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An independent city is a city that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity.

Independent cities should not be confused with city-states (such as Singaporemarker), which are fully sovereign cities that are not part of any other nation-state.


People's Republic of China

In mainland China under the administration of People's Republic of Chinamarker, the Cities of Beijing, Tianjinmarker, Shanghai and Chongqingmarker are centrally-administered province-level regions, and they do not belong to any particular province. Additionally, there are several vice provincial cities that are nominally under provinces but are in reality independent of any provinces.

Within some provinces, there are some cities that are directly under provinces, bypassing an administrative level (prefectures and prefecture-level cities).

Hong Kongmarker and Macaumarker are two Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of China which have high degree autonomy except acts of state like diplomatic relations and national defence.

Republic of China (Taiwan)

Under the administrative division system of the Republic of Chinamarker, some cities are directly administered by the Executive Yuanmarker, some are administered by provinces (the province of Taiwan is nominal), and some are subordinate to counties. The centrally-administered and province-administered ones are like independent cities under this definition.

Korea (Republic of Korea)

In addition to its nine provinces, South Koreamarker has seven province-level "metropolitan cities." By far the largest among these in terms of population is the capital, Seoulmarker, called a teukbyeol-si (특별시; literally, special city), which is home to more than 20% of the entire population of the country. The remaining six independent cities are called gwangyeok-si (광역시; literally, large city) whose names are: Busanmarker, Daegumarker, Daejeonmarker, Incheonmarker, Gwangjumarker, and Ulsanmarker.

Historically, these independent cities have been carved from the province that surrounds them. Consequently, they typically share a strong regional and cultural identity with the adjoining province(s). For instance, Gwangju, located at the center of Jeolla region, is heavily associated with the region. Seoul and Incheon are said to make up the National Capital Area along with the densely populated Gyeonggimarker that almost completely encompasses them.

One interesting relic of the newer independent cities is that, in some cases, the government administrative buildings (docheong) of the provinces they were once a part of are still located within city boundaries, meaning that these provinces have capitols that are not within their borders.

In 2006, the ruling party floated a proposal to completely eliminate all current province and independent-city borders. This plan would divide the entire republic into fifty or sixty city- or county-level administrations, similar to the system in Japan. The plan was intended to help reduce regional discrimination and animosity by eliminating provincial identity.


Main article: Cities of the Philippines#Independent cities
Many major cities in the Philippines are independent cities, classified as either "highly urbanized" or "independent component" cities. These cities do not share their tax revenues with any province, and are administratively and legally not part of any province, although many still group them as components of the provinces to which they previously belonged for convenience and reduced complexity. There are 38 of them, with 16 being located in Metro Manilamarker, 8 in the rest of the Luzonmarker island group, 7 in the Visayasmarker and 7 in Mindanaomarker.



In Austriamarker, a similar concept is the Statutarstadt.


See also: Administrative divisions of France.
The city of Parismarker is both a département and a commune; it is the only French city with this status. The Council of Paris (Conseil de Paris) exercises functions similar to those of a departmental council (conseil général) and a city council (conseil municipal). However, Paris and the départments closest to it are part of the Ile-de-Francemarker région.


See also: List of German urban districts.
In Germanymarker, different states have either the Stadtkreis ("Urban County") or Kreisfreie Stadt (literally, "County-Free City").

Examples of German independent cities are:

Additionally, the German City-states of Berlinmarker, Bremenmarker and Hamburgmarker function as federal states. The City-state of Bremenmarker is comprised solely of the cities of Bremenmarker and Bremerhavenmarker (which was originally founded as an ocean port for the city of Bremen).


See also: List of towns in Hungary
In Hungarymarker 23 of the cities are "cities with county rights", these cities have equal rights with the 19 counties of Hungary.


In Norwaymarker, Oslo is both a municipality (kommune) and a county (fylke) within itself.


See also: Powiat.
In Polandmarker, many of the biggest cities comprise their own city counties (formally "cities with county rights"). They are suitably marked on the list of counties in Poland.

Russian Federation

In the Russian Federationmarker, Moscowmarker and Saint Petersburgmarker are both subjects of the federation and cities themselves.


See also: Plazas de soberanía.
In Spainmarker, there exist two so-called autonomous cities, Ceutamarker and Melillamarker, which are located on the North African coast surrounded by Morocco and have been under Spanish jurisdiction since the 1400s. Spain is a highly decentralized state organized in autonomous communities. These two cities hold their special status because they are not large enough to be considered regions on their own. Nonetheless, they function as autonomous communities with a high degree of self-administration and law-making powers.

United Kingdom

Some cities in the United Kingdommarker are a unitary authority, and could be considered to be independent cities. In the UK, however, "city" has no inherent status; city status depends on a grant from the monarch and merely confers on the place so-designated the right to call itself a city. The standard for such a right was once thought to depend on whether the entity has a cathedral. As is now made clear by the Department for Constitutional Affairs , there are no formal criteria such as this for the city to apply for, and be granted city status in the UK. There are 66 cities in the UK - 50 in England, five in Wales, six in Scotland and five in Northern Ireland.

County borough referred to a borough or a city independent of county council control in Englandmarker and Walesmarker from 1889 to 1974 with the term continuing in use in Northern Irelandmarker. Wales re-introduced the term in 1994 for use with certain unitary authorities.

