While island hopping and even city hopping aren’t strange beasts to seasoned travellers, what about country hopping? For the cost of a hire car or a bus ticket you can visit multiple countries in the space of a few hours. And here we’ve rounded up the best.
Vienna, Austria - Bratislava, Slovakia
(1 hour 20 minutes by public transport/1 hour by car)
It only takes one hour by car to drive from Vienna to Bratislava yet many travellers prefer to make the journey by sailing down the River Danube. The sailing trip takes a leisurely six hours, through captivating scenery. For drivers, Bratislava is easy to explore on foot, so you can stretch your legs when you arrive. And free parking is available at the Botel Dunajský Pivovar in Bratislava.
Tarifa, Spain - Tangier, Morocco
(1 hour 45 minutes by car + ferry)
Once you’ve explored the Tarifa Old Town, walk down to the coast for an uninterrupted view across the Strait of Gibraltar, to the Moroccan city of Tangier. To get a closer look, you can take the ferry across and enjoy a traditional Moroccan mint tea (known locally as ‘Berber Whiskey’), followed by a stroll through the hectic Medina. If you decide to hire a car you will find free parking at the Mnar Castle in Tangier.
Galicia, Spain - Porto, Portugal
(2 hours 30 minutes by car)
Galicia first became popular among religious pilgrims, following the Way of St. James; the final journey of Saint James’ body on its way to be buried. The drive from this historic Spanish town to lively Porto provides a fascinating contrast and only takes a couple of hours. If you plan to spend the night in Porto before heading back, free parking is available at the Mezzanine Bonjardim.
Tallinn, Estonia - Helsinki, Finland
(2 hours by ferry)
Estonia’s capital city offers an invigorating mix of technological innovation (it is known as Eastern Europe’s startup capital) and history in the Old Town, where Baltic, Scandinavian, and Soviet influences all make themselves felt. The ferry over to Helsinki only takes two hours and you can further cut down on travelling time by checking into the Poordi 1 Apartments, near Tallinn’s harbour.
Vancouver, Canada - Seattle, USA
(2 hours 29 minutes by car)
Spend a few days getting lost in the Vancouver public library (modelled on Rome’s Colosseum) and visiting the artist studios on Granville Island before driving down to Seattle for a different cultural experience. Here you’ll find tributes to musical greats like Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, and Ernestine Anderson, and if you decide to stay the night there’s free parking at the 11th Avenue Inn Bed & Breakfast.
Kotor, Montenegro - Dubrovnik, Croatia
(1 hour 49 minutes by car)
It’s worth taking a few days to explore Kotor’s churches, museums, and triangular Old Town. Then take a walk along the town walls for the seaview, before driving over to visit the fabulous beaches surrounding the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. Planning to extend your trip? The Hotel Excelsior has free parking.
Lyon, France - Geneva, Switzerland
(1 hour 52 minutes by bus/1 hour 48 minutes by car)
Lyon is the birthplace of cinema and cinephiles will struggle to tear themselves away from the city’s various film festivals, museums, and theatres. But if you can drag yourself away for a few hours the short journey to Geneva is a great way to unwind and the city’s many green spaces are ideal for urban exploring. If you choose to drive, rather than take the bus, Parc des Eaux Vives has free parking.
Malmo, Sweden - Copenhagen, Denmark
(35 minutes by bus/46 minutes by car)
The views from the Øresund Bridge are remarkable and the 40 minute journey between Sweden and Denmark make it one of the easiest, most rewarding, European road trips you can take. Spend a few days marvelling at the parks and architecture of Malmo before heading over to Copenhagen for the museums, galleries, and design studios. If you prefer driving to taking the bus, Copenhagen’s Ocean Hotel has free parking.
Salzburg, Austria - Munich, Germany
(1 hour 37 minutes by public transport/1 hour 43 minutes by car)
Salzburg and Munich have more than enough to keep visitors enthralled, but the journey itself is to be savoured. The route will take you via Lake Chiemsee, Bavaria’s largest lake, and the island of Herreninsel. This island is home to the former monastery of Herrenchiemsee, now converted into an elaborate network of Neo-Baroque palaces and gardens. Planning to spend a few nights in Munich? Prinz Myshkin Parkhotel has free parking.
Genoa, Italy - Monaco - Nice, France
(2 hours 59 minutes by car - Genoa to Nice)
(32 minutes by bus/43 minutes by car - Monaco to Nice)
While you technically can visit Genoa, Monaco, and Nice in the space of a few hours, it’s worth taking your time. Plan your route via the Cinque Terre, the colourful string of seaside villages along the Italian Riviera and make sure to sample the region’s exquisite seafood.
La Condamine and Monte Carlo in Monaco
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