What Is Continental Europe?

Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca) in Portugal is the westernmost point continental Europe.
Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca) in Portugal is the westernmost point continental Europe.

The continent of Europe is situated in the Northern Hemisphere and bordered to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, to the north by the Arctic Ocean, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The continent is separated from the continent of Asia by the Caucasus Mountains and the watershed divide of the Ural Mountains. Europe covers a total area of approximately 3.9 million square miles and has a total population of over 740 million people. Apart from a continuous landmass, Europe also has several islands, generally grouped by nearest landmass. The word “Europe” is also used to exclusively refer to continental Europe.

Definition of Continental Europe

Continental Europe is a continuous continental landmass that forms the mainland continent of Europe, excluding the surrounding islands. It is simply the continent of Europe, excluding European islands such as the Canary Islands, British Isles, and the Greek Islands, as well as the oceanic islands such as the Faroe Islands, Iceland, the Madeira Islands, and Svalbard. Some definitions also exclude the Scandinavian Peninsula since it is connected to the rest of the continent across the Baltic Sea rather than a continuous strip of land. Different people have different ideas as to which country should be included in continental Europe because of the different definitions and usage of the term.


The term “continental Europe” applies differently to different groups of people. In some places, it is used to refer to a way of life while in other places it refers to a land mass. In Ireland and the United Kingdom, the phrase “the continent” is used in reference to the mainland of Europe. In addition, the word “Europe” is also regularly used to refer to Europe, excluding Iceland, the island of Great Britain, and Ireland. The term “continental Europe” is also used in the UK to reflect cultural and political allegiance. The adjective “continental” is also used to a fashion or social practices of continental Europe. England is connected to continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel which accommodates both Eurostar and Getlink.

In Scandinavia, “continental” is used to refer to the continent of Europe excluding the Scandinavian Peninsula, Ireland, Britain, and Iceland. The Scandinavian Peninsula is excluded from mainland Europe because though it is attached to continental Europe and can be accessed via a land route, it can is mostly reached by sea. In Swedish, “the continent” is used to refer to the region excluding Norway, Finland, and Sweden but including Denmark and the rest of the continent of Europe. In Norway, “the continent” is a separate entity that refers to France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Atlantic and Mediterranean Islands

The continent of Europe consists of a continuous continental land mass and several islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. These islands are often grouped with the nearest landmass. Therefore, “continent” can be used to refer to the continental parts of various countries excluding their respective islands. For instance, Spain with an exception of the Canary Islands, Balearic Island, and Alboran. It can also refer to the continental part of Italy excluding Sicily and Sardinia.


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