Fascinating Facts About Every Single European Country
Europe is home to big players like France, Italy and Germany, of course, but also nations with fewer than 1 million residents that might be difficult for people to find on a map.
To make the continent a bit more accessible and fun, we set out to find one fascinating, eye-opening, no-way-it’s-true fact about every single European country, ranked from least to most populated.
Armed with this information, you’ll be a big hit at the next office party, if maybe not so much on a first date.
43. San Marino
Landlocked inside Italy, San Marino is an ancient and tiny country with one very famous honorary citizen: Abraham Lincoln.
In 1861, Lincoln had just been sworn in as the 16th U.S. president and was receiving congratulatory letters from around the world. But the one that piqued his interest the most was from the world’s oldest republic, San Marino, wishing the U.S. well as the Civil War loomed and Lincoln tried to keep the peace.
This tiny country sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland is the world’s top producer of false teeth. Ivoclar Vivadent manufactures 60 million artificial teeth annually, which is 20 percent of all false teeth made worldwide.
One of the things Monaco, a tiny country surrounded by France and the Mediterranean Sea, is most known for is its casino in Monte Carlo, but local residents of the country are barred from entering it unless they work there.
The laws date to the introduction of gambling in the country in the mid-1800s to save the nation from bankruptcy. Monaco wanted foreign money from this pursuit, but it didn’t want its own citizens going into debt from gambling addictions.
Straddling the border of France and Spain is the miniscule nation of Andorra, which in its 1,000-year history has never engaged in battle. However, during World War I, it was one of the first countries to declare war with Germany despite the fact that it had no military. And since its demands were ignored in the Treaty of Versailles, it remained “at war” with Germany until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
This island nation is known for being tops in a lot of per-capita categories, but none is more surprising than Coca-Cola. Icelanders, per capita, consume more of the soft drink than any other country in the world.
One of Malta’s islands, Gozo, has a cave that is apparently featured in Homer’s “Odyssey.” Gozo serves as the Island of Ogygia in the epic poem and the cave in question is where Calypso the nymph held Odysseus as her prisoner of love for seven years.
There is a dancing ceremony in this tiny country that is so old and so popular that in 2010 it was included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. It involves some 10,000 people simultaneously hopping while another 40,000 look on.
The former member of Yugoslavia in southeastern Europe is home to what’s considered one of, if not the, world’s oldest olive tree: Stara Maslina. It’s more than 2,000 years old and lives among several other olive trees that are 500 to 700 years old.
Population: 1.3 million
This former republic of the Soviet Union is considered the most digitally advanced government in the world and was the first to offer its citizens online voting, all the way back in 2005.
Population: 1.9 million
The first time a conifer was decorated for Christmas in the style we know today was in 1510 in Riga, Latvia.
Population: 2.1 million
Bees are big in this former Yugoslavian republic. Of the 2 million residents of Slovenia, some 90,000 are beekeepers — that’s 1 out of every 20 people!
32. North Macedonia
Population: 2.1 million
Another former Yugoslavian republic, North Macedonia is the birthplace of the Cyrillic alphabet, which is used in more than 50 languages. It was created by brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century.
Population: 2.8 million
This former Soviet republic was the largest country in Europe in the 15th century. Called the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it included what’s now Belarus and parts of Ukraine, Poland and Russia.
Population: 2.9 million
Mother Teresa was ethnically Albanian and remains the only person from this country to have won the Nobel Prize.
29. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Population: 3.3 million
Thanks to the work of an amateur archaeologist in the early 2000s, residents and government officials here believe that a network of 12,000-year-old pyramids exists within the country’s borders. That would make them far older than the Egyptian pyramids, and Bosnia would be the cradle of European civilization.
Population: 4 million
The world’s largest wine cellar is buried in Moldova. The Milestii Mici wine cellar contains nearly 2 million bottles and the tunnel system housing them stretches for 75 miles. Cars and bikes are needed to traverse it, and the same road rules apply underground as above ground.
Population: 4.1 million
This former Yugoslavian republic on the Adriatic Sea is credited with inventing the necktie. During France’s 30-year war In the 17th century, King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries who wore a piece of cloth around their necks that the king was particularly fond of. He called it La Cravate, which is still the French term for a necktie.
Population: 4.9 million
Guinness is arguably this nation’s most recognizable beverage. When Arthur Guinness signed the lease for the brewery’s St. James Gate property in 1759, it was for 9,000 years at £45 per month. Those terms are still adhered to today.
