7 Absolute Best Motorcycle Road Trips in Europe [Newbie to Killer!]
There’s two types of motorcycle road trips.
The first is paved with adrenaline and washed with sweat and tears of joy. The second is about the simple and humble feeling of craving for riding that doesn’t scare you stiff.
Whichever type you’re a fan of, we likely belong to the same gang and are not here to judge you. So to make the most of it for everyone, we scoured the old continent to put together a mix of easy and difficult rides.
Some of them are well-loved tours that everybody’s gonna rave about, while others go well off the beaten path.
So let’s hit the road!
Europe’s Top Motorbike Tours
7. The Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland
|Route Name||The Wild Atlantic Route|
|Length||630 mi (1,000+ km)|
|About||From the ocean shoreline to the inland towns and villages, you’ll almost feel like a medieval peasant touring the landscapes on horseback.|
This route runs along the west coast of Ireland for over a thousand kilometers. Or up to 2,500 if you decide to circle back!
The name says it all: it offers spectacular views of the ocean. Mount your two-wheeler and you’ll almost feel as if you were on horseback, racing past charming villages, towering cliffs, and ancient fortresses.
And if you get tired, you can always pay heed to your navigation and its secret, vile workings to lead you astray from the coastline onto the major, boring roads.
But hear me out: this journey is best taken slowly, at your own pace, working every available meander into your route and taking lots of photo and snack breaks.
Dimitris Antoniadis, travel buff and content specialist from Moonberg confirms it. “Dublin, Galway, and Cork are three of the most well-known cities in all of Ireland, and they are all on the route,” he tells us, having made that trip.
But he suggests taking the opposite direction – from Kinsale up to Derry, and then to the east, for Belfast and then Dublin. “Kinsale, a little fishing village in the island’s north, is where things get going. This is a great place to begin your ride if you want to get a sense of the coast’s beauty and rich history. From there, the path continues up the coast, offering stunning views of the sea, the rocky beach, and the many obscure villages along the way.”
6. Sultan’s Trail: Vienna to Istanbul
|Route Name||Sultan’s Trail|
|Length||1,015 mi (1630 km)|
|About||Sneak in and out of Europe through its beautiful yet understated backdoor!|
|Difficulty||Beginner to moderate|
No in-depth survey of Europe should exclude the continent’s southeast opening where it holds hands with Asia under splashes of the Mediterranean sea.
The Balkans is all that and more: it’s also a melting pot of cultures and a mirror image of both continents, taking in from both yet remaining unique. Little wonder that its turbulent history has seen veritable clashes of civilizations: from ancient Greece and Rome to Byzantium and the Ottomans, all the way to the Habsburgs in the 20th century.
This is also where the famous Orient Express choo-chooed its way through Europe, tying its west and east together.
Not enough to convince you?
By journeying the Sultans Trail, you’d be following in the footsteps (quite literally!) of conquerors who have shaped Europe into what it is today. One of them, also the reason behind the road’s name, was Suleiman the Magnificent. It’s the guy who marched his armies from Istanbul and seized the whole of the Balkans in the 16th century, until he broke his teeth on the thick walls of Vienna.
My advice, however, is to retrace this journey backwards, starting from Vienna as the heart of Europe and forging ahead on your chrome-clad horse to the east. If you’re from the US or Western Europe, this is a recipe to best savor your waves of adrenaline, which will grow bigger and stronger as you’re nearing Istanbul.
But if you are ready to take your time and imbibe more of the Balkans, you can also take a variation of this route that’s a favorite with bicycle riders. (Yep, there are nerds who dare to cycle and even walk this tour!) Naturally, this version of the route steers clear of the region’s highways. Which makes it perfect for beginners!
The biking aficionado Natalia Brzezinska from PhotoAiD also suggests this tweak.
“A motorcycle road trip through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey is the most picturesque I have ever done in my life! All four countries are very different, very hospitable, and very mountainous. I started my journey from Budapest and rambled across the Carpathians, through Romania’s Transylvanian Alps, and then into Bulgaria. Everywhere I went, I was met with incredible scenery, professional motorcycle roads, and friendly locals. The Turkish stage starts in my favorite city in the world – Istanbul – and goes along the Black Sea’s coast towards an incredible Cappadocia,” Natalia told us.
There’s another tip for you: if you liked the scenery on the way to Istanbul, the rest of Turkey will knock you off your wheels!
