As stated in the title, I'm currently looking for a shapefile/other geodata source of Europe's major roads (highways). If anybody knows a free datasource (or a possibility to extract that data from Open Street Map without processing the world file), it would be greatly appreciated.

4 Answers 4


Thought I'd share what I found through lengthy research. It seems, the UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) has conducted a transportation network census in 2005. Hidden deep inside their Website, I have found this:


You have to download the ArcReader-project, which, when unzipped, contains routable, simplified shapefiles of all major roads along with some useful metadata. Same applies to the train network which can also be found on the page.

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  • 4
    The projection information seems to be missing from the first archive at that link. It's a polyconic projection using the Clarke 1866 ellipsoid, the proj4 string for the projection is +proj=poly +lat_0=33 +lon_0=10 +x_0=0 +y_0=-2222408.5 +ellps=clrk66 +units=m +no_defs.
    – Jake
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 8:45
  • The choice of the second archive ("Roads ArcReader Projects") with the projection information included is working well.
    – markusN
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 22:17

You can download nightly OpenStreetMap Europe snapshots from here:


As of today:

  • europe.osm.bz2 03-May-2012 06:31 11G OpenStreetMap data, bzip2 compressed
  • europe.osm.pbf 03-May-2012 00:56 7.8G OpenStreetMap data, protobuf binary format

Using GDAL/OGR you can then extract the roads with a SQL statement (see https://gdal.org/user/ogr_sql_dialect.html) by querying e.g. the type.


For this, EuroGeographic (one of the official European GIS data provider) released as an opendata product the EuroGlobalMap dataset

Data contrary to the link info about "Delivery formats available" can be directly downloaded as SHP (not "on demand")

The dataset contains six themes:

  • Administrative boundaries
  • The water network
  • Transport networks
  • Settlements
  • Elevation
  • Names locations

Another dataset can be the Global Roads Open Access Data Set (gROADS), v1 (1980 – 2010). Look into it at the Columbia University website


Following from markusN, there are OpenStreetmap downloads at GeoFabrik that are in shapefile format and therefore don't require processing (depending on the dataset).

Alternately, there's one here: http://www.mapcruzin.com/free-europe-arcgis-maps-shapefiles.htm

But at 900MB, I suspect its not abstracted.

  • Great - thanks for the link! That seems to be excactly what i was looking for.
    – chriserik
    Commented May 4, 2012 at 12:33

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