European countries by percentage of population living in the capital metropolitan area

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

The metropolitan area of a city is the city itself plus the area surrounding the city that is closely economically bound to the city. It is also sometimes called the “commuter belt” because it is usually defined as the area around a city where it is practical for people to commute to work in that city.

The metropolitan area is a better characterization of the true extent of a city than the population of the city proper because the city limits are often defined rather arbitrarily.

The following map shows the population of the metropolitan area of the capital of each country as a percentage of the total population of the country. The higher the number, the more the country is centralized around its capital:

Percentage of population living in capital metropolitan area
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Here’s a list of the same percentages, from highest to lowest. Surprisingly, Switzerland has the lowest percentage of “capitalization” in Europe (at just 5%). The reason is that Bern, the capital of Switzerland, is neither its largest city nor its economic centre. This title goes to Zürich, the metropolitan area of which contains 15% of the Swiss population.

Country%
Malta90
Luxembourg76
Iceland65
Latvia52
Estonia46
Ireland40
Cyprus37
Denmark36
Greece35
Norway33
Albania30
Austria30
Montenegro30
Hungary29
Andorra29
Kosovo28
Lithuania28
Croatia27
Finland27
Portugal27
Slovenia26
Bulgaria24
Macedonia24
Serbia24
Belarus22
United Kingdom21
Czech Republic20
Belgium19
France19
Moldova19
Sweden16
Netherlands14
Spain14
Romania12
Russia12
Slovakia12
Bosnia and Herzegovina11
Poland8
Italy7
Turkey7
Ukraine7
Germany5
Switzerland5

Please note that the value for Hungary was updated to 29 from 34. The reason for the original wrong figure was a widespread error in English-language sources, which mistakenly equate the Budapest metropolitan area with Central Hungary (which is larger).

The value for Germany was updated to 5 from 7. Similarly to the case above, there is a widespread confusion of both English and German terminology, in which the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region is incorrectly identified with the metropolitan area of Berlin. The latter is, however, better characterized as what is called Agglomeration Berlin (which is not the urban agglomeration of Berlin in the English sense of the word).

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