Famous for their beauty, iconic landmarks, “top of the top” cuisine, or perhaps unique architecture, almost all of the following cities are very popular. globally. However, this is also what has led many people to confuse these cities with the capital of that country. Here, we will take a look at some of the most famous and loved cities in the world and discover which are the real capitals of those countries.
1.) Toronto, Canada:
Toronto – Canada’s most tourist attraction city, is the country’s most populous city. Along with Montréal, Québec and Vancouver, Toronto is considered one of the major cities of Canada, but interestingly, none of the names on this list are the capital of Canada. Although Toronto is a prominent center for music, theater and television production, the capital is located in Ottawa.
2.) Colombo, Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka’s largest city – Colombo is considered the commercial capital of the country and is also a popular tourist destination for being the gateway to the rest of the country. Due to its special status, Colombo is sometimes considered the capital. The de facto capital Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is located in the metropolitan area of Colombo so sometimes causing confusion, it is better known as Kotte.
3.) Barcelona, Spain:
Barcelona is blessed with lots of sunshine, captivating architecture and world-class cuisine, not to mention urban beaches that are considered the best in Europe. However, the 32 million visitors who come to Barcelona each year are in fact just visiting Spain’s second-biggest city. The real capital of the country is Madrid, which is considerably larger and more populous than Barcelona. It is also the official residence of the Spanish royal family.
4.) Geneva, Switzerland:
Also an important financial center, Switzerland’s second most populous city – Geneva is known for being the “headquarters” of international organizations. Most notably, many agencies of the United Nations and the Red Cross are headquartered in Geneva. It is also the site of the Geneva Convention (regarding prisoners and civilians in times of war). The real capital of Switzerland, Bern, was chosen to avoid the acquisition of power by either of the two major cities and has served as a federal city for more than 170 years.
5.) Istanbul, Turkey:
It is considered the ancient capital of Turkey and the last leg of the legendary Silk Road, but now it is no longer the capital of the country. Known as the crossroads of East and West, the city is packed with popular attractions, from the majestic Hagia Sophia to the magnificent Blue Mosque and one of its many neighborhoods. The largest and oldest covered market in the world – the Grand Bazaar. The de facto capital Ankara was the “headquarters” of the Turkish National Movement during the country’s War of Independence. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the capital of the new republic was proclaimed Ankara in 1923.
6.) New York City, New York, USA:
New York City is undoubtedly the most powerful and richest city in the world, but it is not the capital of the United States. As the city of choice for most travelers visiting the United States and one of the most popular destinations in the world, it’s no surprise that some are confused. However, the actual capital, Washington DC, is located about 370 km to the south and has been the legislative, executive, and judicial center of the United States since 1791.
7.) Shanghai, China:
One of the world’s most important centers of commerce, finance and international transactions, it’s hard to imagine just how big Shanghai really is. As the second most populous city in the world, the port of Shanghai is also one of the most important and busiest container ports anywhere. From the iconic skyline of the Lujiazui financial district to the numerous museums and historic buildings, Shanghai is certainly a hugely important Chinese city, yet it’s not the capital. The capital Beijing is located to the north and is the most populous city in the world.
8.) Mumbai, India:
Located on the west coast of India, it’s no surprise that you might mistake Mumbai for the capital of India. It is the largest city in the country, a financial center and the heart of the Bollywood film industry. It is also home to one of the most ornate train stations in the world, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) was the capital of India until December 1911 when the country decided to move the capital because of the growing anti-colonial movement in Kolkata. The new capital of India was established in New Delhi in 1931.
9.) Marrakesh, Morocco:
It would be quite reasonable to assume that one of the most popular destinations in North Africa and the top tourist destination of Morocco is the country’s capital. Known for its meandering sacred streets, ancient landmarks and incredible street food, Marrakech has long attracted travelers from all over. The capital Rabat is only the 7th largest city in the country and became the capital in 1912 under French rule.
10.) Lagos, Nigeria:
As Africa’s most populous city, Lagos couldn’t be more important. It is the financial and economic center and has one of the largest and busiest seaports. It is also one of the fastest growing cities in the world and is the center of the Nigerian film industry, commonly known as Nollywood. The real capital Abuja is a planned city, developed in the 1980s, neutral to all major nationalist parties and close to all parts of Nigeria.
11.) Dubai, United Arab Emirates:
“Gross mouth” is probably the most appropriate word to describe Dubai. Towering skyscrapers, sprawling shopping malls and some of the most lavish hotels in the world make up this one-of-a-kind city. It is the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates and a major center of attraction for goods and visitors – both tourism and business. Dubai is the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, however, its capital is Abu Dhabi, less than two hours’ drive away.
12.) Yangon, Myanma:
Myanmar and its largest city, Yangon, are prone to confusion. Famous for its many religious sites, Yangon is one of the most visited destinations in Myanmar along with Bagan and Mandalay. The country was once called Burma and Yangon (then known as Rangoon) served as the capital. The name was changed in 1989, and in 2005, a new capital was established – Naypyidaw, about 200 miles (322km) north of Yangon.
