19 European Half Marathons You'll Love Running
From Austria, Croatia, England and France to Germany, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden, scenic, once-in-a-lifetime races -- all updated for 2024
Paris, France | Sunday, April 7, 2024
A running/sight-seeing tour of many of the most famous spots in Paris, including stretches that run past the Eiffel Tower, Rue de Rivoli, Notre Dame cathedral, down the Champs Elysées and through the expanse of the Bois de Vincennes, as well as past the Musée d'Orsay before you cross the finish line in front of the Arc de Triomphe. This is a big, popular race — tens of thousands of runners come out to run the Paris city streets as part of it each year — so sign up as early as possible if you’re interested.
Nice, France | Sunday, April 21, 2024
Run the famous Promenade des Anglais here in this breathtakingly beautiful city on the French Riviera, situated near the base of the French Alps and overlooking the Mediterranean. With its “shore and sea course, city and port passage,” as organizers describe it, you’ll run along city streets and the seashore, taking in its palm trees, fountains, gorgeous hotels and downtown art installations, and past the Théâtre de Verdure, an outdoor theater in the Promenade des Anglais.
Rhodes, Greece | Sunday, April 21, 2024
Almost entirely flat because it’s run almost entirely along the oceanfront of Rhodes, an ancient Greek city that’s now a popular tourist destination thanks to its location among the Greek islands, its beautiful Medieval architecture and its beaches. The route unfolds past landmarks like the Aquarium of Rhodes at the northern tip of the island and the Acropolis of Rhodes, which dates back to the 5th century B.C.E. You’ll even run past the place where the Colossus of Rhodes — a giant statue erected to the sun god Helios, back in 280 B.C.E. — once stood, according to legend.
Mercatale in Val di Pesa, Italy | Sunday, May 12, 2024
I know I keep describing certain races as “once in a lifetime,” but this truly is — a gorgeously scenic run through Italy’s Chianti region near Florence, along a route that runs past many of this wine-growing area’s most famous landmarks. You’ll run mostly on dirt roads, across vineyards and through the woods on a course made up of gently rolling, soft hills, past sights like the ancient Abbey of Badia a Passignano, the medieval village of Montefioralle, the castles at Verrazzano and Gabbiano, the Antinori cellars and the Greve at Chianti, a small village with art galleries, shops and restaurants, where you’ll want to spend more time while you’re there. The race offers an 11K, 21K and an “ultra trail” 45K, slightly longer than the standard 42K marathon distance.
Salzburg, Austria | Sunday, May 12, 2024
“The hills are alive” indeed at this springtime race through the “City of Mozart,” and of course the famous filming location of 1965’s The Sound of Music, where stunning views of the eastern Alps along the border with Germany made some of the most memorable scenes in movie history. You’ll get to run through all of that, with the peaks of the Alps accompanying you all the way through the marathon or half as you make your way over the Salzach River, which runs through the heart of the city, and through Salzburg’s historic city center, famous for its Baroque architecture and now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Gothenburg, Sweden | Saturday, May 18, 2024
With more than 60,000 participants each year, it’s the largest half marathon in the world and one that runs through many scenic stretches of Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city. You’ll run across a pair of bridges in the city, known for its Dutch-style canals like you can find in Amsterdam, and along the Avenyn, its tree-lined main boulevard. You’ll also get to take in views of the Gothenburg archipelago, a chain of more than 20 islands just off the city’s coast and later cross the finish line at the city’s Slottsskogsvallen arena.
Bendern, Liechtenstein | Saturday, June 8, 2024
The only race of its kind in Liechtenstein, a German-speaking principality that stretches some 15 ½ miles between Austria and Switzerland, this mountain marathon offers the chance to practically run through an entire country. From the startling line in the flat lands of the Rhine Valley, you’ll ascend into the mountains that tower over it, passing by the Vaduz Castle, famously perched on a hillside. Snow-covered mountains, alpine villages and wide-open valleys will be the scenery you’ll find throughout.
Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, U.K. | Saturday, June 8, 2024
People racing horses? Are you serious? Here in this green region known as Powys, Wales, a place filled with forests, hills and farmland, there really is such a race. It’s not a marathon exactly — the distance used has fluctuated over the years from 18 to 26 miles, and settled in recent years to 22 miles. But if you travel here for the race, you really will get to race horses. Runners get a 15-minute head start over their four-legged competitors, but that hasn’t helped much over the event’s 40-year history; only twice have runners crossed the finish line ahead of the horses in all those years.
Kingsclere, England, U.K. | Sunday, June 16, 2024
A beautifully scenic (and usually sunny) trail run through the English countryside that unfolds along parts of the Harrow Way and the Wayfarers Walk, a 71-mile-long distance-walking trail that stretches from the chalk downs at Inkpen to the finish at Emsworth Harbor. You can choose from the 26.2- or 13.1-mile distance, both of whose routes are designed with a single loop through the North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (that’s its real name!), “reaching some of the highest points in Hampshire with views across the county,” the organizers say.
