Regions of Europe

December 23, 2023

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Regional Map of Europe

Europe may be the second-smallest continent after Oceania, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in diverse culture, history, and scenery. From the Colosseum in Rome, to Stonehenge in the UK, its monuments and statues date back to ancient times. The traditions of each country in the regions of Europe are wide and varied, and the continent’s landscape paints a rich tapestry of rolling green hills, towering skyscrapers, Mars-like terrain, and sandy islands that sparkle like emeralds in turquoise seas.

Based on the UN Goescheme classification, there are 44 countries in Europe, plus the Åland islands, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, and Svalbard and Jan Mayen, which are classed as dependencies and other sovereign states. Measuring almost 4 million square miles, Europe is 20 percent bigger than continental America, and it is estimated that about 741 million people currently live there.

Historically, there have been (and still are) disputes over Europe’s regional composition. For centuries, for example, Greenland and Malta were considered islands of North America and Africa, respectively, while Central Europe is referred to as only a concept, as there is no consensus as to which countries are part of it.

While there is no universal agreement on the regional composition of Europe, the United Nations Geoscheme divides the continent into four regions: Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, and Western Europe, with each of Europe’s countries falling into one of these four regions.

Map of the regions of Europe
Regions of Europe based on the United Nations geoscheme

In this article, we’ll reveal which countries fall into which of the UN’s Geoscheme regions, give an overview of each of the four regions and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Europe.

Northern Europe

Countries and territories of Northern Europe based on the UN geoscheme
Countries and territories of Northern Europe based on the UN geoscheme

Roughly 107 million people live across the ten countries that make up Northern Europe. With a population of almost 68 million, the UK is the most populous country in the region, while Iceland is the least, with only around 375,000 people living there.

Northern Europe includes the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, as well as Iceland and Finland. Together, they are referred to as the Nordic countries, all of which have been influenced by the Vikings. Most of Iceland’s inhabitants, for example, are Viking descendants. The Nordic countries are known for their high standards of living, and, like the other Northern European countries, governments prioritize human rights, healthcare, education, and civil rights for minority groups and women.

Thanks to their locations and natural resources, the economies of the Nordic countries are among the wealthiest in the world. For example, the capital cities of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are major ports, Sweden utilizes its natural iron ore supply in its manufacturing industry, Denmark and Norway have considerable oil resources in the North Sea, and Finland has significant timber resources (as well as being the world’s biggest manufacturer of mobile phones).

Northern Europe also consists of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These Baltic States are the newest members of Northern Europe, as they only regained independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Meat, fish, and potatoes are staples of Northern European cuisine, which is sometimes criticized for its lack of flavor and spices.

Iceland, Norway, and the UK are the only countries in Northern Europe that are not members of the European Union (EU), while the Republic of Ireland and Sweden are the only countries that are not members of NATO.

Northern Europe’s isolation from the rest of the continent has been beneficial in that it has allowed its countries to preserve their unique cultures and shape their individual societies into what they are today.

Countries of Northern Europe

  • Denmark 
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Norway 
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Sovereign states/dependent territories of Northern Europe

  • Åland islands
  • Channel Islands: Guernsey, Jersey, Sark
  • Faroe Islands
  • Isle of Man
  • Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Eastern Europe

Countries of Eastern Europe based on the United Nations geoscheme
Countries of Eastern Europe based on the United Nations geoscheme

Like Northern Europe, Eastern Europe consists of ten countries. However, this region is much larger and more populous. In fact, it is the largest and most populous of all Europe’s regions, with an estimated 287 million people living there.

Russia is not only the largest country in Eastern Europe — and indeed Europe — it is the largest country in the world. But while European Russia occupies 40 percent of the total area of Europe, most of the country’s land mass (77 percent) is in Asia.

During the Cold War, the Eastern European countries listed above were part of the “Eastern Bloc” until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Eastern Europeans have a reputation for being resilient, determined, and resourceful as a result of having to endure war, communism, and harsh winters. Typically, they make excellent hosts, and one of their oldest traditions is welcoming visitors into their homes with bread and salt accompanied by vodka.

Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia are all part of both EU and NATO, while Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine are not.

Countries of Eastern Europe

  • Belarus
  • Bulgaria
  • Czechia
  • Hungary
  • Poland
  • Moldova
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Slovakia
  • Ukraine

Southern Europe

Countries and territories of Southern Europe based on the United Nations geoscheme
Countries and territories of Southern Europe based on the United Nations geoscheme

Southern Europe consists of 15 countries, plus the dependent territory of Gibraltar. In total, more than 151 million people live in Southern Europe. Italy is the most populous Southern European country, with a population of around 59 million, and Spain is the second-most populous, with a population of around 47 million. Fewer than a thousand people live in Vatican City, making it not only the least populous country in Southern Europe but also in the world.

Southern Europe’s biggest claims to fame are the ancient civilizations of Rome and Greece. These civilizations had a huge impact on the way the world is today in terms of politics, science, math, architecture, and the arts.

Today, the region’s powerhouses are Italy and Spain. Milan, for example, is a global leader in industry and finance, while Spain boasts a high standard of living, high-tech industries, and a booming agricultural industry. Both countries are far more industrialized than the likes of Portugal and Greece, with Greece, in particular, suffering great economic struggle in recent years.

Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain are members of both the EU and NATO, while Cyprus and Malta are members of the EU but not NATO, and Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Turkey are members of NATO but not the EU. Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, San Marino, Serbia, and Vatican City are neither part of the EU nor NATO.

Countries of Southern Europe

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Croatia
  • Greece
  • Holy See (Vatican City)
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • Montenegro
  • North Macedonia
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain

Dependent territories of Northern Europe

  • Gibraltar

Western Europe

Countries of Western Europe based on the United Nations Geoscheme
Countries of Western Europe based on the United Nations Geoscheme

Approximately 195 million people live across Western Europe’s nine countries, with more than two-thirds of the region’s population residing in the two dominant states, France and Germany. With a population of almost 84 million, Germany is the most populous country in Western Europe, with France following closely behind with about 65 million.

The economies of both France and Germany are among the top ten largest in the world, but being situated in Europe’s core economic region, all the countries in Western Europe have stable economies and a high standard of living.

Western Europe’s other countries are Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, which comprise the Benelux or “Low Countries”, the Alpine countries of Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland, and the principality of Monaco.

The region is renowned for its art, music, and culture, producing musicians and artists like Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, Van Gogh, and Renoir. It is also home to some of the best art galleries and museums in the world, for example, the Louvre in Paris, Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam and the Van Gogh Museum, also in Amsterdam.

The only Western European countries that are not part of the EU or NATO are Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Switzerland, and Austria is a member of the EU but not NATO.

Countries of Western Europe

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • Switzerland

Overview

While Europe is recognized as a single continent, it is worth highlighting the stark contrasts between each of its individual countries and its four regions. Local communities take pride in their unique traditions and individual identities, and so it is important that these cultural, historical, and geographical differences are preserved and celebrated.

FAQs

Credit: Map images created with map.chart.net

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