From Andorra and Belgium to Spain and the United Kingdom, there are a minimum of 44 countries in Europe. This number can increase to 50, depending on your definition of Europe. Here’s everything you need to know.

Spain, Germany, Poland, France and the United Kingdom; these are all countries we know to be in Europe. But the edges of the continent are hard to define, and competing definitions of the continent can result in wildly different country counts ranging from 44 to 50, or even higher, including countries as far reaching as Kazakhstan.

The country count for Europe depends on who you’re asking or who’s asking. The classic count is 44, a list which is based on the United Nations geoscheme division. My personal list, however, is larger than this, as I include partially recognised countries like Kosovo, and transconintal countries like Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey that can also be defined as Asian.

In this article, I’ll explore the different definitions of Europe, and the different ways the number of countries in Europe can be calculated. Keep reading, to find out more.

How many countries are in Europe?

The count and definition of European countries can vary depending on the context and criteria used. The simplest count is 44, a figure based on the United Nations geoscheme for Europe, a system used for statistical purposes for the United Nations.

This count of the number of countries in Europe does not, however, include any breakaway territories or UN Observer States, including Vatican City and Kosovo. For this reason (I would include Vatican City and Kosovo, having visited both), my personal list would be a minimum of 46 rather than 44 countries.

Apart from Russia, the UN definition also does not include transcontinental countries like Turkey or Georgia which are often lumped in with Asia instead of Europe. Again, I would include Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the list, which brings my list to 50!

Considering transcontinental countries and other ambiguous inclusions, the maximum count for the number of countries in Europe would be 51, if you also included Kazakhstan. However, I would classify this as being in Central Asia rather than Europe.

Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, the southern boundary of Europe.

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List of European countries

The United Nations recognises the following 44 countries in Europe:

  1. Albania
  2. Andorra
  3. Austria
  4. Belarus
  5. Belgium
  6. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  7. Bulgaria
  8. Croatia
  9. Cyprus
  10. Czech Republic
  11. Denmark
  12. Estonia
  13. Finland
  14. France
  15. Germany
  16. Greece
  17. Hungary
  18. Iceland
  19. Ireland
  20. Italy
  21. Latvia
  22. Liechtenstein
  23. Lithuania
  24. Luxembourg
  25. Malta
  26. Moldova
  27. Monaco
  28. Montenegro
  29. Netherlands
  30. North Macedonia
  31. Norway
  32. Poland
  33. Portugal
  34. Romania
  35. Russia
  36. San Marino
  37. Serbia
  38. Slovakia
  39. Slovenia
  40. Spain
  41. Sweden
  42. Switzerland
  43. Ukraine
  44. United Kingdom

Vatican City and Kosovo can also be included in the list:

  1. Holy See (Vatican City): Though it’s a sovereign entity and recognised as such, the Holy See (the jurisdiction of the Vatican City) holds the status of a Permanent Observer State in the United Nations. It is located entirely within the city of Rome, Italy, and is widely acknowledged as part of Europe.
  2. Kosovo: Declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and is recognised by over 100 countries and most Western entities, although not by Serbia or several other countries, including Russia and China. Its status remains a subject of international debate and negotiation.

Beyond the core list of recognised European countries, there are several others that could be included based on varying definitions of Europe’s boundaries or their transcontinental status. Here’s a list detailing these countries:

  1. Armenia: Often considered part of Europe culturally and politically, Armenia participates in European sports organisations and political partnerships.
  2. Azerbaijan: Straddling Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan is commonly involved in European political and cultural activities.
  3. Georgia: Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia is typically associated with Europe in terms of culture and politics.
  4. Kazakhstan: While mostly in Central Asia, a small part of Kazakhstan is located west of the Ural River, placing it in Europe geographically.
  5. Turkey: Straddles the boundary between Southeast Europe and Western Asia, with a significant portion of its population and its largest city, Istanbul, in Europe.

