire their feet dancing or walking around museums. You certainly won’t get bored.
Scandinavia: the European itinerary for nature lovers and party goers
Residents of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are very warm and welcoming. They are fortunate enough to live in some of the most amazing places in the world, especially when it comes to nature. There’s nothing quite like seeing the northern lights or ride a reindeer or husky sledge in winter. However, if you decide to go during the summer you will have the chance to enjoy some of the best parties and music festivals around, like Sweden’s Gotland island festival.