Statistics on European cities
From Statistics Explained
- Data from February 2013. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
Part of the Europe 2020 strategy focuses on sustainable and socially inclusive growth within the cities and urban areas of the European Union (EU). These are often major centres for economic activity and employment, as well as transport network hubs. Apart from their importance for production, cities are also focal points for the consumption of energy and other materials, and are responsible for a high share of total greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, cities and urban regions often face a range of social difficulties, such as crime, poverty, social exclusion and homelessness. The Urban Audit assesses socioeconomic conditions across cities in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey, providing valuable information in relation to Europe’s cities and urban areas.
Main statistical findings
Cities are the home of most work places, businesses and tertiary education institutions and often serve as hubs for inter-city and suburban transport networks. This article presents indicators reflecting the structure of the population, the use of transport within cities and urban areas, as well as information about the number of tourists and the satisfaction (of residents) with cultural facilities. The indicators presented are just a few examples of the wide range of data available from the Urban Audit.
Living in cities and urban areas
Based on an urban-rural typology, 42.5 % of the EU-27’s population lived in predominantly urban regions as of 1 January 2012, and a further 35.3 % in intermediate regions. The two most populous cities in the EU were London and Paris. Apart from these two megapolises, the EU has a polycentric structure of large, medium and small cities: Map 1 illustrates the distribution of city dwellers across a range of different-sized cities in Europe. Each circle on the map represents an Urban Audit city and the size of the circle reflects the number of inhabitants in the core city.
The latest Urban Audit data set includes data for more than 600 cities in the EU, of which only four capital cities had more than three million inhabitants, namely London (the United Kingdom), Paris (France), Berlin (Germany) and Madrid (Spain) and another two had more than two million inhabitants, namely Athina (Greece) and Roma (Italy). Another 20 cities had a population of between one and two million inhabitants, of which 11 were capital cities. Apart from capital cities, the largest cities in the EU were Hamburg in Germany with 1.8 million inhabitants and Barcelona in Spain with 1.6 million inhabitants, while there were three other large French cities with over one million inhabitants (Lyon, Lille and Marseille), two more in Germany (München and Köln), and one each in Italy (Milano) and the United Kingdom (Birmingham).
There were 36 cities with a population of between half a million and one million inhabitants, including the following capital cities: Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and København (Denmark). A further 85 cities were in the next tier, with populations ranging between a quarter of a million and half a million, including Bratislava, Tallinn and Ljubljana, the capital cities of Slovakia, Estonia and Slovenia. Only two capital cities figured in the tier of 128 cities with 150 thousand to 250 thousand people, namely Lefkosia (Cyprus) and Valletta (Malta). The Urban Audit also provides results from a further 331 smaller cities in the EU, with fewer than 150 000 inhabitants, including the smallest capital city, namely Luxembourg.
Within each size category mentioned (more than two million inhabitants, between one and two million, between half a million and one million, between a quarter and half a million, between 150 thousand and 250 thousand, less than 150 thousand) the aggregated population of all the cities covered by the Urban Audit was quite similar, between 22.5 million and 31.4 million for each category. The entire population of the 606 EU Urban Audit cities was 160.6 million persons: Urban Audit information for 2011 is available for most of these.
In Norway and Switzerland the largest cities were Oslo with 599 000 persons and Zürich with 373 000. Bergen in Norway was the only other city with more than 250 thousand persons, while Trondheim in Norway as well as Genève and Basel in Switzerland each had more than 150 thousand inhabitants. Among the acceding and candidate countries the data availability is relatively complete for Turkey, although dating from 2004. The largest Turkish city, Istanbul, had 9.9 million inhabitants, larger than any city within the EU, while Ankara and Izmir also belonged to the group of cities with more than two million inhabitants. Two more Turkish cities (Bursa and Adana) had more than a million inhabitants, five more had more than a half million inhabitants.
