What is a city? How is it different from a town? Is it a question of population, facilities, public services, government? Merriam-Webster defines a city as “an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a town or village.” But as Ammar A. Malik, a senior research associate at the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute, puts it, “[T]he basic question of what constitutes a city is often defined inconsistently…” That’s putting it mildly. One person’s city is another person’s town, and vice versa.
Local tourist authorities maintain that Hum, Croatia, is the smallest city in the world, for instance, but it has no more than 20 or so residents and only a couple of streets; we’re not buying it. On the other hand, Bronkhorst, in the Netherlands, has a mere 155 inhabitants, but a 15th-century ruler designated it as a city, and so it remains one today.
The distinction can be an important one: The 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees formalized the border between France and Spain, ceding all the borderline villages to the former country. The citizens of one town, Llívia, protested that theirs was officially a city, so it remained part of Spain — though one today completely surrounded by France.
Given the difficulty of defining “city” and the fact that population figures, even official ones, often disagree or are outdated, we gave up trying to identify the smallest actual cities in the world. Instead, we’ve assembled an assortment of interesting tiny cities from around the globe, from Asia to the Americas, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Not surprisingly, many of these are island cities, their size perhaps limited by geography. Some are the capitals of their nations. One is actually a city and a nation (or at least a state). They range in population from 155 to 22,111 and in area from 0.01 to 266.4 square miles. Are they all really cities? Yes, one way or another.
24/7 Wall St. drew on population data from the United Nations Statistics Division, World Population Review (whose data is based on the UN’s annual World Population Prospects), City Population (a data aggregator used by the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the Europe World Year Book, and the answer engine Wolfram Alpha, among others), and the environmental information website Mongabay, as well as pertinent official city, regional, or country websites to choose 25 interesting tiny cities. In many places, government censuses are conducted only once every 10 years, and the most recent ones date from 2010 or 2011. Rather than use more recent but unofficial numbers, we have reported the census counts. In all cases, the year from which figures date has been noted. Those from 2017 and 2018 are primarily population estimates or projections.