Europe Geography

The continent Europe at a glance

In terms of area, Europe is the smallest continent after Australia, and in terms of population it is classified in Asia and Africa. Together with Asia, Europe forms the land mass of Eurasia, whose western, highly structured peninsula represents it. However, its culturally and historically independent development justifies its outsourcing as a separate continent.

The strong structure of Europe is expressed in its large peninsulas (Scandinavian, Iberian, Apennine and Balkan Peninsulas) and islands (British Isles, Ireland, Sardinia, Sicily). Large parts of Europe are occupied by lowlands, which mainly extend between the Scandinavian mountains in the north, the Urals in the east and the low mountain range in the south. Large parts of it were reshaped in the Ice Age. The low mountain range with its low mountain ranges, basins and ditches is bordered in the south by young high mountains of the alpine fold and the basins enclosed therein. Montblanc is the highest point on the continent in the Alps.

In terms of climate, Europe is in the area of temperate latitudes. It is under the influence of the Atlantic west winds.

Europe is densely populated; the standard of living of the population is high overall, but very differentiated. In addition to North America and East Asia, Western Europe is one of the most important economic areas on earth, with efficient agriculture and industry, a highly specialized service sector and a well-developed transport infrastructure. The expanding EU in particular is promoting economic and political development.

With an area of around 10.5 million km², Europe is the smallest part of the world after Australia, but with around 739 million inhabitants it is in third place after Asia and Africa. Together with Asia, the continent forms the Eurasian land mass, in which it has a share of around 20%. Europe, the western part of the Old World, is actually the heavily structured peninsula lying in the west of this landmass, but is regarded as an independent continent due to its cultural and historical role (Fig. 1).

In ancient times, the name Europe was associated with a figure from Greek mythology: Europe was the sister of Cadmos, the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor and a mistress of Zeus, who kidnapped her to Crete in the form of a bull and with her fathered King Minos.

The conventional borders against Asia in the east are the mountains and the Ural River, the Caspian Sea and the Many lowlands north of the Caucasus. Europe separates the Black Sea, the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, the Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar from the Near East and Africa in the southeast and south. The Atlantic Ocean forms the border in the west and northwest. The largest peninsulas are the Scandinavian, the Iberian, the Apennine and the Balkan Peninsula. Islands account for about 7% of the total land area, of which the British Isles and Iceland are the largest.

Country Military expenditure as a share of GDP (percent) Military expenditure share of central government budget (percent)
Albania 1.3 (2019) 4.3 (2019)
Armenia 4.9 (2019) 19.8 (2019)
Azerbaijan 4.0 (2019) 11.3 (2019)
Belgium 0.9 (2019) 1.8 (2019)
Bosnia and Herzegovina 0.9 (2019) 2.3 (2019)
Bulgaria 3.2 (2019) 8.4 (2019)
Cyprus 1.6 (2019) 4.3 (2019)
Denmark 1.3 (2019) 2.6 (2019)
Estonia 2.1 (2019) 5.3 (2019)
Finland 1.5 (2019) 2.8 (2019)
France 1.9 (2019) 3.3 (2019)
Georgia 2.0 (2019) 6.6 (2019)
Greece 2.6 (2019) 5.4 (2019)
Ireland 0.3 (2019) 1.1 (2019)
Iceland 0.0 (2019) 0.0 (2019)
Italy 1.4 (2019) 2.8 (2019)
Kosovo 0.8 (2019) 2.7 (2019)
Croatia 1.7 (2019) 3.6 (2019)
Latvia 2.0 (2019) 5.6 (2019)
Lithuania 2.0 (2019) 5.9 (2019)
Luxembourg 0.6 (2019) 1.4 (2019)
Northern Macedonia
Malta 0.6 (2019) 1.5 (2019)
Moldova 0.4 (2019) 1.1 (2019)
Montenegro 1.6 (2019) 3.6 (2019)
Netherlands 1.3 (2019) 3.1 (2019)
Norway 1.7 (2019) 3.5 (2019)
Poland 2.0 (2019) 4.7 (2019)
Portugal 1.9 (2019) 4.4 (2019)
Romania 2.0 (2019) 6.1 (2019)
Russia 3.9 (2019) 11.4 (2019)
San Marino
Switzerland 0.7 (2019) 2.2 (2019)
Serbia 2.2 (2019) 5.4 (2019)
Slovakia 1.8 (2019) 4.3 (2019)
Slovenia 1.1 (2019) 2.7 (2019)
Spain 1.2 (2019) 3.0 (2019)
UK 1.7 (2019) 4.5 (2019)
Sweden 1.1 (2019) 2.3 (2019)
Czech Republic 1.2 (2019) 2.9 (2019)
Turkey 2.7 (2019) 7.8 (2019)
Germany 1.3 (2019) 2.8 (2019)
Ukraine 3.4 (2019) 8.1 (2019)
Hungary 1.2 (2019) 2.6 (2019)
Vatican City State
Belarus 1.2 (2019) 31.8 (2019)
Austria 0.7 (2019) 1.5 (2019)

The states of Europe

According to Countryaah, the current Europe population is 741.4 million.

