My first draft of the Budapest, Hungary Wheelchair Accessible Travel Guide referred to the city as the “Center of Europe” — I wrongly thought it was a nickname used by the city, and caught the error prior to publication. But I then thought, which city is the true geographic center of the European continent?
As is so often the case, I had stumbled down into a rabbit hole — the answer isn’t easy to come by, with varying interpretations of Europe’s boundaries, a question of whether to limit the boundary to European Union member states and, if so, the recent revision to the boundary following the United Kingdom’s Brexit departure.
Current Claims to the Geographic Center of Europe
Being recognized as the “center” of the European continent may generate some level of tourism demand and, thanks to a list compiled on Wikipedia, we know that six cities are hoping to cash in on that title:
- The village of Kremnické Bane or the neighbouring village Krahule, near Kremnica, in central Slovakia, about 120 miles east of the wonderful capital city of Bratislava, Slovakia.
- The small town of Rakhiv, or the village of Dilove near Rakhiv, in western Ukraine, about 15 miles north of the country’s border with Romania.
- The village of Girija, about 15 miles north of the city of Vilnius, Lithuania, one of my absolute favorite European destinations.
- A point on the island of Saaremaa, about 120 miles southwest of the port city of Tallinn, Estonia.
- A point near the city of Polotsk, or in Vitebsk, or near Babruysk, or near lake Sho in Belarus.
- A point near the town of Tállya, in north-eastern Hungary, about 120 miles east of Budapest.
With six cities in six different countries currently laying claim to the title of geographic center of Europe, you’d need to visit them all to be confident in checking that box on your bucket list. However, there is an easier solution: visit the center of the European Union.
Geographical Center of the European Union
Since 1987, the French Institut Géographique National (IGN) has calculated the midpoint of the European Union, one that has shifted many times over the years as new countries joined the EU and, most recently, when the United Kingdom Brexited its way to independence.
In settling on a basis for its calculation, the institute has chosen to exclude extra-European territories of the EU such as French Polynesia and Martinique. The most recent calculation, conducted in 2020 after the UK left the EU, identifies the center of the union as being located at 49°50′34.8″N 9°54′07.4″E, in the village of Gadheim near the German city of Würzburg in Bavaria.
On the night that Great Britain officially left the EU, a crowd gathered in a field in Gadheim to mark the occasion — when the clock struck midnight on February 1, 2020, the mid-point of the European Union moved to a spot in that field, in a village that is home to just 80 residents. The modest gathering was reserved, with the Mayor of Veitshöchheim, Jürgen Götz, stating that “It’s not really a reason to celebrate and we know it’s a temporary honor with the center point.”
No matter the length of time until the next adjustment, Gadheim will maintain its place in history as one of the locations to have held the title. For me, a trip to the village may be in order, paired of course with a visit to the city of Würzburg.