If Europe is taken to include Russia, then that country is by far the most populated country, with an estimated 147 million inhabitants. Restricting the search to European Union member states then, Germany takes first place with approximately 84 million citizens. These numbers pay no regard to the size of the country. Russia is a vast country, so the density of people per square mile is fairly low, while Germany has a far higher ratio of people to the area.
The comparison of the area to people is called “populous”, and, using this approach, Russia and Germany would once again come out in first and second place, but almost half of Russia’s land mass is actually located in Asia.
Top Ten Most Populated European Countries
For the purposes of this exercise, all European countries will be considered and not just those that are members of the European Union.
Based purely on population numbers and regardless of country size, the Top Ten most populated countries are as follows:
The biggest country in the world by land area, Russia has a population of approximately 147 million according to the latest figures. This includes almost 2.5 million inhabitants of Crimea, which is a peninsula in Ukraine and subject to an ongoing conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces. The most populous country in Europe with 8.5 citizens to a square km (22 per sq mile), the average life expectancy of Russian citizens is 66.5 years for men and 76.5 years for women.
One of the world’s economic giants, Germany boasts high standards of education and pioneering technology. Following reunification with East Germany, and recent waves of immigration, the population of Germany has risen to just over 84 million from a low of 69 million shortly after the end of World War II.
Germany has an amazingly low fertility rate, and the subsequent low birth rate compared to death rates means that the country’s population would have decreased slightly every year since 1972 if it were not for the influx of migrant workers from Turkey and further afield. Life expectancy for men in Germany is 78.5 years, rising to 83.3 years for women.
It may be the case that the population of Turkey has actually surpassed that of Germany by now, but recent statistics state the country has around 84 million inhabitants. The recent rate of growth for Turkey’s population has dropped to just 0.55% per year, and many of the country’s younger citizens have emigrated to find work as the economy continues to decline.
Because of the decline in the number of young people, the population is ageing and the median age of those remaining now sits at 33.5 years, an increase of just over five years since 2007. The average life expectancy in Turkey is 78.6 years, with men averaging 75.9 years and women 81.3 years.
Statistics from early 2021 record the population of France as 65 million with a further 3 million French citizens living overseas. It is one of Europe’s fastest-growing countries (in terms of population), adding almost one million additional citizens every three years. Historically, one of Europe’s most populous countries, France saw a sharp decline in numbers in the 17th century. Still, this downward trend has been sharply reversed in recent times, particularly in the period following World War II.
Many of today’s French citizens are from an immigrant background, as many people continue to arrive in the country, particularly from African nations. France is a wealthy country with an excellent healthcare system, and the average life expectancy is 79.2 years for males and 85.2 years for females.
The United Kingdom ranks as the fourth most populated country in Europe, with around 67 million inhabitants. However, this is somewhat misleading as the United Kingdom is not just one country but a combination of four: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A census taken in 2020 provides the following population breakdown:
- England 56.5 million
- Scotland 5.5 million
- Wales 3.1 million
- N. Ireland 2.0 million
The population density is around 270 per sq km (700 per sq mile), but almost one-third of the population resides in the southeast of England and particularly in the greater London area. The population of all four countries that comprise the United Kingdom has shown a slight but steady increase in recent years which is due in part to a large number of migrants entering Britain from former commonwealth countries.
According to current estimates, around 80% of the population are white Britons, with Asian British totalling 7% and black British people at around 3%. The average life expectancy of British males is just under 80 years, with females averaging around 84 years.
Early 2022 statistics put the population of Italy at just under 59 million, with a density of 197 people per sq km (510 per sq mile), making it one of the most populous countries in Europe.
Following centuries of emigration, the country’s population declined until the middle of the 20th century, when the Italian economy saw a huge upturn and Italian citizens returned to the country in huge numbers. In recent years, numerous foreign immigrant workers have also added to the population numbers, with an estimated 5.3 million foreign nationals residing in Italy in 2019, steadily increasing yearly.
As of 2020, the average life expectancy for male citizens was 79.7 years and almost five years more for women at 84.4 years.
In January 2020, the Spanish population was recorded as being 47.4 million, an increase of almost 1% from the previous year’s total. Although the population density is one of the highest in Europe at 91.4 per sq km (237 per sq mile), the country is mostly sparsely populated as most Spanish citizens reside in the capital city of Madrid or along the coast.
Recent non-national arrivals in the country have contributed to Spain’s steady increase in population numbers, with almost 500,000 immigrants arriving in the first six months of 2022, and that number has been equalled or passed in recent months.
The average life expectancy for males in Spain is 79.8 years, and for females, almost six years longer at 85.4 years.
Currently involved in a war with neighbouring Russia, Ukraine has a population of about 41 million without taking the disputed area of Crimea into account. As a result of the 2022 invasion by Russia, thousands of Ukrainian citizens have fled the country, with estimates putting the number of refugees at a minimum of 8 million.
When the next census will be taken is a matter of conjecture, and whether the 8 million or more refugees will (or can) return to their country remains to be seen. Official statistics give the average life expectancy of males in Ukraine as 66.7 years and women as 76.7 years of age.
According to 2021 census figures, Poland has a population of just under 38 million, which has changed little from ten years previously. This is because the number of Polish citizens leaving the country in recent years has matched the number of births there. Most of the Polish population resides in urban areas with vast areas of sparsely populated land across the countryside.
Statistics from 2018 put the average male life expectancy at 74.1 years and 82.0 for females.
By far, the largest percentage of Romanian citizens are ethnic Romanian, and the country’s population is largely unaffected by incoming foreign migrants. Now totalling less than 20 million, Romania’s population has steadily decreased in the last decades from an estimated high of 23.2 million in 1990.
Relatively poor by European standards, the average life expectancy for men is 72.3 years, with women living to 79.4 years on average.
European Travel Changes
Some of these countries are members of the European Union, some are Schengen states, and some are part of both. The United Kingdom (following Brexit) is in neither the Schengen Zone nor a member of the EU.
In the coming years, each country will have its own requirements regarding visiting foreign nationals, and for many European citizens, a valid passport is all that is required at present to visit any of the above countries.
However, everything is about to change and particularly so for citizens of countries outside the European Union. The EU is currently rolling out its pre-screening programme ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) and the United Kingdom is about to introduce its own version, the Electronic Travel Authorisation or ETA.
From 2023 onwards, all non-EU citizens will require an ETIAS or Schengen Visa to enter or travel through the greater European area, and this will be followed, sometime in 2024, by the British authorities making a UK ETA mandatory for all visiting non-nationals with the exception of those from the Republic of Ireland.