Management of atrial fibrillation (AF) may be challenging in clinical practice. Given the complexity of AF patients and the continuous advances in AF clinical management, there is a need for standardized programmes aimed at collecting so-called ‘real-world clinical practice data’ regarding the epidemiology, diagnostic/therapeutic/management practices and assessing adherence to guidelines. Over the past 20 years, the number of registries and surveys based on real-world AF patients has been dramatically increased. In Europe, based on the Euro Heart Survey (EHS) and the EURObservational Research Programme (EORP), a large series of studies based on these prospective, observational, large-scale multicentre registries on AF have been published. This narrative review gives an overview of these two projects on AF led by the European Society of Cardiology, focusing mainly on the contribution that these studies have provided to AF management and patient outcomes. Both the EHS and the EORP registries have collected a large amount of data regarding contemporary clinical practice, and despite some limitations, mainly related to their observational nature, these registries have contributed to our knowledge and clinical management of AF patients.