I'm trying to generate a reference grid map of Europe with country and provincial boundaries using the EEA files available here. Here is an example of country and provincial boundaries with a raster layer overlay.


I just want the underlying shape map with boundaries, no colors/data/raster stuff overlaid. The linked EEA website has files for all of the individual countries, but doesn't seem to have a single folder for Europe as a whole. Do I have to download every single country to make the Europe map? The eea_reference_grid_v1.pdf at the site seems to suggest that there is a single folder you can download for the whole Europe map, but I can't find it anywhere. Additionally, any pointers on loading the files and producing the map in R are very welcome.


2 Answers 2


I'm afraid you are looking at the wrong datasource. The linked files only contain square grids in resolution of 1, 10 and 100km, and no boundaries as shown in the picture.

Maybe NUTS regions are what you are looking for.

These shapefiles cover the whole European community, and more:

enter image description here


You can probably use R to automatically download all the shapefiles you need. I wasn't able to find a link to the whole of Europe either. I haven't done much R, but I've got some suggestions that might work.

An example of downloading a single file using R can be found at https://stackoverflow.com/questions/23028760/download-a-file-from-https-using-download-file. The solution there is likely to use RCurl's download.file() method.

The zip file for Albania seems to be https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/eea-reference-grids-2/gis-files/albania-shapefile/at_download/file. Though you should double-check that for accuracy and make sure it's .

This means that all countries are likely available at a url like https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/eea-reference-grids-2/gis-files/<country-name>-shapefile/at_download/file, making it easy to produce a list of all the country names and then iterate over them, downloading each file.

You can then unzip each of the shapefiles with R's unzip utility as documented at https://www.rdocumentation.org/packages/utils/versions/3.4.3/topics/unzip

You haven't mentioned a specific geospatial package you're using for R but two common features of geospatial maps are 1) the ability to combine shapefiles and 2) produce a map as a PNG or other image formats. That's a somewhat separate question, and there's a number of tutorials for R mapping, so you should start by finding and going through those tutorials.

  • Maybe a good idea. But: even after downloading all these files, how do I assemble all the files into a single map of Europe? I know how to load and generate a map of each individual country, but is it possible to glue them all together? I am using the rgdal and raster packages in R.
    – ben
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 17:37
  • Specific advice on how to compile the shapefiles into one map is beyond my experience with R packages, but have you looked for tutorials that do that?
    – Emily
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 17:46
  • 1
    This would be an easy task for QGIS: Just copy all countries shapefiles and paste them into one of the files. I guess readOGR and writeOGR should do the same in R.
    – AndreJ
    Commented Dec 21, 2017 at 17:58

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