50 Amazing Facts About Europe
You may know a lot about Europe — but we bet there is much about this vast continent that you don't know.
Home to some of the most visited countries in the world, fascinating history, spectacular art and towering feats of nature, Europe boasts some truly amazing facts..
Here are 50 things about this land stretching nearly 4 million square miles that may just blow your mind.
Barcelona's Sagrada Familia is Taking Longer to Build Than the Pyramids
The ancient pyramids of Egypt were constructed between 2589 and 2504 BC — 85 years. Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, began construction in 1882, and has remained under construction every day following. Gaudi didn't get to see his work completed.
Barcelona aims to have it completed by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death, after 144 years of construction.
Nearly Every City in France Has a Street Named for Victor Hugo
France honors its most famous poet and writer, Victor Hugo, with a street named after him in nearly every city.
Hugo not only penned "Les Miserables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" as part of the Romantic movement, but was very dedicated to his country and served as a political advocate. Little wonder, then, that the country has also included his face on its currency.
Denmark Has 7,000 Government-Approved Baby Names (And 5 That Are Banned)
You are allowed to name your child any one of 7,000 approved baby names in Denmark, but if you want something more unique, you will need to receive permission from the government to do so.
Jakobp, Ashleiy, Anus, Monkey and Pluto have all been banned, so if you wanted one of those names, you're out of luck. (What's wrong with Pluto?)
Disneyland Paris Is One of the Most Popular Attractions in All of Europe
When you think of a European attraction, perhaps it is something as iconic as the Eiffel Tower. It receives 7 million visitors per year — not even close to the 9.7 million who visit Disneyland Paris.
One of the most-visited attractions in all Europe is a Disney theme park, and we aren't sure how to feel about it.
1 in 10 Europeans Are Conceived in an IKEA Bed
IKEA is so wildly popular in Europe that it's estimated one in 10 babies in Europe, and one in five in Britain, are conceived in its beds.
Though this figure has been widely reported in reputable outlets, it's unclear exactly where the stat came from. IKEA has said it will "investigate" the claim. (How, we do not know.)
IKEA is notorious for having difficult-to-understand instructions, but it looks like everyone has at least one activity all figured out...
There is a Rainforest in Europe
Yes, Europe's climate allows for rainforests; one of the last remaining is Perucica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The 3,500-acre forest is a reserve on UNESCO's World Heritage list.
Wales Has a Town with 57 Letters in Its Name
The longest name bestowed upon any town in Europe belongs to Wales. The name means "cave" in Welsh. We dare you to try to pronounce it! (Click here to learn how.)
10 Villages in Scandinavia Have the Shortest City Names — Just One Letter Long
In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, 10 villages have names that are a single letter long.
The city name Å, which means "small brook or river" in all Scandinavian languages, is found nine times throughout the countries. Ö, which means "island," can be found in Sweden.
It Is Illegal to Name Your Pig Napoleon in France
George Orwell's "Animal Farm" may have had a pig named Napoleon, but don't try to give your pet pig that moniker in France.
This odd law was originally created during Napoleon's tenure so he wouldn't have to share his name with swine — and it never came off the books.
But don't worry: The French won't actually come searching your home for a pig named for one of the most renowned rulers of Europe.
Of the British Museum's Collection, Only 1% Is on Display
The British Museum's collection is so great — 8 million items of art and antiquities — that it cannot showcase all the pieces. With room for just 80,000 objects to be displayed, you are only seeing one percent of the collection when you visit this London museum. (Which is free, by the way.)
It Is Illegal to Have Only One 'Social Pet' in Switzerland
The Swiss believe it is cruel for certain sociable pets to not have a companion. In order to keep guinea pigs, rabbits, parakeets and other pets deemed "social animals" content, you must have more than one.
There are even companies that will rent you a guinea pig to be your pet's companion should one pass away, giving you time to find a worthy replacement friend.
For cats kept indoors, you may have just one, but you must provide a window where they can see another cat or give it some outdoor time.
