The 10 Biggest Cities In Kentucky

Skyline of Louisville, Kentucky.

The US state of Kentucky is located in the east south-central region of the country. With an area of 104,659 square km and a population of approximately 4,454,189, Kentucky ranks as the country's 37th largest state by area and the 26th most populous. Kentucky is subdivided into 120 counties and has 419 active cities, which are grouped into two classes that are based on the form of government: first class and home rule class. First class cities have a mayor-alderman government, while home rule class cities include all other forms of government. This new form of classifying cities based on type of government was introduced in 2015. Previously, Kentucky’s cities were classified on the basis of population. Interestingly, the capital of Kentucky, Frankfort, is not featured on the list of the state's 10 biggest cities. According to the 2010 census, Frankfort had a population of only 25,527, ranking as the 14th most populous city in the state. The largest city in the state is Louisville, followed by Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and Covington.

The Five Most Populous Cities in Kentucky

1. Louisville

With a population of 597,337, Louisville is Kentucky’s biggest city and ranks as the 29th most populous in the United States. It is the seat of Jefferson County and one of the state's two "first-class" cities. The city was founded in 1778 by American surveyor and soldier George Rogers Clark and is named after Louis XVI, former King of France. Today, Louisville is a major industrial city with a thriving shipping industry. It is an important regional manufacturing center and is home to a number of large companies and organizations in various types of industries.

2. Lexington

Lexington has a population of approximately 295,803, ranking as the state’s second largest city and the 60th most populous in the country. Also classified as a "first class" city, Lexington is consolidated with Fayette County and therefore is often referred to as Lexington-Fayette. The city is located in the center of the Bluegrass region and is noted for its fertile soil and excellent pastureland. Additionally, given its association with horse racing and breeding, Lexington has earned the nicknamed the "Horse Capital of the World."

3. Bowling Green

Bowling Green is the third most populated city in the state, with a population of approximately 58,067. It is classified as a "home rule class" city and serves as the county seat of Warren County. Founded in 1798 by pioneers, Bowling Green is now a thriving manufacturing industry and a major educational hub of Kentucky. In 2014, Bowling Green was listed as one of the country’s 25 best places to retire by Forbes magazine.

4. Owensboro

Owensboro is the fourth most populated city in Kentucky, with a population of approximately 57,265. It is a "home rule class" city and serves as the county seat of Daviess County. Owensboro is located along US Route 60, roughly 107 miles from Louisville, and has been given the nickname "BBQ Capital of the World."

5. Covington

Located in Kenton County, near the confluence of the Licking and Ohio Rivers, Covington is Kentucky’s fifth biggest city. It has a population of 40,640 and forms part of the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky metropolitan area.

Population Growth in Kentucky

Kentucky’s population has grown steadily since records have been kept. However, the state also experienced a net out-migration in most decades of the 20th century. Additionally, rural counties in the state have lost approximately 1 million people since 1900, while population has grown in Kentucky’s urban counties.

The 10 Biggest Cities in Kentucky by Population

RankNamePopulationClass of CityAreaCounty
1Louisville597,337First342.2 sq mi (886.3 km2)
2Lexington295,803First285.6 sq mi (739.7 km2)
3Bowling Green58,067Home Rule38.1 sq mi (98.7 km2)
4Owensboro57,265Home Rule20.4 sq mi (52.8 km2)
5Covington40,640Home Rule13.8 sq mi (35.7 km2)
6Hopkinsville31,577Home Rule30.8 sq mi (79.8 km2)
7Richmond31,364Home Rule23.1 sq mi (59.8 km2)
8Florence29,951Home Rule10.4 sq mi (26.9 km2)
9Georgetown29,098Home Rule16.0 sq mi (41.4 km2)
10Henderson28,757Home Rule17.6 sq mi (45.6 km2)

More in World Facts