Country Capital Area (in km²) Population
(in 1,000)
Albania Tirana 28 748 3 411
Andorra Andorra la Vella 45 67
Belgium Brussels 30 519 10 252
Bosnia and Herzegovina Sarajevo 51 129 3 923
Bulgaria Sofia 110 912 8 167
Denmark Copenhagen 43 094 5 340
Germany Berlin 357 021 82 150
Estonia Tallinn 45 227 1 435
Finland Helsinki 338 145 5 180
France Paris 543 965 58 850
Greece Athens 131 957 10 560
Ireland Dublin 70 284 3,794
Iceland Reykjavik 103,000 281
Italy Rome 301 308 57 670
Kosovo Pristina 10 908 1,800
Croatia Zagreb 56 538 4,460
Latvia Riga 64 589 2 417
Liechtenstein Vaduz 160 32
Lithuania Vilnius 65 300 3,698
Luxembourg Luxembourg 2,586 438
Malta Valletta 316 383
Macedonia Skopje 25 713 2 031
Moldova Chisinau 33 700 4,264
Monaco Monaco 1.95 32
Netherlands Amsterdam 41 526 15 919
Norway Oslo 323 758 4,492
Austria Vienna 83 853 8 098
Poland Warsaw 312 683 38 650
Portugal Lisbon 92 389 10 010
Romania Bucharest 238 391 22 435
Russia Moscow 17 075 400 145 542
San Marino San Marino 61 27th
Sweden Stockholm 449 964 8 869
Switzerland Bern 41 285 7 180
Slovakia Bratislava 49 036 5 402
Slovenia Ljubljana 20 251 1 988
Spain Madrid 504 782 39 450
Czech Republic Prague 78 866 10 273
Ukraine Kiev 603,700 49 600
Hungary Budapest 93 030 10 022
Vatican City 0.44 0.85
United Kingdom London 244 101 59 730
Belarus Minsk 207 595 10 006
Montenegro Podgorica 13 812 672
Serbia Belgrade 88 361 9 298

Sources: Abbreviationfinder

Natural space

Surface shape

Europe is extremely diverse in terms of relief forms. There are reasons for this in geological development. This is determined by several mountain formations, each of which has welded new parts of the mainland to an old core. Europe then consists of four basic tectonic units (Figure 2).

In the area of today’s Eastern European lowlands, the Russian Table stretches between the Ural Mountains and the Danube Delta-Carpathian-Vistula line and between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea/White Sea. Large parts of Scandinavia are occupied by the Baltic shield. The Russian plate and the Baltic shield together form the Eastern European platform. It is the oldest building unit in Europe and is therefore also called Ureuropa. It has not been exposed to mountain formation processes for 600 million years and is therefore the most stable component in Europe. The next younger unit is the Caledonian Mountains welded to the Eastern European platform about 500 million years ago of the British Isles and Norway. Caledonian building material spreads eastwards from there to the Carpathians.

The third structural unit – created around 400 million years ago – is formed by the rocks of the Variscan Mountains, which adjoin the Caledonian rocks to the south and today form Central Europe and large parts of Western and Southern Europe.

The alpine fold mountains of southern and south-eastern Europe, which were formed around 50 million years ago, are the fourth major tectonic basic unit in Europe. In contrast to the Caledinian and Variscan mountains, which have long since been leveled, they appear as high mountains. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea, the Betic Cordillera is followed by the Iberian Rim, the Pyrenees, the Alps with the highest elevation in Europe, the 4807 m high Mont Blanc, the Carpathians and the Balkan Mountains. The Apennines and the Dinaric Mountains, which continue in Greece via the Pindos, the mountains of the Peloponnese and Crete to Rhodes, also belong to this fold mountain range. This includes the Po Valley, the Hungarian lowlands and the Wallachian lowlands.

The surfaces of the young fold mountains are strongly shaped by the treasure of forms of the high mountains, which include pointed, steep-walled peaks, deeply incised valleys, slope debris ceilings and block heaps as well as the forms formed by glaciers and their melting water (Kare, U-valleys, moraine, lakes, silt deposits). The active volcanoes in the Mediterranean (Vesuvius, Etna, Stromboli, Vulcano and Santorini) also indicate the low age of the alpine mountains.
The more recent mountain formations have led to the fact that older parts of Europe, which had been buried and covered with mainland or marine sediments and which could no longer be deformed by folding, broke into different clumps due to lateral pressure. Above all, the Variscan structural unit today represents a mountain of broken plains. The low mountain range north of the alpine mountains consists of tipped, raised (uphill) or lowered (deep) floes from rocks of the variscan and the sediments deposited on it. The deep clods (e.g. Bohemian Basin, Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Thuringian Basin, Upper Rhine Graben) are covered with sediment, the sediments are removed from high plains (e.g. Sudetes, Harz, Black Forest, Vosges), the basement of the variscus surface.

