Home to some of the world’s most visited attractions and incredible feats of nature and humanity, Europe is one fascinating continent. From the smallest town in the world to the biggest church on earth, and from a knighted penguin to a country free of mosquitoes, there are hundreds of random and fun facts about Europe. Here are 21 things about this amazing continent that may just surprise you.
1. The Louvre is the most visited attraction in Europe
What do you think is the most visited attraction in Europe? The Colosseum? The Eiffel Tower? Disneyland Paris? All of these are close guesses, but it’s actually the Louvre in Paris! It saw a record 10.2 million visitors in 2018, while Disneyland Paris gets close to 10 million, the Eiffel Tower sees around 7 million, and the Colosseum gets 6 million. It’s wonderful to know there are so many art fans flocking to see some of the world’s most iconic artworks in the Louvre. Perhaps this is the reason behind Mona Lisa’s coy smile…?
Another fun fact about the Louvre in Europe is that even if you spent only 30 seconds on each artwork in the Louvre, it would still take you 35 days straight to see every piece. That’s a lot of art gazing!
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2. Iceland doesn’t have mosquitos
Although there are more than 3,000 types of mosquitoes in the world, Iceland doesn’t have any at all. Amazingly, Iceland is believed to be completely clear of any mosquitoes, thanks to the cold temperatures and lack of shallow ponds that mosquitoes love. So if you’re prone to mosquito bites, you better head to Iceland!
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3. Cards from the Queen
One of the most random facts about Europe is that if you live in the Commonwealth, you can get a letter from the Queen of England! If you celebrate your 100th and 105th birthday and every year after, or your 60th, 65th, 70th anniversaries and every year after, you’ll get a congratulatory card from Queen Elizabeth herself.
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4. More chocolate is bought at Brussels Airport than anywhere else in the world
You’ve probably heard about Belgian chocolate. It’s famed as some of the best chocolate in the world, and travellers obviously know it, as Brussels Airport sells more of the sweet stuff than anywhere else on earth. Over 800 tonnes of chocolate is sold every year at the airport, and we know we can’t resist picking up a box or two on our way through Brussels!
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5. Norway knighted a penguin
Did you know there’s a penguin more aristocratic than you? One of our favourite fun facts about Europe is that Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo is home to a knighted penguin named Brigadier Sir Nils Olav III. He’s the mascot and colonel-in-chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard and he’s the third king penguin to serve. The first Sir Olav penguin served between 1972 and 1987.
6. St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in Europe
Looking for impressive churches? It’s got to be St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, in Rome. Standing at 222 metres long, 152 metres wide, 137 metres tall, and with a capacity for 60,000 people, this is not only the largest church in Europe but the whole world. Seems fitting that the church is in Vatican City, the home of the Pope.
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7. The Kingdom of Denmark is the oldest monarchy in Europe
Founded in 935 by Viking kings Gorm the Old and Harald Bluetooth, the Danish Monarchy has been ruling Denmark for over 1,000 years. From Gorm the Old to the current Queen Margrethe II, this royal family is the oldest in all of Europe.
Another random fact about Europe’s monarchies is that there are still ten European countries with royal families. Although most of the attention goes to Queen Elizabeth and her family in the UK, there are also monarchies in Spain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Monaco, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Denmark.
8. Never clink your glasses in Hungary
While you may be used to saying cheers and clinking your glasses with friends, you should never do this in Hungary. This custom goes back to 1848 when Austria defeated Hungary in the revolution. The Austrians celebrated by clinking their beer glasses while toasting their victory. Ever since, Hungarians have not clinked their glasses during a toast. Instead, you should say “Egészségedre” and look your Hungarian friends in the eye before taking a drink.
9. The Czech Republic has the most castles in Europe
Love castles? You’ll adore the Czech Republic. The country has 932 castles and 1,187 stately homes – that’s more than any other country in Europe. Even if you visited one castle a day, it would take you over 2.5 years to see them all, so you better get started!
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10. You’ll find Europe’s tallest building in Russia
Did you know that the tallest building in Europe is in St. Petersburg in Russia? Soaring into the sky like a glass shard, the Lakhta Center is a whopping 462 metres in height. There are 87 stories and you’re sure to get some spectacular views from the top of this incredible building.
