What is a capital city? The Collins English Dictionary defines it as
‘the seat of government of a country or other political unit’, though there are a small
handful of nations that defy this definition and exercise governance through a
settlement other than their official capital. The most notable of these is the
Netherlands, where the Senate and House of Representatives meet in The Hague
but the capital is Amsterdam.
Other characteristics typically associated with a capital include the
presence of major financial, business and legal institutions (including the
country’s central bank, stock exchange and high court), cultural establishments
such as national museums and international sporting stadiums/events, media
industries and sizable populations (usually the most of any city within the
In Europe it is common for one city to tick all or most of those boxes. London, for example, is home to the Crown,
Parliament, High Court Of Justice, the BBC and more than 50% of international
visitors to the UK, to name but a few things.
Elsewhere in the world, it is not always as clear cut. Washington D.C
is the capital of the United States, but New York is the largest contributor to
its economy and Los Angeles is its cultural epicentre thanks to Hollywood, for
There are quite a few capitals that can seem very insignificant in
comparison to other cities, even bordering on the nonsensical from an
outsider’s perspective. Here are ten such headscratchers and the interesting
reasons behind them.