It Is Also Illegal to Mow Your Lawn, Hang Clothes or Wash Your Car on Sundays
The Swiss also believe Sundays really are a day for rest and have banned mowing your lawn (too noisy), washing your car (too annoying) or hanging clothes out to dry (too much of an eyesore).
When you have a day off, there should be nothing interfering with your R&R.
Iceland Doesn't Have Mosquitos
Prone to mosquito bites? You'll love Iceland!
With a lack of shallow ponds and temperatures unsuitable for mosquito breeding, Iceland is in the free and clear — so you can sleep with your windows open whenever you want. (Although we don't recommend doing so in the dead of winter, when temps can drop into the negative digits.)
Europe is Named for a Phoenician Princess
In Greek mythology, Zeus fell hard for Europa, a Phoenician princess. Disguising himself as a bull to lure her away, he carried her off to sea on his back, taking her to the island of Crete.
The famed 1747 painting of "The Rape of Phoenicia" by Francois Boucher hangs in the Louvre in Paris.
Norway Knighted a Penguin
As mascot and colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian King's Guard, Brigadier Sir Nils Olav is Norway's very own knighted penguin. Residing at the Edinburgh Zoo, Sir Olav of 2019 is the third king penguin of his name. The first served dutifully between 1972 and 1987.
Poland Has Won the Most World's Strongest Man Titles
Poland's Mariusz Pudzianowski gave the Eastern European country more wins than any other nation in the world when he was named the World's Strongest Man five times. Weighing in at 313 pounds, "the Dominator" is currently a mixed martial-arts fighter with another 12 wins as a fighter under his belt.
Clinking Glasses Is a No-No in Hungary
After Austria defeated Hungary during the 1848 revolution, Austrians celebrated by clinking their beers during a toast. Ever since, Hungarians have not clinked their glasses while toasting, as it reminds them of their loss.
Instead, if you're enjoying a brew in Hungary, say "Egészségedre" as you look your drinking mates in the eye.
Red Wine Flows From a Fountain in Italy
In the town of Caldari di Ortona in northern Italy, a local vineyard installed a fountain that spills red wine instead of water 24 hours a day.
The fountain is actually meant for the pilgrims following the Cammino di San Tommaso, a 196-mile route from Rome to Ortona to follow in the footsteps of St. Thomas the Apostle. After such a long walk, wine is a welcome way to celebrate.
There Are More Bicycles Than People in the Netherlands
Bicycling is so popular in the Netherlands, 84 percent of all Dutch people own at least one bicycle. With 22.3 million bicycles in the country for its 17 million residents, bike traffic and congestion is actually becoming a problem, especially in the bustling city of Amsterdam.
Biking also happens to be safest in the Netherlands, according to a study out of Rutgers University.
There Are More Than 200 Languages Spoken in Europe
Of the 200 languages spoken in Europe, only 24 are recognized by the European Union.
The most common language on the continent is English, with 38 percent of the population able to speak it.
Bulgaria Hasn't Changed Its Name Since 681 AD
There have been so many European wars over the course of time that many countries have molded into new countries. But not Bulgaria.
The country has never changed its name since adopting it in 681 AD, making it the oldest European nation by name.
San Marino is the Oldest 'Country' in Europe
While Bulgaria is the oldest European country by name, the Republic of San Marino — an independent state within the confines of Italy — is Europe's oldest independent state. Its birth date? 301 AD.
As other Italian states warred and collectively became part of Italy, San Marino was able to keep its independence throughout the centuries, in large part because its hilly location provided a great advantage.
Germany Has the Most McDonald's in Europe
Foodies are loathe to discover that there are McDonald's everywhere across Europe. However, in Germany, they really love their fast food: There are 1,480 McDonald's in the country alone.
France is next, with the U.K. in third. Both tout more than 1,000 outposts of the fast-food favorite.
10 European Countries Still Have Monarchies
With Harry and Meghan stealing headlines these days, it's easy to forget that Queen Elizabeth and her brood aren't the only royal family in Europe. Ten countries and principalities in Europe still have monarchies, including Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
The Danish Monarchy Is the Oldest of Europe's Royal Families
Founded in 935, the Danish monarchy has been ruling over the country for more than 1,000 years. From Gorm the Old (what a nickname!) to the current Queen Margrethe II, this royal family has collectively watched over the country from Amalienborg Palace.
