Contrary to popular belief, your online activities aren’t private. Depending on your location and the network you’re using, you could be being monitored by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), employer, or even the government. VPNs encrypt your traffic, ensuring that any snoopers only see a meaningless jumble of data instead of the sites you visit. This also prevents hackers accessing your information, which is particularly handy when connecting to public wifi.
VPNs have another major benefit: they allow you to spoof your location. Most major streaming sites check the user’s IP address to see if they’re in a supported country or not. However, when you connect to a VPN, you’re given a temporary IP address from the country your chosen server is in. As most services can’t tell the difference between someone in the required location and a user who’s connected to a VPN, you’ll be free to stream previously inaccessible content, no matter where you are in the world.
If you’re in a rush, you can find all of our recommended VPNs for Europe below. If not, you’ll find a more in-depth review of each further down.
- ExpressVPN: With high-speed servers in over 40 European countries, a wide range of security and privacy options, and strong unblocking ability, ExpressVPN is perfect for streaming.
- NordVPN: Offers customizable security, a no-logs policy, and access to more than 1,500 European servers. This VPN unblocks all but the most stubborn streaming services abroad.
- CyberGhost: Provides fast servers in more than 35 European countries, novice-friendly apps, and pre-configured security features, so it’s ideal for those new to VPNs.
- IPVanish: Boasts lightweight apps, a high-connection limit, and strong security features. This provider keeps no logs and allows you to choose from hundreds of servers across Europe.
- PrivateVPN: This no-logs VPN is faster than most, security-focused, and capable of unblocking some of the most popular streaming services from abroad.
Every VPN is different. Some offer more server locations, for instance, while other prioritize security or ease of use. To make it easier for you to choose, we’re only recommending VPNs with all of the characteristics below. This way, you’re guaranteed to get a reliable, versatile VPN, not just a service that works for one specific task.
- Has servers in numerous European countries
- Provides consistently high speeds
- Includes advanced security features and effectively uncrackable encryption
- Doesn’t log any information which could identify you (ideally keeps no logs at all)
- Offers apps for the most popular operating systems
Best VPNs for Europe
Read on to find our list of the best VPNs for Europe:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN currently has servers in more than 40 European countries including France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. This service is fast enough to watch live HD content without any noticeable buffering, and better still, it can reliably unblock major streaming platforms like Netflix, ARD, and ORF from abroad.
This VPN takes your security seriously. It includes 256-bit encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, perfect forward secrecy, and a kill switch that stops all traffic should you lose connection unexpectedly. ExpressVPN doesn’t log any personally identifiable information, but you can choose to pay with Bitcoin if you’d like. Customer support is available 24/7 over live chat.
ExpressVPN apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. This service also offers custom firmware to simplify the process of installing it on a router.
- Fantastic speeds for downloading and streaming
- Top-class security and privacy protection features
- Great capabilities for unblocking geo-locked content
- Complete privacy – no logs of personal data kept
- A little more expensive than some rivals
BEST VPN FOR EUROPE:ExpressVPN is our top choice. It has servers all over Europe, easily unblocks major geo-restricted sites, and includes several advanced security features. Further, this service includes a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning you can try it risk-free.
Here’s our in-depth review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN has a huge network, with over 5,000 servers in 60 countries (36 of which are in Europe). It’s very fast, but one of this VPN’s biggest strengths is its exceptional unblocking capabilities: it allows you to access notoriously stubborn platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, wherever you are.
This service keeps you safe online using 256-bit encryption, a customizable kill switch, automatic ad and malware-blocking, and IPv6, DNS, WebRTC, and port forwarding leak protection. Further, NordVPN offers obfuscated servers as well as Tor over VPN and dual VPN functionality. It has a strict no-logs policy, meaning your activities can’t be traced back to you. Need help? You can contact customer support via live chat, 24/7.
NordVPN has apps for MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. It can be manually configured to work on wireless routers.
