Continental Europe

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Extent of the contiguous mainland of Europe, continental Europe Mainland Europe (orthographic projection).svg
Extent of the contiguous mainland of Europe, continental Europe

Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous mainland of Europe, excluding its surrounding islands. [1] It can also be referred to ambiguously as the European continent, [2] [3] – which can conversely mean the whole of Europe – and, by some, simply as the Continent. [4] When Eurasia is regarded as a single continent, Europe is treated both as a continent and subcontinent. [5]



The continental territory of the historical Carolingian Empire was one of the many old cultural concepts used for mainland Europe. [6] This was consciously invoked in the 1950s as one of the basis for the prospective European integration (see also multi-speed Europe) [7] [8]

The most common definition of mainland Europe excludes these continental islands: the Greek islands, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands, Great Britain and Ireland and surrounding islands, Novaya Zemlya and the Nordic archipelago, as well as nearby oceanic islands, including the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Svalbard. [9]

The Scandinavian Peninsula is sometimes also excluded even though it is a part of "mainland Europe", as the de facto connections to the rest of the continent were historically across the Baltic Sea or North Sea (rather than via the lengthy land route that involves travelling to the north of the peninsula where it meets Finland, and then south through northeast Europe). [9] The Øresund Bridge now links the Scandinavian road and rail networks to those of Western Europe.

Europa Regina map (Sebastian Munster, 1570), excluding the greater part of Fennoscandia, but including Great Britain and Ireland, Bulgaria, Scythia, Moscovia and Tartaria; Sicily is clasped by Europe in the form of a globus cruciger. Europe As A Queen Sebastian Munster 1570.jpg
Europa Regina map (Sebastian Munster, 1570), excluding the greater part of Fennoscandia, but including Great Britain and Ireland, Bulgaria, Scythia, Moscovia and Tartaria ; Sicily is clasped by Europe in the form of a globus cruciger .

Great Britain and Ireland

In both Great Britain and Ireland, the Continent is widely and generally used to refer to the mainland of Europe.[ citation needed ] An amusing British newspaper headline supposedly once read, "Fog in Channel; Continent Cut Off". [10] It has also been claimed that this was a regular weather forecast in Britain in the 1930s. [11] In addition, the word Europe itself is also regularly used to mean Europe excluding the islands of Great Britain, Iceland, and Ireland[ citation needed ] (although the term is often used to refer to the European Union [12] ). The term mainland Europe is also sometimes used.[ citation needed ] Usage of these terms may reflect political or cultural allegiances, for example it has been observed that there is a correlation between whether a British citizen considers themselves "British" or "European" and whether they live in an area which primarily supported Brexit. [13]

Derivatively, the adjective continental refers to the social practices or fashion of continental Europe. Examples include breakfast, topless sunbathing and, historically, long-range driving (before Britain had motorways) often known as Grand Touring.[ citation needed ] Differences include electrical plugs, time zones for the most part, the use of left-hand traffic, and for the United Kingdom, currency and the continued use of certain imperial units alongside the metric units which have long since displaced customary units in continental Europe. [14] [15]

Britain is physically connected to continental Europe through the undersea Channel Tunnel (the longest undersea tunnel in the world), which accommodates both the Eurotunnel Shuttle (passenger and vehicle use – vehicle required) and Eurostar (passenger use only) services. These services were established to transport passengers and vehicles through the tunnel on a 24/7 basis between England and continental Europe, while still maintaining passport and immigration control measures on both sides of the tunnel. This route is popular with refugees and migrants seeking to enter the UK. [16]


Map of the Scandiae islands by Nicolaus Germanus for a 1467 publication of Cosmographia Claudii Ptolomaei Alexandrini Ptolemaios 1467 Scandinavia.jpg
Map of the Scandiae islands by Nicolaus Germanus for a 1467 publication of Cosmographia Claudii Ptolomaei Alexandrini

Especially in Germanic studies, continental refers to the European continent excluding the Scandinavian Peninsula, Britain, Ireland, and Iceland. The reason for this is that although the Scandinavian peninsula is attached to continental Europe, and accessible via a land route along the 66th parallel north, it is usually reached by sea.

Kontinenten ("the Continent") is a vernacular Swedish expression that refers to an area excluding Sweden, Norway, and Finland but including Denmark (even the Danish Archipelago which is technically not a part of continental Europe) and the rest of continental Europe. In Norway, similarly, one speaks about Kontinentet as a separate entity. In Denmark, Jutland is referred to as the mainland and thereby a part of continental Europe.