There are several breakaway territories in Europe that are not internationally recognised as independent states but claim sovereignty and maintain a degree of self-governance. Here are some notable examples:

  1. Transnistria: Officially known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, it declared independence from Moldova in 1990 but is not recognised by any United Nations member states, including Moldova.
  2. Northern Cyprus: Officially the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, it declared independence in 1983 following Turkey’s invasion in 1974. It is recognised only by Turkey and is considered by the international community as part of Cyprus.
  3. Abkhazia: After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1992. It is recognised by a few countries but not by the United Nations or Georgia.
  4. South Ossetia: Also declared independence from Georgia following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, with limited international recognition similar to Abkhazia.
  5. Nagorno-Karabakh: Known as the Republic of Artsakh, it is a region that declared independence from Azerbaijan. It is not recognised by any United Nations member state, including Armenia, which supports the region politically and economically.
Traditional map of Europe created by the CIA (North Africa is shown at the bottom of the map).

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Why are there different definitions of Europe?

The definition of ‘Europe’ as a continent is malleable, so let’s take a look at the most popular conventional ways to define the continent, in geographical, political and historical terms:

Geographical Boundaries

The simplest and most straightforward definition involves continental boundaries. Europe is traditionally defined as one of the seven continents, bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by Asia (typically along the Ural Mountains, Ural River, Caspian Sea, Caucasus Mountains, and the Black Sea with its outlets), and on the south by the Mediterranean Sea. However, the precise delineation, especially with Asia, can be ambiguous, leading to varying counts.

Political Definitions

Political considerations can affect the count of European countries, especially with nations that have territory in both Europe and Asia, such as Russia and Turkey. The political approach often considers the socio-political connections, memberships in European organisations (like the European Union or the Council of Europe), and historical ties.

Cultural and Historical Criteria

Cultural and historical connections also play a significant role. Some countries are considered part of Europe due to historical ties, cultural similarities, and historical inclusion within European spheres of influence, even if geographically they might be on the fringes or partly in Asia.

International Organisations

Various international organisations have their own criteria for membership, influencing the count of European countries:

  • The United Nations lists 44 sovereign states in Europe, including partially recognised states.
  • The European Union (EU) has 27 member states, all of which are recognised as part of Europe.
  • The Council of Europe has 46 member countries, which includes nearly all European states plus some countries that straddle the continent’s boundaries or have special agreements.

Sovereignty and Recognition Issues

The count can also vary due to disputes over sovereignty and recognition. Some territories and regions in Europe claim independence or are subject to territorial disputes, affecting whether they are counted as separate countries. This includes countries such as Kosovo and Northern Cyprus and breakaway territories like Transnistria and Abkhazia.

Transcontinental Countries

Countries like Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia are transcontinental, with territories in both Europe and Asia. How much of these countries are considered European depends on the context and criteria applied, thus affecting the total count.

Given these varying criteria, the number of countries in Europe is generally considered to be between 44 and 51. The specific number depends on the inclusion criteria related to geopolitical, cultural, and organisational membership considerations.

Aktau Caspian Sea Ferry
The author standing by the Caspian Sea, one of the geographical boundaries of Europe.

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How is Europe defined geographically?

Europe’s geographical definition is traditionally delineated by a series of natural boundaries that separate it from neighbouring continents, most notably Asia. These boundaries are not universally agreed upon and can vary depending on the source, but they generally include the following features:

  • The Ural Mountains: Stretching from the northern coast of Kazakhstan to the Arctic Ocean, the Ural Mountains are commonly cited as the eastern boundary that separates Europe from Asia.
  • The Ural River: Flowing from the southern end of the Ural Mountains into the Caspian Sea, the Ural River further helps to delineate the continental boundary to the south.
  • The Caspian Sea: This large inland body of water is situated east of Europe, acting as part of the boundary between the two continents. Some definitions consider the water body itself as the boundary, while others use the sea as a reference point for a line extending further.
  • The Caucasus Mountains: Stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus Mountains are often considered the southern boundary between Europe and Asia. The precise boundary within this mountain range is subject to varying interpretations, with some definitions placing countries like Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia in Europe, Asia, or both.
  • The Black Sea and the Bosporus: The Black Sea lies to the southeast of Europe, with the Bosporus Strait connecting it to the Sea of Marmara and ultimately the Aegean Sea through the Dardanelles Strait. The Bosporus is particularly significant because it runs through Istanbul, Turkey, a city that straddles two continents.
  • The Dardanelles Strait: Connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles Strait is another critical geographical marker separating Europe from Asia.
  • The Sea of Marmara: Positioned between the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, this inland sea acts as a bridge of water between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea, marking the boundary between Europe and Asia.

