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6 of the Most Commonly Confused International Capitals 

By Daily Passport Team
Read time: 4 minutes

There are nearly 200 national capitals around the globe, so it wouldn’t be surprising if you draw a blank trying to remember them all. To make matters more confusing, some countries have multiple capitals, some have changed their capitals, and some have capitals that are only home to a few hundred people. But above all else, the six cities below stand out from the pack as the international capitals that everyone always seems to get wrong. Can you keep these commonly confused capitals straight? 

Canberra, Australia

Australian flag flying over government building on grassy hill in Canberra
Credit: Mlenny/ iStock via Getty Images 

If you’re heading to the land Down Under, chances are you’ll begin your adventure in Sydney — that famous city with its majestic harborfront opera house. But that isn’t the capital of Australia. Neither are popular cities such as Melbourne, Perth, or Brisbane. The lesser-known city of Canberra doesn’t always ring a bell, but it is, in fact, the capital of Australia.

Home to just about 400,000 people, Canberra has a small-town vibe that allows visitors to experience all the city has to offer without feeling overwhelmed. From art to history to the great outdoors, Canberra has plenty of appeal for visitors — you’ll find museums, breweries, and incredible architecture to explore, along with stunning views of the mountains and valleys surrounding the city.

Rabat, Morocco

Cityscape of Rabat, Morocco, seen from across body of water
Credit: saiko3p/ Shutterstock 

Watch a lot of movies, and you might imagine the city of Casablanca is the capital of Morocco. Even with the likes of Bogie and Bergman gracing your screens and making you fall in love with Morocco, this beautiful city isn’t the capital. Nor is the popular tourist hotspot Marrakech. The capital of this North African nation is actually Rabat.

Rabat is a hidden gem with a lot to offer, including the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, a preserved holy place that’s open to the public. Three members of the Alaouite dynasty are interred within, and its architectural style is reminiscent of the dynasty’s period of rule.

Ankara, Turkey

Aerial view of stone fortress overlooking Ankara, Turkey
Credit: bloodua/ iStock via Getty Images 

With a history dating back to the stone age, the capital of Turkey is a familiar name, but not the one most think of first. While Istanbul is probably the best-known city in the country, it’s not the capital. The actual capital, Ankara, sits about 280 miles inland from Istanbul. It has roughly one-third the population of Istanbul and is not nearly as famous.

One thing Ankara does offer, though, is the famous Angora (long-haired) goats and cats. In fact, Angora used to be the name of the city before it was renamed Ankara. From Roman-era temples to a Byzantine citadel to a Seljuk era mosque, there are many different viewpoints from which to see the city. Ottoman buildings fill a large portion of the city, some having been converted into museums to educate visitors.

Ottawa, Canada

Parliament Hill seen from across river in Ottawa, Canada
Credit: A-Tom/ iStock via Getty Images 

Toronto? Nope. Montreal? Try again. Vancouver? Still not correct. Canada’s capital is Ottawa, located in the province of Ontario about midway between the country’s two largest cities of Montreal and Toronto. Ottawa houses a bilingual parliament and has its own rich traditions, even if it isn’t typically the top spot to visit on a trip up north.

Home to the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ottawa boasts year-round celebrations and festivals, offers a cosmopolitan vibe, and can easily be traversed by foot. Many visitors enjoy the historic ByWard Market, which is lined with markets and cute shops.

Brasília, Brazil

Distinctively shaped Cathedral of Brasília, Brazil
Credit: Edson J Ferreira/ Shutterstock 

Many guess that Rio de Janeiro is the capital of Brazil. While that used to be the case, the city famous for its beaches and Sugar Loaf Mountain is no longer the national capital. After being built from scratch in the 1960s, the current capital of the largest country in South America is Brasília, found about 720 miles to the northwest.

This city is home to almost 3 million residents and has a tropical savannah climate with high humidity. If you visit, you’ll want to check out the Cathedral of Brasília, a Roman Catholic cathedral that looks more like a state-of-the-art museum in New York City than any a place of worship. The Chapada dos Veadeiros is a renowned national park with numerous waterfalls and opportunities to see wildlife. You can also visit the Poço Azul, or “Blue Pool,” a natural wonder formed from quartz that is a popular snorkeling location.

Bern, Switzerland

Parliament building in Bern, Swtizerland
Credit: Rostislavv/ iStock via Getty Images 

Since the United Nations’ European headquarters are in Geneva, most people assume that it must be the capital of Switzerland. Or, they guess Zürich, the most populated city in the country. But the honor instead belongs to Bern. The city, located on the Aare River, is the fifth-largest in the country and offers just as much beauty as the rest of Switzerland. Highlights for visitors to Bern include wandering the old city, checking out the medieval Zytglogge (Clock Tower) and parliament building, and strolling the city’s spectacular rose garden.

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