Did you know that you can drive from Calais, France to Milan, Italy in 11 hours and 28 minutes? But unless you’re behind the wheel of a Ferrari, why try when there’s so much to see and do along the way!
If you’re hopping off the ferry from the UK for a drive through Europe to Italy, take your time and experience the charms of four different countries along the way…but be sure to tick off our handy roadtrip tips too.
Whether you’ve just been floating about on the Channel from England – or are heading back that way – find your bed at the Mercure Calais in the city centre 5 minutes from the ferry terminal. The hotel has 24 hour reception to greet you and a private secure car park to keep your hire car safe.
Explore the city sights, such as the Calais Theatre, Lighthouse, Notre Dame and Beach, then tuck into some fine French food and wine at a restaurant along Toques d’Opale.
From Calais, take the E40 to get to the medieval magic town of Bruges in Belgium and stop for a night or two at the art deco style of Hotel Jacobs.
Start the morning with a complimentary breakfast before wandering around the old churches, museums, and town squares.
The Art’otel Cologne By Park Plaza in Cologne makes a colourful change from endless highways and autobahns. The stylish rooms have free wifi, and throughout the property you’ll find a permanent exhibition of artwork.
Relax in a Jacuzzi and then venture into the city to see the largest collection of pop art outside the USA at the Wallraf Richartz and Ludwig Museum. And then pop into the chocolate museum!
The best of Cologne’s eclectic band of dining gems includes local fare specialists Lommerzheim and Hanse-Stube, Japanese Daitokai, and Indian Kamasutra. Needless to say, the beer’s a treat wherever you choose.
If you’re planning on getting to town at night and don’t feel like negotiating city traffic, try the Hotel Accursio near the exit of the A4, A8 and A9 highways and just a few minutes from Milan’s historic city centre. They even have soundproof windows and dust mite resistant carpet to help you catch some much needed zzzs.
The 24-hour reception desk can advise on sights and, of course, point in the direction of fashion shopping mecca, Quadrilatero d’Oro aka the ‘rectangle of gold’.
10 European roadtrip tips
- Insurance! Get it! Not just for the car, but for 3rd party damage and general travel. Opt in for roadside assistance when you’re hiring your car too.
- Check if you need an international driving permit.
- Try to get an auto so gear changing is one less thing to think about as you travel on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
- Ask for a road rule booklet from the car hire rental company.
- Check the car has a jack and spare tyre with sufficient pressure – it’s safer to drive and means less fuel (at almost 2 Euros a litre you’ll thank us!)
- Have your passport and any visas easily accessible to speed up border crossing.
- Use a GPS to navigate, especially if the signs aren’t in English, or at least have a competent navigator (who isn’t distracted by handsome/beautiful Europeans out for a bike ride through the countryside).
- Beware the ‘shortcut’: Back roads may look like they’ll get you there faster, but are often one lane wide, skirting clifftops, inhabited by wayward farm animals and a cycling peloton longer than a TGV.
- Be prepared to get lost – pack lots of food and water and equipment to keep warm.
- Make sure you’ve booked accommodation, or are prepared in case you need to sleep in your car.