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Geography

These 10 Cities Are the World’s Tiniest National Capitals

By Rachel Gresh
Read time: 6 minutes

You’ll often find that a country’s capital is also a major population center. But despite being the seat of government of their respective nations, some capital cities claim populations of only a few thousand people — or sometimes even less. While they might be small, these cities have plenty of appeal for residents and tourists alike, from delicious local dining and pristine beaches to mountain hikes and fascinating historical sites. Check out the world’s 10 smallest capital cities by population.

10. Roseau, Dominica

Tropical jungle in Dominica
Credit: Rudolf Ernst/ iStock via Getty Images 

The vibrant tropical nation of Dominica spans 289 square miles as part of the Caribbean’s Windward Islands. Dominica’s capital city, Roseau, is home to only around 16,000 residents, making it the world’s 10th-smallest capital by population. Despite its small size, Roseau has its advantages for visitors: It is close to some of Dominica’s best outdoor adventure spots, including Papillote Tropical Gardens, Trafalgar Falls, and Morne Trois Pitons National Park. The latter is home to hot springs, Dominica’s famous “boiling lake,” and five volcanoes. For the best views of Roseau, take a short hike up Morne Bruce, a small but scenic peak just outside the city.

9. Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis

Fountain and park in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis
Credit: Frank Fell/robertharding/ Collection Mix: Subjects via Getty Images 

With just under 13,000 residents, Basseterre is the largest and most populated city in the dual-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. At the heart of this charming capital city is the Circus, a landmark square that centers around a Victorian-era Berkeley Memorial clock tower from Scotland. Just a 15-minute drive from downtown are Frigate Bay and Friar’s Bay, two of the most scenic beaches on St. Kitts. Travel north of the city to board the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, an early 20th-century train that takes visitors past villages and farms as it meanders through the countryside.

8. Funafuti, Tuvalu

Palm trees and homes on sandy beach in Funafuti, Tuvalu
Credit: robertharding/ Alamy Stock Photo

Funafuti is an atoll (a ring-shaped reef) that serves as the capital of Tuvalu, a country composed of nine islands in the South Pacific Ocean, north of Fiji. Despite being Tuvalu’s most populated atoll, Funafuti is only home to around 7,8,00 people. Most of the government buildings in Funafuti are located in the village of Vaiaku. Despite its remoteness, Funafuti has an international airport and several hotels that welcome visitors to explore nearby coral reefs and sandy beaches. Boating and water sports are especially popular here, thanks to the protected lagoon inside the atoll. 

7. Palikir, Micronesia

Aerial view of residential community in Palikir, Micronesia
Credit: KKKvintage/ iStock via Getty Images 

Palikir, located on the island of Pohnpei, serves as the capital city of the Federated States of Micronesia, an island chain in the western Pacific Ocean. The city has a population of approximately 7,000 people and is known for surfing, diving, and waterfall hikes. The stone ruins of Nan Madol, a short drive across the island from Palikirm, were sacred to native Pohnpeians from the 13th century until the 18th century, when it served as a fortress, seat of government, and religious center. Today, the site is open to the public to learn more about Indigenous history in Micronesia. 

6. Valletta, Malta

Colorful boats moored in harbor of Valletta, Malta
Credit: merc67/ iStock via Getty Images 

Established by the Knights of St. John, Valletta became the capital city of Malta in 1570. The historic walled city has a population of nearly 6,000 people and is known for its museums, ornate palaces, and churches spanning centuries of history. One of Valletta’s top attractions is the Lascaris War Rooms, a set of underground tunnels and chambers used by Allied powers during the invasion of Sicily in World War II. Located near its historic center, Valletta’s scenic waterfront is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafés. 

5. Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Castle on sloping green hillside in Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Credit: nathorn khajornprai/ Shutterstock 

Vaduz is a charming alpine town located on the Rhine River, near Liechtenstein’s border with Switzerland, and has a population of just over 5,800 people Overlooking the city is the 12th-century Vaduz Castle, home to the Prince of Liechtenstein and his family. Hiking the mountain to the castle is a popular activity for visitors, as it offers stunning views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. The town center has something for everyone, from Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (a contemporary art museum) to cozy bed-and-breakfasts and swanky eateries.

4. San Marino

Hilltop fortress in San Marino
Credit: kavalenkava/ Shutterstock 

This picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated on Mount Titano in the city-state of San Marino (one of the smallest countries in the world). Home to around 4,500 people, San Marino is surrounded entirely by Italy and is located about 60 miles east of Florence. The city-state’s most recognizable feature is its trio of citadels — called Guaita, Cesta, and Montale— which are perched on top of Mount Titano’s neighboring peaks. Guaita and Cesta are open to the public for tours. The city itself dates to the fourth century, making it the world’s oldest surviving constitutional republic. Remnants of its distant past can still be viewed today, including its cobblestone streets and stone wall fortifications dating to the Middle Ages.

3. Yaren, Nauru

Rock formations on tropical beach in Nauru
Credit: David Kirkland / Design Pics/ Design Pics via Getty Images 

The tiny island nation of Nauru is located about 2,500 miles northeast of Australia near Micronesia. It only takes 30 minutes to circumnavigate this island, so any of its attractions are easily accessible from the capital of Yaren, which has a population of approximately 950 people. Anibare Bay, one of the island’s most scenic beaches, is a 10-minute drive from Yaren and is known for its otherworldly coral formations and beautiful blue waters. History buffs will want to check out the nearby remains of World War II Japanese outposts, prisons, and watchtowers. Although this island is remote, the Nauru International Airport offers flights to Brisbane, Australia, and several Pacific islands. 

2. Vatican City

Exterior of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City
Credit: Laurie Chamberlain/ Corbis Documentary via Getty Images 

Despite being the world’s smallest country by area (at just 0.19 square miles) and population, Vatican City is home to some of Europe’s most-visited sites. This city-state is entirely surrounded by Rome, Italy, and has a population of about 520 people. It is home to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, including the Apostolic Palace (the pope’s official residence) and the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo’s famous Renaissance-era frescoes adorn the ceilings. Centuries of history, art, and culture make the Vatican one of the world’s most-visited capital cities, despite its small size.

1. Ngerulmud, Palau

Government building seen across grassy hill in Ngerulmud, Palau
Credit: mbrand85/ Shutterstock 

Palau is located in the western Pacific Ocean, located east of the Philippines. Ngerulmud, on Palau’s Babeldaob island, was named the capital of this island nation in 2006, replacing Koror City, the country’s most populated city. With a population of around 200 people, it’s the world’s smallest capital city. Given its small population, it will probably come as little surprise that Ngerulmud boasts only a few restaurants and shops. Visitors to this tropical locale will likely want to stay about 40 minutes south of Ngerulmud on Koror Island, which is connected to Babeldaob via the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge. An abundance of oceanfront resorts, fresh seafood restaurants, local shops, and family-friendly beach activities are found on Koror. 

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