In the summer of 2019, our German-American friend group met up near Köln, Germany (where I grew up), and hit the road to Portugal. We had two weeks and wanted to spend it road-tripping across Europe down to the coast of the Algarve for one week and relaxing in a rental house in Carvoeiro, Portugal for the second week.
Here's our itinerary split up into daily sections, including our accommodations and tips on what to do and what to do better than we did. Enjoy!
Day 1 Koeln via Heidelberg to Interlaken
On our way to Switzerland, we made sure to stop in Heidelberg for lunch and walk around the beautiful old town. We did not have time to walk up to the castle or take the famous Philosophenweg ("philosophers' walk") but I can only recommend doing it if you have the time. Heidelberg definitely deserves all the praise it gets around the world, its historic charm is unbroken.
Day 2 Region Berner Oberland
We headed south to Switzerland and chose to camp for two nights in order to spend at least one whole day in the region. We were aware that we would only be able to scratch the surface but made the most of our 36 hours. If you have the time, spend it here, the possibilities are endless!
Where to stay: We camped at Camping Stuhlegg.
What to do: go swimming in both Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, visit Interlaken, go hiking in Lauterbrunnen, see the waterfall and listen to the cowbells, go summer sledding at the Sommerrodelbahn Pfingstegg
Where to eat: Italian Restaurant Lido da Elio right by the water of Lake Thun -- delicious food, wine, and beautiful sunsets
Day 3 Interlaken Switzerland to Brive la Gaillarde France
Please note: We actually drove the Grimsel Pass from Interlaken to the Rhone Valley and crossed the French border in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Due to the pass only being open in the summer, it could not be pictured on this map. This was our biggest day trip with almost 1000km from Interlaken to Brive-la-Gaillarde. Taking the scenic route was definitely worth it!
Where to stay: In Brive-la-Gaillarde, we stayed at an Airbnb, that turned out to be one of our all-time favorites. Located in a quiet neighborhood, it was spacious, had a big kitchen, very comfy beds, and the prettiest French interior design.
What to do:
We can't really say much about Brive-La-Gaillarde, other than that there was a great Irish Pub around the corner from our Airbnb.
If you take the same route, you should really stop in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, it is the perfect mix of French town with a little influence of its Swiss neighbor across the border. We got fresh baguette, cheese, and meat and had a picnic before continuing on our journey south.
Day 4 Brive la Gaillarde to San Sebastian in Spain
Where to stay in San Sebastián: We booked an apartment through Airbnb and it was beautiful and incredibly spacious. If you book this, make sure to spend at least 2-3 nights in order to enjoy the big balcony and living room.
What to do: go swimming during sunset, walk around the old town, have breakfast and coffee on one of the town squares and just people-watch
Where to eat: learn from our mistakes, do NOT eat at a tapas place that has pictures of their food out front and their tapas across the countertop - chances are high that it will not be enjoyable
Day 5 San Sebastian via Zumaia beach to Salamanca
From San Sebastián we drove to the cliffs of Zumaia that were one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones. From there, we drove through Castile down to Salamanca, also called the "Golden City" due to its buildings made out of sandstone that earned its UNESCO world heritage status in 1988. Compared to San Sebastián and Sevilla, Salamanca is relatively small which makes it the perfect road-trip stop.
What to do: simply walk through the historic old town, listen to the street musicians, dance on Plaza Mayor, and marvel at the cathedral and the university which is one of the oldest in the world.
Where to eat: Tapas at DOZE Restaurante Premium Bar
Day 6 Salamanca to Sevilla
Our last stop in Spain was Sevilla and it took our hearts by storm. Everything about Sevilla is magical - the colorful architecture, the climate, the people-filled streets (pre-covid), and the food. Walking on Plaza España during golden hour while someone played the violin felt like stepping into a movie scene - I can't wait to go back one day.
Where to stay: This was our Airbnb in Sevilla. It was perfectly located, affordable, air-conditioned and had a rooftop terrace with views of the cathedral.
What to do: go to Plaza de España, go see Alcázar de Sevilla (another filming location for GOT), visit the cathedral, check if there are any street festivals going on
Where to eat: Acai bowls at Jester
Day 7 Sevilla to Carvoeiro in Portugal
From Sevilla, we drove the remaining 2 1/2 hours to the Algarve. I wrote a separate blog post about our week in Portugal, where we stayed, and what we would recommend you do there.
Feel free to message me, if you have any questions or need advice on planning your own trip.