Ireland Has the Highest Birth Rate
The average birth rate in Ireland is nearly two children per woman — the highest in Europe.
In general, Europe has one of the world's lowest birth rates, with 1.6 children per woman.
The Highest Peak is Found in Russia
The volcanic mountain peak of Mount Elbrus is not only Russia's tallest mountain, but Europe's, as well. Located in the Caucasus Mountains that separate Europe from Asia, it stands 18,510 feet in height.
One of the seven highest summits in the world, it is considered one of the easiest for mountain climbers to take on. Hikers also enjoy its lower altitude walks.
It Is Illegal to Pee in the Ocean in Portugal
It's unclear how anyone can enforce this law, but Portugal actually has a law against peeing in the ocean. We aren't quite sure what else to say about this interesting fact.
Monaco Has the Highest Life Expectancy
Maybe it's because of Monaco's beautiful sun-drenched location along the French Riviera. Maybe it's because of its population of highly educated doctors and medical staff. Maybe it's because of the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, found to be the healthiest around the world.
In any case, the people of Monaco live, on average, to be 89.4 years old — the highest life expectancy not just in Europe, but in the world.
European Russia Makes up 70% of Russia
More than half of Russia's population is found in its European section, adding 110 million people to the continent's total population. This makes Russia the largest country in Europe in terms of population.
The second largest nation, Germany, has "just" 82.2 million people.
It Is Estimated You Are Never Farther Than 10 Miles from a Lake in Switzerland
There are up to 7,000 lakes in Switzerland, and they say you are never more than 10 miles from one, anywhere in the country. Lake Geneva and Lake Constance are not only two of the largest lakes in Switzerland, but in all of Europe, as well.
Can you guess where the water comes from? All that snow melting off of the Alps every summer!
The Czech Republic Has the Most Castles
If you were to visit a castle a day in the Czech Republic, it would take you nearly three years to see them all. With 932 castles, as well as 1,187 "stately homes," the Czechs have more castles than any other European nation. (And anyone who's been to Europe knows that's saying something.)
Spain Produces 60% of the Europe's Bananas
Didn't think bananas came from Europe? Spain's Canary Islands are ideally located for growing the fruit, and as such are filled with banana farms.
Called platanos in Spain, they are smaller and more often used for cooking than traditional bananas, which are typically eaten raw. But they are just as delicious.
More Chocolate Is Bought at Brussels Airport Than Any Other Place in the World
We all know Belgian chocolate is to-die-for, but who knew our craving for it would make the Brussels airport the top seller of the world's chocolate? It seems whenever someone passes through the airport, they make sure to purchase a box or two (we won't judge).
There are 24.8 million flights through Brussels, and 67,900 passengers per day. Even if only 10 percent purchased chocolate, that's a lot of sweetness being sold!
It Is Illegal to Kiss on a Train Platform in France
The City of Love got a little stingy in 1910, when it banned kissing on train platforms. Originally meant to help keep trains on schedule and crowds of people moving, the law was never abolished.
These days, though, the gendarmes won't bother you if you steal a smooch.
It Is Illegal to Wear a Swimsuit in Public Anywhere But the Beach in Barcelona
Barcelona is teeming with tourists (so much so that they want to put a restriction on the number of tourists who can visit each year). To stop travelers from leaving the beaches and walking the streets of the city in swimsuits — and even wearing them at restaurants — Barcelona put a ban in place in 2011.
Men can wear swim trunks, but must have a shirt on when off the beaches, and women must cover up on top and bottom.
Austria Is Home to the World's Oldest Zoo
Dating back to 1752, the oldest zoo in Europe is Vienna's Schönbrunn Zoo. Located on the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace, home to the Hapsburg family, the zoo began as the royal family's private collection of exotic animals. It is the oldest continuously operating zoo in the world.
Volkswagon Is Europe's Largest Company
Volkswagen, based in Germany, generates big bucks. In 2018, it sold nearly 11 million cars and recorded $240.4 billion in revenue — the most of any company in Europe. It is, in fact, the seventh-largest company in the world.
