UK cities by population 2023

This article has a list of cities in the United Kingdom and their populations. It also explains what cities are in the UK – they’re slightly different to cities in many other countries.

This article also answers a number of frequently asked questions, including which are the largest, smallest and oldest cities in the UK and each of its four nations.

What makes a city a city in the UK?

Most countries in the world define a city as a large town or settlement – just a large urban area where lots of people live. The exact rules vary, but this basic principle applies.

Map of the UK with major cities
UK map of major cities

In the UK though, a city only becomes a city if the monarch – the reigning queen or king – gives permission. This leads to the oddity of London being widely recognised as one of the largest cities in Europe and the world when it isn’t technically a recognised city in the UK.

Today the monarch grants city status through a royal charter. In practice, the monarch’s decision is based on the advice of the government. Places that want to become a city must apply, their bids are then reviewed by a government department (at the time of writing in 2022, this is the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) and finally a recommendation is made to the monarch.

Often competitions are held to grant city status at nationally important times – for example, a competition was held to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Forty cities applied, and eight cities were granted city status in 2022, including two cities outside of the UK mainland on British overseas territories and Crown Dependencies.

Other recent competitions have been held in 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee – where three new cities were created – in 2002 for the Golden Jubilee – where five new cities were created – and in 2000 to mark the millennium – where three new cities were created.

Does a city have to have a cathedral?

From the 16th century to the late 19th century, towns with cathedrals were recognised as cities. Henry VIII rejected the authority of the Pope in 1534, so in practice they had to be Anglican cathedrals rather than Catholic Cathedrals, or those from any other Christian denomination.

This led to places that are – today at least – quite small being recognised as cities, while other much larger places without cathedrals or a royal charter are still towns. Examples of small cities in the UK are Wells in Somerset and Bangor in Wales.

Birmingham was the first town in England to become a city without having a cathedral. Its city status was granted in 1889.

Is London a city?

London is home to almost 9 million people.

Everyone knows that, in practical terms at least, London is a city. It is home to over 9 million people, and is the largest settlement in the United Kingdom. It used to be the largest city in the world. And it is the capital of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

London city skyline
Is London a City?

However, in the eyes of the law, London is not a city in the UK. It has never been granted city status of its own. Instead, London is a collection of places, including boroughs and two smaller cities. It is also a ceremonial county called Greater London and a region called, simply, London.

The two cities that are in London are:

  • the confusingly named City of London, which is (1) a city, (2) a ceremonial county entirely surrounded by the ceremonial county of Greater London and (3) a local government district. The City of London is in the centre of London and houses its financial district. It has a permanent population of less than 10,000 people, making it one of England’s smallest cities.
  • the city of Westminster, which is (1) a city and (2) one of London’s 32 boroughs. Also in the centre of London, Westminster is the heart of the UK’s government district, home to the House of Parliament and Downing Street. It is also a large residential area and, at the 2011 census, Westminster had a population of 219,396 people.

List of UK cities by population

This table lists every city in the UK, including its population, which country it is in, and when it was granted city status.

RankCityYear grantedPopulationNation
1Birmingham 18831,092,330England
2Leeds 1893751,485England
3Glasgow  18th century593,245Scotland
4Sheffield 1893552,698England
5Bradford 1897522,452England
6Manchester 1853503,127England
7Edinburgh  18th century476,626Scotland
8Liverpool 1880466,415England
9Bristol 1542428,234England
10Cardiff 1905346,090Wales
11Belfast1888333,871N Ireland
12Leicester 1919329,839England
13Wakefield 1888325,837England
14Coventry 1102316,915England
15Nottingham 1897305,680England
16Newcastle upon Tyne 1882280,177England
17Sunderland  1992275,506England
18Brighton & Hove  2001273,369England
19Kingston upon Hull  1897256,406England
20Plymouth 1928256,384England
21Wolverhampton  2001249,470England
22Stoke-on-Trent 1925249,008England
23Milton Keynes2022248,800England
24Derby  1977248,752England
25Swansea 1969239,023Wales
26Southampton 1964236,882England
27Salford 1926233,933England
28Aberdeen  1891222,793Scotland
29Westminster  1540219,396England
30Portsmouth 1926205,056England
31Yorktime immemorial198,051England
33Peterborough 1541183,631England
35Chelmsford  2012168,310England
36Oxford 1542151,906England
37Canterbury time immemorial151,145England
38Dundee  1889147,268Scotland
39Newport  2002145,736Wales
40St Albans 1877140,644England
41Preston  2002140,202England
42Lancaster 1937138,375England
43Norwich 1094132,512England
44Exeter time immemorial127,709England
45Cambridge 1951123,867England
46Gloucester 1541121,688England
47Winchester time immemorial116,595England
49Derry  1604107,877N Ireland
50Carlisle 1133107,524England
51Worcester time immemorial98,768England
52Durham 99594,375England
53Lincoln 107293,541England
54Chester 154191,733England
55Bath 109088,859England
58Bangor, NI202261,011N Ireland
59Hereford   time immemorial58,896England
62Lisburn200245,370N Ireland
63Salisbury  122740,302England
65Lichfield  time immemorial32,219England
66Newry200229,946N Ireland
67Chichester 107526,795England
68Ely 110920,256England
69Bangor, Wales time immemorial18,808Wales
70Truro 187718,766England
71Ripon 186516,702England
72Armagh  199414,777N Ireland
73Wellstime immemorial10,536England
74City of Londontime immemorial7,375England
75St Asaph20123,355Wales
76St Davids19941,841Wales
Table of UK cities

