From Austria and Belgium to France and Monaco, discover how many countries there are in Western Europe. Here’s everything you need to know.

The boundaries of Western Europe are annoyingly difficult to define. I’m from the United Kingdom, and I’ve always considered myself to be a ‘Western European’, but when I began researching this article, I was slightly shocked to discover that many international organisations don’t consider the UK to be part of Western Europe at all.

The United Nations Geoscheme, which divides the world up into convenient regions for statistical purposes, places my home country in Northern Europe rather than Western Europe. I realise now that my vision of the UK as a Western European country has largely been informed by the legacy of the Cold War, which divided the continent rather simplistically into east and west. The reality of course, is much more nuanced, with many of these western countries being better designated as located in either northern or southern Europe.

The point I’m making here is that the ‘borders’ of Western Europe aren’t easily defined. There’s huge crossover between north, south, east and west, and that’s before you consider which countries are Central European, rather than Western European. Is Austria western or central European, for example? Is Spain in western or southern Europe? And so on.

In this article, I’ll delve into nuances of Western Europe’s borders and boundaries, exploring the region’s differing definitions and showing which countries do and don’t belong within the grouping. If you’re fascinated by geopolitics, then keep reading, as I explain how many countries are in Western Europe.

How many countries are in Western Europe?

Determining the exact number of countries within Western Europe can vary depending on different geographical, cultural and historical contexts. Given the number of competing definitions available, I find it useful to look at the UN Geoscheme definition of Western Europe to determine which countries fall within the region.

The UN Geoscheme definition includes the following 9 countries within Western Europe:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. France
  4. Germany
  5. Liechtenstein
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Monaco
  8. Netherlands
  9. Switzerland

This is a narrow definition of Western Europe; what we’ll call the ‘core’ countries, but when it’s viewed in a wider context (within a Europe that’s divided not simply into east and west, but into east, west, north and south) it works well.

A map of Europe. Photo credit:

Read more: How Many Countries Are in Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

Broader definitions of Western Europe

In a broader context, other definitions can also encompass a wider array of countries beyond the core group traditionally associated with the region. This expansive definition includes nations that share cultural, historical, and economic ties with the core Western European countries, sometimes influenced by geopolitical and historical contexts, such as the Cold War alignment.

For example, Western Europe can also include:

  • United Kingdom – Given its significant historical, cultural, and economic ties with Western Europe.
  • Ireland – Often associated with Western Europe due to its geographical proximity and historical connections.
  • Italy – Sometimes included due to its Western cultural and historical heritage.
  • Spain – Included for its geographical location and historical influence in Western Europe.
  • Portugal – Geographically and historically aligned with Western Europe.
  • Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) – Though geographically in Northern Europe, these countries share cultural and historical links with Western Europe.
  • Finland – Occasionally included due to its EU membership and historical ties.
  • Iceland – Though geographically isolated, its cultural and historical connections align it with Western Europe.
  • Andorra – A small nation often grouped with Western Europe due to its location and cultural ties.

The broadest definition of Western Europe, therefore, could count as many 20 countries if all of the above are counted. So why are there so many different potential counts? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons in more detail:

Historical Context

The Cold War era significantly influenced the definition of Western Europe. During this period, Western Europe was defined as the group of countries aligned with the United States and NATO, opposed to the Eastern Bloc led by the Soviet Union. This included the countries of the European Economic Community (EEC), which later evolved into the European Union (EU).

Read more: How Many Countries Are there in Scandinavia? Everything You Need to Know.

Cultural and Economic Considerations

Culturally, Western Europe is characterised by shared heritage from the Roman Empire, Christianity, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. Economically, the region includes some of the world’s most developed economies, known for their high standards of living, advanced infrastructure, and significant contributions to global trade and finance.

Geographical Boundaries

Western Europe is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the North Sea to the northwest, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Pyrenees Mountains form a natural boundary with the Iberian Peninsula, while the Alps demarcate much of the region’s southeastern edge. The Rhine River, flowing through Germany and the Netherlands, is a significant geographical feature.

Read more: Where Are the Baltics? Everything You Need to Know.

Political Landscape

Politically, Western Europe is known for its stable democracies and significant roles in international organisations like the EU, NATO, and the UN. Countries such as Germany and France are key players in shaping European policies and global diplomacy.

The Pyrenees mark the boundary of Western Europe. Photo credit:

Where is Western Europe, exactly?

Geographically, Western Europe can be defined by its distinct boundaries, natural features, and relative location within the broader continent of Europe. This region, while sometimes subject to varying interpretations, generally includes countries west of Central Europe, north of Southern Europe and south of Northern Europe.