To the west, Europe is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean; to the north, by the Arctic Ocean; and to the south, by the Mediterranean Sea, which separates it from Africa. These natural boundaries have been used for centuries to define the continent of Europe, though the exact demarcations, especially in regions like the Caucasus and the division between the Ural Mountains and River, can vary depending on historical, cultural, and political considerations.

Istanbul straddles both Europe and Asia.

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How many countries are in the European Union?

The European Union represents a unique political and economic union between these countries, facilitating free trade, a single market, and the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital.

The EU consists of 27 member countries, which is significantly fewer than the total number of countries generally recognised as being in Europe, which is at least 44. The EU does not include all European countries; notable exclusions are Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, which are part of Europe but have chosen not to join the EU.

There are currently 27 member countries in the European Union (EU). These countries are:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Croatia
  5. Cyprus
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Greece
  13. Hungary
  14. Ireland
  15. Italy
  16. Latvia
  17. Lithuania
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Malta
  20. Netherlands
  21. Poland
  22. Portugal
  23. Romania
  24. Slovakia
  25. Slovenia
  26. Spain
  27. Sweden
The flag of the European Union.

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How many countries participate in Eurovision?

The Eurovision Song Contest, an annual international TV song competition, has participants from a broader array of countries than those strictly within geographical Europe. Curiously, the competition included not only European countries but also countries that are members of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which extends beyond Europe’s geographical boundaries.

The number of participating countries can vary each year, but typically around 40 countries take part in the contest. The EBU membership, and thus eligibility for Eurovision participation, includes countries within the European Broadcasting Area as defined by the International Telecommunication Union, and it also includes associate members from outside this area. This means countries like Israel, Australia and Kazakhstan (which is an associate member of the EBU) can participate or apply to participate in the contest.

Using Eurovision as an indicator of whether a country is in Europe is not accurate because the contest’s eligibility is based on EBU membership rather than geographical location. The EBU’s European Broadcasting Area is defined by broader parameters that include parts of North Africa and the Middle East, making Eurovision a more inclusive event that transcends strict geographical definitions of Europe.

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Are there territories or dependencies in Europe?

In addition to the breakaway territories and regions seeking recognition, Europe also includes several territories and dependencies that have unique political and administrative statuses due to historical, geographical, or political reasons. These territories are often remnants of historical empires or the result of specific international agreements. Here are some notable examples:

  • Gibraltar: A British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar has been under British control since 1713, following the Treaty of Utrecht. It is subject to a territorial claim by Spain, but its people have repeatedly expressed a desire to remain British, most notably in referendums.
  • Faroe Islands and Greenland: Both are autonomous territories within the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroe Islands are located between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, and Greenland is the world’s largest island, situated between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Both have their own governments and extensive control over their domestic affairs.
  • Åland Islands: An autonomous and demilitarised region of Finland, located in the Baltic Sea between mainland Finland and Sweden. The Åland Islands have their own government, and Swedish is the official language.
  • Svalbard: An archipelago in the Arctic Ocean under Norwegian sovereignty, Svalbard is subject to the unique Svalbard Treaty of 1920, which grants Norway full and absolute sovereignty but also ensures certain rights to the citizens and companies of signatory countries, such as commercial rights.
  • Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man: These are Crown Dependencies of the British Crown, which means they are not part of the United Kingdom but are self-governing possessions of the Crown. They have their own legal systems and governments and are responsible for their own domestic affairs, including taxation and social services.
  • Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) of the EU: Several territories associated with EU member states, such as the French overseas departments and territories, the Dutch territories in the Caribbean, and the British Overseas Territories, have a special relationship with the European Union. They are not part of the EU but have associations that provide them with a unique status and certain privileges.

