The earliest illustration of a European kite is in Walter de Milemete’s De Nobilitatibus (1326/27), a possibly three-dimensional dragon. Pennon kites were common and popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. By the 18th and 19th century, the pear- and diamond-shaped kites were the most illustrated designs. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, kites were used for military aerial observation (Baden-Powell, Cody, Madiot, Saconney, Schrieber, Ulyanin), weather observation (Dines, De Bort, Assmann), and flight experiments (Wright Brothers, Chanute, Lilienthal, Cody).

In the 20th century, kites in Europe have primarily been toys for children and adults, but they are flown in large festivals in seaside cites and elsewhere. Notable kite festival cities are Dieppe, France; Fano, Denmark; Cervia, Italy; and Bristol, England.