The Scandinavian Peninsula is now connected to the Danish mainland (the Jutland Peninsula) by several bridges and tunnels.

Mediterranean and Atlantic islands

The Continent may sometimes refer to the continental part of France (excluding Corsica and overseas France), the continental part of Greece (excluding the Aegean Islands, Crete, and the Ionian Islands), the continental part of Italy (excluding Sardinia, Sicily, etc.), the continental part of Portugal (excluding the Azores and Madeira), and the continental part of Spain (excluding the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, the plazas de soberanía, etc.). The term is used from the perspective of the island residents of each country to describe the continental portion of their country or the continent (or mainland) as a whole.

Metropolitan France is also known as l'Hexagone, "the Hexagon", referring to its approximate shape on a map. Continental Italy is also known as lo Stivale, "the Boot", referring to its approximate shape on a map. Continental Spain is referred to as peninsular Spain.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scandinavia</span> Subregion of Northern Europe

Scandinavia is a subregion of Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties between its constituent peoples. Scandinavia most commonly refers to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. It can sometimes also refer to the Scandinavian Peninsula. In English usage, Scandinavia is sometimes used as a synonym for Nordic countries. Iceland and the Faroe Islands are sometimes included in Scandinavia for their ethnolinguistic relations with Sweden, Norway and Denmark. While Finland differs from other Nordic countries in this respect, some authors call it Scandinavian due to its economic and cultural similarities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scandinavian Peninsula</span> Land mass in Northern Europe

The Scandinavian Peninsula is located in Northern Europe, and roughly comprises the mainlands of Sweden, Norway and the northwestern area of Finland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Northern Europe</span> Northern region of the European continent

The northern region of Europe has several definitions. A restrictive definition may describe Northern Europe as being roughly north of the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, which is about 54°N, or may be based on other geographical factors such as climate and ecology.

Mainland is defined as "relating to or forming the main part of a country or continent, not including the islands around it [regardless of status under territorial jurisdiction by an entity]." The term is often politically, economically and/or demographically more significant than politically associated remote territories, such as exclaves or oceanic islands situated outside the continental shelf.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North Jutlandic Island</span> The northernmost part of Denmark and of Jutland

The North Jutlandic Island, Vendsyssel-Thy, or Jutland north of the Limfjord is the northernmost part of Denmark and of Jutland. It is more common to refer to the three traditional districts of Vendsyssel, Hanherred, and Thy. The area has been intermittently a tied island and, during modern times, was not surrounded by water until a storm in February 1825, which severed the region from the remainder of Jutland and caused a water connection between the North Sea and the western end of the Limfjord. Hence, it is traditionally regarded as a part of Jutland rather than a separate island.

The Danes were a North Germanic tribe inhabiting southern Scandinavia, including the area now comprising Denmark proper, northern and eastern England, and the Scanian provinces of modern-day southern Sweden, during the Nordic Iron Age and the Viking Age. They founded what became the Kingdom of Denmark. The name of their realm is believed to mean "Danish March", viz. "the march of the Danes", in Old Norse, referring to their southern border zone between the Eider and Schlei rivers, known as the Danevirke.

Europe, the westernmost portion of Eurasia, is often divided into regions and subregions based on geographical, cultural or historical factors. Since there is no universal agreement on Europe's regional composition, the placement of individual countries may vary based on criteria being used. For instance, the Balkans is a distinct geographical region within Europe, but individual countries may alternatively be grouped into South-eastern Europe or Southern Europe.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Subregion</span> Part of a larger geographic region or continent

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vendsyssel</span>

Vendsyssel is the northernmost traditional district of Denmark and of Jutland. Being divided from mainland Jutland by the Limfjord, it is technically a part of the North Jutlandic Island which also comprises the areas Hanherred and Thy. Vendsyssel is part of the North Denmark Region.

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Europe is traditionally defined as one of seven continents. Physiographically, it is the northwestern peninsula of the larger landmass known as Eurasia ; Asia occupies the centre and east of this continuous landmass. Europe's eastern frontier is usually delineated by the Ural Mountains in Russia, which is the largest country by land area in the continent. The southeast boundary with Asia is not universally defined, but the modern definition is generally the Ural River or, less commonly, the Emba River. The boundary continues to the Caspian Sea, the crest of the Caucasus Mountains, and on to the Black Sea. The Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles conclude the Asian boundary. The Mediterranean Sea to the south separates Europe from Africa. The western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean. Iceland is usually included in Europe because it is over twice as close to mainland Europe as mainland North America. There is ongoing debate on where the geographical centre of Europe falls.

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