Have you been itching to get across the Atlantic and explore Europe? Well there’s no better opportunity than summer 2015. Lower global gas prices and the US dollar’s current high against the Euro (.91 as opposed to .73 a year ago) means that the time is ripe for a Europe road trip - what better way to explore Italy, France, Spain, the UK and so much more than with a rental car and a few weeks up your sleeve?
is here to get your planning started. From wide-ranging, multi-country journeys to short and sweet trips taking in a particular region, we have plenty of ideas for an unforgettable holiday. Europe has something for everyone. Full of spectacular scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities, it’s also crammed with multicultural cities, stacks of historical sites and a variety of languages and cuisines.
1. My kingdom for a car rental: UK road trips
The United Kingdom is a great place to start for those unfamiliar with Europe. Communication is much easier when you speak the same language - although in some parts of the country you could be forgiven for thinking the dialect resembles a foreign tongue.
The capital, London
, has several international airports and a huge range of car hire companies, meaning it’s relatively simple to land the right vehicle at the right price. From there, the UK is your oyster. Head west to Cornwall and Wales, or north to the Lake District and Peak District where mountains and lakes offer lovely scenery, hiking trails and plenty of ways to experience the great outdoors. Visit the many cities from Liverpool to Manchester to Newcastle, and make sure to take some country lanes in between them to see the pretty English countryside and quaint villages.
Our favourite part of the UK to explore in a rental car is Scotland. We recommend allowing as much time as possible for this spectacular country - the lochs, mountains, castles and remote highlands with herd of “highland coos”. Edinburgh
are surprisingly cosmopolitan cities which contrast with quiet fishing villages, farmland and vast empty landscapes found elsewhere. Some great Scottish scenic drives include the A2 from Tyndrum to Glencoe, the Bealach na Ba pass in the north-west and A9 from Stirling to Inverness.
We recommend adding a GPS to your car hire in the UK, especially if you plan to get off the beaten track! Always remember to drive on the left and take extra care on the narrow country lanes. A few car-related terms to remember: a bonnet is a hood, a boot is a trunk, a roundabout is a traffic circle and you will find they are very common. Roads are classified as motorways (M) which are multi-lane dual carriageways, A-roads (A) which are main routes, and B-roads (B) which are regional routes.
2. Riviera Rambles: South of France
With postcard-perfect beaches, charming countryside and majestic mountains, southern France is a great place to plan your Europe road trip. Pick up your rental car in Bordeaux
and drop it off in Lyon
to take it all in with a one-way hire.
To the south of Bordeaux and its surrounding wine region is the lovely département of Les Landes, which almost stretches down to Spain in the south. This is surfer central - perfect for the traveller who loves friendly beach towns, laid-back locals and long, uncrowded oceans of sand. Stop in Contis for a surf lesson, take in the nightlife in Hossegor and consider crossing the border to tick Spain off your list.
The French Riviera is where the glitz and glamour awaits. Head across country to Narbonne, stopping at the spectacular fortified city of Carcassonne
. From there, follow the coast through a string of elegant seaside cities - Montpellier
, Saint Tropez and Nice
, culminating in the tiny principality of Monaco where everything kicks up a notch. It has the highest GDP of any nation and, unsurprisingly, the most millionaires and billionaires per capita. Don’t forget your bathing suit for swimming in the Mediterranean, and don’t be shocked by topless women - they are a normal fixture on French beaches.
From Monaco, go north into the mountainous part of France which borders Switzerland. The Rhone-Alpes region is simply stunning, encompassing a range of scenery from river valleys to Alpine towns and ski resorts. Annecy
is a popular destination - lakeside and overlooked by wooded slopes, it is something out of a fairytale. Finish your trip in Lyon, which is an underrated urban delight, highly regarded for its unique cuisine and twin rivers.
You’ll feel more at home on French roads as they drive on the right-hand side - however, there is a language barrier. The most important signs are “Cédez le Passage” which means give way, “Ralentir” meaning slow down, and “Arrêt,” meaning stop. “Péage ” means there is a toll to be paid, and outside of built-up areas there are always two speed limits - one for normal conditions, and one for when the road is wet.
3. See Scandinavia: Denmark, Sweden and Norway
The northerly reaches of Europe are cold to the point of being inaccessible in winter, so take the opportunity to see it all in the summer. Made up of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, Scandinavia is a unique destination of incredibly vibrant cities, enticing wilderness, fascinating history and amazing Nordic culture. Our suggested itinerary begins in Copenhagen
, the edgy capital of Denmark where you could spend days in the chic bars, restaurants and world-class museums.
From Copenhagen you can drive the eight-kilometre Oresund bridge to Sweden, which is an experience in itself. Southern Sweden is a beautiful region, with endless fields and a coastline of sandy beaches and fishing villages. Explore a little before you move northwards.
Drive up the eastern coast to Stockholm, taking time to acquaint yourself with the gorgeous craggy coastlines of the south-east. The Stockholm Archipelago is a landscape of more than 30,000 islands and islets which fan out into the Baltic Sea. You can visit it from central Stockholm
on the historic white archipelago boats. The city itself is widely recognised as a global tourism hot-spot, with incredible architecture and numerous green spaces and offers plenty to see and do.
Head across country, past some of Sweden’s big lakes, to small but picturesque Gothenburg
with its five Michelin-starred restaurants and the country’s biggest botanical gardens. From there, make your way north past the glamorous Marstrand and gorgeous Kosterhavet Marine National Park to the border with Norway.
is likely to be your base in Norway, located at the head of the Oslofjord in the south of the country. The art galleries and museums in Oslo are popular spots, and mother nature’s art is also evident in the picturesque surroundings. From the city, you can visit the highlights of Norway. From the incredible fjords of the west coast to the midnight sun of the country’s northern reaches, it is a playground for outdoorsy types. Explore to your heart’s content then make your way back to Denmark to drop off the rental.