- More European servers than any other major VPN
- Excellent unblocking ability
- Customizable kill switch
- No-logs policy
- Connections through the desktop app can be slow
BEST BUDGET VPN:NordVPN is an affordable, high-quality service with over 1,000 high-speed servers in Europe. It keeps no logs, offers advanced security options, and unblocks many major platforms abroad. Plus, NordVPN comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Here’s our review of NordVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost has more than 5,700 servers in 90 countries, including many in Europe. It offers fast speeds, consistent connections, and strong unblocking ability. Additionally, each server shows its current load and the service it’s best able to unblock, which takes the guesswork out of streaming foreign content abroad.
There’s no need to configure anything as CyberGhost’s 256-bit encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, kill switch, ad-blocker, and malware-scanner are all enabled by default. CyberGhost logs no personally identifiable information, so your privacy is in good hands. While this service is very user-friendly, you can reach support 24/7 over live chat if needed.
CyberGhost provides Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux and iOS apps. It must be manually installed on supported network routers.
- Fast, reliable service
- Happily unblocks a host of geo-restricted content
- Solid privacy and security features enabled by default
- Doesn’t work in China or the UAE
GREAT FOR BEGINNERS:CyberGhost is a user-friendly VPN with hundreds of streaming-optimized European servers. It’s fast, easy-to-use, and committed to protecting your security and privacy. CyberGhost includes a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of CyberGhost.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish currently has servers in 32 European countries. This VPN provides lightweight, user-friendly apps, reasonable unblocking ability, and speeds that are fast enough to stream live HD video without any issues. IPVanish permits up to ten simultaneous connections whereas most of its rivals allow between three and six.
It also includes a wide array of security features. Your activities are kept private with a combination of 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, OpenVPN obfuscation, and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks. Better still, IPVanish keeps no logs at all. If you run into any problems, you can contact customer support 24/7 via live chat.
IPVanish comes with apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire devices. It also works on Linux-based platforms and select home routers but must be configured manually.
- Use up to ten devices simultaneously
- Fast, lightweight VPN with excellent multi-platform support
- Strong on privacy and security
- Struggles to unblock larger streaming platforms
STREAM ON ANY DEVICE:IPVanish permits up to ten connections and offers high speeds, strong multi-platform support, and decent unblocking ability. It’s strong on security and keeps no logs, so your privacy maintained. IPVanish provides a seven-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN may have fewer servers than some of its rivals (around 150 in 60 countries), but it does offer higher speeds. Additionally, PrivateVPN excels at unblocking geo-restricted platforms; it currently allows you to access services like ORF, TF1, Telecinco, and more than 10 European Netflix libraries. With up to six simultaneous connections allowed, you can stream freely across all of your devices.
This VPN keeps your traffic safe at all times with 256-bit encryption, a kill switch (Windows only), and protection against WebRTC, DNS, and IPv6 leaks. PrivateVPN doesn’t keep any logs whatsoever, but you can sign up almost totally anonymously by using a throwaway email address and paying with Bitcoin if you’d like. Live, chat-based support is available 22 hours per day (from 3–1PM PST), and with your permission, the staff can even configure the service remotely.
PrivateVPN has Android, iOS, Windows, and MacOS apps. Manual installation is required for use with Linux systems and supported internet routers.
- Speeds are good enough for high-quality streaming
- Gaining a reputation for unblocking popular streaming sites
- Privacy and security are top notch
- Small number of servers, newish provider still expanding their network
- Doesn’t have 24/7 live chat
FLAWLESS STREAMING:PrivateVPN is a security-conscious service that keeps no logs whatsoever. With very fast speeds and exceptional unblocking potential, it’s ideal for streaming European content abroad. Better still, all of its plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of PrivateVPN
Can’t I just use a free VPN?
Although free VPNs can be tempting, there are several reasons we advise against using them. To begin with, these services often have fewer servers than paid VPNs, despite having more users. This means you’re likely to experience very slow speeds, which lead to choppy playback and long buffering times when streaming. Additionally, free VPNs are usually the first to be blocked by popular streaming services so you may not be able to watch anything at all.
While most free VPNs rely on ad-supported business models to get by, there are those that resort to shadier methods. These often store tracking cookies on your device and collect information like which sites you visit most often and the times at which you’re most active. This data can be aggregated over time and sold to advertisers without your knowledge once enough has been gathered.