These territories and dependencies illustrate the complexities of sovereignty, autonomy and historical legacies that characterise Europe’s political landscape. Their unique statuses often reflect historical agreements and contemporary political relationships, underscoring the diversity of governance structures within the continent.

Sark
The author pictured in Sark, one of the UK’s Channel Islands.

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Is Turkey in Europe?

Turkey is a transcontinental country, with a small portion of its territory (about 3% to 5%) located in Southeast Europe and the majority in Western Asia. The European part of Turkey is situated in the region known as East Thrace (or Turkish Thrace), which is separated from the Asian part of the country, Anatolia (or Asia Minor), by the Bosporus Strait, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles. These natural waterways serve not only as significant geographical markers but also as crucial conduits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

The European section of Turkey includes the city of Istanbul, which spans both continents and is notable for being the world’s only major city to straddle two continents. Istanbul’s historical and economic significance is immense, serving as a bridge between East and West for centuries, and it was historically known as Byzantium and later Constantinople before the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

The author in Eastern Turkey.

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Is Cyprus in Europe?

Cyprus is geographically located in the Eastern Mediterranean, at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Despite its geographical proximity to Asia and Africa, Cyprus is culturally, politically, and historically aligned with Europe. It is a member state of the European Union, having joined on 1 May 2004, which cements its status as part of Europe in terms of political and economic integration.

The Republic of Cyprus is the internationally recognised government of the island, controlling the southern two-thirds, while the northern third is administered by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. The division came after a coup d’état in 1974 by Greek Cypriots seeking union with Greece and a subsequent Turkish military intervention.

Cyprus’s EU membership, strategic location, and historical ties with Greece and the broader Mediterranean region contribute to its identification with Europe, despite its geographical location closer to the Middle Eastern and North African shores.

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The border between Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus.

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Are Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in Europe?

Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are often considered part of both Eastern Europe and Western Asia due to their geographic, cultural, and historical connections. These countries are located in the South Caucasus region, which straddles the boundary between the two continents. The precise continental classification can depend on the context in which it is being considered; geographically, culturally, or politically.

  • Georgia: is situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, bordered by Russia to the north, Azerbaijan to the southeast, Armenia to the south, and Turkey to the southwest. The Greater Caucasus mountain range, which forms part of the traditional boundary between Europe and Asia, runs along its northern border. Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, is often considered part of Europe in cultural and political terms, especially given Georgia’s aspirations for closer ties with the European Union and its participation in European institutions.
  • Armenia: is located in the South Caucasus, bordered by Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south, and Turkey to the west. While geographically more aligned with Western Asia, Armenia identifies strongly with European culture and history, particularly through its Christian heritage, being the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD. Armenia is a member of various European organisations and participates in the Eurovision Song Contest and European sports competitions, further reflecting its cultural ties to Europe.
  • Azerbaijan: straddles Eastern Europe and Western Asia, with the Caucasus Mountains dividing the country between the two continents. The country shares borders with Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, Iran to the south, and it has a coastline along the Caspian Sea to the east. Like Georgia and Armenia, Azerbaijan is culturally and politically aligned with Europe in many respects, despite its geographic location. The country participates in European cultural and political activities, such as the Eurovision Song Contest and the Council of Europe.

While these countries are geographically located mainly in what might be considered Western Asia, their historical, cultural, and political associations with Europe make them integral parts of the broader European space. Their participation in European cultural and political organisations highlights the fluid nature of continental boundaries and the importance of cultural and historical ties in defining regional identities.

Georgia sits in the Caucausus Mountains.

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Is Iceland in Europe?