13.) Dubrovnik, Croatia:
Whether you are a fan of the popular TV series Game of Thrones or not, you must have heard of this enchanting walled city. It seems reasonable to assume that the country’s most famous and popular city is also its capital, but in reality, Croatia’s capital is located on the other side of the country, north of Croatia – Zagreb is The country’s largest city and although Dubrovnik is arguably the most popular destination, Zagreb is the gateway to the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park.
14.) City of Petersburg, Russian Federation:
Hermitage Museum, Winter Palace, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood: St Petersburg is endowed with almost no shortage of iconic structures, so it’s understandable why many tourists choose to visit This charming city is more than Moscow. Whether covered in snow or lit up during the summer’s white night festival, the city’s major attractions always have a fanciful edge. Although not the center of power in Russia, it is often seen as the cultural capital of the country.
15.) Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:
Rio de Janeiro was once the capital of South America’s largest country, but not anymore. With Rio’s global appeal, famous beaches, and iconic landmarks, it’s hard to see why the capital was moved. Although it is only second in number of residents, it is the most visited city by foreign tourists in Brazil.
16.) Almaty, Kazakhstan:
Kazakhstan’s largest municipality, Almaty is located in the foothills of the majestic Trans-Ili Alatau mountain range. If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was actually the capital of the country until 1997. Although the capital has moved, Almaty remains the financial, business and cultural center. To make things even more complicated, Almaty used to be called by the Russian name Alma-Ata during Soviet times. Then, in 1997, the government moved the capital to Astana, renaming it Nur-Sultan in 2019 in honor of president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
17.) Melbourne, Australia:
Melbourne, that’s right! The coastal capital of Victoria, Australia, this place was the center of the Australian gold rush in the 1800s and was chosen as the seat of the Government at the time of confederation in 1901. After protracted controversy. Between the two cities, a new capital was decided to build on neutrality and Canberra was officially declared the capital in 1913.
18.) Dar es Salaam, Tanzania:
Although the capital was officially moved to Dodoma in 1996, much of the government infrastructure is still located in Dar es Salaam, leading many to mistake Tanzania’s largest city for still being the capital. As a major financial center, Dar es Salaam hosts many universities and is considered the educational hub of Tanzania. Most visitors also consider Dar es Salaam as a destination from which to explore the rest of Tanzania.
19.) Johannesburg, South Africa:
There are a number of countries in the world that split their capitals, but South Africa takes this system to the next level. Johannesburg’s largest city is not one of the three capitals of South Africa, although it is home to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa. The whole country was created as a federation, in a way that tried to please all the old states, so today Cape Town is the seat of Parliament, Pretoria is the operational headquarters of the President and Cabinet, and Bloemfontein is the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal.
20.) La Paz, Bolivia:
Executively, La Paz is the de facto capital of Bolivia, however the real constitutional capital is in Sucre, where the Bolivian Declaration of Independence was signed – a fact not many people know about. . La Paz is the highest administrative capital in the world at 3,631m above sea level and is famous for its Mercado Uruguay food market and the National Museum of Art, which offers majestic views not to be missed.
21.) Zurich, Switzerland:
Another country where two cities can easily be confused with the capital is Switzerland. Zürich is the largest city and also plays an important role in the global economy. It is one of the largest financial centers in the world and, despite its relatively small population, is home to many financial, insurance and banking companies. Zürich is consistently ranked among the best cities to live in and has the highest quality of life.
22.) Sao Paulo, Brazil:
While Rio is crowned as the capital of tourism, São Paulo is not only the financial and commercial center of Brazil but also an important player in the global economic network. About 440km west of Rio, São Paulo is one of the most populous cities in the world. However, both of these cities are located along the southeastern coast of Brazil, and in an attempt to bring the capital to a more central location, the idea of making Brasília as the capital was conceived. Founded in 1960, Brasília is a planned city and all three branches of government are located here.
23.) Auckland, New Zealand:
Dubbed the ‘City of Sails’ – Auckland is endowed with an extremely rich maritime resource and the view from Waitemata Harbor is one of its biggest attractions. As New Zealand’s most visited and most populous city, it’s no surprise that many people mistake Auckland for the capital. But the real capital of New Zealand is Wellington, home to the Government, Parliament and Supreme Court since 1865 and known as the “windiest” city in the world.
24.) Amsterdam, Netherlands:
All government offices are located in Den Haag (The Hague), which is considered the political capital. Meanwhile, Amsterdam’s culture, fine dining and numerous museums are a tourist magnet, typically attracting around 20 million visitors a year.
25.) Sydney, Australia:
Known the world over for its stunning vistas, harbours, jetties and opera houses, Sydney feels a lot like a capital city. The country’s oldest and most populous city, it serves as the gateway to many other famous sites, such as the Blue Mountains. The reason this city can’t be the capital is the result of a long-running dispute between Sydney and another important Australian city…