The 10 Longest Rivers in Europe

December 13, 2023

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Danube River flowing through Hungary

Rivers have played an important part in trade, travel and everyday life throughout Europe and the world. Some of Europe’s longest rivers flow through multiple countries and have helped form borders and trade routes.

There is a whole host of different species that inhabit the European rivers, which provides locals with a source of food. Many Europeans also rely upon these rivers as a source of water and hydropower. However, many of the rivers have been negatively affected by industrialisation and waste, which has led to the loss of certain species of fish and other wildlife.

We’ve compiled a list of the ten longest rivers in Europe and explored the history, wildlife and geography of these impressive waterways.

1. Volga River

Image of the Volga River with a tall turret and buildings visible on the riverbanks, along with trees and boats
Volga River with buildings of Moscow in the background
Length: 3,531 km
River source: Valdai Hills (Russia)
Flows through: Four of the ten largest cities in Russia, including Moscow

Europe’s longest river begins as a small stream in the Valdai Hills northwest of Moscow and flows through to Southern Russia and into the Caspian Sea. The river’s basin spans two-fifths of the European part of Russia, where around half of the entire Russian population lives.

In total, there are over 120 different species of fish in the river, including catfish, pike and carp. The Beluga sturgeon is the largest fish found in the Volga River. Beavers and otters seek refuge in the marshland, while birds such as bald eagles and herons can also be found near the river fishing for food.

Did you know?

60% of the water in the Volga River comes from melted snow.

2. Danube River

Danube River in a sunny Budapest, flowing under the Chain Bridge and Margaret Bridge and past the parliament buildings.
Danube River flowing through Budapest with the Chain Bridge, Parliament and Margaret Bridge visible on the banks
Length: 2,850 km
River source: Black Forest (Germany)
Flows through: Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania

Although only the second-longest river in Europe, the Danube River basin is considered the world’s most international river basin. The river’s drainage basin runs through the territory of 18 countries, while the river as a whole flows through ten different countries, including Germany, Austria and Croatia. 83 million people live in the river basin, and over 100 different species of fish.

Over 80% of the Danube River is regulated and features over 700 dams and weirs (low dams). The European Commission considers the river the “single most important non-oceanic body of water in Europe”.

Did you know?

In 1944, German forces scuttled hundreds of warships in the Danube River to prevent the Soviet Union from capturing them. The ships can be seen from the banks and can hamper river traffic when the water level falls in the summer.

3. Ural River

Ural River with a wide river bank and a forest of tall trees in the background
The Ural River flowing through Ural in Russia
Length: 2,428 km
River source: Southern Ural mountains, Russia
Flows through: Russia, Kazakhstan

Flowing along the continental boundary between Europe and Asia, the Ural River is the third-longest river in Europe and the 19th-longest river in Asia. The river begins in the Ural Mountains near Mount Kruglaya in Russia and flows out into the Caspian Sea.

The Ural River plays an important part in fish migrating upstream from the Caspian Sea and migrating birds flying to Asia. Many endangered birds, such as the great white Pelican, glossy ibis and pygmy cormorant, live in the nearby wetlands.

Did you know?

Before 1775, the river was known as the Yaik River. Empress Catherine II of Russia ordered that the river be renamed following the suppression of the Pugachev’s Rebellion (the largest rebellion involving the Ural).

4. Dnieper River

Image of the Dnieper River flowing past the city of Kyiv, shown on the left of the photo. A bridge crosses the river and a forest is shown on the right of the image
The Dnieper River flowing through Kyiv in Ukraine
Length: 2,200 km
River source: Valdai Hills (Russia)
Flows through: Russia, Belarus, Ukraine

The Dnieper flows south from the uplands of Russia’s Valdai Hills through Russia, Belarus and Ukraine before spilling out into the Black Sea. The river is typically split into three sections: the upper Dnieper to Kyiv, the middle Dnieper from Kyiv to Zaporizhzhya and the lower Dnieper from Zaporizhzhya to the mouth of the river.

There are around 60 species of fish that live in the Dnieper, including commercially important species such as pike, roach and rudd.

Did you know?

The Ancient Greeks called the river Borysthenes, which was also the name of its river god.

5. Don River

Image of the Don River flowing through the countryside of the Rostov region. There are fields on either side of the river and a clear blue sky above
Don River flowing through the Rostov region in Russia
Length: 1,870 km
River source: Central Russian plate
Flows through: Russia, Ukraine

Beginning near the city of Tula in western Russia, the Don River flows southward towards the Sea of Azov. The Don is the busiest trade river in Russia (largely thanks to the Volga–Don Ship Canal) and is navigatable for approximately 1,290 km.

Fed mostly from melted snow, the Don River freezes for an average of 140 days each year in the upper section and for around 90 days in the lower section.

Did you know?

