To date, research on neotectonics and related continental topography development has mostly focused on active plate boundaries characterized by generally high deformation rates. The intraplate sedimentary basins and rifts of the Northern Alpine foreland are associated with a much higher level of neotectonic activity than hitherto assumed. Seismicity and stress indicator data, combined with geodetic and geomorphologic observations, demonstrate that Europe's intraplate lithosphere is being actively deformed. This has major implications for the assessment of its natural hazards and environmental degradation. The lithosphere of the Northern Alpine foreland has undergone a polyphase evolution with an intense interplay between upper mantle thermal perturbations and stress-induced intraplate deformation that points to the importance of lithospheric folding of the thermally weakened lithosphere. In this paper, we address relationships between deeper lithospheric processes, neotectonics and surface processes in the Northern Alpine foreland with special emphasis on tectonically induced topography. The objectives are to quantify the effects of ongoing Alpine collision and Atlantic ridge-push on the intraplate deformation in Europe and its impact on topography evolution and related natural hazards. This paper reviews the four-dimensional topographic evolution of the European lithosphere through a multi-disciplinary approach linking geology, geophysics and geotechnology. Until now, research on neotectonics and related topography development of intraplate regions has received little attention. Our study examines a number of selected natural laboratories in continental Europe. From orogen through platform to continental margin, these natural laboratories include the Carpathians-Pannonian system, the Northwest European Platform, Iberia and the Atlantic continental margin. We focus on lithosphere memory and neotectonics with special attention to the thermo-mechanical structure of the lithosphere, mechanisms of large-scale intraplate deformation, Late-Neogene anomalies in subsidence and uplift, and links with surface processes and topography evolution. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.