Weekend Drives

How far would you travel for a short break and what makes a good weekend drive?

The nice thing about being based in Switzerland is that we are ideally placed for some great weekend getaways; Germany, France, Italy and Austria are all just a fews hours away.

Some say that we can have a taste of France, Germany and Italy in Switzerland; but there’s nothing like savouring the real ingredients: Beef bourguignon in Burgundy; Pesto in Genoa; or a Black Forest gâteau in Schwarzwald.

Leaving after work on a Friday, one can easily arrive in the South of France before the bars close and not have to get off the beach until Sunday afternoon. There’s no need to book flights in advance, just slide in to the driver’s seat and start the ignition.

Granted, it might mean driving a little too fast on the motorway and often joining a queue to get through the Gotthard tunnel, on the way back. Since the fire, in 2001, those queues have worsened.

If you fancy a little culture, with Pizza and Pasta, it’s a comfortable drive to Florence. Verona is closer still.

A good time to visit the Italian lakes is May and September. The crowds are gone and when it’s raining in Zurich, we can drive off for breakfast at an outside table in Como. That’s the beauty of living in Switzerland and sometimes I forget just how lucky we are.

As with any travel planning, a good map is essential.

For driving, I especially like the maps with scenic routes (often marked in green) and interesting places to visit (highlighted in yellow).

Depending on the map maker, the interesting places to visit may be indicated in a box, be underlined, or have a number of stars.

I usually have a couple of maps; a larger overview for the route and a more detailed map for travel in the region.

The yellow Michelin maps are the best maps to buy if you want to discover a particular area of France in detail; or invest in the France Road Atlas (same scale).

My favourite map for weekend drives from Zurich is the blue, Alpine roads map from Kümmerly+Frey (1:700,000).

This just about covers the maximum area for a good weekend drive and I’ve used it to plan numerous trips from Alsace to Bourgogne; Cotes-du-Rhone to Tuscany; Rimini to The Dolomites; and the area around the Innsbruck, Salzburg, Munich triangle.  It even stretches out to northern Croatia, eastern Hungary and Bratislava.

This seems to have been replaced by the red Alpine Countries (Road Map) from Hallwag. More maps of the region from these companies can be found under the Swiss Travel Center domain. For drives north of the Black Forest, I’ve just purchased Germany South, or Deutschland Süd (1:500,000), and intend to give it a test drive.

For online planning, I previously reviewed a good online tool to judge a travel radius in How Far Can I Travel. I originally looked at it for planning a cycle trip but it’s ideal for driving too.


5 thoughts on “Weekend Drives

  1. Ah, Michel, you’re making me homesick for Europe and all the wonderful weekend road trip possibilities! I certainly loved living in Germany for 10 years because of all the distinctly-different places I could make it to within a few hours. Thank you for sharing some of your favorite travel resources.


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