National capitals

A number of countries have made their national capitals into separate entities. For example Copenhagenmarker, the capital of Denmarkmarker, is outside of the country's system of counties, as is the capital of Romania, Bucharestmarker. Washington, D.C.marker, the capital of the United States, is not within any of the 50 states. Londonmarker is actually composed of the City of Londonmarker and county of Greater Londonmarker, which is divided into a number of boroughs. The Germanmarker capital, Berlinmarker, is a Federal State with the same level of autonomy as much larger states, such as Bavariamarker. Brusselsmarker, the capital of Belgiummarker, is a separate region (the Brussels-Capital Regionmarker), independent of both Flanders and Walloniamarker, despite being entirely surrounded by Flanders (of which it is also the regional capital) and sharing a common language with Wallonia (French).

Federal capitals

In countries with a federal structure, the federal capital is often separate from other jurisdictions in the country, and frequently has a unique system of government.

Examples include:

North America


In the Canadianmarker province of Ontariomarker, the same type of city is referred to as a single-tier municipality (there are also separated municipalities). In Quebecmarker they are often called separated cities, as they are not Regional County Municipalities. Cities and towns in Albertamarker are not part of rural municipalities such as counties. In New Brunswickmarker, all county government was abolished in 1967 , therefore, in theory, all cities, townships, and settlements in New Brunswick could be considered independent cities.

United States

In the United Statesmarker, an independent city is a city that does not belong to any particular county. Because counties have historically been a strong institution in local government in most of the United States, independent cities are relatively rare outside of Virginiamarker (see below), whose state constitution makes them a special case. The U.S. Census Bureau uses counties as its base unit for presentation of statistical information, and treats independent cities as county equivalents for those purposes. Independent cities should not be confused with consolidated city-counties, such as Jacksonville, Floridamarker; Indianapolis, Indianamarker; Louisville-Jefferson Countymarker, Kentuckymarker; Nashville-Davidsonmarker, Tennesseemarker; Denver, Coloradomarker; the City and County of San Francisco, Californiamarker; or, Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker.


Thirty-nine of the U.S.A.'s 42 independent cities are in Virginia. The three that are not in Virginia are Baltimore, Marylandmarker; St. Louis, Missourimarker; and Carson City, Nevadamarker.

In the Commonwealth of Virginiamarker, all municipalities incorporated as "cities" have also been "independent cities," also called "free cities," since 1871, when a revised state constitution took effect following the American Civil War and the loss of the area which became the separate state of West Virginiamarker. Virginia's independent cities are not politically part of a county, even though geographically they may be completely surrounded by one. An independent city in Virginia may serve as the county seat of an adjacent county, even though the city by definition is not part of that county. Some other Virginia municipalities, even though they may be more populous than some existing independent cities, are incorporated towns. These towns always form part of a county. Incorporated towns have limited powers, varying by each charter. They typically share many aspects such as courts and public school divisions with the county they are within.

Three older Virginia counties, whose origins go back to the original eight shires of Virginia formed in 1634 in the Colony of Virginia, have the word city in their names; however, politically they are counties. These include Charles City Countymarker and James City Countymarker, whose names originated with earlier "incorporations" created in 1619 by the Virginia Company as Charles Cittie [sic] and James Cittie [sic]. Another was Elizabeth City County, originally part of the older Elizabeth Cittie, which became extinct in 1952 when it was consolidated politically by mutual consent with the small City of Hampton, the county seat, and the Town of Phoebusmarker to reform and expand into the current independent city of Hampton, Virginiamarker, one of the large Seven Cities of Hampton Roadsmarker.

Arlington County
Arlington Countymarker, commonly referred to as just "Arlington," is not an independent city. However, it is often referenced, popularly, as a city because it is geographically small and dense; is fully urbanized; is close in size to other independent cities in the state; has no other city or town within its borders; and through a quirk of Virginia history, maintains its own highway infrastructure like independent cities (but unlike nearly any other Virginia county). It consists solely of land ceded by Virginia to the Federal Government to form Washington, D.C.marker in the late 18th century, and retroceded to Virginia in 1846 (most of this land now composes Arlington County, the rest of it forms part of the City of Alexandria).

Former cities
See also: Lost counties, cities, and towns of Virginia.

Former independent cities now extinct that were long extant in Virginia include:

Two other independent cities existed only for a short time:

Other states

Some states have created independent cities in order to cater for the special requirements of governing their largest cities and/or capitals:

Other entities similar to independent cities

An independent city is not the same as:

  • The City of New Yorkmarker, which is a sui generis jurisdiction: the city is made up of five boroughs, each of which is territorially conterminous with a county of New York State.

  • Washington, D.C.marker, which, like the capitals of many other countries (see below), has a special status. It is not part of any state; instead, it comprises the entirety of the District of Columbiamarker, which, in accordance with Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress. When founded, the District was in fact divided into two counties and two independent cities. Alexandria Countymarker (which now forms Arlington Countymarker and a portion of the independent city of Alexandriamarker) was given back to Virginia in 1846, while the three remaining entities (the City of Washington, Georgetown Citymarker and Washington County) were merged into a consolidated government by an act of Congress in 1871 and Georgetown was formally abolished as a city entity by another act in 1895. Congress has established a home rule government for the city, although city laws can be overridden by Congress. This action is fairly rare, and so in practice the city operates much like other independent cities in the United States, although technically, it does not meet the legal definition of one.

  • Cities and towns in New Englandmarker traditionally have very strong governments while counties have correspondingly less importance. Today, most counties in southern New England (Connecticutmarker, Rhode Islandmarker, and Massachusettsmarker) have almost no governmental institutions or roles associated with them (aside from serving as a basis for court districts). Somewhat like the ceremonial counties of England, counties in southern New England still have a nominal existence, and so no city or town in those three states is truly separate from a county, although the town and the county of Nantucket, Massachusetts (on the island of that name), as noted above, are coterminious, and the City of Boston, Massachusetts used to provide both the complete governance and the complete revenue of its county, Suffolk County, although Suffolk County also incudes two much smaller cities and one town.

See also



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