Figure 1 analyses the nationality of the population in a selection of Urban Audit cities, distinguishing between nationals of the country, nationals of EU Member States, and finally nationals of non-member countries. For the same 10 selected cities the two parts of the figure contrast the situation in 2011 with that 20 years earlier in 1991; note that the graph for 1991 has been sorted in the same order as that for 2011 to aid comparison between these two periods. In most of these cities the share of non-nationals grew, the only exceptions being Bratislava in Slovakia, where there was almost no change, and Liège in Belgium and Frankfurt am Main in Germany where the share of the national population increased by 3.1 and 7.0 percentage points respectively. The largest increases in the non-national populations among these 10 cities were in Luxembourg, Barcelona, Milano and Praha — each rising by more than 10.0 percentage points. In Milano this large increase was mainly due to an increase in nationals of non-member countries, whereas in Luxembourg it was due to an increase in nationals of other EU Member States. In 2011, nationals of EU Member States other than Luxembourg were in a majority (53.5 %) in Luxembourg city, whereas in all of the other cities presented nationals of the country concerned were in a majority, albeit a relatively small one in Genève, Switzerland.
The subject of foreigners in cities is continued in Figure 2, but looks at perceptions towards foreigners among all residents. The survey was conducted in 2012 and results are available for a total of 78 cities from all EU Member States as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey. Concerning foreigners, the question asked was whether foreigners are good for the city with respondents answers classified as agreeing or disagreeing, with these further distinguished between those holding stronger or weaker opinions.
The cities selected for inclusion in Figure 2 were those with the largest and the smallest share of respondents agreeing (strongly or somewhat) that foreigners are good for the city. The positive views ranged from 91 % in Cluj-Napoca (Romania) to 27 % in Athina, the Greek capital.
Among the 10 cities where residents’ perception of foreigners was that they were good for the city were the capital cities of four Nordic countries: København (Denmark), Oslo (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden) and Helsinki (Finland). There were two other capital cities, namely Luxembourg and Ljubljana (Slovenia), as well as three cities in eastern Europe, Kraków (Poland), Burgas (Bulgaria) and Piatra Neamt (Romania). Information on the share of inhabitants that are non-nationals is not available for all of these cities, but among these cities with a large majority viewing the presence of foreigners positively there was Luxembourg with a majority of non-nationals and Burgas where nationals made up 99.7 % (2008 data) of the population.
Among the 10 cities with the lowest proportion of respondents viewing the presence of foreigners positively were two Greek cities (including the capital city), the capital city of Cyprus, two Belgian cities, four cities spread across Italy (including the capital city), and the French port city of Marseille. In four of these the proportion of respondents with positive views of foreigners fell below 50 %. Furthermore, as a proportion of respondents did not express an opinion, the proportion of respondents viewing the presence of foreigners negatively exceeded 50 % in Lefkosia (Cyprus) and Athina (Greece). Again some information is available on the presence of foreigners in these cities where less than half of the population viewed the presence of foreigners positively: in Irakleio the share of nationals in the population was 96.0 % and in Athens it was 82.6 % (both 2008), while the analysis in Figure 1 showed that the share of nationals in Liège had increased between 1991 and 2011 from 79.8 % to 82.9 %.
Age and old age
Figure 3 shows two examples of how the age structure has changed over time in a capital city and a Member State as a whole. The example for Belgium and Bruxelles/Brussel shows how the developments have diverged: over time (moving from the inner rings to the outer rings) there is a greater share of younger persons (aged less than 20) and of working age persons (aged 20 to 64) in the capital city and a smaller share of older persons (aged 65 and over), whereas in the Belgian population as a whole the opposite developments can be observed for younger and older persons, with a more stable share for persons of working age. The second example, namely for Lisboa and Portugal, shows how the developments in the capital city reflect the overall developments in the country as a whole. The share of older persons (aged 65 or more) in the population increased in Lisboa and in Portugal as a whole, while the share of younger persons (aged less than 15) decreased in Portugal; the share of working age persons (15–64 years) increased in Portugal through until 2004 after which it decreased, whereas in Lisboa the share fell across the whole time series.
