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The continent of Europe
Satellite image of Europe by night
Europe is traditionally reckoned as one of seven continents. Physiographically, however, it is the northwestern peninsula of the larger landmass known as Eurasia (or Afro-Eurasia): Asia occupies the eastern bulk of this continuous landmass (save the Suez Canalmarker separating Asia and Africa) and all share a common continental shelf. Europe's eastern frontier is delineated by the Ural Mountainsmarker in Russiamarker. The south-east boundary with Asia is not universally defined. Most commonly the Ural or, alternatively, the Emba River serve as possible boundaries. The boundary continues to the Caspian Seamarker, the crest of the Caucasus Mountainsmarker or, alternatively, the Kura River in the Caucasus, and on to the Black Seamarker; the Bosporusmarker, the Sea of Marmaramarker,and the Dardanellesmarker conclude the Asian boundary. The Mediterranean Seamarker to the south separates Europe from Africa. The western boundary is the Atlantic Oceanmarker; Icelandmarker, though on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and nearer to Greenlandmarker (North America) than mainland Europe, is generally included in Europe for cultural reasons. There is ongoing debate on where the geographical centre of Europe is. (See Transcontinental nation for a more detailed description of the boundary between Asia and Europe).


The idea of a European "continent" is not universally held. Some geographical texts refer to a Eurasian Continent, or to a European subcontinent, given that Europe is not surrounded by sea and is, in any case, much more a cultural than a geographically definable area.

In terms of shape, Europe is a collection of connected peninsulas. The two largest of these are "mainland" Europe and Scandinavia to the north, divided from each other by the Baltic Seamarker. Three smaller peninsulas—Iberiamarker, Italy and the Balkans—emerge from the southern margin of the mainland into the Mediterranean Sea, which separates Europe from Africa. Eastward, mainland Europe widens much like the mouth of a funnel, until the boundary with Asia is reached at the Ural Mountains.

Land relief in Europe shows great variation within relatively small areas. The southern regions are mountainous, while moving north the terrain descends from the high Alps, Pyreneesmarker and Carpathiansmarker, through hilly uplands, into broad, low northern plains, which are vast in the east. An arc of uplands also exists along the northwestern seaboard, beginning in the western British Islesmarker and continuing along the mountainous, fjord-cut spine of Norwaymarker.

This description is simplified. Sub-regions such as Iberia and Italy contain their own complex features, as does mainland Europe itself, where the relief contains many plateaus, river valleys and basins that complicate the general trend. Icelandmarker and the British Islesmarker are special cases. The former is a land unto itself in the northern ocean which is counted as part of Europe, while the latter are upland areas that were once joined to the mainland until rising sea levels cut them off.

The few generalizations that can be made about the relief of Europe make it less than surprising that the continent's many separate regions provided homes for many separate nations throughout history.


Europe's most significant feature is the dichotomy between highland and mountainous Southern Europe and a vast, partially underwater, northern plain ranging from Englandmarker in the west to Ural Mountainsmarker in the east. These two halves are separated by the mountain chains of Pyreneesmarker and Alps/Carpathiansmarker. The northern plains are delimited in the west by the Scandinavian Mountainsmarker and the mountainous parts of the British Islesmarker. Major shallow water bodies submerging parts of the northern plains are the Celtic Seamarker, the North Seamarker, the Baltic Seamarker complex, and the Barents Seamarker.

The northern plain contains the old geological continent of Baltica, and so may be regarded as the "main continent", while peripheral highlands and mountainous regions in south and west constitute fragments from various other geological continents.


Important rivers of Europe, with approximate length:
  1. Volga -  
  2. Danube -
  3. Ural   -   
  4. Dnieper -
  5. Don   -    
  6. Pechoramarker -
  7. Kama -  
  8. Oka   -  
  9. Belaya -
10. Tisza   -  
11. Dniestermarker -
12. Rhinemarker   -  
13. Elbe   -  
14. Vistula -
15. Tagusmarker   -
16. Daugava -
17. Loiremarker -
18. Ebro -
19. Nemunasmarker -
20. Sava -
21. Oder -
22. Rhône -
23. Seinemarker  -
24. Po marker -
25. Maritsamarker -
26. Vardarmarker -
27. Shannon River -

Lakes and inland seas

Major islands

Icelandmarker, Faroe Islandsmarker, Great Britainmarker, Irelandmarker, the rest of the British Islesmarker, part of the Azores, Madeiramarker, Balearic Islandsmarker, Corsicamarker, Sardinia, Sicily, Maltamarker, Ionian Islandsmarker, Cretemarker, Aegean Islands, Åland Islandsmarker, Gotlandmarker, Saaremaamarker, Canary Islandsmarker, Cyprusmarker, Svalbardmarker, Hinnøyamarker, Senjamarker, Zealandmarker, Fynmarker and North Jutlandic Islandmarker.

