The best cities for scenic drives around the world
There’s nothing quite like driving in the city. Whether you crave the bright lights of a huge metropolis like London, New York or Hong Kong, or you prefer a destination with stunning coastal or mountain views, travelling and exploring new cities has become easier than ever – all you need to do is book a flight, hire a car and go.
Gone are the days of having to figure out a route using an A to Z; now that satnav takes care of the directions, visitors to foreign cities can enjoy freedom like never before – and there’s so much to explore.
Here at Discover Car Hire we asked over 2,500 tourists and visitors to rate driving in different cities around the world to help come up with a comprehensive list of the best destinations to visit on four wheels, from tranquil seaside views to bustling urban centres – and some of the destinations you may never have even heard of!
If you’re looking for inspiration for your next trip, many of the top world city drives are peppered around the Aegean Sea - perhaps unsurprising when you consider the abundance of unspoiled beaches and rolling hills in Turkey and Greece. Take Izmir, for example. Turkey’s third biggest city is less well known by tourists but has been voted one of the top city drives in the world.
Hire a car here and you can enjoy historic monuments, bustling streets and great roads, all framed by the azure-blue Bay of Izmir. If you’ve made the trip, why not extend your stay and visit Dalaman, Antalya or even Istanbul – also highly rated as great city driving experiences.
Australia is a well-known destination for epic road trips - especially along the east coast – and many classic journeys include a visit to Cairns. Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns was also joint-top of the list of drivers’ favourite cities with well-maintained roads that take you seamlessly from stunning coastal paths to dense rainforests.
New Zealand also boasts stunning city driving – from the North Island’s hilly and winding roads of Auckland to the breathtaking scenery of Christchurch and Queenstown on the South Island - three cities which drivers have described as being a dream to drive in.
Driving in North America could take you through seven of the world’s top-rated cities. In the shadow of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, both Vancouver and Calgary offer wide roads and the freedom to explore some of the incredible scenery, such as Banff National Park, or visit in the winter as a base for some incredible skiing. In the USA, having a car to visit Florida is a must in order to take in the beaches, clubs, shopping, and resorts.
Visitors to Miami can drive to the tropical wetlands of the Everglades within fifteen minutes from downtown. And if you’re taking your family to visit Orlando’s many theme parks like Disney and Universal, they are easy to reach by car and well signposted and you can park right outside the gates.
But a wonderful city drive does not have to involve multiple cities across vast continents. Some of the best-rated city drives involve much smaller, island destinations that are less busy – and often more romantic.
The Canary Islands are hugely popular with drivers, with Gran Canaria voted joint top for amazing driving experiences. Drive through Las Palmas and you’ll see colourful pastel buildings and clear blue seas. Then take the motorway and you’ll soon be climbing magnificent mountains with hairpin turns (but don’t worry, there are barriers to keep you safe) – and you’ll certainly come across the goats that roam around
Similarly, Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel in the Azores, is one destination cited time and time again as a firm favourite. With its whitewashed buildings, narrow cobbled streets, and crystal clear waters, a staggering 105 of those surveyed gave Ponta Delgada an average score of 9.6 city driving satisfaction.
So, as well as stunning scenery and plenty of things to see, what makes a city a good place to drive?
Roads play a huge role. If there’s a solid motorway infrastructure to get drivers from an airport to the city quickly and easily, that’s a real plus for potential tourists. Despite GPS making travelling so convenient, if a city is well signposted, it can really take away the stress of city driving. The condition of the road matters too – think how much nicer it is to drive on a smooth, well-maintained surface compared to one full of potholes. And if a city has plenty of parking options that are easy to find, research shows travellers love it even more.
But one thing tourists around the world are wary about is the ‘local’ driver – the impatient, vocal and often unpredictable driver who knows the local roads better than you and isn’t afraid to tell you about it!
The full list of 74 cities that have been rated can be viewed here.
2599 tourist drivers have been surveyed.