5. Over the Mountains Down to the Seaside: Montenegro
|Route Name||Cetinje to Kotor via Kotor Serpentine|
|Length||30 mi (48 km)|
|About||An unjustly little-known tour where the mountain melts into the sea.|
If you thought I was done with the Balkans, you were wrong. But this time, I suggest a route that begins – and ends – in one of the area’s tiniest but most breathtaking countries.
If there’s one thing that ever kicked more breath out of my lungs than climbing up and down Montenegro’s rugged mountain slopes, it’s sliding down the Kotor Serpentine to a view of its sea bay. With the twists and turns and bends, you’ll feel as if you were shaving the mountain with your bike.
Take care, though. The road is narrow and you never know what or who’s around the corner. If you can handle that with ease, a similar but even more fascinating thing is the Trollstigen Pass – scroll down to #1 on this list for more on that!
Truth be told, I only traveled this route once, and from the one-dimensional safety of a car. But all I could think of was how well it would lend itself to motorbiking. And indeed, I’ve listened to stunning accounts from local motorcyclists ever since.
But it’s not just the road and its scenery that makes this route one of Europe’s jewels. It’s also the beauty of the medieval town of Kotor, a UNESCO’s World Heritage site.
Best of all, the country, aptly named “Black Mountain,” is insanely small. So if you decide you want to experience some more of its rugged charm, you can always take the E65/E80 roads to circle back to Cetinje. Or better yet, you can ride along the coastline around the Bay of Kotor and straight to the magical city of Dubrovnik a.k.a. King’s Landing in neighboring Croatia!
None of these trips take more than a couple of hours.
4. The Sunny South of France Along the Côte d’Azur
|Route Name||Côte d’Azur|
|Length||230 mi (370 km)|
|About||Warm and posh, but that shouldn’t put you off! It’s probably the loveliest tour in whole of Europe.|
Formula 1 tracks, casinos à la James Bond, a bunch of yachts and princely resorts and movie stars and premium beaches with ambery sun and sapphire waters… If this is what pops into your mind when you think of the French Riviera, it’s because it’s true.
Okay, I know that bikers would trade all the jewelry and glamor of this world for a shabby leather bag of sweat and dust. Still, there are good reasons why this route deserves a spot on a biker’s bucket list.
First of all, there’s the sheer pleasure of basking in the sun as you cruise along the Mediterranean shoreline.
Speaking of which, you should definitely pack relatively light but not too light! Remember, we’re at the feet of the majestic Alps. There’s not one but THREE narrow and twisty cliff roads that are called just that: Les Trois Corniches. Whichever you choose, the thrill is guaranteed.
Secondly, the French Riviera is not just Monte Carlo, Cannes and other things you can look at but can’t afford.
It’s also the ancient coastal villages along the way where you can grab a bite of their famous cheeses and wash it down with their wine. A must-see, for example, is Èze, a medieval hilltop village perched on a rocky outcropping. (You’ll find it just to the west on your way out of Monaco.)
But if you find yourself itching for a bigger town, there are Marseille and Avignon. Both are ancient towns, Avignon even carrying papal legacy. This is why it’s hardly surprising that this 230-mile trip can (and should) take at least several days to complete. (The rule of thumb is, wherever you see an opportunity to stop, do it.)
For Ludovic Chung-Sao, motorcycle enthusiast from Zen Soundproof, this journey lasted just that long. “From Monaco to Avignon, it took me several days on the bike to complete this dreamy road trip. Although there was no shortage of attractions and must-see destinations along the way, I found pure joy in simply taking in France’s natural beauty with each mile,” he told us.
3. The Castle Road in Germany
|Route Name||The Castle Road|
|Length||270 mi (435 km)|
|About||It’s the one thing that many will never expect to see in Germany: romantic. Apart from the castles and excellent roads, there are also palaces, medieval villages and towns!|
|Difficulty||Beginner to Moderate|
Europe isn’t just hilltops, sea coasts, fallen civilizations, exquisite wines and cheeses. It’s also castles, fortresses and beer.
For that kind of fun, France is the first country that comes to mind. But there’s another place that’s equally marvelous yet undervalued in this regard – Germany.
Better yet, Germany also happens to be a proper mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts, with its biker communities, excellent infrastructure and motorway sections where there are no speed limits!
This particular tour is literally dotted with stunning castles. Most of them date from the middle ages up to the 18th century, but the final point of your journey, the fortress of Veste Coburg, will catapult you back into the 10th century!
Other must-sees include the Mannheim Palace as an ideal starting point, the grandiose ruins (and an equally grandiose wine barrel!) of Heidelberg Castle, the extravagant Würzburg Residence with its baroque gardens akin to those of Versailles, as well as the cute medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Not to mention the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, as well as Richard Wagner’s Bayreuth, which are also on your way.
