We explored the variation in proportions of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) between and within countries participating in the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System and temporal trends in its occurrence. This system collects routine antimicrobial susceptibility tests for S. aureus. We examined data collected from January 1999 through December 2002 (50,759 isolates from 495 hospitals in 26 countries). MRSA prevalence varied almost 100-fold, from <1% in northern Europe to >40% in southern and western Europe. MRSA proportions significantly increased in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and decreased in Slovenia. Within countries, MRSA proportions varied between hospitals with highest variance in countries with a prevalence of 5% to 20%. The observed trends should stimulate initiatives to control MRSA at national, regional, and hospital levels. The large differences between hospitals indicate that efforts may be most effective at regional and hospital levels.