List of primate cities

Countries without a primate city

A primate city is a major city that works as the financial, political, and population center of a country and is not rivaled in any of these aspects by any other city in that country. Normally, a primate city must be at least twice as populous as the second largest city in the country. The presence of a primate city in a country usually indicates an imbalance in development — usually a progressive core, and a lagging periphery, on which the primate city depends for labor and other resources.[1] Not all countries have primate cities (United States, Germany, India, and the People's Republic of China, for example), but in those that do, the rest of the country depends on it for cultural, economic, political, and major transportation needs. Among the best known examples of primate cities are the alpha world cities of London and Paris. Other major primate cities include Athens, Baghdad, Bangkok, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Dublin, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Lima, Mexico City, Seoul, Tehran, and Vienna. Bangkok has been called "the most primate city on earth", being forty times larger than Thailand's second city.[2]

Some examples of nations without a primate city would include India, with the six main cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad; Canada, whose capital city, Ottawa, is overshadowed by the larger global cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; Brazil, whose capital and political center, Brasilia, is dwarfed in size and culture by São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Belo Horizonte; Italy, whose political seat at Rome is balanced by its business, financial, and fashion "capital" of Milan; Australia, which has the two main cities of Sydney and Melbourne, while the political centre resides in the smaller city of Canberra; South Africa, with three official capitals in Pretoria, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein, each housing a different branch of government, and whose main commercial centre is yet another city, Johannesburg; and the United States, whose financial and cultural centers are widely dispersed throughout the country in cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago and whose political center is located in Washington, D.C. In Turkey, the historical, cultural, financial, business and transportation center Istanbul is more than twice as large as the second-largest city Ankara, but Ankara is the political capital. Additionally, Ho Chi Minh City and Berlin have close competitors as their countries' largest cities (Hanoi and Hamburg respectively).

Germany is unique, in that the post-Cold-War political center of Berlin is somewhat weak. Several major government institutions are spread throughout the country, in cities like Bonn (the former capital) and Karlsruhe (seat of the federal constitutional court). Likewise, Frankfurt is its most important financial centre, but has significant competition from Düsseldorf and Munich. Germany's cultural center is split between Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Dresden, and smaller cities. However, Berlin was considered a primate city of Germany in the years 1871-1945.

Whether primate cities or not, alpha cities tend to produce a large percentage of their countries' respective gross domestic product (GDP) and gross metropolitan product (GMP), though primate cities tend to have a larger economic influence individually over a country. The three largest world metros consisting of a combined statistical area (CSA), by GMP, are the Greater Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. Each of these cities have a GMP approaching the $1 trillion mark. This is largely due to the vast amounts of trade, finance, manufacturing, fashion, media, science, research and technology, transportation (air, ocean/shipping, land), warehousing, and other industries that provide jobs and end products on mass scales with easy access to worldwide markets and other alpha and primate cities. In addition many multinational corporations are headquartered in many alpha and primate cities.

Some countries, such as the United States, Australia and Canada, have regional and/or provincial/state primate cities, such as Atlanta, Georgia; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Perth in Western Australia.




City Country Population (metropolitan area) Second largest city Population
Andorra la Vella  Andorra 36,000[Note 1] Encamp 13,521
Athens [3][5]  Greece 3,753,783 Thessaloniki 1,084,001
Belgrade  Serbia 1,659,440 Novi Sad 341,625
Bucharest  Romania 2,272,163 Cluj-Napoca 411,379
Budapest [9]  Hungary 3,303,786 Debrecen 237,888
Chișinău  Moldova 736,100 Tiraspol 135,700
Copenhagen [5][9]  Denmark 2,016,285 Aarhus 330,639
Dublin [3][9]  Ireland 1,904,806 Cork 399,216
Helsinki  Finland 1,441,601 Tampere 363,546
Ljubljana  Slovenia 537,712 Maribor 95,881
London [7][9]  United Kingdom 13,879,757 Birmingham 3,701,107
Luxembourg  Luxembourg 107,247 Esch-sur-Alzette 32,600
Minsk  Belarus 2,101,018 Gomel 526,872
Monte Carlo  Monaco
Oslo [5]  Norway 1,717,900 Bergen 278,121
Paris [5][6][7][9]  France 12,405,426 Marseille
Podgorica  Montenegro 187,085 Nikšić 72,443
Prague  Czech Republic 2,156,097 Brno 810,000
Reykjavík  Iceland 209,680[Note 2] Akureyri 18,191
Riga [3][5]  Latvia 1,018,295 Daugavpils 96,818
Sarajevo  Bosnia and Herzegovina 463,992 Banja Luka 185,042
Skopje  Macedonia 506,926[Note 3] Bitola 105,644
Sofia  Bulgaria 1,681,666 Plovdiv 544,628
Tallinn  Estonia 542,983 Tartu 93,687
Tirana  Albania 800,986 Durrës 201,110
Vienna [3][6][9]  Austria 2,600,000 Graz 269,997
Zagreb  Croatia 1,113,111 Split 349,314

