World Facts

European Countries Where The Largest City Is Not The Capital City

In five European countries, the capital city is not the most populous city.

In most countries around the world, the capital city also doubles up as the country’s largest city. However, few exceptions have capital cities which are not necessarily the largest cities. Such nations found in Europe include Liechtenstein, Malta, San Marino, Switzerland, and Turkey. A common characteristic shared among all these countries (except Turkey and Switzerland) is that they are all relatively small; based on both the population and area size.


Liechtenstein is a landlocked European country bordered by Switzerland and Austria. Liechtenstein is among the smallest countries in the continent with an area of only 62 square miles (only three other European countries are smaller). The city of Vaduz is Liechtenstein’s capital city and has the nation’s seat of parliament. However, with a population of about 5,400 people, Vaduz is surpassed in size by Schaan, which is the country’s biggest city, with a population of about 6,000 people.


The Island nation of Malta sits on an archipelago and covers an area of 122 square miles. The capital city of Malta is Valletta, a city located in the southeastern part of the country. The city is relatively small, with a population of about 6,400 people. While Valletta is the nation’s capital city, it is not the largest city in Malta. That distinction goes to the Birkirkara, a city situated in the center of the island. Birkirkara has a population of 22,250 people, the highest in Malta. Birkirkara is also larger than Valletta regarding the area, covering an area of 1 square mile, compared to Valletta’s 0.3 square miles.

San Marino

San Marino is among Europe’s smallest countries, covering an area of only 23.6 square miles. The nation is perhaps best known for being the world’s oldest extant sovereign republic, as it has been in existence since the early 4th century AD. Located in the heart of San Marino is the City of San Marino, which is the country’s capital city. The City of San Marino covers an area of 2.7 square miles and is home to about 4,130 people. San Marino’s largest city is Serraville, a city situated in the northern part of the country which has a population of 10,590 people.


Switzerland’s capital city is the 19.9-square-mile city of Bern. However, Bern is the fourth-largest city in Switzerland based on population, as the city is home to 133,000 people. Zurich both eclipses the city in population and size. With its population of 402,000 people, Zurich is the largest city in the country. Zurich is also the nation’s economic capital, with many major Swiss companies being headquartered in the city.


One of the world’s few transcontinental countries, Turkey, is described both as a European and an Asian country. The largest city in Turkey is Istanbul, a city situated in the western region of the country. The city has a population of 15 million people. Additionally, Istanbul is also the nation’s cultural and economic hub, but it is not the nation’s capital city. That title belongs to Ankara, a city with a population of 5.1 million people.

European Countries Where The Largest City Is Not The Capital City

RankCountryCapitalLargest city or municipality
1 LiechtensteinVaduzSchaan
2 MaltaVallettaBirkirkara
3 San MarinoSan MarinoSerravalle
4 SwitzerlandBernZurich
5 TurkeyAnkaraIstanbul

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