The ratio between the number of older persons and those of working age is referred to as the old-age dependency ratio, and this is shown in Map 2 for 602 Urban Audit cities in the EU and 42 cities in Norway, Switzerland and Turkey: note that the data is generally for the year 2008 or 2011, but for some cities the data are from 2006 or 2004. Cities with an old-age dependency rate in excess of 35 % were mainly located in Italy (57 cities) and Germany (37 cities), with six cities in Spain, four in France, three in Belgium, and one each in Greece and Portugal. The largest cities with an old-age dependency rate above 35.0 % were Roma (the only capital city with an old-age dependency ratio in excess of 35.0 %), Milano and Torino in Italy, followed by Essen, Dresden and Leipzig in Germany, Genova in Italy and Nice in France. There were 19 cities where the old-age dependency ratio exceeded 50.0 %, all of which were in Italy — except for Fréjus in the south of France (55.1 %, 2009 data). At the top of the ranking was Sanremo in Italy, with an old-age dependency ratio of 57.4 %.
The lowest old-age dependency ratio among cities within the EU was 6.6 % in Slatina (Romania) and two other Romanian cities — Botosani and Târgu Jiu — had the second and third lowest rates. In total there were 115 cities with an old-age dependency rate of 20 % or less: 29 were in Romania, 26 in the United Kingdom, 19 in Poland, eight in the Netherlands, six each in Bulgaria, Spain and Slovakia, three each in France and Ireland, and the remaining nine were spread across Denmark, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, Luxembourg Portugal and Finland. In amongst these cities with relatively low old-age dependency rates were seven capital cities: London (the United Kingdom) the largest city, Dublin (Ireland) and Helsinki (Finland) with more than one million inhabitants, Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and København (Denmark) with more than half a million inhabitants, as well as Lefkosia (Cyprus) and Luxembourg. The largest cities with an old-age dependency ratio of 20.0 % or less that were not capital cities were Manchester and Bristol in the United Kingdom.
Figure 4 summarises the range of old-age dependency ratios among the Urban Audit cities in each Member State and compares this with the national average. The largest ranges can be seen in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Belgium. In a few Member States — the Czech Republic, Denmark, Romania and Slovenia — the national average lies outside the range for the Urban Audit cities, indicating that there is a substantial difference in this ratio between Urban Audit cities and the rest of the country; this was also the case in Norway.
Means of transport for working in cities
The data presented in Figure 5 concern the use of walking and three other means of transport in Urban Audit cities. The analysis compares these eight Spanish cities with 10 cities in other countries, mainly in western Europe but also including one Nordic city (Helsinki in Finland) and one eastern city (Sofia in Bulgaria).
The Spanish cities are equally split between four cities where passenger cars are used by a clear majority of people for travelling to work. The Spanish cities with a relatively high share of car use tend to have a correspondingly low share public transport use. Bicycle use in all of the Spanish cities is minimal, peaking at 1.0 % in Córdoba, while walking is used by between one fifth and one third of the inhabitants of these Spanish cities as a means of going to and from work.
Among the other selected cities two stand out because of the very high use of bicycles to travel to work: Groningen in the Netherlands (where public policies actively support public transport, pedestrian areas and cycling); and Freiburg im Breisgau (in Baden-Württemberg in south-west Germany) which is reputed to be the sunniest city in Germany and renowned for its efforts for sustainable urban living — including biking. Two of the four capital cities, Bruxelles / Brussel (Belgium) and Helsinki, have a relatively high share of public transport use, as does Frankfurt. The other two capital cities, Dublin (Ireland) and Sofia, have a high share of people who walk to work. The three remaining cities show relatively high car usage for travelling to work, particularly in Charleroi (86.1 %).
The data presented in Figure 6 concern satisfaction with public transport services. This data comes from the same 2012 perception survey that was used for opinions concerning the presence of foreigners. Results are available for 69 cities across the EU, these are ranked based on their share of inhabitants that expressed themselves to be satisfied with public transport services. In 13 of these cities more than four fifths of respondents indicated their satisfaction with public transport services and these included two cities in each of France, Austria, Finland and Sweden, as well as one city each in Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia. The highest levels of satisfaction were in the Finnish city of Oulu / Uleåborg and the Swedish city of Malmö where 90.0 % of respondents were very or rather satisfied. Less than half of the respondents were satisfied with public transport services in nine of the EU cities surveyed, including three Italian cities, two Greek cities, and one city each in Bulgaria, Germany, Lithuania and Romania: five of these were capital cities, namely Sofia (Bulgaria), Athina (Greece), Roma (Italy), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Bucuresti (Romania). The lowest satisfaction among those EU cities covered by Figure 6 was recorded in Napoli (Italy), where just over one fifth of respondents expressed their satisfaction with public transport services, around half the proportion that were not at all satisfied.