Iceland is considered part of Europe. Geographically, it’s a North Atlantic island nation situated between Europe and North America, but politically and culturally, Iceland is closely aligned with Europe. It lies northwest of the United Kingdom and north of the mainland of Europe, and though it’s closer to Greenland (which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark) and the North American continent, it is typically grouped with European countries due to its historical, cultural, and political ties.

Iceland is a member of various European organisations, including the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Schengen Agreement, which allows for passport-free travel between member states. While not a member of the European Union, Iceland is part of the European Economic Area (EEA), which provides for the free movement of persons, goods, services, and capital within the internal market of the EU.

Iceland’s historical connections to Europe are deep, dating back to its settlement by Norse Vikings in the late 9th century. The country shares much of its cultural heritage and historical developments with other Nordic countries in Europe.

Silfra Snrokeling Iceland
The Silfra Fissure is formed by the separation of the European and North American tectonic plates.

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Is Russia in Europe or Asia?

Russia is a transcontinental country, spanning both Europe and Asia. It is the largest country in the world by area, and its territory extends across the entirety of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, making it a bridge between the two continents.

The traditional boundary between the European and Asian parts of Russia is generally considered to be along the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, and the Caspian Sea to the south, followed by the Caucasus Mountains to the southwest. Approximately 77% of Russia’s land area is in Asia, but the European part of Russia houses around 75% of the country’s population, including Moscow, its capital and largest city, and St. Petersburg, its second-largest city.

The European part of Russia includes the vast plains of the west and northwest, extending to the Arctic Ocean and the Ural Mountains. This area encompasses Russia’s most populous and economically developed regions, with a dense network of cities, industries, and agriculture.

FAQ: How many countries are in Europe?

Here’s an FAQ on the topic, ‘How many countries are in Europe?’:

Q1. How many countries are there in Europe?

Europe consists of 44 sovereign countries. This number can vary slightly depending on the criteria used for defining the geographical boundaries of Europe.

Q2. Are there any transcontinental countries in Europe?

Yes, there are transcontinental countries that have territories in both Europe and Asia. The most notable examples include Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The European parts of these countries are defined by geographical boundaries such as the Ural Mountains, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Bosporus Strait.

Q3. Does the European Union encompass all European countries?

No, the European Union (EU) is a political and economic union that includes 27 European countries. Not all European countries are members of the EU.

Q4. Are there any unrecognised or partially recognised states in Europe?

Yes, there are territories in Europe that have declared independence but are not widely recognised by the international community. Examples include Transnistria, Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

Q5. How are the geographical boundaries of Europe defined?

The geographical boundaries of Europe are traditionally defined by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Ural Mountains and Ural River to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Caucasus Mountains and the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits also play a role in defining the boundary between Europe and Asia.

Q6. Can countries outside the geographical boundaries of Europe participate in European cultural or political events?

Yes, countries outside the traditional geographical boundaries of Europe can participate in European cultural or political events if they are members of relevant European organizations. For example, Israel and Australia participate in the Eurovision Song Contest due to their membership in the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Q7. What is the smallest country in Europe?

The smallest country in Europe is Vatican City, an independent city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. It is also the smallest country in the world by both area and population.

Q8. How has the concept of Europe changed over time?

The concept of Europe has evolved over centuries, influenced by historical, cultural, political, and economic factors. The definition of Europe’s boundaries and the criteria for determining which countries are considered part of Europe can change based on geopolitical developments and shifts in cultural and economic ties.

Q9. Is Cyprus considered a part of Europe?

Yes, Cyprus is considered part of Europe. Despite its geographical location closer to Asia and Africa, Cyprus is culturally and politically aligned with Europe and is a member of the European Union.

Q10. Are territories like Greenland and the Faroe Islands considered part of Europe?

Greenland and the Faroe Islands are autonomous territories within the Kingdom of Denmark. Geographically, Greenland is part of North America, while the Faroe Islands are situated in the North Atlantic between the British Isles and Iceland. Politically and culturally, they are associated with Europe through Denmark.