Hate to unravel one of those big, flimsy road maps in the car? Hate to fold it up? Join the club. Many people have switched to using road atlases on their vacations, especially as a back-up abroad in case they lose cell service on their smartphones. Because you definitely don't want to be on the side of the road, trying to find a signal for Google Maps.
Europe is too big to put on a single map that shows you enough roads to get to any kind of rural destination, but break it up into manageable size, spiral bind it, and off you go. Sure, it's a bit of a mess when the road takes off off one map and onto another several pages away, but that's the price you pay for a detailed map that shows you nearly everything.
Here are our picks for European tourism and motoring atlases, starting with big, heavy European atlases and then taking on the single country atlases that are more manageable in size.
Michelin has been making maps for a century, so they've gotten pretty good at it. Not only will you get maps at scales that make sense in this atlas, you'll get information on traffic regulations and signs for the various countries of Europe, which is always a good thing to study before you go.
This well-informed guidebook includes maps of 46 countries as well as information on "national speed limits, toll-free motorways, car ferries, mountain passes with caravan suitability, emergency telephone numbers, and road distances, together with national parks and many other places of interest."
This road atlas features "maps of Britain at 9.9 miles to one inch (1:625,000) and the whole of Ireland at 15.8 miles to one inch (1:1,000,000). There is also a selection of more detailed urban area maps at 4.5 miles to one inch (1:285,000) to aid route planning in these busy areas. It also includes a rail map, Park & Ride locations (for bus and rail), a handy distance calculator chart highlighting distances between the major towns, and money-off vouchers from Castle Cover Insurance."
This Germany road atlas actually covers a great deal of Europe. Some folks say there is way too much information that clutters the map and others say there isn't enough, it really just depends on what you're looking for. There are maps of the cities that tourists would be interested in as well as scenic drives.
Portugal is quickly gaining popularity due to how beautiful and affordable the country is for American and European travelers. Many new roads have been built around the country, so you'll need a good atlas to get around Iberia. This one has a lot of detailed city maps. 1.5 pounds, 226 pages.
Michelin also offers a spiral-bound tourist and motoring atlas for Italy in English and Italian. It will add 1.2 pounds to your suitcase. This clearly shows the highways and main routes as well as smaller back-roads if you want to go off the beaten path.
Is an Atlas What You Need?
An atlas comes in handy as a second reference to a GPS, or in remote areas where you may lose service. It also provides routes, tours, and reference points to help you navigate. A large European atlas may be less useful for travel planning, as some people point out in the reviews. Still, starting out with an Atlas to let you know how to get between your desired towns in Europe doesn't seem like a bad idea. Get a marker and have at it.