The 20 types of cities (and their characteristics)

The world population is 7.7 billion people. Yes, we are a lot of people. And each time more. In fact, there are 2.4 billion more human beings than at the beginning of the 1990s. And it is estimated that, by the end of the century, the world's population will reach 11 billion.

It is not surprising, then, that condensing all these people into highly dense urban centers has been, is and continues to be a necessity. Hence, cities are the pillar of our civilization, being the headquarters of the political, social, cultural and economic institutions of the countries.

As of this writing (May 22, 2021), 54% of the world's population (which would amount to just over 4,000 million people) lives in cities. Urban growth will continue to be exponential and, today, Guangzhou, China, the most populous city in the world with more than 46 million inhabitants, is a sign of how far we are able to go when it comes to urban planning.

But are all cities the same? No. Not much less. And precisely for this reason, in today's article we will delve into the exciting world of urban centers to see how cities are classified according to different parameters. Let's go there.


    What is a city?

    Cities are urban settlements that constitute population centers with a high density of inhabitants, a varied and abundant building, an economy based on industry, commerce and the service sector and its own political, economic, administrative, legal and religious functions.

    Beyond this, there is not much consensus on what should be considered a city or simply a town. The limits are very diffuse, since there are even differences between countries in terms of minimum population density to consider a settlement as a "city".

    Moreover, despite the fact that in 1966, the European Statistics Conference proposed to define the concept of city as “agglomerations of more than 10,000 inhabitants that are concentrated in collective buildings that grow in height and that are dedicated to the secondary sector and tertiary, that is, industry, commerce and services ”, this definition has not been widely used and each country, adapted to its situation, has created its own.

    Be that as it may, the concept of the city at a more political level can be understood as an urban conglomerate that differs from rural settlements since it has a key importance in the region, assuming the powers of the State and having, on many occasions, a capital entity, that is, the locality where the central government of a country resides.

    It is estimated (although it depends, as we have seen, on how we define it) that There could be about 500,000 cities in the world and a total of 512 that exceed one million inhabitants. And, in summary, we can understand a city as the set of buildings and other infrastructures that give rise to a densely populated urban nucleus that is dedicated to non-agricultural activities, unlike rural environments. Let's now see how they are classified.

    How are cities classified?

    As we have seen, strictly defining the concept of the city is not easy, but we all have very much in mind what is an urban environment and what is a rural environment. Therefore, below, we are going to see what types of cities exist according to different parameters and we will explore their more than interesting peculiarities.

    1. Small town

    His name could not be clearer. Small cities are urban settlements that, both by size and population, are on the border between city and town. Of course, they have their own jurisdiction and the main economic activities are not based on agriculture, but on industry, commerce and services. Usually, from 2,000 inhabitants it is already possible to speak of a small city.

    2. Intermediate city

    The intermediate city is one that is halfway between a small city and a metropolis. They have economic and political importance at the national level and we already observe a great diversification of services, large infrastructures and a strong economy. Cities with between 2,000 and 1,000,000 inhabitants are considered of this type.

    3. Regional metropolises

    When a city is home to hundreds of thousands of inhabitants (generally the starting point is one million, but it depends on the country) and they perform many different political and economic functions, we speak of a metropolis. Regionals, for their part, are the type of metropolis that they focus their influence not at the level of an entire country, but rather on a region. Valencia, in Spain, would be a clear example.

    4. National metropolises

    The national metropolises are cities that exceed one million inhabitants and that center their influence throughout the country, being the economic center of the same and the establishment of political power. The central government of a state resides in the national metropolises. Madrid is an example of this.

    5. Continental metropolises

    The continental metropolises are cities with a population of several million inhabitants and that, due to their political and economic power, not only have influence throughout their country, but also they are a key piece within their continent. Paris is an example of this, as it is one of the most politically relevant cities within the European Union.

    6. Megacity

    Megacities or world metropolises are cities that not only exceed 10 million inhabitantsRather, its political and economic influence occurs worldwide. They host the headquarters of very important multinationals, being also the main financial centers of the world. New York, with its 22 million inhabitants (the most populous city in the United States) is a clear example of this.

    7. Metropolitan area

    A metropolitan area is a territory that includes the municipal terms of a city and a set of urban populations settled around it, forming a single population nucleus. New York City as such has a population of 8 million inhabitants, but if we add the urban centers that make up its metropolitan area we reach 22 million.

    8. Metropolitan city

    A metropolitan city is an urban territory that serves as political and economic center of a metropolitan area. It is, therefore, the nucleus around which the activities of a metropolitan area take place. Being part of this group, despite being the main force, it is usually fragmented in its governmental functions.

    9. Metropolitan area

    A metropolitan area is the region that arises from uniting all the cities and urban settlements of a metropolitan area with all the other non-urbanized settlements (more rural) that fall within what is known as an “urban area”, which is used to designate the area that encompasses a metropolitan area. Growing up, a metropolitan area can end up absorbing rural nuclei.

    10. Metropolitan region

    A metropolitan region is the territory that, like the metropolitan area, arises from both the political and economic influence between different nearby urban centers, but, unlike this, they do not share a single urban area. In other words, from an airplane we do not appreciate it as a single set, since they have not been physically connected.

    11. Megapolis

    A megalopolis is a large city that is born from the union of two or more metropolitan areas due to accelerated urban growth. A clear example of this is the gigantic Japanese megalopolis established in the 1980s and located in central Japan, stretching from Tokyo to Kitakyushu (more than 1,000 km) and housing 80% of the country's population.

    12. Bedroom city

    A dormitory city is one whose main function is residential. It is a city with very little economic activity and generally close to a metropolis where the people who live there go to work. It receives this name because it basically serves to sleep.

    13. Industrial city

    An industrial city is one whose main function is the industry, since the secondary sector is the one that predominates in your economy. They are cities with a large concentration of factories that generally focus on a specific sector.

    14. University city

    A university city is one whose economy is closely associated with the activity of a university and whose population is mainly university students. One or more central universities have an urban nucleus built around them to meet the needs of college students.

    15. Commercial city

    A commercial city is one whose economy is closely linked to trade, that is, with the tertiary sector. Its economy is basically based on the purchase and sale of products and, therefore, it has a lot of tourist and cultural interest.

    16. Administrative city

    An administrative city is one that serves as the seat of a regional or national administration, serving as the administrative center of a government. The capitals of countries and regions within them are cities of this type.

    17. Port city

    A port city is one that, having a port, focuses much of its economy and political interest on maritime trade. They are cities with all the necessary infrastructures to get the most political and economic benefit from their geographical enclave.

    18. Defensive city

    A defensive city is that urban settlement that, in ancient times, it was endowed with the necessary infrastructures to prevent invasions and protect yourself from attacks. At present, despite the fact that the city develops other functions, the remains of walls and other ancient structures associated with this defense function can be seen.

    19. Tourist city

    A tourist city is one that focuses its economy on tourism. Due to its climate, services, commerce, gastronomy, culture, etc., it is attractive to tourists, which is why it receives a large number of national and international visits. Bangkok, with its 22.8 million annual visitors, is the most touristic city in the world.

    20. Global city

    "Global city" is a concept of urban geography that born from the effects of globalization, of communication and social networks, turning certain cities into world centers not only economically and politically, but also culturally. Surely the most global city in the world is New York.

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