Passenger cars in cities and urban areas
As already shown, the use of the car for travel to and from work remains common in many cities, even where other modes of transport are used extensively; of course, passenger cars are also used for a range of other purposes. Map 3 analyses the motorisation rate within cities, in other words the level of car ownership relative to the number of inhabitants. Out of the 272 EU cities presented in the map there were 15 where the motorisation rate exceeded 600 registered cars per thousand inhabitants, all except one of which were in Italy — Luxembourg was the sole exception. The highest motorisation rates were 709 and 708 per thousand inhabitants in the Italian cities of Potenza and Roma. By contrast, 27 cities had motorisation rates of 300 registered cars per thousand inhabitants or less: eight of these were in Slovakia, six in the United Kingdom, three in the Netherlands and the remaining 10 spread across Denmark, Germany, Estonia, France, Latvia, Hungary and Poland. Among these 27 cities were the capital cities of Denmark, Germany, Estonia, France, the Netherlands and Slovakia.
As well as congestion, pollution and cost, one of the negative aspects of road transport is traffic accidents. Figure 7 summarises the incidence of fatal road traffic accidents relative to population size (per 10 thousand inhabitants). The highest incidence of such accidents was reported for Stara Zagora in Bulgaria, where there were 2.6 deaths per 10 thousand inhabitants in 2008, while Timisoara, Braila and Giurgiu (all in Romania) were the only other cities to report more than 2.0 deaths per 10 thousand inhabitants. Leicester and Cambridge in the United Kingdom and Uppsala in Sweden reported rates of 0.0 deaths per 10 thousand inhabitants as did Kristiansand in Norway and St. Gallen and Luzern in Switzerland. The rate of fatal road accidents in all Urban Audit cities was lower than the national average in Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Finland, a situation that was repeated in Norway — this may well be influenced by a number of factors, such as the type and quality of roads in urban areas and lower average speeds.
Cost of public transport and taxis
Two indicators related to transport costs are provided in Figure 8, one for a monthly public transport ticket and one for a 5 km taxi ride. The prices are presented in euro and therefore do not reflect differences in purchasing power, nor is information available on the extent of the public transport network that can be accessed. Four cities reported monthly public transport ticket prices above EUR 100.00, three of which were in the United Kingdom and the fourth, with the highest price of all, in the Netherlands (Heerlen). Two of the other cities featuring in the top 10 were also from these two Member States, along with three German cities and one Danish city; Berlin (Germany) was the only capital city in the top 10. Among the 10 Urban Audit core cities that displayed the lowest monthly public transport ticket prices, nine were in Romania, including the capital city, and one in Estonia. Four of these cities reported monthly public transport ticket prices below EUR 10.00.
For a 5 km taxi ride to the city centre, Venezia in Italy was by far the most expensive city among the Urban Audit cities, the tariff of EUR 41.80 explained, at least in part, by the nature of the city with its canals and the type of transport that requires. Beyond this exceptional case, the most expensive taxi ride was EUR 16.00 in Utrecht (the Netherlands) — indeed, 4 out of the 10 most expensive cities for such a taxi journey were from the Netherlands, two from Italy and the others from Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom and Germany; included in these were the capital cities of the Netherlands and Finland. Whereas Romanian cities dominated the list of the 10 cheapest public transport tickets, this position was taken by Bulgaria for taxi journeys: Bulgarian cities, including the capital city, took the first eight places in terms of the cheapest 5 km taxi rides, with a Polish and a Latvian city completing the list.
