Solar radiation is the primary source of energy for the Earth's climate system. Although the incoming and outgoing solar fluxes at the top of atmosphere can be quantified with high accuracy, large uncertainties still exist in the partitioning of solar absorption between surface and atmosphere. To compute best estimates of absorbed solar radiation at the surface and within the atmosphere representative for Europe during 2000–2010, we combine temporally homogeneous and spatially representative ground-based observations of surface downwelling solar radiation with collocated satellite-retrieved surface albedo and top-of-atmosphere net irradiance. We find best estimates of Europe land annual mean surface and atmospheric absorption of 117.3 ± 6 W m−2 (41.6 ± 2% of top-of-atmosphere incident irradiance) and 65.0 ± 3 W m−2 (23.0 ± 1%). The fractional atmospheric absorption of 23% represents a robust estimate largely unaffected by variations in latitude and season, thus, making it a potentially useful quantity for first-order validation of regional climate models. Uncertainties of the individual absorption estimates arise mostly from the measurements themselves. In this context, the surface albedo and the ground-based solar radiation data are the most critical variables. Other sources of uncertainty, like the multiplicative combination of spatially averaged surface solar radiation and surface albedo estimates, and the spatial representativeness of the point observations, are either negligibly small or can be corrected for.