For the majority of Australians who are travelling to Europe on holidays, visas won’t be necessary as their holiday won’t be longer than two or three months, however there are rules on how long Australians can stay in Europe.
Australian Passport holders are, in most cases, not required to obtain a visa to visit the majority of countries in Europe as long as they don’t stay in any one country for longer than 90 days. But, just like each individual country has its own visa requirements, so does the Schengen zone of Europe.
The Schengen Zone is a group of 26 countries that encourage free movement (and therefore no border checks) within this area as if it were a single country. Here's a list of the countries that are part of the Schengen Zone. You might be surprised to learn that the United Kingdom and Croatia are two countries that are NOT part of the Schengen Zone.
Citizens of non-Schengen member countries, in some cases, require a Schengen Visa to visit the Schengen countries. At the time of writing, Australian Passport holders DO NOT require a Schengen Visa provided they meet some STRICT rules that apply as to how long Australians can stay in the Schengen countries.
I strongly recommend reading the European Commission's definition of entry and stay in the Schengen area HERE.
How long can Australian Passport holders stay in Europe?
Generally, if you are planning on spending less than a total of 90 days within a 180 day period in the 'Schengen area' you will not require a visa for countries which are parties to the Schengen Zone. This means that you can enter the Schengen area and move between the member countries with a single Schengen visa (in this case, it’s usually just the stamp you receive in your passport at immigration on arrival into the first Schengen country of your trip).
If you are planning on an extended visit to Europe, though, and are likely to exceed the 90 day limit, you must apply for a Schengen Visa or be sure to leave the Schengen area so that you do not exceed the limit.
The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website has more info for Australians visiting the Schengen Zone including details on where to apply for a Schengen Visa.
As I mentioned above, most individual European countries don’t require Australian Passport holders to obtain a visa if they are staying in the country for less than 90 days but if you are planning an extended holiday in a single country, this article explains more about visa requirements for travellers to Europe.
Turkey is an exception as Australian travellers are required to obtain a tourist visa to the country. Find out more here.
Rules and regulations can change, so my advice is to check the Smart Traveller website when you start your Europe holiday planning, regardless of how long you are intending to stay, just to be sure you won't require a visa.
UPDATE 4 August, 2017: After receiving the comment below from Austraveller, I contacted both the Swedish and Danish Embassies in Canberra to find out more about their bi-lateral agreements for Australians. They replied:
We do not have any information on our website that can confirm this and I have asked for information regarding this. We normally state to individuals that wish to travel an extended time in Sweden the following, please note that each person SHOULD contact the Embassy of Sweden or the Norwegian/Danish Embassy to get this confirmed before they travel as these agreements could change.
We inform the following;
All Australian/New Zealand citizens are visa free to the Schengen Zone (all countries signed in the Schengen agreement, see this link; http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/borders-and-visas/visa-policy/schengen_area_en.pdf) for 90 days within a 180 day period.
Sweden and Australia/New Zealand have a bilateral visa wavier agreement with which allows Australian/New Zealand citizens to enter into Sweden for an additional 3 months once the 90 visa free days have been used. The agreement states that you can only claim the bilateral 3 months if you have not used any of the visa free 90 Schengen days in Sweden (or Denmark and Norway). You might be asked to prove that you have used your 90 visa free days in other countries when you enter into Sweden so it is of importance that you either have your passport stamped or save proof of travel.”
Thank you for your enquiry.
On the “New to Denmark” website you will find all relevant information regarding visas to Denmark. Please see the following link: https://www.nyidanmark.dk/en-us/coming_to_dk/visa/visa.htm.
There is a bilateral waiver agreement between Denmark and Australia. Please see the Embassy’s website: http://australien.um.dk/en/travel-and-residence/short-stay-visas/bilateral-visa-agreements/ (Note: Link updated 7 November, 2017) For any questions regarding the bilateral visa agreements, the Danish Immigration Service can be contacted on tel. +45 35 36 66 00.
If travellers are not governed by the visa-free travel and bilateral agreement conditions, they must seek a visa to enter Denmark through VFS Global.
If you have further questions regarding visas to Denmark, we kindly refer you to VFS Global who handles all visa enquiries to Denmark. (See the above link for further information.)
I encourage anyone who plans to overstay the regulation 90 day limit to get written confirmation (before they travel) from an Embassy that offers a bilateral visa waiver agreement to Australians that they won't be breaking any rules.