Scandinavian roads are generally well-maintained and easy to drive - but as with anywhere, extra care should be taken in mountainous areas. It is also a legal requirement to drive everywhere with headlights on. Keep a lookout for cyclists, of which there are many in Scandinavia.
4. The Adriatic: Italy and Croatia
A car hire from Venice
puts you in position to see not only Italy, but stunning Croatia
which lies across the Baltic Sea. Plan a drive along some of Europe’s most spectacular coasts, starting in the City of Love. This is the Europe car hire holiday for those who love sea, sun and sand.
Venice itself doesn’t need much of an introduction. Built over a lagoon with waterways instead of streets, it is one-of-a-kind. Once you have taken in the fabulous architecture and vast history, pick up a rental car and head east towards Italy’s border with Slovenia to begin your road trip.
The coast of Slovenia is a blink-and-you-miss-it affair, but Koper
is worth a stop with its charming Old Town and strong Italian influence. In Croatia, you can enjoy the string of gorgeous coastal towns which lead towards Pula
. Here you will find some amazing and well-preserved Roman architecture, including the amphitheatre which forms the heart of the city. After Pula, if you have the time you could continue down country, keeping the Adriatic on your right, to visit Split
and the many other points of interest along the way. Croatia is an up-and-coming holiday destination, with the terracotta colours of the historic towns and cities contrasting with bright blue ocean for some great views, as you make your way along the coast.
Head back to Italy to explore some of the northern region, resplendent with mountains and lakes. Lake Como is a highlight, attracting vacationing celebrities and billionaires for years. Call in to Verona and say hi to Romeo and Juliet, then head up past Lake Garda to Bolzano
(Bozen) in the heart of the alpine South Tyrol region, where much of the population speaks German as a first language. Got time to spare? You could cross the border into Switzerland
, but be prepared for a different currency if you do.
Return to Venice to drop off your rental car, with plenty of new memories and stories to tell when you get back Stateside. A few things to note before you hit the road: Many cars in Italy have a manual gearbox, so you will have to specify when booking if you want an auto. Useful Italian terms to know are destra (right), sinistra (left), uscita (exit) and pedaggio (toll). Speed limits are enforced by cameras and there are lots of them - so watch your speed at all times! The majority of motorway (autostrade) toll systems require drivers to take a ticket when they enter the highway and return it upon exiting, so the toll price is proportional to distance travelled. Croatia has a similar system. The blood alcohol limit in Croatia is 0%, so always save any drinking for once you have finished driving for the day - or designate a sober driver.
5. Do Deutschland: Hamburg to Munich
Take advantage of a one-way rental within Germany and see as much of this amazing country as possible with a journey from north to south. This road trip is less ‘sun and sand’ and more ‘cities and culture’, but there are still wonderful natural attractions where you can get out and enjoy the summer.
is in the north near Germany’s coastline, so the beginning of your trip is your chance to visit a few beach resorts. The German beaches are underappreciated by holiday makers, but the word is starting to get around about the stretches facing both the North Sea and Baltic. The island of Rugen in the north-east is accessible by car and a particularly nice spot, home to several seaside resorts, white sand and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jasmund National Park. It is also one of the sunniest places in the country.
Begin the journey south with a few days in Berlin
, a modern and buzzing city which always has something interesting to do and see - like New York, it is a city that never sleeps! The multicultural metropolis captures the imagination of all who visit. To the west of Berlin lies Hanover, where the Great Garden of Herrenhausen and Castle Marienburg provide a feast for your eyes.
Make your way south through the heart of Deutschland, where you can pick and choose which cities, towns and historic sites take your fancy. We recommend striking Dresden
, the lovely University town of Wurzburg, which lies in the centre of the Franconian wine region, and energetic Nuremberg
The south of Germany, where your road trip ends, is all about the Black Forest. Famous as the setting for many a Brothers Grimm tale, it inspires visions of cuckoo clocks and gateaux - but is a serene area where Mother Nature has been mostly left to her own devices. The valleys, rivers and vegetation stretch from Baden-Baden
in the north to the border with Switzerland in the south, and are dotted with spots of civilisation from where you can base your explorations. Hiking is the activity of choice for most visitors and there are numerous trails. You might even come across a Vesperstuben - a rest and snack area of which there are many scattered amongst the Forest, reachable only by foot.
You can’t finish your trip without seeing a German Burg - so pop into Hohenzollern Castle as you drive across to Munich
to drop off the rental car. Nestled at the top of a hill, it is a stunning example of the Neo-Gothic style. Once you are no longer in charge of a motor vehicle, you can hit the beer halls of Munich for the perfect ending to your Germany travels!
Well-maintained roads and orderly motorists make driving in Germany a very pleasant experience, while the Autobahns make it an exciting one. These highways famously have no speed limits - you can drive as fast as you feel is safe. As with many European countries, you should be careful to specify when booking if you want an automatic transmission.
Airport Rentals has more than just ideas for your Europe car hire road trip - we have the goods! Our search engine can track down vehicles from a huge range of car hire suppliers all over Europe for you to compare and book. It’s simple to use and convenient - and the prices are some of the cheapest you’ll find on the internet. Enter locations, dates and details and peruse a list of options which you can filter down for easy decision making.