14 Weird European Laws You Didn’t Know about (But Need To)

What are the most unusual crimes you can commit in Europe? Here are 14 weird European laws you may encounter on your travels.

Europe is famous for its incredible food, architecture, historical sites, and natural beauty. But did you know it also has some of the strangest laws in the world?

From rules around where you can wear bikinis to restrictions on kissing at train stations and fines for stealing sand, you can commit wild and wacky offenses all over the continent. Whether you’re traveling to Italy, Portugal, Croatia, or anywhere in between, here are 14 weird European laws you may encounter on your travels.

1. Milan, Italy: You’re Legally Obliged to Smile

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According to an old law in Milan, you can be fined for frowning. Although you’re unlikely to face any consequences nowadays, you’re legally obliged to smile constantly – unless you’re at a funeral or visiting someone in hospital.

The law’s a relic from when this part of Italy was in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Its purpose is unclear, but it’s never been repealed.

2. Sardinia, Italy: Stealing Sand Is Illegal

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This sun-kissed Italian island is famous for its pristine white sand beaches. Don’t think about taking any home with you, though. It’s treated as theft.

Anyone found guilty of stealing sand, stones, or shells from the Sardinian coast can be fined thousands of euros and even face jail time. Fun fact: this is a finable offense in the United Kingdom and other beaches in Europe, too.

3. Turkey: Defacing or Ripping Local Currency is a Serious Offense

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In Turkey, you can go to prison for between 6 months and 3 years for defacing or tearing up the currency and/or insulting the Turkish nation, the President, the government, and the national flag. The law also stipulates that you must carry some form of ID on you at all times.

4. Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia: Wearing Bikinis Beyond Beaches Isn’t Allowed

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Dubrovnik and Split (among a few other places in Europe) grew tired of tourists walking around town in their swimsuits (or topless). Do so and you can expect a €150 fine. Also, definitely don’t do anything that could be considered a “disturbance of public order,” like being visibly drunk in public. This can land you a fine of €4000.

5. France: Don’t Drive Without a Warning Triangle and Yellow Vest

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If you’re planning to drive in France, make sure you have a warning triangle and fluorescent safety vest inside the car. It’s obligatory – just in case you break down.

If that happens and you don’t have them, expect a hefty fine. You can also be fined if you get pulled over and don’t have them. In the past, carrying a breathalyzer was even mandatory. Thankfully, this requirement was repealed a few years ago.

6. Portugal: Peeing in the Sea Is Illegal

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Portugal has made it a crime to wee in the sea. How they catch you, I’m not sure. But it’s the law. If nature calls, you’re meant to leave the water and find a public bathroom. It sounds silly, but the rule was put in place for hygiene reasons and to mitigate the impact on the environment.

7. Germany: Running Out of Fuel on Autobahns Is Illegal

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You can drive as fast as you want on Germany’s famous highways. But don’t run out of fuel. It’s against the law to stop on autobahns unnecessarily, and running out of gas is seen in that light because it’s avoidable—you could/should have filled up. Expect a ticket and fine if it happens.

8. Germany: Jaywalking Is Illegal

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Stick to designated crossings when traveling in Germany. While jaywalking is tolerated in many European countries, it’s illegal there. People do it, but you could face a fine if you get caught. Thankfully, it won’t break the bank. Online sources suggest it’s only €5 to €10.

9. Greece: Wearing High Heels Is Illegal at Archaeological Sites

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Greece made it illegal in 2009 to visit ancient sites wearing high heels. They say this helps protect the monuments from unnecessary damage caused by the pointy bits.

It might seem over the top, but millions of people visit places like the Parthenon every year. You could imagine how fragile ancient surfaces would benefit from any change of this nature.

10. Spain: Don’t Drive in Flip-Flops

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It’s worth wearing proper shoes or sneakers behind the wheel in Spain. While it’s not specifically against the law to drive in flip-flops, you must be able to control your vehicle at all times.

So, if a Spanish traffic officer pulls you over on a bad day and sees you wearing sandals or flip-flops, they may claim that isn’t the case and issue a fine.

11. France: Kissing at Train Stations Is Illegal

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France is renowned for romance, but don’t spend too long smooching your partner at train stations. It’s against the law. It dates to pre-WWI, when soldiers headed to the trenches were causing delays with long goodbyes to their loved ones. Thankfully, you’re unlikely to get in trouble for it nowadays.

12. Netherlands: You Can’t Cycle on Sidewalks

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The Netherlands is renowned as a paradise for cyclists. You’ll find mile after mile of designated bike lanes there, making this eco-friendly mode of transport both safe and efficient.

Stick to the bike lanes, though. Anyone caught cycling on sidewalks can be fined over €600. You can also face fines for cycling without lights after dark and for cycling with a mobile phone.

13. Venice, Italy: It’s Illegal to Feed Pigeons

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Decades ago, Venice was well-known for having thousands of pigeons. They once held an esteemed place in Piazza San Marco, but over the centuries they became so prevalent they turned into a nuisance. In 2008, officials passed a law forbidding people from feeding them. You can face hefty fines if caught doing it.

14. Eraclea, Italy: No Sandcastles on the Beach

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Eraclea is a small city on the Adriatic coast, just east of Venice. It has a lovely sandy beach popular with tourists and locals alike – just make sure you don’t build any sandcastles there.

They were outlawed years ago because they “obstruct safe passage.” Apparently, anyone caught flouting this rule could face a €250 fine.


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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.