Although many holidaymakers head for rural areas, for example alongside coastlines and in mountainous regions (in summer and winter), cities are also important destinations for holidaymakers — note they are important destinations for business visitors who are also included in tourism statistics. Across the EU as a whole the number of overnight stays by tourists (from all origins) averaged 4.8 per resident in 2011. Map 4 shows the same indicator for 457 Urban Audit cities within the EU and 16 cities in Norway and Switzerland. The top destination cities, by this measure, were Rimini in Italy (61.7 nights per resident), Marbella in Spain (56.3), and Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic and Funchal in Portugal (both 34.1). Within the EU there was a further nine cities that reported more than 15.0 overnight stays per resident, four of which were in Italy, two in France and one each in Spain, Malta and the United Kingdom. By far the largest of all of these cities was Paris in France, followed by Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and Palma de Mallorca in Spain. The region of Luzern reported 14.6 overnight stays per resident, the highest ratio in Switzerland whereas the highest in Norway was 8.2 overnights stays in Tromsø.
The data presented in Figure 9 concern perceptions about cultural facilities in Urban Audit cities; this data comes from the 2012 perception survey — the results are presented for 78 cities, of which 69 are in the EU.
More than half of the respondents in every EU city, except for the Maltese capital, were very or somewhat satisfied with the cultural facilities that were on offer in their city, a situation that was repeated in all of the cities from EFTA countries and acceding and candidate countries. The share in Valletta (Malta) that were satisfied was particularly low (37 %), although this can be partly explained by the particularly high proportion of interviewees that did not express an opinion (17 %). More than 90 % of respondents in 13 EU Urban Audit cities indicated their satisfaction with cultural facilities on offer in their city, reaching 95 % or higher in the Finnish and Austrian capitals of Helsinki and Wien, as well as the southern Austrian city of Graz. Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland each had two cities and the Czech Republic, Sweden and the United Kingdom each had a single city where more than 90 % of respondents were satisfied with their cities’ cultural facilities; 6 of these 13 cities were capital cities. The cultural facilities in Zürich (Switzerland) and Oslo (Norway) were also considered to be satisfactory by more than 90 % of respondents.
Data sources and availability
The Urban Audit is the result of joint work by participating cities, the national statistical offices belonging to the European statistical system (ESS) and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy.
A city can be designated as an urban settlement (morphological concept) or as a legal entity (administrative concept). The Urban Audit uses the latter concept and defines a core city according to political and administrative boundaries; the production of the maps that accompany this article reflects this definition. However, economic activity, the labour force, air pollution and other issues clearly cross the administrative boundaries of a city. To capture information at this extended level, a larger urban zone is also defined for some cities based on commuter flows. These zones include the core city and the so-called ‘commuter belt’ around it.
Six reference periods have been defined so far for the Urban Audit and for each period a reference year was set: 1991, 1996, 2001, 2004, 2008 and 2011. Indicators have been defined and calculated, covering most aspects relating to the quality of life in a city, including: demography, housing, health, crime, the labour market, income disparities, local administration, educational qualifications, the environment, climate, travel patterns, the information society and cultural infrastructure. Data availability differs from domain to domain: for example, figures relating to demography are available for more than 90 % of the cities, whereas data on the environment are available for fewer than half.
The Urban Audit perception survey is a complement to the regular Urban Audit data collection exercise. The last survey took place in 2012 and included 78 cities in the EU, EFTA countries, Croatia and Turkey. Survey data were collected through telephone interviews for samples of 500 people in each city.
An analysis of urban development reveals a contrasting picture: on the one hand, urban areas are a focus for economic activity and deliver a range of private and public services (education, healthcare and transportation hubs); on the other, these cities are often linked to environmental degradation and congestion, and may be centres of poverty or social exclusion.
Within the context of cities and urban development, the European Commission has stated that ’it is crucial that all levels of governance be aware of the need to implement effectively the Europe 2020 strategy’. As such, regional policy and urban development play a central role in the EU’s policy to achieve a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. Three flagship projects within the Europe 2020 strategy — the digital agenda, the innovation union and youth on the move — address a series of urban challenges: for example, exploiting the full potential of information and communication technology; and the development of innovation partnerships for smarter and cleaner urban mobility. The promotion of green, energy-efficient cities can also play a valuable role implementing the Europe 2020 strategy. Finally, social exclusion and segregation are predominantly urban phenomena — and while cities offer the most employment opportunities, they also report some of the highest unemployment rates.