The Richest Man in Europe is From France
You may have heard the name of Europe's richest man after Notre-Dame was destroyed by fire. The CEO of the luxury-goods multinational LVMH, Bernard Jean Etienne Arnault, pledged $226 million to help rebuild the church.
The promised contribution is generous, but a drop in the bucket for the Frenchman, whose net worth is more than $76 billion.
Berlin Has More Kebab Restaurants Than Istanbul
Tasty doner kebabs may have originated in Turkey, but Germans love the slow-cooked meat so much that you'll find more restaurants serving it in Berlin than in Istanbul.
The "kebab king" Mahmut Aygun of Turkey immigrated to Germany at 16, opening a kebab cart nearly 50 years ago — and the rest, as they say, is history. Berlin has more than 4,000 kebab shops (all of Germany has 40,000).
It Is Illegal to Feed Pigeons in Venice
There are so many pigeons in Venice, particularly swarming St. Mark's Square, that the city created a law to stop the feeding of the pesky birds, in the hopes that they will leave. Unknowing tourists continue to feed the birds, though, so Venice is fining those they catch — 50 Euro should you want to share your food.
Better to ignore the birds!
St. Peter's Basilica Is the Largest Church in Europe
The largest church in Europe can be found in Vatican City: St. Peter's. Originally constructed in 326 and 333 AD by Constantine, the church was rebuilt between 1506 and 1626. The "new" St. Peter's is 730 feet long, 500 feet wide and stands nearly 450 feet tall. Able to accommodate 60,000 people, the church is the largest in Christianity, which is fitting as Vatican City is home to the Pope.
Luxembourg Has the Highest GDP
One of the richest nations in the world is Luxembourg, which boasts $119,719 GDP per capita. Filled with banks and financial institutions, the tiny yet wealthy country is just 998 square miles, with a population of nearly 600,000 people, many of whom enjoy a hefty annual salary.
The Tallest Building in Europe Is in Russia
Standing like a glass bullet in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Lakhta Center stands 1,516 feet in height. This second of the Federation Towers was completed in 2018, with 87 stories providing amazing views.
Germany's Famous Oktoberfest Is Actually in September
When Prince Ludwig married in October 1810, he threw a party and invited all Bavarians to join in the celebration. The party became an annual event known simply as Oktoberfest.
However, with warmer temperatures in September making for a better party atmosphere, the event was pushed back into September, ending on the first Sunday of Oktober to keep the name in place. Septemberfest just doesn't have the same ring to it.
The Most Active Volcano is in Sicily
Iceland's famed volcano Eyjafjallajökull spews so much ash that it recently shut down air travel. But Europe's most active volcano is actually Mount Etna in Sicily.
Minor earthquakes are a constant in this part of Sicily, with the 3,326-foot tall volcano last erupting in December 2018.
Although it's active, a cable car will take you to the volcano's peak. Or feel free to hike a path that ascends the volcano, allowing for superb views of the countryside.
The Longest River Is in Russia
The Volga River travels 2,294 miles through western Russia, serving as the continent's longest river. The Danube, at 1,770 miles, comes in second.
The Volga runs to the Caspian Sea with more than 200 tributaries. Half of Russia's farmers' fields are along this river, along with nearly 40 percent of the country's population.
Germany Has the Most Smurfs in the World
Although the blue fictional creatures were created in Belgium, Germans took to the streets painted in blue in early 2019 to nab the Guinness World Record for having the most Smurfs, with 2,763 people participating.
The previous record was held by Wales after 2,510 people dressed in blue in 2009.
Italians Don't Drink Cappuccino After 11 A.M.
A surefire way to let everyone around you know you're from out of town is by drinking a cappuccino at night. To Italians, the coffee with frothy milk is only a breakfast drink.
There Are 51 Countries and Independent States in Europe
Fifty-one countries, principalities and independent states make up Europe, with 28 of them members of the European Union.
Well-known countries not in the European Union include Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, Turkey, Monaco and Russia.