I’ve lived in Europe my whole life. I was born in Germany, moved to the UK when I was two and have spent my life since then roaming around the UK trying to find where I belong.
Now that I’ve been living in Bristol for over 5 years, Bristol has unintentionally become my home. But despite all this time living and travelling throughout Europe, I feel like I learn something new about a new city or country here everyday.
So, here we are… I’m going to offer you some interesting facts about Europe, followed by top European destinations you should add to your bucket list. You know, just for fun, and because I can be something of a geek when I want to be.
15+ Interesting Facts About Europe
1. The first humans to arrive in Europe was in 35,000 BC. However, the Minoan civilisation in the Bronze Age are seen as the establishers of the first culture from 2700 BC.
2. There are 50 countries in Europe. The smallest of those is Vatican City in Italy, and the largest is the European section of Russia. Russia is actually so big that it takes up 40% of Europe’s land area all by itself, while part of it spreads outside of Europe and into Asia.
3. This means that it’s not totally straightforward to divide up Europe from Asia. In fact, there is no geological split between the two continents, and it was (and still is) politicians and governing bodies that ensure Europe is regarded as a separate continent.
4. Some credit the Greeks with this initial separation as the name ‘Europe’ comes from ‘Europa’, a Greek Goddess.
5. Europe is a third the size of Africa and it’s believed 11% of the world’s population live in Europe.
6. But Europe only takes up 2% of the Earth’s entire surface.
7. Over 200 languages are spoken throughout Europe. Most of those derive from either the Germanic languages (e.g. German and English), Romance languages (e.g. Latin, French, Italian and Spanish) and the Slavic languages (e.g. Russian, Polish and Bulgarian).
8. Europe has the highest GDP (income per person) of all the continents. Basically, we’re all rich… apparently.
9. At over 14,000 feet high, the highest toilet in Europe is on Mont Blanc in the Alps.
10. Rainforests exist within Europe, but they are very rare. Perucica in Bosnia is one of the last rainforests in Europe.
12. There are no deserts in Europe. Not one. But it’s believed that the Mediterranean Sea used to dry up so completely and frequently, that it would become a desert… not anymore though obviously.
13. Europe makes 44% of the world’s wine… ahem, you’re welcome!
14. There is actually a day called Europe Day. In fact, there are two celebrations called Europe Day.
15. The Council of Europe celebrate it on May 5th, while the European Union celebrate Europe Day on May 9th. It’s basically a chance for each party to recognise the peace and prosperity that has been achieved within Europe since their formation.
16. The world’s second most active volcano is in Europe. It’s Mount Etna in Italy.
17. Europe has some of the most diverse climates compared to other continents. Central and eastern regions experience warm to hot summers and cold winters, while southern regions experience mild winters and similar temperatures year-round.
18. There are three main time zones in Europe — Eastern European Timezone (EET), Western European Timezone (WET, also known as UTC or GMT) and Central European Timezone (CET).
Top European Destinations You Should Visit
Now you know some of the top facts about Europe, this is where you should visit…
It should come as no surprise that I’m going to recommend you visit the UK. There is so much diversity and history here and as the British Empire was once one of the most powerful entities in the world, it seems only too fitting to include the UK on this list of facts about Europe anyway.
From the infamous sights of London, through to the stunning coasts in Cornwall and Devon, to the incredible scenery across Lake District and Peak District, to the legends that have helped shape Northern Ireland, and everything in between, the UK will always warrant you to spend several weeks of travelling (and multiple trips).
Your UK bucket list should include:
Very few European destinations, in fact very few destinations throughout the world, can conjure up as many fantasies as France.
From exploring the ‘City of Lights’ aka Paris, to frolicking in the lavender fields in Provence and wandering the streets of ancient and sleepy villages like Strasbourg and Colmar, a trip to France will always be unique. Plus, they make amazing wine!
Your France bucket list should include:
- Loire Valley
- Côte d’Azur
“The hills are alive with the sound of music!” Actually, the hills are alive with the wondrous beauties that Austria brings with it.