11. There are more than 200 languages spoken in Europe
With dozens of unique cultures and countries across Europe, there are over 200 languages spoken on the continent, although only 24 are recognised as the official languages of the European Union. Of the 24, three are designated as “procedural” languages, including English, French and Germany. Also, the most common language spoken in Europe is English, and 38% of the European population can speak it.
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12. Norway has the longest coastline in Europe
Made up of stunning fjords, rugged islands and windswept rocky shores, Norway’s coastline is the longest in Europe and the second-longest in the world (after Canada). It’s over 100,000 kilometres long and you’re sure to have some amazing adventures exploring this Scandinavian coast.
13. The smallest town in Europe is in Croatia
One fun fact about Europe is that it’s home to the smallest town in the world! The little town of Hum is found in the Istria region northwest of Croatia and the population is only 30 people (according to the 2011 census). Along with its tiny size, Hum is also famous for its mistletoe brandy called biska. Legend says that ancient Celtic Druids left the biska recipe in Hum around 2,000 years ago. Another interesting fact about Hum in Europe is that the majority of the population speak Italian, thanks to their close proximity to Italy.
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14. La Sagrada Familia is taking longer to build than the pyramids
Antoni Gaudi’s enchanting La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is a true architectural masterpiece… which explains why it’s taking so long to finish! While the extraordinary ancient pyramids of Egypt were constructed in 85 years, between 2589 and 2504 BC, La Sagrada Familia has been under construction for the past 138 years. Construction first began on the famous basilica in 1882 and although Gaudi didn’t get to see his extraordinary work completed, Barcelona is aiming to complete it by 2026, for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.
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15. Denmark has 7,000 approved baby names
Denmark has some unusual baby naming laws. New parents must name their child one of the 7,000 pre-approved names, like Benji or Molli. Creative spellings of common names are also not permitted under these laws. Want to name your kid something unique? You’ll need to get permission from the government. There’s also some banned names too, so if you’re from Denmark, don’t even think about naming your baby Pluto, Anus or Monkey. They weren’t our first choices either!
16. It’s illegal in Switzerland to mow your lawn on Sundays
You can probably get on board with this fun fact about Europe. In Switzerland, you’re not allowed to mow your lawn, build anything, wash your car or hang clothes out to dry on Sundays. The Swiss believe Sunday is a day for rest and noisy and annoying household chores shouldn’t interfere with everyone’s relaxation.
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17. Bulgaria is the oldest European nation by name
You may know that the Republic of San Marino is the oldest independent state in Europe (dating back to 301 AD!), but another fun fact about Europe is that Bulgaria is the oldest European country by name. While dozens of countries in Europe have chopped and changed their names over the years, Bulgaria has stuck with the same name since it adopted it in 681 AD.
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18. There is a rainforest in Europe
When you think of Europe, you probably imagine snowy Alps, lush pine forests and winding rivers, but did you know that there is one last remaining rainforest in Europe? Found in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Perućica Rainforest is a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most precious green lungs in Europe.
19. Only 1% of the British Museum’s collection is on display
The British Museum in London is one of the most-visited in the world, with around six million visitors every year. They come to admire the impressive collection of eight million artworks and antiquities… But did you know you’re only seeing around 1% of the collection at any time? There’s only room for around 800,000 objects to be displayed, so let’s hope you catch your favourites when you visit!
20. Wales has a town with 57 letters in its name
Think you’re good at tongue twisters? Try pronouncing the name of this Welsh town – “Llanfairpwll-gwyngyllgogerychwyrndrob-wllllantysiliogogogoch”. It might look like someone dropped something on their keyboard, but it’s a real name, and it means “cave”. The name is 58 letters long, making it the longest name of any town in Europe, but you can call it Llanfairpwll, or Llanfair PG for short. If you want to see how it’s pronounced, check out this weatherman nailing it during a broadcast.
21. 10 Scandinavian villages have names that are just one letter long
Wales might have the longest town name, but Scandinavia takes the crown for the shortest town names. There are 10 villages across Denmark, Sweden and Norway that have names just one single letter long. Most are named “Å”, meaning “small brook or river” in Scandinavian languages, while one village is named “Ö” meaning “island” in Swedish.
Do you know any random fun facts about Europe? Let us know in the comments below!