Camping in Europe
Camping and campgrounds are a cheap way to spend the night while traveling
A campsite by the side of the little river in Sneem, County Kerry on the west coast of Ireland.
This page covers:
• What camping in Europe is like
• Urban campgrounds
• Camping costs
• Resources & links
• Europe-wide resources
• Camp in Austria
• Camp in France
• Camp in Germany
• Camp in Greece
• Camp in Ireland
• Camp in Italy
• Camp in Spain
• Camp in Switzerland
• Camping in the U.K.This is how my family and I spent much of our first two years in Europe, hobnobbing with the types of Europeans who had ditched minibars for camp stores, and traded pillow mints for tent poles.
Granted, we actually did most of our camping in a hippie-orange VW pop-top campervan (I got the moldy pop-top), not in a pup tent, though as a Boy Scout over there I did have my share of trips in the woods.
Some of my favorite European memories came from camping, whether it was watching a meteor shower from the banks of the Thames (up-river from the bright lights of London), battling a German-speaking washing machine in Northern Italy (turned out to be a dryer, so our clothes camp out very warm, unwashed, yet full of soap powder), or taking in the sunset panorama of Florence from a plateau in the Oltrarno where we had arrived early enough to secure one of the sites along the front edge of the vast parking lot of a campground known as Campeggio Michelangelo.
Camping is a heck of a lot cheaper than a hotel, especially these days, and you also get to make friends with all sorts of interesting Europeans (and by "interesting," I mean that German women campers often wander around topless).
But beyond the ogling, it truly is a chance to hang out in a totally non-touristy context with some bona fide Europeans, sharing travel advice along with your pickled wieners, making plans together to take a short hike in the Black Forest next morning, and just generally trying not to stare at the exposed chest of the wife of your new friend Gunther.
Reid's favorite urban campgrounds
• PARIS: Camping de Paris - Bois de Boulogne - A campground on the banks of the Seine in a vast city park. Time to downtown: 15 min.
• FLORENCE: Campeggio Michelangelo - A leafy plateau above the Oltrarno with view of the Duomo's famous dome. Time to downtown: 5 min.
• VENICE: Camping Miramare - There are much bigger campgrounds with more amenities nearby, but I like little Miramare for its proximity to the vaporetto (water bus) dock. Time to downtown: 40 min.
• ROME: Village Flaminio - 80,000 square meters of camping within the Parco Regionale Vejo north of the city. Time to downtown: 30 min.While there are loads of European campgrounds out in the sticks for the get-back-to-nature crowd, there are also plenty of places to pitch your tent in and around the major cities, usually right near a bus or Metro stop.
That said, by their very nature most of these tend to be on the edges of cities, so expect a healthy 30-45 minute bus or subway ride into the heart of the action—though there are some exceptions closer in to the center.
The list of favorite campgrounds to the right includes a sense of how long, using public transportation, it will take to get downtown
Camping in Europe is pretty darn cheap (the biggest attraction, really). It generally costs anywhere from $15 to $30 for two people and a tent, sometimes a wee bit more if you have a campervan.
Keep in mind when you're perusing prices that there are often separate charges per person, plus for the site itself, plus for the tent, plus for the car, so that €5 price tag ends up ringing in more around €20.
The local tourist office always keeps a list of area campgrounds. There is an obscene number of camping-related sites in Europe. Here's a decent sampling—along with the word for "campground/campsite" in each language.
Note that in many cases, the sites are only available in the native language, but most are pretty easy to navigate regardless: click on the map where you want to go, you get a list of campgrounds with phone numbers addresses, web links, sometimes pictures and prices...so what if you can't read the blurb of accompanying text?
EuroCampings.net (www.eurocampings.net) - Reviews of more than 9,800 campgrounds in 30 countries across Western and Eastern Europe.
CamperOnline.it (www.camperonline.it) - In Italian (though you can get an English version of the menu—though not the content), but choc-a-block with info on camping and RVing all across Europe, including hundreds of country-specific links to tons of other useful Internet resources, free sites to park your RV, and on-line camping catalogues. Click "Sosta" for links to campgrounds.
EuroCamps.net (www.eurocamps.net) - This lovably bare-bones Polish database covers all of Europe—some 15,000 campgrounds—and there's an English version available.
Campingplätze is German for campground.
Austrian Camping Club (www.campingclub.at)
Top Camping (www.topcamping.at) - Just 14 campgrounds spread across Austria, but some are pretty spiffy, like the Donaupark one on the banks of the Danube.
Camping Guide Carinthia (www.kaernten.at) - The Carinthia region of South Austria has a database of campgrounds.
Terrains de camping is French for campground.
Camping.fr (www.camping.fr) - All sorts of resources—campgrounds, directories, RV sales outlets, camping supply stores, etc.—all in France... and only in French.
Camping France (www.campingfrance.com) - More than 11,000 campgrounds across France.
Gîtes de France (www.gites-de-france.fr) - Famous for cottages, this organization also lists hundreds of farms where you are welcome to pitch your tent or park your RV.
Campingplätze is German for campground.
Ecocamping (www.ecocamping.net) - This organization devoted to environmentally sound campgrounds lists dozens of approved sites across Southern and Northern Germany, with a handful in Austria and Switzerland as well.
ΚΑΜΠΙΝΓΚ is Greek for campground. (That's just "camping" rendered phonetically into Greek; they also use the phrase χ?ρος κατασκηνωσης—pronounced chóros kataskínosis.)
Camping in Greece (www.camping.gr) - Three dozen campgrounds in some of Greece's top destinations.
Harmonie Camping Club (www.campingclub.gr) - Three dozen campsites (what is it with the Greeks and triple dozens?) across Greece, Crete, and a few in Italy.
Campgrounds in IRELAND
Campeggio is Italian for campground.
Campeggi e Villaggi (www.campeggievillaggi.it) - A privately-run database of Italian campgrounds.
Camping.it (www.camping.it) - More Italian campgrounds.
Village Flaminio (www.villageflaminio.com) - This is a single campground, but one near to my heart, as I lived in it for two months at age 12.
Camping is Spanish for campground. (OK, so it's not actually Spanish, but it is the word they use in Spanish for "campground.")
Campingplätze is German for campground; Terrains de camping is French for campground.
Swiss Camping Association (www.swisscamps.ch)
Camping.ch (www.camping.ch) - More Swiss campgrounds.
The Camping and Caravanning Club (www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk) - Some 2,700 campsites across the U.K. (and another 1,300 abroad). Join the club to get discounts on stays.
National Trust (Nationaltrust.org.uk) - A database of campgrounds, bunkhouses, bothies (mountain huts), camping pods, yurts, and more all across the UK.