From the truly stunning cities of Vienna and Salzburg, to the fairytale towns of Zell Am See and Hallstatt, and even the top ski resort of Innsbruck, Austria is such a diverse (and beautiful) country to explore.
Your Austria bucket list should include:
- Zell Am See
Now we’ve all heard of Amsterdam and the carefree attitude that comes with it. But what about the yellow houses of Rotterdam or the town that made Gouda cheese famous?
The Netherlands, although a small country, offers so much diversity and is such an interesting place to explore. Just think windmills, Anne Frank, canals, and cycling and you’ll have only skimmed the very surface of what the Netherlands has to offer.
Your Netherlands bucket list should include:
- The Hague
- Texel Island
Great food. Famous landmarks. Warm weather. Sexy language. Italy has got it all going on.
Although many of the top cities throughout Italy all have strong history ingrained throughout, each one offers something different to visitors. For instance, Milan is infamous for its glamour and fashion, Florence is a history lover’s dream, while Lake Garda offers such stunning natural scenery.
Thanks to Italy’s superb rail network, it’s really easy to city-hop throughout the country as well. I found Florence to be a great base, with a day trip to Pisa taking just 30 minutes by train and even a trip as far south as Rome only taking a couple of hours by train as well!
Your Italy bucket list should include:
There are hardly any words that I can use to describe Iceland. It has often been referred to as the ‘Land of ice and fire’ but even that phrase can’t conjure up all of the magical scenery and landscapes that are waiting for you in Iceland.
While in winter, you should try to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, summertime brings with it the Midnight Sun. In warmer weather, you’ll be on the hunt for puffins, while in colder weather, you’ll be admiring the deep blues of Gullfoss waterfall.
Your Iceland bucket list should include:
- Kerid Crater
- Secret Lagoon (or any natural hot spring)
- Strokkur Geysir
- Thingvellir National Park
- Northern Lights
- ‘Midnight Sun’ phenomena
If you’re looking for a European destination that has similar temperatures no matter what time of year you’re visiting, then Madeira (also known as the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’) is the place for you.
Although a small island, there is a lot to see, and so I would recommend either renting a car or embarking on a few coach tours during your visit. The traditional houses of Santana and wicker crafts in Camacha, volcanic rock pools of Porto Moniz and incredible scenery and hikes throughout the whole island are all calling your name.
Your Madeira bucket list should include:
- Porto Moniz
- Pico do Arieiro
- Pico Ruivo
- São Vicente
Where snow clings to fir trees and huskies sled across ice in the winter, where saunas are considered a ritual and reindeer meat is a delicacy, Finland is the ultimate winter wonderland and cold weather destination.
Although make sure you pack your ski gear as temperatures in the winter can plummet as low as -30°C. Finland is also one of the best places in Europe to see the Northern Lights as well, given its dark winters and proximity to the Arctic Circle.
But despite all of that, it’s also beautiful in the summertime, offering temperatures between 15°C – 32°C. Summer may only last for a couple of months in Finland (from June to August), but it’s celebrated with such vigour and passion. And it’ll feel longer as Finland becomes the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ during the summer with almost zero hours spent in darkness.
Your Finland bucket list should include:
- Husky sledding
- Finnish sauna
- Northern Lights
- ‘Midnight Sun’ phenomena
No trip to Europe is complete without exploring the ‘Emerald Green Isle’. While Ireland’s capital of Dublin is modern and oh so very metropolitan, a quick day trip from Dublin will take you into the depths of the Irish countryside.
Vast parks, waterfalls and gardens await you at Powerscourt Estate, while deer, mountains and stunning views await you in the Wicklow National Park. And then there are the historic sites to see such as where the Battle of the Boyne took place and the castles of Slane and Kilkenny.
Your Ireland bucket list should include:
- Wicklow National Park
- Powerscourt Estate & Waterfall
- Battle of the Boyne site
Well, there you have it. I hope the facts about Europe above were educational and insightful, while the list of top European destinations was inspirational.
Have I missed anything interesting out of either list? Let me know in the comments…
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