Population: 5.4 million
In the 1980s, Norway started selling salmon, one of its major exports, to Japan because that island nation was facing a seafood shortage. The Norwegians even suggested using it in sushi and sashimi.
Though the Japanese were hesitant at first, it became a raw-seafood staple for them by 1995.
Population: 5.5 million
Bratislava, Slovakia's capital, is the only in the world that borders two other countries, Austria and Hungary.
Population: 5.5 million
The baby box has been a Finnish institution since the 1930s, when the country’s infant mortality rate was high. Since 1949, the Finnish government has given every expectant mother a cardboard box that their baby can sleep in, filled with essential items like clothes, sheets and toys.
Population: 5.8 million
Bicycles are much more prevalent than personal automobiles here. Only four out of 10 Danes own a vehicle, while nine out of 10 own a bike.
Population: 7 million
This ancient Balkan nation claims to have accidentally created yogurt some 4,000 years ago. Either way, the main fermentation bacteria in the creamy dairy product is named after Bulgaria, lactobacillus bulgaricus, and was first discovered in the region.
Population: 8.6 million
Everyone associates this nation with chocolate, and for good reason. Much of chocolate as we know it today was created in Switzerland, including milk chocolate, chocolate with hazelnuts and melting chocolate.
Population: 8.8 million
This former Yugoslavian republic was once the center of the Roman empire and it shows — there were 18 emperors born in what is now modern-day Serbia. The most famous of these was Constantine I, who founded Constantinople (Istanbul) and elevated Christianity to a state-level religion.
Population: 9 million
The world’s first zoo, founded in 1752, is still in operation here.
Population: 9.5 million
The Soviet era never really ended in this country, and Belarus is often called Europe’s last dictatorship. The secret police are referred to as the KGB and communal farming is still practiced. President Alexander Lukashenko has been in office since the post was created in 1994, and he has staunchly retained the feel of the USSR.
Population: 9.7 million
The Rubik’s Cube was invented in Hungary by an architect who named it after himself. Erno Rubik never intended his creation to be a toy but rather a vehicle for helping to understand three-dimensional geometry.
Population: 10 million
This Scandinavian country has not fought in a war in more than 200 years. It sat out both World Wars and its last conflict was in 1814 with neighbor Norway, which had declared its independence.
Population: 10.2 million
There’s a small fishing village called Nazare north of Lisbon where the world’s largest rideable waves occur. It’s believed the biggest-ever wave was 100 feet high.
Population: 10.5 million
In order to avoid excessive wear and tear to its historic monuments, this ancient country banned high heels at archaeological sites.
12. Czech Republic
Population: 10.7 million
Built in 1410, the world’s oldest astronomical clock still in operation resides in Prague, the capital of this country.
Population: 11.5 million
Chocolate is huge in Belgium, which can produce some 600,000 tons of it per year across its more than 2,000 companies and shops specializing in the confection. More chocolate is sold at the Brussels airport than anywhere else in Belgium.
Population: 17.1 million
Once considered some of the shortest people in the world, the Dutch are now the tallest. Men average just over 6 feet while women average 5 feet 6 inches.
Population: 19.4 million
The man who invented the steam espresso machine and the Illycaffe brand, Francesco Illy, was born in Romania in 1892.
Population: 37.9 million
The humble but delicious bagel was invented in this country. It’s not known exactly when, but it appears to date to at least 1610 and possibly as far back as the 1300s. (Thanks, Poland!)
Population: 44 million
This former Soviet republic is one of only 26 countries in the world with a 100 percent literacy rate among adults.
Population: 46.7 million
This country is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, whose iconic “Don Quixote” is considered the first modern novel. The first part was published in 1605 and the second 10 years later.
He published several other works but made almost no money off any of them.
Population: 60.6 million
One of the most iconic foods in this nation is the tomato. But Italians have only been eating this fruit since the 1500s, when Spanish conquistadors brought it from Peru to Naples, which at the time was under Spanish rule.
Naples is, of course, also the birthplace of pizza.
3. United Kingdom
Population: 67.5 million
Tea is big in the UK — locals reportedly drink 165 million cups a day. But it was a Portugeuse woman who first brought the drink to the isles.
After Catherine of Braganza wed King Charles II in 1662, her favorite libation, tea from China, quickly caught on in the royal palace, then the rest of the country.
Population: 83.5 million
Everyone who lives in this European country, even foreigners, can attend college tuition-free.