Genomic information from ancient human remains is beginning to show its full potential for learning about human prehistory. We review the last few years' dramatic finds about European prehistory based on genomic data from humans that lived many millennia ago and relate it to modern-day patterns of genomic variation. The early times, the Upper Palaeolithic, appears to contain several population turn-overs followed by more stable populations after the Last Glacial Maximum and during the Mesolithic. Some 11,000 years ago the migrations driving the Neolithic transition start from around Anatolia and reach the north and the west of Europe millennia later followed by major migrations during the Bronze age. These findings show that culture and lifestyle were major determinants of genomic differentiation and similarity in pre-historic Europe rather than geography as is the case today.