To successfully remember a route in a physical environment, individuals are believed to process and store both verbal and spatial information of that route. The present study tested whether both spatial and verbal contents are necessary to form an effective route memory. For that purpose, route learning was performed in three concurrent task conditions (spatial, verbal and control) and appraised at two moments in time, via three route memory tests (spatial, verbal and spatial–verbal). Results showed that route memory generally improved across time and that spatial information was remembered better than verbal information. The concurrent spatial condition resulted in lower retention scores of both spatial and verbal route knowledge. These results suggest that effective spatial processing forms a scaffold without which long-term retention lacks detail of both spatial and verbal route knowledge. It is discussed how these findings add to understanding spatial memory of routes. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.