If you’re reading this site then it’s probably fair to assume you have an interest in Europe. And why shouldn’t you? After all, Europe is a huge and varied continent with a fantastic range of people, cultures, climates and scenery to explore and enjoy and a vast, enthralling history. There’s tons to learn and explore and there are always fascinating new facts to unearth.
Case in point: this article. If you think you know your stuff when it comes to Europe, then prepare to have your knowledge put the test. This is the ultimate collection of European facts and stats, and it’s the pace to expand your knowledge on your favourite continent.
Top Historical Europe Facts
• Europe is known as ‘The Old Continent’
• But actually the correct term is ‘Vieux’ continent (which translates as old). It’s also sometimes called ‘The Old World’.
• Neanderthal man first arrived in Europe roughly 150,000 years ago
• The name ‘Europe’ was first used to describe the continent when the Hellenes used the term to describe everything West of the Aegean sea.
• But it was the Roman Empire that first adopted the name and used it to describe the rough geography that we now consider to be ‘Europe’ and to distinguish it from Asia.
• And the name Europa comes from a Phoenician Princess from Greek Mythology
• The Statue of Liberty, often thought to be one of the most ‘American’ symbols of all, is actually French and was given to the US as a gift.
• The Republic of Dubrovnik (now a city in Croatia) was the first to abolish slavery
• The cultural diversity in Europe today is mostly a result of the ‘age of migrations’ – a time after the collapse of the Roman Empire when Roman, German, Saxon and Celtic tribes spread across the continent.
• Most of the greatest empires in history were based in Europe including the British Empire, the Roman Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Russian Empire, the French Empire and the Portuguese Empire
Fun Facts About Europe
• The ‘Tomatina Festival’ in Spain is a festival that involves everyone throwing tomatoes at each other. It’s brilliant.
• Romania is home to a ‘Merry Cemetery’ where all the headstones are colourful and painted to depict the lives of the people buried there. They also feature humorous epitaphs.
• Yugoslavia is the only European country whose official language was not named after the country. They speak Serbo-Croatian to be precise.
• Beethoven discovered he was deaf after seeing birds fly out of St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s bell tower in Vienna but didn’t hear the bell that caused it.
• Europe has a land mass of 10,181,000 square kilometers
• The longest place name in Europe is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch which is a church in Wales.
• Many historical philsophers, thinkers and prodigies come from Europe, including Plato, Mozart, Aristotal, Socrates, Beethoven, Einstein, Galileo, Da Vinci and many more.
• Stonehenge is a monument in Wiltshire, England made up of large standing tones. Archaeologists believe it was built at around 2300BC but are at a loss to explain how they were erected.
• Over ten cities, towns and villages claim to be the ‘center’ of Europe. In fact the blurry definition of Europe’s borders means it’s impossible to definitively place the center.
Most Surprising Europe Facts
• Europe is home to many things, but did you know that it’s also where dance music first started?
• Before getting involved in politics, Hitler dreamed of becoming an artist and applied twice to the Vienna Academy of Art. Interestingly Churchill was also a prolific painter.
• And after the death of his Mother he spent four years living on the streets in Vienna where he sold postcards of his art to make money
• Hitler’s dog Blondi died when he ordered that cyanide capsules be tested on his pet – cyanide capsules that he had originally intended to use himself. Apparently Hitler then became completely inconsolable.
• Hitler committed suicide along with his wife Eva Braun only one day after they got married
• Technically France moves inland at roughly 7 meters a year. How is this possible? It’s due to the ‘Dune Du Pilat’ which stretches across the South West coast of France and which is moved by the wind. And that Dune is 100 meters high and 500 meters across making it the biggest in Europe!
• The Salzburg Tennen Mountains are home to the Werfen Ice Caves – the largest system of ice caves in the world.
• Research over the last 40 years has brought to light one of the most shocking facts about Europe – that the Mediterranean Sea has frequently ‘dried up’ in the past becoming entirely desert.
• Churchil was actually half American!
• Both Kaiser Wilhelm II and Stalin suffered abnormalities in their left arms making them shorter than the right.
• Istanbul is the only city in the world to cross two continents. Napoleon once said that if the world were one state, Istanbul would be the capital. Istanbul is also the most populous city in Europe followed closely by Moscow.
More Europe Facts
Some facts are just hard to categorise, so here are some of the other surprising titbits of information I came across while researching this page…
• The Polish are the UK’s fourth biggest contributors to the UK’s EU rebate, so if you thought all the money in the EU came from the West and went to the East you’d be wrong!
• 700 million people live in Europe – though the continent has one of the lowest rates of fertility in the world.
• In terms of charitable giving, the ten most generous countries in the world all come from Europe.
• The Vatican City in Europe is the smallest country in the world at just 0.44 square kilometers. It an independent state and the center of the Catholic faith, though it’s actually situated within Italy and specifically the capital, Rome.
• Russia meanwhile, also situated in Europe, is the largest country in the World and the country with the second highest number of neighbours with 14 (right behind China with 15).
• Russia is 17,098,242 sq km meaning that you could fit the Vatican City into it 38,859,640 times…
• The largest active volcano in Europe is ‘Etna’ in Sicily and it stands 3,350 meters tall.
So there you have some European truths, how about some European un-truths? There are many misconceptions about Europe and many rumours that are just plain false, here are some of the best ones…
• The Euro causes unemployment – This is one that gets banded around but the figures just don’t back it up. Unemployment is higher in the UK than in Germany, employment went up in Spain following the introduction of the Euro.
• The EU makes all the laws – This is the way it can feel to be in an EU country, but in fact the EU only tends to make about 5% of a countries laws on any given year.
• European pay more tax than Americans – Obviously this depends on the tax, but overall it’s not fair to say that Europe has generally higher taxes
• Europe has a lower standard of living than America – Actually if you were to visit Germany, Belgium, Holland or France you might think the reverse is true, and a lot of Eastern Europeans enjoy a high standard of living too.
• Europe is under attack from extreme Islamists – Terrorist attacks from the likes of Al Qaida get a lot of publicity in Europe just as they do in the US, but actually this is not where the main threat comes from and in fact only a very small 0.4% of terrorist attacks in Europe are by Muslims.
• Switzerland is free from EU policies – The Swiss have always been famous for going it alone, but in fact they appease the EU in many ways still. They have to be EU compliant, they pay one billion francs a year to Brussels (solidarity payments) and they’ve abolished border controls.
• Hitler probably never had only one testicle – The chances are that this was ally propaganda intended to encourage the troops and belittle the enemy
• It’s often mistakenly stated that there are no deserts in Europe – but actually there are several ‘mini deserts’ in the Canary islands
Got some more facts of your own? Then feel free to share them in the comments below, for factoid lovers Europe is truly the continent that keeps on giving!