A city can become a country’s capital for a variety of reasons. It could have historic significance or have preexisting facilities, such as administrative buildings or royal quarters that make it an easy choice. Sometimes it is a matter of geography. Other times it’s a matter of population.
Sometimes, however, it is not a matter of population. Here are five of the least populous capital cities in the world.
5. City of San Marino, San Marino
San Marino is a small country located on the Italian Peninsula and is surrounded by the country of Italy — one of only three nations to be surrounded by another country. Its capital, the City of San Marino, has a population of around 4,400, making it the fifth smallest capital in the world.
The country itself covers only 24 square miles and is home to only about 30,000 people. The City of San Marino is not the largest city in the country; that honor goes to the nearby town of Serravalle, which has double the number of citizens that the City of San Marino does.
4. Funafuti, Tuvalu
This Polynesian island nation sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The nation consists of nine islands, the largest of which is the location of the capital, Funafuti. Funafuti is an atoll, and it consists of thin, ring-shaped islands surrounding the Te Namo lagoon. Approximately 4,000 people call Funafuti home, accounting for over 50% of the nation’s total population.
While the 500-person village of Vaiaku is where the official government buildings of Tuvalu are located, the entire island operates as a single government body, and the larger entity of Funafuti is considered the capital.
3. Yaren, Nauru
Nauru is an island nation separated from its nearest neighbor by almost 200 miles of open ocean. It has a population of only 11,200.
There are no cities on the island, at least none that adhere to modern criteria, and therefore Nauru does not have a true capital. Yaren, a district on the eight-square-mile island, has been named the de facto capital of the nation.
Despite the lack of a true capital, Yaren’s 1,100 citizens run several government buildings, such as the Parliament House, National Stadium, and the Nauru International Airport.
2. Vatican City, Vatican City
Both the least populated and smallest nation on the planet, Vatican City is composed entirely of its capital city, Vatican City. Vatican City has a fluctuating population that hovers around 1,000 individuals.
Despite its size, Vatican City is home to many important figures in the Catholic Church including the Pope. It also boasts some of history’s most famous buildings and works of art. These include the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel.
1. Ngerulmud, Palau
Ngerulmud became the world’s smallest capital city in 2006 when the government of Palau decided to move it from the nation’s largest city, Koror City, to tiny Ngerulmud, population 400. Palau is another island nation, but it includes about 350 islands and has a population of 21,500.
The small city became the capital after the construction of the National Capital of Palau. This 45-million-dollar campus houses the country’s legislative, executive and judiciary branches of government on an estate that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.