Northern Europe as defined by the United Nations[1] (marked blue):

  Northern Europe

Northern Europe is the northern part or region of the European continent. A United Nations report published in 2011 defines Northern Europe as including the following ten countries and dependent regions:[1]

Before the establishment of the Nordic Council in 1952, the term 'Nordic', or 'Northern', was commonly used to also refer to the Lutheran Baltic countries Estonia and Latvia, as well as the northern sections of European Russia.

The United Kingdom and Ireland are sometimes included in Western Europe;[2] as is Iceland for historal, cultural, linguistic and political reasons (compare Greenland which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but is geographically located in America, and is often considered to be in Northern Europe or the Nordic countries, though rarely Scandinavia proper). The Baltic states are sometimes included in Eastern Europe due to their former occupation by the Soviet Union.[3]


A map of Northern Europe after Ptolemy.

A Dutch map of Northern Europe, printed in 1601.

Historically, when Europe was dominated by the Mediterranean region (i.e. the Roman Empire), everything not near this sea was termed Northern Europe, including Germany, the Low Countries, and Austria. This meaning is still used today in some contexts, such as in discussions of the Northern Renaissance. In medieval times, the term (Ultima) Thule was used to mean a mythical place in the extreme northern reaches of the continent.

Northern Europe:[1]
Country Area
(2011 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Capital GDP (PPP) $M USD GDP per capita (PPP) $ USD
Åland Islands Åland (Finland) 1,527 28,007 18.1 Mariehamn (Finland)
Denmark Denmark 43,098 5,564,219 129 Copenhagen $204,060 $36,810
Faroe Islands Faroe Islands (Denmark) 1,399 48,917 35.0 Tórshavn (Denmark)
Estonia Estonia 45,227 1,340,021 29 Tallinn $27,207 $20,303
Finland Finland 336,897 5,374,781 16 Helsinki $190,862 $35,745
Guernsey Guernseyd[›] 78 65,573 836.3 St Peter Port $2,742 $41,815
Iceland Iceland 103,001 318,452 3.1 Reykjavík $12,664 $39,823
Republic of Ireland Ireland 70,273 4,581,269 65.2 Dublin $188,112 $42,076
Isle of Man Isle of Mand[›] 572 80,085 140 Douglas $2,719 $33,951
Jersey Jerseyd[›] 116 92,500 797 Saint Helier $5,100 $55,661
Latvia Latvia 64,589 2,067,900 34.3 Riga $38,764 $17,477
Lithuania Lithuania 65,200 3,221,216 50.3 Vilnius $63,625 $19,391
Norway Norway 324,230 4,905,200 15.1 Oslo $256,523 $52,229
Norway Svalbard and Jan
Mayen Islands
61,395 2,572 0.042 Longyearbyen (Norway)
Sweden Sweden 449,964 9,354,462 20.6 Stockholm $341,868 $36,459
United Kingdom United Kingdom 243,610 62,008,048 254.7 London $2,256,830 $38,376
Total 1,811,176 99,230,679 54.8 $3,591,077 $36,226


A satellite photograph of Northern Europe

Northern Europe consists of the Scandinavian peninsula, the peninsula of Jutland, the Baltic plain that lies to the east and the many islands that lie offshore from mainland northern Europe, Greenland and the main European continent. The area is defined by the volcanic islands of the far northwest, notably Iceland and Jan Mayen, the mountainous western seaboard, extending from the mountainous sections of Great Britain & Ireland to the Scandinavian mountains, the central north mountains and hills of Sweden (which are the foothills of the Scandinavian mountains) and the large eastern plain, which contains, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

The region has a south west extreme of just under 50 degrees north and a northern extreme of 81 degrees north. The entire region's climate is affected by the Gulf Stream which has a mild influence on the climate. From the west climates vary from maritime and maritime subarctic climates. In the north and central climates are generally subarctic or Arctic and to the east climates are mostly subarctic and temperate/continental. As the climate and relief varies vegetation is also extremely variable, with sparse tundra in the north and high mountains, boreal forest on the north-eastern and central regions temperate coniferous forests (formerly of which a majority was in the Scottish highlands and south west Norway) and temperate broadleaf forests growing in the south, west and temperate east.

With the exception of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Northern European countries are known for harsh winters. For example, the Winter of 2010-2011 in Europe began already in November. Temperatures can reach as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius in some parts of Northern Europe.[4]

See also[]

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