Tromsø, Norway | Saturday, June 22, 2024
Located in Norway, more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the city of Tromsø is a place where, thanks to its latitude, the sun never dips below the horizon in the summer — and so, you’ll run in broad daylight, even though the race takes place at midnight. Then, you’ll still get to take in this island city’s gorgeous views, from the sea to the mountains that surround it. In addition to the marathon, the race also hosts a half marathon and 10K, all of which start just before midnight.
Compatsch, Italy | Sunday, July 7, 2024
A breathtakingly beautiful (and challenging) run through the Dolomites, a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps whose 3,000-meter peaks feature “some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes anywhere, with vertical walls, sheer cliffs and a high density of narrow, deep and long valleys,” says UNESCO in designating the area as a World Heritage Site. You’ll get to take all that in and more in Seiser Alm, considered Europe’s largest running pasture, whose altitude ranges from 5,900 to 7,500 feet above sea level.
Dunstable, England | Sunday, July 14, 2024
An unforgettable run among the grassy, windswept hills of the region known as Dunstable Downs in the Chiltern Hills of southern Bedfordshire, about two hours north of London. The race is run “mainly on public footpaths and bridle ways with occasional sections on quiet country lanes,” organizers note, as you’ll run across the chalk grasslands here, within what’s known as the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The race features a full marathon, half marathon and 20-miler, the latter two of which “take you on a tough trail run… [that’s] not for the faint hearted.”
Larne, Northern Ireland, U.K. | Sunday, August 25, 2024
Run along a stretch of the Northern Ireland coastline that’s “one of the fastest road courses in the world” and “takes in some of the most stunning scenery in Europe,” including places that served as filming locations for movies and shows like Game of Thrones, this race unfolds largely along the iconic Antrim Coast Road, a nearly 200-mile-long highway that’s home to sights like the Glens of Antrim, plentiful castles and historic villages, as well as hikes and jaw-dropping natural beauty. The out-and-back course follows a mostly flat route from Larne’s Chaine Memorial Tower to the turnaround in Ballygally, a small coastal village just north of Larne, and then back again.
Altötting, Germany | Sunday, September 15, 2024
“The heart of Bavaria and one of the hearts of Europe” — that’s how Pope Benedict XVI once described this German town, which has been a site of Christian religious pilgrimage for more than a thousand years. Today, the half marathon that runs through it in the early fall each year takes place mostly on paved forest paths just outside the town, along a route that features a few zig-zagging turns followed by long, straight stretches through the woods — which probably contributes to it being among the fastest half marathons in Europe, with some past winners crossing the finish line in just over an hour.
Pula, Croatia | September
Take a “run through Roman history” in this Croatian seaside city nestled along the tip of the Istrian Peninsula, where you’ll run past ancient Roman ruins like the Pula Arena (which dates back to sometime between 27 B.C.E. and 48 C.E.), the Pula harbor waterfront, the Pula Castle, built by the Venetians in the 17th century. The race is a nighttime run so temperatures will be cooler, and also features a 10K and 5K in addition to the 13.1 and 26.2-mile runs.
Greifensee, Switzerland | Saturday, September 21, 2024
A gorgeous run through the countryside of Zurich, Switzerland, where you’ll run past forests, fields and around the Greifensee lakeshore, whose roads make up most of the course — which includes paved trails, gravel farm roads, along lakeside trails, and more.
Bruges, Belgium | Sunday, October 6, 2024
Famed for its historic canals, cobbled streets, medieval buildings and city walls that date back to the 12th century, the Belgian city of Bruges is sometimes called the “Venice of the North” thanks to its extensive network of canals (and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). You’ll get to see so many of its historic sights at this early fall race, starting next to the Dijver canal in the city center. From there, you’ll take in the city’s old town areas and then head toward the Belgian coastline, eventually making your way back to the city to finish at the historic Grote Market.
Glenfiddich, Scotland, U.K. | Saturday, October 19, 2024
Castles, archways, forest trails, rivers and creeks – you’ll see all this and more as you run along the Speyside Way, a 137-kilometer-long walking and running trail in the Scottish Highlands, where you’ll start at the Glenfarcas Distillery and run all the way along the occasionally hilly forest tracks and footpaths to the world-famous Glenfiddich Distillery. In between, you’ll take in the gorgeous yellows, reds and oranges of the turning fall leaves, and make your way across bridges over the River Spey, whose waters are used to make this area’s famous whiskey.
Nice, France | Sunday, November 3, 2024
A stunning, gorgeous, once-in-a-lifetime run almost entirely along the Mediterranean coast of this city on the French Riviera, along a route that begins in Nice in front of the Promenade du Paillon and unfolds west along the sea, ending in Cannes (yes, that Cannes, the home of the famous annual film festival). Along the way, you’ll be treated to views of the ocean, plentiful palm trees, and the sights of each city.
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