Here’s an in-depth look at Western Europe’s boundaries from a geographical perspective:

  • Atlantic Ocean: This natural boundary defines the western edge of Europe, where countries like France, Spain, and Portugal have extensive Atlantic coastlines.
  • North Sea: The North Sea separates the British Isles from the mainland of Western Europe, touching the coasts of the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark.
  • English Channel: This body of water separates Southern England from northern France and serves as an important maritime route.
  • Rhine River and the Alps: These natural features often serve as geographical delineations between Western and Central Europe. The Rhine River runs from the Swiss Alps, through Germany, and into the North Sea. The Alps form a significant mountain range that separates Austria, Switzerland, and parts of France from Central and Southern Europe.
  • Pyrenees Mountains: This range forms a natural boundary between France and Spain.
  • Mediterranean Sea: This sea borders the southern coastlines of France, Monaco, and Spain, providing a clear southern limit to Western Europe
The River Rhine is a significant geographical feature running through Western Europe. Photo credit:

Read more: How Many Countries in Eastern Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

Where does Northern Europe begin?

Northern Europe is generally defined as the region that lies to the north of the rest of Europe, encompassing the Nordic countries, parts of the British Isles, and the Baltic states. The exact boundaries can vary based on different contexts (geographical, cultural, or political), but a broad understanding includes the following elements:

  • British Isles: This includes Scotland and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland. Some definitions might include all of the UK and Ireland as part of Northern Europe due to their cultural and historical ties with the Nordic countries.
  • Scandinavian Peninsula: This includes Norway and Sweden, which are considered core parts of Northern Europe.
  • Finland: Often included due to its geographical proximity to Sweden and Norway, and cultural connections with the Nordic region.
  • Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are commonly considered part of Northern Europe due to their location on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea.
My home country, the United Kingdom, is northern rather than western European.

Read more: How Many Countries in Northern Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

Where does Southern Europe begin?

Southern Europe begins south of the Alps and the Pyrenees, extending to the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan Peninsulas. It includes the following countries:

  • Spain and Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Italy, including Sicily and Sardinia, on the Italian Peninsula.
  • Greece and Malta in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Balkan Peninsula countries such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and sometimes Slovenia.
  • Mediterranean islands like Cyprus.
The Top Things To Do In Northern Cyprus
Countries like Cyprus are better placed in Southern Europe.

Read more: How Many Countries in Southern Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

Where does Central Europe begin?

Central Europe is a region that lies between Western and Eastern Europe, characterised by a mix of cultural influences and historical ties to both regions. The exact boundaries can vary, but generally, Central Europe includes the following countries and key geographical markers:

  • Germany: Often considered the western edge of Central Europe, sharing borders with France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
  • Baltic Sea and Northern Plains: Including northern parts of Poland and Germany, which blend into Northern Europe.
  • Eastern Europe: Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic mark the transition to Eastern Europe, sharing historical and cultural ties with both regions.
  • Alps and Danube River: The Alps form a natural boundary with Southern Europe, while the Danube River flows through multiple Central European countries, including Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary.
Countries like Slovakia are typically viewed as Central European. Photo credit:

Read more: How Many Countries in Central Europe? Everything You Need to Know.

A brief history of Western Europe

Let’s take a look at a simplified version of Western Europe’s often convoluted history so we can better understand the modern geopolitical definitions of the region that exist today.

Ancient and Classical Periods

Western Europe has been inhabited for thousands of years, with evidence of early human settlements dating back to prehistoric times. The region saw the rise of several significant ancient cultures, including the Celtic tribes. The arrival of the Romans around the 1st century BCE brought profound changes, leading to the establishment of Roman provinces such as Gaul (modern-day France) and Britannia (modern-day Britain). Roman influence left a lasting legacy in terms of infrastructure, language, and law.

Medieval Period

Fall of the Roman Empire: The decline and eventual fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century CE marked the beginning of the medieval period. This era was characterised by the fragmentation of territories and the rise of various barbarian kingdoms.

Frankish Empire: The Frankish Empire, under leaders like Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor in 800 CE, played a crucial role in shaping medieval Western Europe. Charlemagne’s reign saw the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, culture, and learning based on classical models.

Feudalism and the Holy Roman Empire: Feudalism became the dominant social and economic system. The Holy Roman Empire, centred in modern-day Germany and extending into Italy, Austria, and other parts of Central Europe, was a key political entity.

Read more: What Are the Nordics? Everything You Need to Know.

Renaissance and Early Modern Period

Renaissance: Beginning in the 14th century, the Renaissance was a period of cultural and intellectual revival. Originating in Italy, it spread to the rest of Western Europe, bringing advancements in art, science, and exploration.

Reformation and Religious Wars: The 16th century saw the Protestant Reformation, initiated by figures like Martin Luther. This led to significant religious upheaval and conflicts, including the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), which devastated much of Central Europe but had lasting impacts on Western Europe.

Enlightenment and Revolution

Age of Enlightenment: The 17th and 18th centuries were marked by the Enlightenment, a period of intellectual growth that emphasised reason, science, and individualism. Philosophers like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Locke profoundly influenced Western European societies.