Information is taken from and sourced in the linked articles.

North America

City Country Population (metropolitan area) Second largest city Population
Basseterre  Saint Kitts and Nevis 13,000
Belize City  Belize 60,963
Bridgetown  Barbados 110,000
Castries  Saint Lucia 70,000
Santo Domingo  Dominican Republic 2,908,607
Guatemala City metropolitan area[5][9]  Guatemala 2,749,161
Havana  Cuba 2,106,146
Kingston  Jamaica 1,041,084
Kingstown  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 16,500
Managua[5]  Nicaragua 2,560,789
Mexico City[5][7][9]  Mexico 20,400,000
Nassau  Bahamas 274,400
Panama City[3]  Panama 880,691
Port of Spain  Trinidad and Tobago 128,026
Port-au-Prince[3]  Haiti 2,618,894
Roseau  Dominica 16,582
San José[3][5][9]  Costa Rica 2,158,898
San Juan[3]  Puerto Rico 2,350,126
San Salvador[5][9]  El Salvador 1,767,102
St. George's  Grenada 33,734
St. John's  Antigua and Barbuda 81,799


City Country Population (metropolitan area) Second largest city Population
Apia  Samoa 36,735 Afega 1,781
Funafuti  Tuvalu 6,025 Asau 650
Honiara  Solomon Islands 64,609 Auki 7,785
Koror  Palau 14,000 Airai 2,700
Majuro  Marshall Islands 27,797
Noumea  New Caledonia 179,509
Nukuʻalofa  Tonga 24,571
Port Moresby  Papua New Guinea 410,954
Port-Vila  Vanuatu 44,040
Suva  Fiji 175,399
South Tarawa  Kiribati 50,182

South America

City Country Population (metropolitan area) Second largest city Population
Gran Asunción[3]  Paraguay 2,698,401 Ciudad del Este 293,817
Buenos Aires[7][9]  Argentina 12,741,364 Córdoba 1,528,000
Georgetown  Guyana 118,363 Linden 29,298
Lima[9]  Peru 9,752,000 Trujillo 949,498
Montevideo[3][9]  Uruguay 1,947,604 Salto 104,028
Paramaribo  Suriname 240,924 Lelydorp 19,910
Santiago Metropolitan Region[3]  Chile 6,685,685 Valparaíso 1,036,127

Countries without a primate city

Primate cities in country subdivisions

Country subdivisions without a primate city

See also



  1. Brunn, Stanley et al. Cities of the World. Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2003
  2. Baker, Chris; Pasuk Phongpaichit (2009). A history of Thailand (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 199. ISBN 0-521-76768-7
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 World Urbanization Prospects: The 2003 Revision. United Nations Publications. 1 January 2004. pp. 97–102. ISBN 978-92-1-151396-7.
  4. 1 2 3 4 James D. Tarver (1996-01-01). The Demography of Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 98–. ISBN 978-0-275-94885-6.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Joseph John Hobbs (2009). World Regional Geography. Cengage Learning. pp. 109–. ISBN 0-495-38950-1.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Michael Pacione (2009). Urban Geography: A Global Perspective. Taylor & Francis. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-415-46201-3.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Kelly Swanson (7 August 2012). Kaplan AP Human Geography 2013-2014. Kaplan Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60978-694-6.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Ashok K. Dutt (31 October 1994). The Asian City: Processes of Development, Characteristics, and Planning. Springer. pp. 7–. ISBN 978-0-7923-3135-3. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Robert B. Kent (January 2006). Latin America: Regions and People. Guilford Press. pp. 144–. ISBN 978-1-57230-909-8.
  10. Nash, Gary B. (2006). First City Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
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