Fracture tonics was associated with volcanism (volcanic mountains, ceiling effusions). In the less vertically moved (raised or lowered) areas of fracture electronics, basins were formed in which the sediment ceilings were preserved and extensive layered landscapes in which the sediments were cut. This applies to the Swabian-Franconian stepped country as well as to the Paris basin and its edges. The last great shape-forming event to date was the ice age. A mighty inland ice sheet spread southwards several times from northern Europe, and the young high mountains were of immense glaciers covered, of which only remnants exist today (Alps, Norway, Iceland). The ice reached the northern edges of the low mountain ranges.
In the source areas of the ice, the loose subsurface was largely cleared away and the rock subsurface was heavily shaped. Trough valleys and caves were created. The cleared materials were deposited far south as basic and final moraines, which shape large parts of the Central and Eastern European lowlands . The wind blew fine material from the vegetation-free areas that dried off in front of the ice edge, which today forms broad loess bands north of the low mountain ranges and the Black Sea.


The longest river in Europe with 3531 km is the Volga, which flows into the Caspian Sea. The Danube, which flows to the Black Sea, is 2850 km long. The most important tributaries of the Mediterranean are Po, Rhone and Ebro, the Baltic Sea Vistula and Oder, the North Sea Elbe, Rhine and Thames and the open Atlantic Ocean Loire, Duero and Tajo. Northern Europe is particularly rich in lakes; the largest are Ladoga and Onega. The Alpine region also has many ice age lakes, including Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne, Lake Constance and Lake Garda. Lake Balaton lies in the Hungarian lowlands.

Climate and vegetation

The climate in Europe (Fig. 5) is mainly characterized by the year-round location in the western wind belt of the temperate latitudes. In the south, Europe has a significant share of the subtropical belt, in which the west winds with their precipitation are only effective in winter, while the circulation of passages prevails in summer. In the northeast, Europe extends into the polar beltinside. Due to the location to the Atlantic Ocean, an oceanic (maritime) climate forms on the western sides of the continent, which is characterized by low temperature contrasts between summer and winter. Towards the east, the continental climate increases, which is shown above all by increasing fluctuations in the annual temperature and by decreasing precipitation levels. Thanks to the foothills of the Gulf Stream, Western and Northern Europe have a milder climate than would be expected due to the geographical latitude.

Three extensive air pressure systems control the climate of Europe: the Iceland low, the Azores high and the seasonally changing pressure area over Asia. A warm low is formed here in summer and an extensive cold high in winter. This pressure area is of fundamental importance for the difference between the climate of Central and Northern Europe and the Mediterranean climate beyond the mountain range.

Summers in southern Europe are hot and dry, while in the northernmost regions, most precipitation falls in summer. The climate in large parts of western Europe is influenced by the North Atlantic current (Fig. 6). In northern and eastern Europe, the seasonal contrasts between cold winters and warm summers increase inland. Relief differences have a major influence on the regional distribution of precipitation. The natural vegetationis determined by the rising temperatures from north to south and the transition from oceanic to continental climate from west to east. In the northernmost part of Europe, in the high areas of the Skanden and in Iceland, tundra with mosses, lichens and dwarf heaths prevails. A wide forest belt follows south from Finland and Northern Russia to the mountains of southern Europe. In the north there are mainly coniferous forests, in Central Europe and Western Europe deciduous and mixed forests, which have been pushed back heavily by the cultivated land to the mountains and sterile soils (Fig. 7). Pagans and raised bogs also occur in the Atlantic flora region. Southern Eastern Europe from the lower Danube to the lower Volga belongs to the Pontic steppe area, which extends to the Black Sea, the Caucasus and the semi-desert of the Caspian Valley. In the Mediterranean, the evergreen hard-leaved oak and pine forests are largely replaced by degraded macchia and garids (garrigue). The high mountains carry alpine trees and mats above the tree line, which is between 1000 m and 2500 m.