French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars: The late 18th century saw the French Revolution (1789), which overthrew the monarchy and led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Napoleonic Wars reshaped the political landscape of Europe, spreading revolutionary ideas across the continent.

Industrial Revolution and Modern Era

Industrial Revolution: Starting in Britain in the late 18th century, the Industrial Revolution transformed Western Europe economically and socially. It led to urbanisation, technological advancements, and significant changes in the workforce and production methods.

World Wars: The 20th century was marked by two World Wars, which had devastating effects on Western Europe. World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) caused massive destruction and loss of life, leading to significant political and social changes.

Cold War: Post-World War II, Western Europe was a central theatre in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Marshall Plan helped rebuild Western European economies, and the formation of NATO provided collective security.

Contemporary Period

European Integration: The latter half of the 20th century saw increasing efforts toward European integration. The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 evolved into the European Economic Community (EEC) and eventually the European Union (EU), promoting economic cooperation and political stability.

Recent Developments: The early 21st century has seen challenges such as the financial crisis of 2008, the migration crisis, and Brexit, where the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU. Despite these challenges, Western Europe remains a region of significant economic, cultural, and political influence globally.

Luxembourg is home to many EU institutions. Photo credit:

Read more: How Many Countries in the Mediterranean? Everything You Need to Know.

How many Western European countries are in the European Union?

The following Western European countries are members of the European Union:

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. France
  4. Germany
  5. Luxembourg
  6. Netherlands

Several Western European countries are not members of the European Union, but do have arrangements with the EU. These include:

  1. Switzerland: Although not an EU member, Switzerland has numerous agreements with the EU that allow for participation in certain aspects of the EU single market.
  2. Liechtenstein: Similar to Norway, it is part of the EEA.
  3. Monaco: Has a customs union with France and uses the euro, but is not an EU member.
The headquarters of the European commission in Brussels. Photo credit:

How many Western European countries are in NATO?

The following Western European countries are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO):

  1. Belgium
  2. France
  3. Germany
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Netherlands

Several Western European countries are therefore not NATO members:

  1. Austria: Maintains a policy of neutrality and is not a member of NATO.
  2. Switzerland: Also follows a policy of neutrality and is not a NATO member.
  3. Liechtenstein: Relies on Switzerland for defence and is not a NATO member.
  4. Monaco: Not a NATO member and relies on France for defence.
Flags’ of Members of NATO at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Photo credit:

So, how many countries are in Western Europe?

As we’ve seen, the exact number of countries classified as part of Western Europe can vary. However, a commonly accepted list includes the 9 countries of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Understanding the countries that constitute Western Europe is essential for grasping the broader European and global landscapes. Whether considering the core members of the European Union, participants in NATO, or those maintaining a stance of neutrality, the countries of Western Europe play pivotal roles in shaping international affairs. This region remains a cornerstone of the European continent, fostering a blend of tradition and modernity that continues to impact the world.

Read more: 10 Most Visited Cities in Europe

FAQ: How many countries are in Western Europe?

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

Q1: How many countries are traditionally considered part of Western Europe?

A: Western Europe typically includes nine countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Q2: Why is the number of countries in Western Europe sometimes debated?

A: The definition of Western Europe can vary based on geographical, cultural, historical, and political contexts. Different sources and organisations may have slightly different classifications.

Q3: Are there any countries that are sometimes included in Western Europe but not universally accepted?

A: Yes, sometimes countries like the United Kingdom and Ireland are included due to their cultural and historical ties, although they are often considered part of the British Isles or Northern Europe.

Q4: Which Western European countries are members of the European Union (EU)?

A: As of 2024, the Western European countries in the EU are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Q5: Which Western European countries are not members of the EU?

A: Switzerland, Norway (geographically Northern Europe but often associated with Western Europe), Liechtenstein, and Monaco are not EU members.

Q6: Which Western European countries are members of NATO?

A: The Western European countries in NATO are Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Q7: Are there any Western European countries that maintain neutrality and are not part of NATO?

A: Yes, Austria and Switzerland maintain policies of neutrality and are not NATO members. Ireland, sometimes associated with Western Europe, also maintains neutrality.

Q8: What are the geographical boundaries of Western Europe?

A: Western Europe is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the North Sea to the northwest, the Pyrenees Mountains to the south, and the Alps and Rhine River to the east.

Q9: How does history influence the classification of Western European countries?

A: Historical events such as the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the Reformation, and both World Wars have shaped the cultural and political landscapes of Western Europe, influencing which countries are included in this region.

Q10: How do economic factors play a role in defining Western Europe?

A: Western Europe includes some of the world’s most developed economies, known for high standards of living, advanced infrastructure, and significant contributions to global trade and finance, helping to define the region’s boundaries.