A trip to Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it’s on the bucket list of many Canadian tourists.
The continent has more sights to see than can fit into just one trip. However, with short distances between locations (in comparison to Canada) you can still see a lot of Europe’s most popular destinations during a visit.
Europe is very well connected — thanks to the implementation of the Schengen area, the mobility of people and goods within the continent is encouraged by soft borders and several affordable and convenient transport options.
Depending on the time, budget, and personal preferences, foreign visitors have an endless number of options when it comes to European itineraries. This article will give you a head start in planning the ideal European route for your needs and circumstances. You will learn about:
- European holidays on the road and facts you should know before driving in Europe
- Traveling Europe with train passes
- Different European itineraries for different types of holiday
What Is the Best Road Trip in Europe?
Of course, it will be necessary to fly to Europe from Canada. However, once you’re on European soil, you can easily rent a car and follow your own schedule instead of depending on flights.
European roads are usually well maintained and most villages and towns are within close proximity to each other. This offers plenty of opportunities to stop for gas, get food or rest when you need to on your road trip. Europe is also a very varied area — there’s no lack of scenic routes whether you prefer a mountain or ocean view outside your car window.
Mountain lovers shouldn’t miss out on the scenic Alpine roads in France, Switzerland, and the north of Italy. Some of these routes, like la Route de Grands Alps in France, were designed specifically with tourists in mind. Expect picturesque villages, delicious homemade food, and the beauty of pristine mountain lakes and vast views throughout.
Further south, the coastal roads of the south of Italy, along the Amalfi coast, capture the essence of a Fellini movie, with stunning arts cities, fine cuisine, and the warm Italian sun. Alternatively, if you’re not scared of some rain, Irish roads offer you some of the world’s most amazing cliff routes together with an enchanting rural landscape.
Can you drive between countries in Europe?
If you have successfully applied for and obtained a travel permit for the Schengen area, you will be able to drive across European nations with no issues. The Schengen area has no hard borders between member countries and unless special security measures need to be put in place temporarily, you won’t even be asked for your documents at the border.
Remember that the borders between Schengen and non-Schengen countries are still occasionally subject to security checks and that your Schengen visa or visa waiver may not allow you to travel to non-Schengen territories. It’s important that you check this before you plan your itinerary.
Find below a driving checklist for Europe to help you organize your trip:
- A Full, valid driving license (most European countries accept licenses in English like a Canadian license but others will require that you have an International Driving Permit)
- Vehicle insurance
- Your passport
- Car registration documentation (V5 or the ‘logbook’)
- Travel insurance
- European Breakdown Cover policy number and documents
- Reflective jackets for all passengers
- Warning triangle
Remember: Some traffic laws depend on the European country you’re in. Germany, for example, is famous for its highway (the Autobahn) which has no speed limits outside of urban centers.
Can you travel around Europe by train?
If you don’t feel like driving for long periods of time or would simply prefer to read a book and enjoy the landscape, trains offer a great alternative. Almost all major cities in Europe have rail connections and at very affordable prices.
Interrail is a special train pass program that was implemented a few decades ago to encourage students and young Europeans to discover the continent on a budget. It’s then become so popular that it’s been open to all European residents, no matter their age.
Interrail is only available to European residents. However, there is an equivalent for foreign citizens called Eurail. The system is very flexible, allowing you to visit almost all European countries with just one pass that you can purchase in advance — you will only need to book your actual seat before you intend to travel.
Eurail’s price depends on the length (from 3 days to 3 months), flexibility, and train class you desire for your trip. It can be used for almost all European trains, but you may have to pay a small extra booking fee for certain trains (like overnight or extra luxury carriages).
You can purchase a pass as early as 11 months in advance. You will then activate it by simply validating the ticket on your first trip. It’s possible to book your specific seats for each leg of your itinerary directly at the station or online.
Not only do trains offer a reduced environmental impact. Thanks to high-speed technology, you’ll also be able to move between some of the European cities most visited by Canadians in a matter of hours.
How to plan an itinerary for Europe?
Europe is so varied and so full of unique attractions that making decisions on your European itinerary may feel overwhelming. Yet, it can be as simple as knowing what you like and what you don’t — there’s a European type of holiday for every type of traveller out there.
Relaxed holidays for foodies and families: Southern Europe
If you’re heading to Europe during the summer school holidays, you should not miss out on some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. Italy, Spain, and the south of France are ideal for those who enjoy a slow-paced holiday where you can enjoy (and taste) every second. They are also very kid-friendly, great for those travelling to Europe with their family.
Culture and winter lovers: Benelux, Germany, and Austria
These countries are some of the most special places to spend a magical Christmas and wintertime in Europe. Activities include Christmas markets, beautifully-decorated old towns, and outdoor activities like skiing and ice skating.
Furthermore, big cities in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands are home to world-renowned museums and cutting-edge art galleries as well as some of the most exciting music festivals around.
Plan your trip here if you enjoy discovering new places and spending time in a creative hub.
The North of Europe: Nature and summer festivals
If you’re after an unforgettable experience, the Northern Lights will not disappoint you. Watching this natural wonder is not the only unique winter activity you can find in countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Riding a reindeer or husky sled is enjoyable for kids and adults alike, and the local special cuisine will warm you up during long cold nights.
If you prefer to travel during the summer, the Northern countries host some of the most amazing summer music festivals in the area. The lineups include both local and world-famous artists. Gotland Island festival in Sweden is a good place to start.