Europe Population Growth Rate

Population distribution

With a medium population densityof about 65 inhabitants per km², Europe is the most densely populated continent on earth. The spatial distribution of the population is very different. Sparsely populated countries such as Iceland with 3 pop. Per km² contrast with densely populated ones like the Netherlands with approx. 402 per km² or Malta with over 1300 pop. A relatively high percentage of the population lives in cities, in Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain 65 to over 80%, in Albania, Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria and Ireland only 35 to 45%. The population of Europe rose from 100 million by 1650, over 403 million (1900) to 739 million (2009) and thus has an almost as large population as the double continent America. The most populous countries are, apart from Russia and Turkey, Germany, Italy,

Languages and peoples

The continent is home to the Europids. Over 60, mostly Indo-European, languages are spoken in Europe today. Around 35% of the population speak Slavic languages, around 30% Germanic languages and 27% Romance languages. Rare languages are the Celtic languages (Breton, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh), the Baltic languages (Latvian, Lithuanian), Modern Greek, Albanian, the Finno-Ugric languages (Estonian, Finnish, Lappish and Hungarian), Maltese and the Turkic languages. Basque plays a special role, the origin of which and the origin of the inhabitants of the Basque Country have not yet been fully clarified. Other languages without a regional focus are Yiddish and Romani, the language of the Gypsies.


The Christianization of Europe was essentially completed towards the end of the 1st millennium. Around 75% of the population today belong to Christian churches. Between 35 and 50 million Europeans are Muslims (8%), almost 2 million are Jewish (1%).

Standard of living

Despite large regional differences, the standard of living is extraordinarily high. The developed countries of Western, Northern, Central and partly also Southern Europe are among the richest in the world and accordingly have high immigration rates. Moldova and Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and some of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, on the other hand, are relatively poor, but in no region are the basic services of the population at risk.

Economy and transport

The overall economic development of Europe is based on an economic structure that has grown over the centuries, with intensive agriculture, industrial production and extensive international trade relations.

The agriculture has a considerable share of the world production, as in cereals, potatoes, wine, olive, milk and eggs. Northern Russia, Finland and Sweden supply wood. The climate of southern Europe also allows the cultivation of subtropical crops. The share of agricultural land in the land area of Europe (excluding Russia) is over 50%. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the climatically determined cultivation limits extend far north (Fig. 7).

The mining played in ancient times an important role. The mineral deposits are large: Coal, lignite, iron ore, rock and potash salts, mercury, bauxite, sulfur gravel, lead, zinc, nickel and other non-ferrous metals, petroleum and natural gas are mined. The offshore sector (North Sea) plays a major role in the latter. Coal and iron ore production has recently been restricted for profitability reasons, particularly due to competition from low-cost suppliers.

Alongside North America and East Asia, Europe is the most important industrial center on earth. All industries are highly developed, with a very clear west-east divide. The reform states of the former Eastern Bloc are at a much lower level than the Western states. Economic cooperation was strongly promoted by the European Economic Community (EEC, EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The traffic connections are excellent (Figure 10). Western Europe has the densest rail network on earth. Road transport is, however, an outstanding mode of transport, also in Western Europe. The rivers Rhine, Weser, Elbe, Oder and others form the dense Central European inland water network with the connecting canals such as the Mittelland Canal or the Elbe Side Canal. The Main-Danube Canal connects to the Southeast European waterway system. The seaports with the highest turnover are on the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean Rotterdam, Hamburg, Antwerp, London, Liverpool and Bremen, on the Mediterranean Sea Genoa, Marseille, Barcelona and Piraeus, on the Black Sea Odessa and Varna. The largest and most important airports have London, Paris, Frankfurt am Main, Zurich and Moscow.


Europe was populated at least since the Paleolithic Age. During the last ice age, famous cave paintings were made in Altamira, Lascaux and Chauvet around 30,000 years ago. The first civilizations were the Minoan on Crete (around 3000 BC) and the subsequent Mycenaean culture in the Aegean region (from 1400 BC). In ancient times, the Greek culture dominated, later the Roman, which dominated large parts of Europe. In late antiquity, Christianity prevailed as the world religion determining Europe.

In the early Middle Ages, the Franconian Empire in the west and the Byzantine Empire in the east faced each other. Moorish states existed on the Iberian Peninsula until the late Middle Ages. Until the 14th century, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was the most powerful state in Europe. In the west, the conflicts between England and France determined history.
Protestantism, which emerged in the 16th century, weakened the power of imperial power in favor of local rulers. In the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), France rose to become the most powerful country on the continent, while England became more and more overseas. It was a deep cut for the history of not only EuropeFrench Revolution (1789), which weakened the power of the royal houses that had ruled absolutely until then.

In the 19th century, with the beginning of industrialization, the rise of the middle class began. The great nation states emerged, most recently Germany (1870/71). The national conflicts, which grew more and more particularly at the end of the century, were unleashed in the First World War (1914-1918), which ignited Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Second World War with its well over 50 million fatalities and the racially motivated genocides committed by Germany was the last major war in Europe to date. After 1945, the Cold War marked for almost fifty yearspolitics and divided the continent into a democratic western and a socialist eastern half. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the process of democratization began in the east. Many of the new reform countries would like to join the EU that emerged from the EC, whose vision is a federally organized Europe.