Is Camping In Europe Popular? – Wild Camping Rules & More


Is Camping In Europe Popular?

Camping is popular in Europe; however, it is different from camping in the USA and other parts of the world.

In Europe, “camps” or campgrounds are commercial camping lots that you can visit with your family for a fee.

Camping in Europe is primarily recreational; all you need is a tent, RV (usually referred to as a motorhome in Europe), or caravan. Middle-class Europeans use campgrounds as affordable alternatives to hotel stays.

Designated campgrounds can be in remote areas, however, they usually exist near towns, cities, villages, and other major tourist attractions (e.g. Camping de Paris)

is camping in europe popular?
Photo Credit: pitchup.com

The facilities and amenities vary with each campground, and the campsite ambiance reflects the aura of nearby communities.

Campgrounds offer alternatives in terms of accommodation, and parking is free or very affordable. It is not unusual to have slides, games rooms, swimming pools, toddler pools, miniature golf, organized activities for kids, and spa facilities, and you can always set up your tent or park up your RV.

Some campsites offer glamping options like yurts, tipis, treehouses, safari tents, caravans (similar to small mobile homes), or even bungalows for accommodation.

Due to the relative affordability, amenities, and popularity, campgrounds in Europe tend to be popular among families with kids.

Campings are just as popular with tourists and backpackers, attracted by the affordable price point and the chance to interact with locals.

Wild Camping in Europe

Wild camping in Europe is similar to camping in other parts of the world. But it is not as commonplace as campground camping in Europe due to several factors which fall under two main groupings.

  1. Wild camping is heavily regulated.
  2. Wild camping is illegal in most European countries.

Most European countries prohibit wild camping. It is, however, embraced and even legally protected in a few countries. Let’s look at some of the best countries and regions in Europe to do wild camping.

  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Finland
  • Estonia
  • Scotland
  • France
  • Spain
  • Dartmoor National Park (England)

Sweden, Norway, Finland and Estonia are four (4) of the most northern countries in Europe. These geographically close countries have many cultural similarities, and their laws guarantee wild camping rights.

Sweden

sweden wild camping

Sweden’s Allemansrätten law gives everyone access to nature, including privately owned land.

If it’s a small group; then no permission is required for campers to stay a few nights in a location. Campers must ensure they stay away from buildings and gardens.

You must also show respect for nature and wildlife. Fires are permitted; however, you should check regulations in place to prevent wildfires and protect wildlife.

Norway

Norway wild camping
Sunset and Tent in Autumn in Aurlandsfjord, Norway.

In Norway, the allemannsretten law specifies 150 meters camping distance from the nearest dwelling.

It also states that permission is required if campers want to stay more than two (2) days (not applicable in remote areas). During a severe drought, bans apply to fires and cooking.

Finland

Finland wild camping

Allemansrätten, the Finnish law addresses trash collection and protection of the environment.

Permission to light a fire is required in Finland if away from a designated campfire spot, but you can cook using a grill or stove. Allemansrätten does not apply in some military and protected areas.

Estonia

wild camping estonia

In Estonia, the right to roam law does not extend to private property; but, there is a lot of government land in the countryside where campers camp freely (military bases and national parks are restricted). Simple rules to follow in Estonia include;

  • Leave no trace when camping,
  • Respect the tranquillity
  • Extract your trash
  • Wash and bathe on dry land away from water sources
  • Don’t create new trails; use existing ones.

Scotland

wild camping scotland

Scotland lays out clear guidelines where camping is permitted. The restrictions advise that you leave no trace and keep moving if others have occupied your desired campground. During dry periods, fire bans apply.

France

france camping

In France, wild camping restrictions apply to private land and land by the side of the road. Avoid seaside camping, historic monuments and stay 200 meters away from drinking water resources.

Spain

spain wild camping

Spain’s camping restrictions vary from region to region. Only The Basque Country, Catalonia, Madrid, Castilla y León, and Castilla la Mancha accept the national camping rules.

The rules limit seaside camping to 100 meters and require avoidance of private property, urban areas, national and natural parks, and historical monuments.

Dartmoor National Park (England)

dartmoor national park camping

Dartmoor National Park in South West England allows wild backpack camping but prohibits fires and grilling. Pay keen attention to avoiding water resource pollution, respect wildlife and be as unnoticeable as possible.

You can stay up to two (2) nights, but all waste must be taken with you when you leave.

USA v Europe Camping

There are both similarities and differences between camping in the USA and camping in Europe. There are also significant differences between staying at a campsite and wild camping in Europe.

Natural Experiences vs Recreation

Camping in the USA and European wild camping are considered a chance to retreat from technology and immerse yourself in nature. Contrastingly campsites in Europe primarily provide recreational experiences.

Location

Camping in the USA is done predominantly in remote, wilderness areas. The same applies to wild camping in Europe. For campsite camping in Europe, sites are usually (but not always) close to developed areas.  

Legality

In the USA, camping is legal outside of restricted areas, but in Europe, only campsite camping is widely available. Wild camping is illegal in most countries and regions (except those specified above).

Duration

In the USA, no restrictions apply to the number of days you can camp in designated areas, but in Europe, restrictions may apply.

Trespassing

In the USA, permission is required to trespass and camp on private lands while, in sections of Europe, no approval is needed within specific guidelines to do wild camping.

Campfires

You can build campfires in most campsites in the USA. You cannot do so at most campgrounds in Europe, however, you are usually allowed to use your own (or provided) BBQs. Campfires are also banned or heavily regulated in most countries that permit wild camping in Europe.

Conclusion

We truly hope that this article has helped you answer ‘is camping in Europe popular?’. Campsite camping is popular in Europe but for different reasons than it is popular in the USA. Campsite camping is considered an economical alternative to a hotel stay in a resort area rather than a natural/survival experience.

Wild Camping in Europe is similar to camping in the USA, but it is illegal in most countries and heavily regulated in others. The regulations are there to protect wildlife and nature. If you want to try wild camping in Europe; then, ensure you do your research to guarantee compliance. It will be a worthwhile experience.

Ned

Growing up in the Lake District, UK I've always been surrounded by nature, whether it's snowy mountains, lakes, or the sea. Throughout school, I gained qualifications in Outdoor Education, and mainly focus my time camping, hiking & kayaking.

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