In contrast to North American cities, numerically named streets are a very rare occurrence in Europe. This article explores the exceptions to this rule by charting the history of street numbering in 10 European countries. The medieval and early modern ‘new towns’ of New Winchelsea, Mannheim and a section of St Petersburg (Vasilievsky Island) were each designed with grid-plan layouts in which the streets were identified according to an alphanumerical system. Although a range of gridiron plans have been subsequently built across the continent, the newer instances of street numbering are characteristically inconspicuous and peripherally located in suburbs or industrial estates. As a result, most European cases of street numbering play a limited role in constituting the broader urban fabric of the streetscape, with the exception of cities such as Milton Keynes that conform more to the North American model. The relative absence of street-numbering plans in European cities can largely be explained by the much longer history of urbanism in Europe compared to North America and, above all else, the privileging of the nationalistic-pedagogic imperative to name streets with the aim of instilling historical ‘lessons’, which has left little room for the use of street numbering as a means of rationalizing the spatial organization of European cities.