Archaeologists have found evidence of human settlements along the Don River that dates from the Upper Paleolithic (40,000–13,000 years ago).

6. Pechora River

Image of the Pechora River flowing through a valley with snow on the banks and trees on the left and right of the river
Pechora River flowing through Komi Republic, Russia
Length: 1,809 km
River source: Northern Urals (Asia-European border).
Flows through: Russia

Yet another river to flow through Russia, the Pechora River begins in the northern Urals near Mount Koyp and ends at the Arctic Ocean. The river is frozen from November until early May. After the Volga and Danube, the Pechora ranks third in the world in terms of annual discharge. It drains an area of around 322,000 square km.

The river was once an important transport route until a southwest railroad was built from Vorkuta to Moscow.

Did you know?

There are large deposits of natural gases, petroleum and coal in the Pechora River basin.

7. Kama River

Image of the Kama River flowing past small patches of land covered in shrubs and trees
Kama River flowing through Sarapul, Udmurt Republic, Russia
Length: 1,805 km
River source: Udmurtjia, near Kuliga, Russia
Flows through: Russia

The Kama River is the largest left tributary of the Volga River, which means it feeds into Europe’s longest river. As such, the two rivers share many of the same characteristics and wildlife. At the two rivers’ confluence (join), the Kama River is larger than the Volga.

The river drains a basin of approximately 522,000 square km. Navigation is possible for approximately 1,535 km, although the river freezes from around mid-November or early December to April.

Did you know?

The Kama River was historically used as an important route to the Urals and Siberia.

8. Oka River

Image of the Oka River flowing through the countryside with fields and trees on both banks
Oka River flowing past fields
Length: 1,500 km
River source: Oryol Oblast near Glasunowka, Russia
Flows through: Russia

Beginning in the Central Russian Upland, the Oka River flows 1,500 km to Kaluga before its trajectory turns eastward to merge with the Volga River at Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia. It’s the Volga’s largest right tributary and has a drainage basin of 245,000 square km.

Moscow, Russia’s capital, sits on the Moskva, which is a tributary of the Oka River. In order to protect the river, two dams were built (one in Moscow and one in the Ryazan Region). The two most common species of fish in the river are bream and roach.

Did you know?

Some species of fish that used to be found in the river, such as white fish and sturgeon, no longer exist there due to the regular discharge of waste into the Oka.

9. Belaya River

Image of the Belaya River, with a small wooden bird box resting on the water and trees lining the banks
The Belaya River flowing through a rural area in Neftekamsk, Russia
Length: 1,430 km
River source: Southern Urals (Russia)
Flows through: Russia

The Belaya River (which means ‘White River’ in Russian) is the largest tributary of the Kama River. It begins in the southern Urals at the base of Mount Iremel and flows into the Kama near Neftekamsk, the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia.

This river has a drainage basin of 142,000 square kilometres. There are oil fields in the river valley near Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, Russia.

Did you know?

The river was originally called ‘Shhaguashhe’, which means “Mistress of the Mountains’ in the Adyghe language.

10. Dniester River

Image of the Khotyn fortress on the green banks of the Dniester River, which is flowing past on the right of the photograph
The Khotyn fortress in Ukraine with the Dniester River flowing past
Length: 1,352 km
River source: Carpathian Forest (Ukraine).
Flows through: Ukraine, Moldova

Flowing through Ukraine and Moldova, the Dniester River begins on the slopes of Mount Rozluch in the Carpathian Mountains and ends at the Black Sea near Odessa in southwestern Ukraine. It has a long narrow basin that measures approximately 72,000 square km.

The Dniester River frequently floods and affects nearby settlements. While the river basin is densely populated, it has no major towns along the actual river. Urban areas such as Lviv and Ternopil in Ukraine and Chișinău in Moldova lie on the main valley above the river.

Did you know?

During the Ukrainian Struggle for Independence (1917–1920) the Dniester River became the border between Romania and Ukraine.

Overview: Europe’s longest rivers

RankRiverCountryLength (km)Length (miles)
1Volga RiverRussia3,5312,194
2Danube RiverGermany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania2,8501,771
3Ural RiverRussia, Kazakhstan2,4281,509
4Dnieper RiverRussia, Belarus, Ukraine2,2001,367
5Don RiverRussia, Ukraine1,8701,162
6Pechora RiverRussia1,8091,124
7Kama RiverRussia1,8051,122
8Oka RiverRussia1,500932
9Belaya RiverRussia1,430889
10Dniester RiverUkraine, Moldova1,352840

Eight of the ten longest rivers in Europe flow fully or partially through Russia. The longest river on the continent is the Volga, which measures 3,531 km long. Many of the other rivers in the top ten list are tributaries of the Volga and stretch across several other countries. The Danube, which is the second-longest river in Europe, flows through ten countries, while the Dnieper, the third longest, flows through three different countries.

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