See also List of European islands by area and List of European islands by population

Plains and lowlands

Mountain ranges

Some of Europe's major mountain ranges are:

Land area in different classes of European mountainous terrain (classification from UNEP-WCMC):

>= 4500m 3500- 4500m 2500- 3500m 1500- 2500m & slope>=2° 1000- 1500m & slope >=5°

or local elevation range >300m
300-1000m & local elevation range >300m Mountainous TOTAL Europe TOTAL
1 km2 225 km2 497886 km2 145838 km2 345255 km2 1222104 km2 2211308 km2 10180000 km2
0.00% 0.00% 4.89% 1.43% 3.39% 12.00% 21.72% 100.00%

Temperature and precipitation

The high mountainous areas of Europe are colder and have higher precipitation than lower areas, as is true of mountainous areas in general. Europe has less precipitation in the east than in central and Western Europe. The temperature difference between summer and winter gradually increases from coastal northwest Europe to southeast inland Europe, ranging from Ireland, with a temperature difference of only 10 °C from the warmest to the coldest month, to the area north of the Caspian Sea, with a temperature difference of 40 °C. January average range from 18°C in Tenerifemarker, Spainmarker to -20°C in northeastern part of European Russiamarker.

Western Europe and parts of Central Europe generally fall into the temperate maritime climate (Cfb), the southern part is mostly a Mediterranean climate (mostly Csa, smaller area with Csb), the north-central part and east into central Russia is mostly a humid continental climate (Dfb) and the northern part of the continent is a subarctic climate (Dfc). In the extreme northern part (northernmost Russia; Svalbard), bordering the Arctic Ocean, is tundra climate (Et). Mountain ranges, such as the Alps and the Carpathian mountains, have a highland climate with large variations according to altitude and latitude.

Landlocked countries

  1. Liechtensteinmarker is doubly landlocked
  2. Switzerlandmarker, Liechtensteinmarker, Austriamarker, Czech Republicmarker, Slovakiamarker, Kosovomarker, Hungarymarker, Serbiamarker, and Macedoniamarker constitute a contiguous landlocked agglomeration of nine countries in Central Europe and the Balkans, stretching from Geneva all the way to Greece
  3. All other landlocked countries (Luxembourgmarker, Andorramarker, Vaticanmarker, San Marinomarker, Belarusmarker, Moldovamarker, Azerbaijanmarker, and Kazakhstanmarker) are "standalone" landlocked countries, not bordering any other such European one (the emphasis is necessary, since Kazakhstanmarker borders Turkmenistanmarker, Uzbekistanmarker, and Kyrgyzstanmarker, thus forming a vast landlocked expanse in Central Asia)

Countries consisting solely of islands or parts of islands

Countries bordering or spanning another continent

Eurasia Armeniamarker, Azerbaijanmarker, Georgiamarker, Kazakhstanmarker, Russiamarker, Cyprusmarker, Turkeymarker, Greecemarker (some Aegean islands)
Europe-Africa Spainmarker (Ceutamarker, Melillamarker and Canary Islandsmarker), Italymarker (Lampedusamarker and Lampionemarker), Portugalmarker (Madeiramarker), Francemarker (Réunionmarker)
Europe-South America Francemarker (French Guianamarker)
Europe-North and Central America Portugalmarker (Western part of the Azores), Francemarker (Guadeloupemarker, Saint Barthélemymarker and Martiniquemarker), the Netherlandsmarker (Netherlands Antillesmarker)

Countries that share a name with their capital

Countries whose capital is not their largest city

Country Capital Largest City
Liechtensteinmarker Vaduzmarker Schaanmarker
Maltamarker Valettamarker Birkirkaramarker
San Marinomarker San Marinomarker Serravalle
Switzerlandmarker Bernmarker Zürichmarker
Turkeymarker Ankaramarker Istanbulmarker

Note: Italymarker's capital, Romemarker, is the country's largest city if only the municipality (comune) is considered. According to some definitions of urban zone and metropolitan areas, Milanmarker's and Naplesmarker' metropolitan areas are larger than Romemarker's.

List of countries by the number of other countries they border

Map of European countries by number of neighbouring countries.

14 Russiamarker (Norwaymarker, Finlandmarker, Estoniamarker, Latviamarker, Lithuaniamarker, Polandmarker, Belarusmarker, Ukrainemarker, Georgiamarker, Azerbaijanmarker, Kazakhstanmarker, Chinamarker, Mongoliamarker, and North Koreamarker)
10 Francemarker
9 Germanymarker
8 Austriamarker, Serbiamarker, Turkeymarker
7 Hungarymarker, Polandmarker, Ukrainemarker
6 Italymarker
5 Bulgariamarker, Croatiamarker, Romaniamarker, Switzerlandmarker, Belarusmarker, Spainmarker, Kazakhstanmarker, Slovakiamarker, Macedoniamarker
4 Belgiummarker, Greecemarker, Albaniamarker, Montenegromarker, Sloveniamarker, The Czech Republicmarker, Latviamarker, Lithuaniamarker, Georgiamarker, Armeniamarker, Azerbaijanmarker, Kosovomarker
3 Finlandmarker, Norwaymarker, Luxembourgmarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker
2 Swedenmarker, Andorramarker, Liechtensteinmarker, Estoniamarker, Moldovamarker, Netherlandsmarker
1 Denmarkmarker, Irelandmarker, United Kingdommarker, Monacomarker, Portugalmarker, Vatican Citymarker, San Marinomarker, Gibraltarmarker
0 Isle of Manmarker, Jerseymarker, Guernseymarker (dependencies of the British Crown), Faroe Islandsmarker (dependency of Denmarkmarker), Icelandmarker, Maltamarker, Cyprusmarker

Note: includes borders of overseas departments, for example: France's overseas departments and collectivities also share land borders with Brazil and Suriname (bordering French Guiana), and the Netherlands (bordering Saint-Martin).

Geography by country

See also


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