Finally, it’s difficult to know if your free VPN is safe or not. A recent survey of over 280 free VPN apps found that 18% never used any encryption at all, over 80% leaked data over IPv6, and almost 40% contained malware. Sadly, these risks aren’t limited to little-known companies; we’ve even seen Hola, a major free VPN provider, sell user bandwidth to help facilitate a botnet.
How to access region-locked sites abroad with a VPN
With the right VPN, it’s actually quite easy to unblock geo-restricted sites and services abroad. Follow the steps below to access European services from anywhere:
- Start by signing up for one of the VPNs mentioned above (we recommend ExpressVPN).
- Next, download and install the appropriate version of the software for your device.
- Decide which European service you’d like to use.
- Connect to one of your VPN’s servers in the required country. For example, you’d use a French server to unblock TF1 or a German one to watch ARD abroad.
- Try playing a video on your chosen site. It should load without any issues, but if not, clear your browser’s cookies and cache, then refresh the page.
Why should I use a VPN in Europe?
If you’re travelling around Europe, a high-quality VPN is invaluable. As each country in Europe has its own laws on data retention, online censorship, and surveillance, some sites (such as The Pirate Bay) are readily accessible in parts of Europe and blocked in others. VPNs allow you to bypass this blocking and access your usual gambling, gaming, and online banking services safely, wherever you are.
Whilst abroad, you’ll likely be more reliant at times on public wifi networks. These are convenient but rarely as secure as they should be, which makes them a popular target for hackers. With a VPN, you not only ensure that you can bypass any arbitrary blocking the hotspot owner has imposed, but also that your traffic can’t be read by anyone looking in from the outside.
European internet restrictions and legislation
Although the European Union votes on new legislation, it’s up to each country to decide how they enforce it. This means that the rules vary wildly from one country to another. Below, we’ll list a few things you should know about using the internet in Europe.
First, it’s crucial that you research the laws of the country you’ll be visiting as these can have a major impact on your online privacy. There’s a worrying trend towards increased online surveillance in certain EU member states. Some, like the UK, have chosen to employ wide-reaching web filtering to restrict access to certain types of content. However, these blocks are generally considered ineffective as they’re easily bypassed with a VPN. This country is also pushing forward with legislation that would require users to provide ID before accessing pornography online.
Additionally, Russia recently demanded that VPN companies provide the government with access to their servers, ostensibly to make sure that users couldn’t access banned content. However, given the country’s track record of silencing activists and journalists, many are worried about the impact of this legislation. Several VPN providers including NordVPN have shut down their Russian servers entirely rather than comply.
Related: Best VPN for Russia
Then there’s the EU Council’s Copyright Directive, widely known for its notorious Article 13, which would require online platforms to automatically filter out copyrighted material uploaded by users in the EU. Depending on how this is enforced, it’s possible that sites will choose to prevent Europeans from uploading content at all. This would mean the only way to use these platforms as they were intended would be for Europeans to spoof their location using a VPN.
What are the 14 Eyes and how do they affect me?
The 14 Eyes is a collective term for a group of countries (10 of which are in Europe) who share surveillance information with each other. This allows countries to claim that they don’t spy on their citizens, while still being able to see what’s going on. For instance, if the US wanted information on what a particular user was up to, it could potentially ask any of the other 13 countries to provide it.
So what does this mean for you? Well, if your VPN is based in any of these countries, it can be asked to provide details of your activities. Of course, if you’re using a zero-logs VPN, there’s no risk, but it’s worth bearing in mind that even minor details like the time you connected can be cross-referenced with traffic logs from various websites to paint a picture of your activities.
- 1 Best VPNs for Europe
- 2 1. ExpressVPN
- 3 2. NordVPN
- 4 3. CyberGhost
- 5 4. IPVanish
- 6 5. PrivateVPN
- 7 Can’t I just use a free VPN?
- 8 How to access region-locked sites abroad with a VPN
- 9 Why should I use a VPN in Europe?
- 10 European internet restrictions and legislation
- 11 What are the 14 Eyes and how do they affect me?