Europe’s roads are usually uninspiring, however there are some which offer the motorist a driving experience that they will never forget.
Whilst most drivers view roads as a necessity to transport their vehicle from one destination point to another, there are certain European roads which quite literally broke the mould when they were created.
The ten best roads to drive in Europe are listed below explaining why they are so popular and a little about why the roads in question are so special to drive on.
Where better to start than a road which is most famous as a Grand Prix circuit. Monaco has hosted a Grand Prix race since 1929 and is considered one of the most famous motor racing routes in the sporting world. Drivers have the opportunity to follow the track around including the Grand Hotel Hairpin, the Piscine area and the famous tunnel which runs into the chicane.
Even without the Grand Prix circuit being there, Monaco’s compactness offers some amazing views of the Mediterranean and the foothills of the Alps. It also requires drivers to be on their mettle in order to navigate around the enclosed streets without causing damage to any stray Mercedes Benz cars, Bugatti models or Ferraris.
The most spectacular way to reach the principality is by taking the Moyenne Corniche, part of a three series Corniche driving experience between Nice and Menton on the French Riviera. The Moyenne Corniche is built into the cliff-side and in some cases cuts through the mountain range whilst offering fabulous views of the Mediterranean at the same time.
The road sweeps around – but not through Monaco. This affords a motorist and their passengers the famous sites such as the Royal Palace, the Stade Louis II and the Musee Oceanographique – not forgetting the famous Monte Carlo Casino and Larvotto Beach. The great views are not simply restricted to Monaco; the village of Eze as well as Nice and Menton offer great viewing points.
Italy also has some famous roads which can be driven with perhaps the most famous being the Amalfi Coast which is just below Naples in the Salerno province of Italy. The route is definitely one for the experienced driver as they have to cope with the incredibly sharp hairpins, the weather inclement and the diverse range of driving conditions.
The traffic can be a problem as too much can result in the motorists being trapped on the road for hours, whilst due to the single carriageway design, impatient drivers have a penchant for overtaking and cutting back directly in front of your car.
At the opposite end of Europe to Italy is the Atlanterhavsveien, the Norwegian Atlantic Road. It is a 5.2 mile stretch of tarmac which links mainland Norway with a collection of nearby islands. A favourite with car advertisers, the most famous stretch of the Atlanterhavsveien is the Storseisundet Bridge which rises dramatically upwards over the ocean before descending towards the mainland.
Formerly the road was a toll road but this has not been the case since 1999. Norwegian and other motorists still drive throughout the islets, either as an expedition or to drive to and from their intended destination. The infamous ‘Road to nowhere’ – so called because of the optical illusion of the road suddenly ending 75 feet up in the air – has attracted as many awards as it has plaudits.
The Bundesautobahn 61 may not sound like most glamorous of road names but the route is one of the most scenic in Germany – an impressive achievement considering that it is competing against the southern Bavarian landscape. Linking The Netherlands with Baden-Wuerttemburg, the Bundesautobahn 61 follows the contours of the River Rhine.
It is the stretch of road between Koblenz and Bingen which really attracts attention though. The road is famous for bypassing old-timbered villages and castles perched by or on steep vineyard hills. If it was not for the road and railway lines which run by the river, a driver could be forgiven thinking they had regressed in time to the Middle Ages.
La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos or the ‘Road of the White Villages’ is one of the most beautiful driving routes in Spain. Located in the Cadiz province in Andalusia, the road is so-called because of the whitewashed houses which are dotted along its route to deflect the sun’s glare. Unlike other routes in Spain, La Ruta de los Pueblos Blancos is relatively untouched by tourism and tours.
Besides the winding road which sticks closely to the hills, the main attraction is the different styles of architecture. This means that motorists will pass Christian, Jewish and Islamic buildings which make up the hilltop and valley villages.
Long before the Alps grew in fame for their driving routes, Austria’s Glossglockner High Alpine Road was one of the first routes created to allow transportation of goods from the east of Austria through the Alps. It is a tough drive as the road clings to the mountainside and in most cases there are no barriers on the open side, meaning that one over-steer of your Mini could lead to a car careering down the side of the mountainside.
Measured at almost 50 kilometres the mountain road rises to its highest point of 2,504 metres but despite this, the road’s gradient allows for a gentle rise and drop either side of the peak. To use the road drivers must either pay for a day ticket or a 30 day ticket with the price varying for private cars, coaches and lorries.
There are two famous roads in Russia, the Road of Bones and the Road of Life. Both have their own stories but whereas the Road of Bones – known as the M56 Kolyma Highway – led to Siberia, the Road of Life was a relief route for the citizens of St. Petersburg during the Second World War.
The Road of Bones can turn into a war of attrition whenever the weather turns bad. Not only can snow blizzards prevent the progress of even the strongest of vehicles but when there has been rain, parts of the Siberian section of the road turn into a muddy quagmire. The Road of Life was an ice road to Lake Ladoga allowing St. Petersburg citizens to escape an onslaught in the Second World War. Today monuments mark every kilometre of a newly built road saluting the heroism of St. Petersburg.
Denmark’s most famous road represents the modern and historical aspects of the country. The Øresund Bridge is the longest road and railway bridge in Europe, crossing the Kattegat Sea which links Denmark and Sweden, catering for approximately 17,000 vehicles every day.
Constructed between 1995 and 1999 the Øresund Bridge is recouping the costs through tolls and is used mostly by Danes who have bought summer homes in Sweden, taking advantage of the currency difference between the two nations. One of the best examples of modern engineering in Europe, the suspension bridge links Copenhagen with Malmo, sweeping majestically between the two.
Last but not least is the Transfagarasan Pass in Romania. The road earned its sobriquet of ‘Ceaucescu’s Folly’ after the former dictator ordered it to built as a military route to transport soldiers across the Transylvanian mountains should the Soviet Union ever invade. Now used as place for the rich to rev up their Porsches, very few reflect on the catastrophic humanitarian and financial costs that were undertaken to satisfy the paranoia of a dictator.
Famously the road was used as a filming location for BBC Two’s Top Gear programme in which presented Jeremy Clarkson described it as “The best road in the world – ever.” The road passes Poemari Castle, one of the former residences of Vladimir Tepes, best known as Vlad the Impaler.