If you are used to the long, straight roads of the Mid-West, or the clogged highways of the major cities, then a European driving break is an experience not to be missed. It’s a chance to test your skills on the winding mountain roads, or cruise in style along the coastline, and re-discover your love of driving.
There are few finer coastal drives than the French Riviera, which stretches along Europe’s chicest coastline. Pick up your hire car in Montpellier and head east, and you’ll find Marseille and Toulon, the famous beaches of St. Tropez, the culture of Cannes (home of the famous film festival), the high society of Nice, and the legendary millionaires’ playground of Monte Carlo over the border in Monaco. If all of that gives you a taste for the Mediterranean, you can continue round into Italy and discover Genoa and Pisa, or head inland to the stylish cities of Turin and Milan. Just remember to book yourself a convertible car so you can drop the top and feel that coastal breeze in your hair as you drive.
Other coastal drives worth checking out include the Corsican Coast, along the DS81 from Cargese to Calvi, and the Emerald Coast in Sardinia, with its magnificent bays and turquoise seas. Alternatively, head north to the stunning Atlantic Road in Norway where you’ll cross breath-taking bridges beside crystal-clear fjords.
For more of a challenge, you need to head inland into Central Europe, where you’ll find some heart-stopping roads traversing the mountains between Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France. These roads may seem intimidating, but they are designed to be driven, with great road surfaces and plenty of safety barriers to keep you on track.
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You can relive the spectacular drive of the Bond film, Goldfinger, as you throw your car into the endless twists and turns of the Furka Pass, just like Sean Connery did. Or you can imitate modern driving heroes with a cruise up the Stelvio Pass, voted the best road in the world by BBC TV’s Top Gear. Col de la Bonnette is one of the most elevated roads in Europe at almost nine thousand feet above sea level, while the mighty Grossglockner High Alpine Road climbs a huge 1000m in just 30 miles, via 36 sweeping curves and hairpin bends.
Mountain driving is a real thrill and will test the skill of any driver, so make sure you’re behind the wheel of a car that is up to the job, with the power to make those big climbs and hold the road with confidence. This is not a holiday where you’ll want to take the economy option.
If you can’t decide between the roller coaster ride of the mountains and the stunning sea views and chic coastal towns of the Med, you can always combine the two with the famous Basque Circuit in Spain. Stretching 480km around Northern Spain, this varied route takes you from the high mountain passes of the Pyrenees to the beauty of the bay of Biscayne in one amazing adventure.
Whichever European driving holiday you choose, it is important to confirm with your rental company that you are allowed to take your car out of the country of hire. Whether you are crossing a mountain range from Austria to Switzerland or slipping serenely along the coast between France and Monaco, the last thing you want is to have to turn back at the border.