Background: The provision of high-quality palliative care in nursing homes (NHs) is a major challenge and places demands on the knowledge and skills of the staff. Aim: This study assesses the palliative care knowledge of staff in NHs in Europe. Design: Cross-sectional study using structured survey Setting/participants: Nurses and care assistants working in 322 representative samples of NHs in Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Finland, Poland and Italy. Palliative care knowledge is measured with the Palliative Care Survey. Scores on the scales range between 0 and 1; higher scores indicate more knowledge. Results: A total of 3392 NH-staff were given a questionnaire, and 2275 responded (67%). Knowledge of basic palliative care issues ranged between 0.20 in Poland (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19; 0.24) and 0.61 in Belgium (95% CI 0.59; 0.63), knowledge of physical aspects that can contribute to pain ranged between 0.81 in Poland (95% CI 0.79; 0.84) and 0.91 in the Netherlands (95% CI 0.89; 0.93), and knowledge of psychological reasons that can contribute to pain ranged between 0.56 in England (95% CI 0.50; 0.62) and 0.87 in Finland (95% CI 0.83; 0.90). Factors associated with knowledge were country, professional role and having undertaken formal training in palliative care. Conclusions: Knowledge of nurses and care assistants concerning basic palliative care issues appears to be suboptimal in all participating countries, although there is substantial heterogeneity. Education of nursing staff needs to be improved across, but each country may require its own strategy to address the unique and specific knowledge gaps.