To assist regional authorities and cities, the Committee of the Regions — in close cooperation with the European Commission — released a handbook on the Europe 2020 strategy for cities and regions that provides explanations on how local and regional authorities can contribute to the implementation of the strategy through adopting best practices and territorial pacts — agreements between different tiers of government (local, regional, national) — to coordinate and synchronise policy agendas so as to focus actions and financial resources on the Europe 2020 strategy goals and targets. In addition, the Committee of Regions has also set-up a monitoring platform, composed of a group of over 160 cities to monitor how Europe 2020 is implemented on the ground in cities and urban areas.
Suburbanisation, congestion and the risks of poverty, social exclusion and unemployment are challenges faced by many cities. Complex issues such as these require integrated solutions in terms of urban planning and regeneration, alongside the development of infrastructure, transport services, housing, training and labour market measures.
Urban development issues have been integrated, to a large extent, into regional and national programmes supported by structural and cohesion funds. The Leipzig charter on sustainable European cities, agreed in 2007, demonstrates the EU’s further commitment to making urban areas healthy, attractive and sustainable places to live and work. Moreover, the exchange of best practice and networking between urban planners and other local experts is facilitated by the Urbact II programme, which promotes sustainable urban development through funding initiatives in relation to: active inclusion; urban renewal; disadvantaged neighbourhoods; human capital and entrepreneurship; innovation and creativity; low carbon urban environments; metropolitan governance; port cities; and quality sustainable living.
The joint European support for sustainable investment in city areas (Jessica) initiative was launched in 2009 by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy. It promotes sustainable urban development and regeneration through financial engineering mechanisms in cooperation with the European Investment Bank, the Council of Europe Development Bank and the European Investment Fund. The initiative provides support to finance projects in areas such as: urban infrastructure; heritage and cultural sites; redevelopment of brownfield sites; the creation of new commercial floor space; university buildings; or energy efficient improvements.
All of these initiatives seek to find a way to decouple economic growth from the use of resources, supporting a shift towards a low carbon economy, promoting energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy sources, and modernising transport systems.
Further Eurostat information
- Eurostat regional yearbook, chapters 12 and 13
- Eurostat regional yearbook 2012, Chapter 12
- Eurostat regional yearbook 2011, Chapter 6
- Eurostat regional yearbook 2010, Chapter 2
- Quality of life in cities - Perception survey in 79 European cities - European Commission, Flash Eurobarometer 366, October 2013 (PDF file)
- Sustainable development in the European Union
- Urban audit (t_urb), see:
- Population and living conditions in Urban Audit cities, core city (tgs00079)
- Population and living conditions in Urban Audit cities, larger urban zone (LUZ) (tgs00080)
- Health and safety in Urban Audit cities, core city (tgs00081)
- Health and safety in Urban Audit cities, larger urban zone (LUZ) (tgs00082)
- Labour market in Urban Audit cities, core city (tgs00083)
- Labour market in Urban Audit cities, larger urban zone (LUZ) (tgs00084)
- Education in Urban Audit cities, core city (tgs00085)
- Education in Urban Audit cities, larger urban zone (LUZ) (tgs00086)
- Environment and energy in Urban Audit cities, core city (tgs00087)
- Transport in Urban Audit cities, core city (tgs00089)
- Transport in Urban Audit cities, larger urban zone (LUZ) (tgs00090)
- Urban audit (urb), see:
- Key indicators for core cities (urb_ikey)
- Derived indicators for core city (urb_icity)
- Derived indicators for larger urban zones (urb_iluz)
- Derived indicators for sub-city districts (urb_iscd)
- Reduced set of derived indicators for 570 cities (urb_ilca)
- Data collected for core city (urb_vcity)
- Data collected for larger urban zones (urb_vluz)
- Reduced set of data collected for 570 cities (urb_vlca)
- Perception survey results (urb_percep)
- City statistics - Urban audit
Methodology / Metadata
- Urban audit (ESMS metadata file - urb_esms)
Source data for figures and maps (MS Excel)
- European cities - spatial dimension (background article)
- Territorial typologies for European cities and metropolitan regions (background article)
- Urban-rural typology (background article)