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Largest urban areas of Western Europe

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This is a list of all the urban areas of Western Europe which had more than 750,000 inhabitants in 2004. Western Europe is defined here as all the European countries that were west of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Turkey is not included, having most of its territory in Asia.

This list was created in order to help solve the problem of widely diverging numbers that are found online, or even on Wikipedia, for the population of European cities. Numbers here have been compiled using a uniform definition and the limits of urban areas have been harmonized as of 2000, so they can be compared with each other. The list was designed in 2000, and figures for 2004 that are presented here have been calculated using the 1990-2000 population growth rate for each city. It is possible that one or two urban areas may have experienced a very different growth pattern since 2000, in which case the figures given here would differ slightly from reality, but this should play only at the margin.

Contents

Important notes

  • This is a list of urban areas, this is not a list of metropolitan areas. Urban areas are contiguous built-up areas where houses are not more than 200 meters apart (discounting rivers, parks, roads, industrial fields, etc.). A metropolitan area is an urban area plus the satellite cities around the urban area and the agricultural land in between.
  • The majority of European statistical offices do not have a definition for metropolitan areas, they only define urban areas, therefore it is not possible to give figures for metropolitan areas. Figures for European metropolitan areas than can be found online, such as London 13 million inhabitants, Randstad 7 million, etc., are only rough estimates, and should be taken with a lot of care. France is one of the few countries in Europe that actually define metropolitan areas, and calculate their population. See Aire urbaine for a definition and a list of French metropolitan areas.
  • Figures here are accurate, unlike rough estimates of European metropolitan areas than can be found online. However, figures here cannot be compared with figures of American metropolitan areas. The Census Bureau in the United States computes metropolitan areas, which are larger than urban areas. The Census Bureau does not compute urban areas, so that it is practically impossible to compare the size of American and European cities, except in the case of a few European coutries such as France where the statistical office computes metropolitan areas.
  • Please do not be surprised if you are used to higher figures for the cities listed below. London is frequently listed with 13 million inhabitants, Stuttgart is frequently listed with 2.2 million inhabitants, Munich with 2 million or more, etc. This is because figures here are only for urban areas, which are smaller than metropolitan areas. Urban areas can be computed by private people or institutions using maps and looking where the built-up area stops. Metropolitan areas, which imply much more complicated definitions (such as the proportion of people in satellite cities working in the core of the metropolitan area), can be accurately computed only by statistical offices, after they have chosen a definition for metropolitan areas, but unfortunately the majority of European statistical offices do not define or compute metropolitan areas.

Urban areas of Western Europe above 750,000 inhabitants


Urban Area Population
(in 2004)
Yearly percent change
(in the 1990s)

01- Paris, France

9,932,000 + 0.21 %

02- London, United Kingdom

8,476,000 + 0.79 %

03- Central Ruhr-Essen-Dortmund-Duisburg, Germany

5,221,000 – 0.14 %
04- Madrid, Spain 4,853,000 + 0.32 %

05- Barcelona, Spain

4,043,000 0 %

06- Berlin, Germany

3,760,000 + 0.12 %

07- Milan, Italy

3,708,000 – 0.35 %

08- Rotterdam-The Hague, Netherlands

3,328,000 + 0.50 %
09- Athens, Greece 3,235,000 + 0.37 %

10- Naples, Italy

2,887,000 0 %

11- Rome, Italy

2,627,000 – 0.85 %

12- Cologne-Bonn, Germany

2,460,000 + 0.63 %

13- South Ruhr-Düsseldorf-Wuppertal, Germany

2,379,000 + 0.14 %

14- Lisbon, Portugal

2,371,000 + 0.27 %

15- Hamburg, Germany

2,281,000 + 0.54 %

16- Birmingham, United Kingdom

2,280,000 – 0.05 %

17- Manchester, United Kingdom

2,235,000 – 0.14 %

18- Brussels, Belgium

1,965,000 + 0.52 %

19- Vienna, Austria

1,888,000 + 0.25 %

20- Munich, Germany

1,653,000 + 0.20 %

21- Leeds, United Kingdom

1,516,000 + 0.36 %

22- Frankfurt, Germany

1,485,000 + 0.29 %

23- Lyon, France

1,442,000 + 0.46 %

24- Copenhagen, Denmark

1,412,000 + 0.39 %

25- Marseilles, France

1,370,000 + 0.29 %

26- Lille-Kortrijk, France/Belgium

1,365,000
(75% in France/25% in Belgium)
+ 0.19 %

27- Valencia, Spain

1,361,000 + 0.10 %

28- Porto, Portugal

1,294,000 + 0.71 %

29- Turin, Italy

1,279,000 – 0.95 %

30- Stockholm, Sweden

1,259,000 + 1.08 %

31- Stuttgart, Germany

1,235,000 + 0.30 %

32- Amsterdam, Netherlands

1,188,000 + 0.64 %

33- Bielefeld, Germany

1,176,000 + 0.65 %

34- Glasgow, United Kingdom

1,159,000 – 0.26 %

35- Liverpool, United Kingdom

1,127,000 – 0.30 %

36- Antwerp, Belgium

1,091,000 + 0.27 %

37- Seville, Spain

1,066,000 + 0.56 %

38- Newcastle, United Kingdom

1,059,000 – 0.11 %

39- Helsinki, Finland

1,056,000 + 1.46 %

40- Dublin, Ireland

1,011,000 + 0.53 %

41- Zurich, Switzerland

997,000 + 0.40 %

42- Bilbao, Spain

922,000 – 0.35 %

43- Nice, France

908,000 + 0.42 %

44- Mannheim, Germany

904,000 + 0.29 %

45- Florence, Italy

879,000 – 0.54 %

46- Bremen, Germany

859,000 + 0.27 %

47- Thessaloniki, Greece

823,000 + 0.67 %

48- Toulouse, France

822,000 + 1.47 %

49- Oslo, Norway

801,000 + 1.09 %

50- Bordeaux, France

788,000 + 0.63 %

51- Hanover, Germany

766,000 + 0.25 %

52- Genoa, Italy

764,000 – 1.01 %

53- Nuremberg, Germany

763,000 + 0.24 %

Five fastest growing urban areas of Western Europe

Urban Area Yearly percent change
(in the 1990s)

01- Toulouse, France

+ 1.47 %

02- Helsinki, Finland

+ 1.46 %

03- Oslo, Norway

+ 1.09 %
04- Stockholm, Sweden + 1.08 %

05- London, United Kingdom

+ 0.79 %

Five fastest declining urban areas of Western Europe

Urban Area Yearly percent change
(in the 1990s)

01- Genoa, Italy

– 1.01 %

02- Turin, Italy

– 0.95 %

03- Rome, Italy

– 0.85 %
04- Florence, Italy – 0.54 %

05- Milan, Italy / Bilbao, Spain

– 0.35 %
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