Aims Carotid–femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV), a direct measure of aortic stiffness, has become increasingly important for total cardiovascular (CV) risk estimation. Its application as a routine tool for clinical patient evaluation has been hampered by the absence of reference values. The aim of the present study is to establish reference and normal values for PWV based on a large European population. Methods and results We gathered data from 16 867 subjects and patients from 13 different centres across eight European countries, in which PWV and basic clinical parameters were measured. Of these, 11 092 individuals were free from overt CV disease, non-diabetic and untreated by either anti-hypertensive or lipid-lowering drugs and constituted the reference value population, of which the subset with optimal/normal blood pressures (BPs) (n = 1455) is the normal value population. Prior to data pooling, PWV values were converted to a common standard using established conversion formulae. Subjects were categorized by age decade and further subdivided according to BP categories. Pulse wave velocity increased with age and BP category; the increase with age being more pronounced for higher BP categories and the increase with BP being more important for older subjects. The distribution of PWV with age and BP category is described and reference values for PWV are established. Normal values are proposed based on the PWV values observed in the non-hypertensive subpopulation who had no additional CV risk factors. Conclusion The present study is the first to establish reference and normal values for PWV, combining a sizeable European population after standardizing results for different methods of PWV measurement.