These are just several notable mentions, but the road has many, many more. (Take a look at this guide for inspiration.)
If that’s not enough to quench your touring thirst, you can easily bump up the length of this trip to 745 mi to the neighboring Czechia and its capital city of Prague, one of Central Europe’s cultural and architectural jewels.
Or, if you’re planning your trip in July, you can ride up to Berlin for the BMW Motorrad Days!
2. Climbing to the Rooftop of Europe – The Italian Alps
|Route Name||The Italian Alps|
|Length||266 mi (428 km)|
|About||Where there’s challenge, there’s reward! This route can be improvised, allowing you to cross up to a couple dozen mountain passes if the weather is right.|
There’s more than one way to skin the Alps on your motorcycle, and this tour is a case in point.
Italy is just one of seven Alpine countries. And even within Italy, there are many ways to go about conquering the mountain range on two wheels.
Ben Basic, a biker and CEO of Router IP Net, has done it from Turin up north to the Aosta Valley and Courmayeur, then circled back to his starting point. (You know the saying: what starts with a shot of top-class espresso should end with another shot of top-class espresso. And a cannoli or two to soak it up.)
If none of these names ring a bell, how about Mont Blanc? The so-called White Mountain, the second-highest peak in Europe, breaks out just north of Courmayeur. But you’ll start seeing it way earlier.
“This route takes around five hours and is full of twists and turns. Riders with experience can take on some of the more challenging terrains and explore the many off-road trails available,” Ben told us over email.
Aosta, your first stop, is a charming town with a rich history that dates back to the Roman era. Be sure to check out the ancient ruins and the picturesque town center before hitting the road again.
If there’s ice and fire running through your veins instead of blood, you can choose an entirely different plan for your Alpine trek. People have managed to work more than 30 mountain crossings into their routes from Milan to the Dolomites!
1. Riding the Fjords of Norway
|Route Name||Fjords of Norway|
|Length||374 mi (602 km)|
|About||A tour that has been known to knock even the most seasoned globetrotters off their feet. Take care so the beauty doesn’t knock you off your wheels, though!|
There’s a good reason why this epic ride is the crowned queen, nay, empress of our list.
The land of Vikings, northern lights, salmon, breathtaking fjords and some of the cleanest nature on the planet – that’s Norway in a nutshell.
But whichever of the dozen or so scenic routes you choose, one thing is certain. Similarly to Alaska, not a single corner will remind you of your granddad’s home village, wherever it is in the world. (Unless your granddad happens to be from Norway.)
The route we’re proposing absolutely shouldn’t be done in winter as many of the roads will be closed. That’s why my winter map doesn’t show one of the world’s top treasures: the Trollstigen Pass, which lies just southeast of Åndalsnes. The word literally means “The Troll Path.”
But looking at all the hairpins, I suspect these trolls must have been pretty thin. With the valleys and the waterfalls and the winding road snaking through the mountain, it instantly brings into mind not both trolls and hobbits. Even if you decide not to ride down the pass itself, just getting to see it from the top is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
If you do decide to get down, keep in mind that the road is so narrow that it’s pretty difficult to pass over any stockier vehicle. In other words, if there’s a van in front of you at the top, you’ll have to breathe down its neck all the way down.
But back to our original route!
Starting in Bergen, you’ll head north along the stunning Sognefjord, which isn’t called the King of the Fjords for nothing. It’s the largest and deepest fjord in Norway. (Which probably also means in the world.)
As you wind your way along it, you’ll need an immense self-control not to gawk at the mountains and crystal-clear waters. Your eyes belong on the road, not at the bottom of a magnificent waterfall.
In Åndalsnes, the northernmost spot of this route, summer days last up to 18 hours! Better yet, you’ll be able to admire the sunset at 11:30 pm.
But don’t let this fool you. Long daylight doesn’t mean you have to stay awake, much less being able to ride longer. In any case, riding more than 3-4 hours a day would be pointless as you also have to factor in all the waddling through the narrow roads with just enough traffic to frustrate you, ferry rides and many, many breaks to admire the vistas.
On summery days, the rest areas around these world-famous fjords tend to be a bit crowded. So if you’re up for a more adventurous ride, you can do it in May or September. (But not earlier or later than that!)
Note that the weather is very moody whichever season you choose, so you should factor in some leeway too. Best to allocate some 10-12 days for it, just in case!