List of cities in British overseas territories and Crown Dependencies

This table lists the four recognised cities outside of the UK mainland, including two that were created in 2022 to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

They are among the smallest cities recognised by the Crown – the largest is Douglas on the Isle of Man, which was granted city status in 2022 and has a population of 27,938, the next largest is Port Stanley in the Falklands Islands, with a population of 2,460.

Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, and Jamestown, the capital of St Helena are two of the smallest recognised cities, with populations of 854 and 629 people respectively.

1Douglas202227,938Isle of Man
2Stanley20222,460Falkland Islands
4Jamestown1859629St Helena
List of cities in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies

Add table here

How many cities are there in the UK?

There are 76 cities in the United Kingdom. This figure includes the 6 new cities created in the UK during the Queen’s Jubilee in May 2022.

Of these cities:

There are a further four cities in British overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

What is the largest city in the UK?

The largest city in the United Kingdom is London. But, also, as we noted above, it’s not. Because London is technically not a city in the United Kingdom.

If we only count places that have formally been granted city status, then Birmingham, home to 1,092,330 people in 2011, is actually the largest official city in the UK.

Birmingham is followed by Leeds (population 751,485) and Glasgow in Scotland (population 593,245).

What is the largest city in England?

As above, London is the largest city in England by most people’s definition.

But, officially, Birmingham is the largest officially recognised city in England, followed by Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford and Manchester.

What is the largest city in Scotland?

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland. In 2011 its population was 593,245.

Despite being the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is only the second largest city in Scotland. It is home to 476,626 people, more than a hundred thousand people fewer than Glasgow.

Other cities in Scotland with a population larger than 100,000 people are Aberdeen (222,793) and Dundee (147,268).

What is the largest city in Wales?

Cardiff is the largest city in Wales. The capital city of Wales was home to 346,090 people at the time of the 2011 census. Cardiff is also the 10th largest city in the UK.

Other major cities in Wales are Swansea (population 239,023), Newport (145,736) and Wrexham (population 61,603).

What is the largest city in Northern Ireland?

Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland. Its population (333,871) is more than three times as large as Derry, the second largest city, which has a population of 107,877.

Other mid-sized cities in Northern Ireland are Bangor, home to 61,011 people and Lisburn with 45,370 residents according to the 2011 census.

What is the smallest city in the UK?

St David’s is the smallest city in the United Kingdom and Wales. Home to St David’s cathedral, the place of St David’s was first made a city in the 12th century. It lost its city status in 1886 during a local government re-organisation and only regained it in 1994 because Queen Elizabeth II requested it be reinstated as a city.

However, if we count British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, then St David’s is only the third smallest city. Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda, and Jamestown, the capital of St Helena, both have populations of fewer than 1,000 people.

What is the smallest city in England

The smallest city in England is the City of London, with a population of just 7,375 people. It is also the smallest ceremonial county in England. Located in the heart of ‘city but not technically a city’ Greater London, the City of London covers most of what was Roman Londinium.

The next smallest cities in England are Wells in Somerset, which has been a city since time immemorial, Ripon in Yorkshire and the Humber which has been a city since 1865, and Truro in Cornwall, which has been a city since 1877.

What is the smallest city in Scotland

Stirling is the smallest city in Scotland. It gained city status in 2002 and has a population of 34,790.

Other cities in Scotland with a population of under 100,000 people are Perth (population 45,770), Dunfermline (49,706) and Inverness (79,415).

All four of Scotland’s smallest cities gained city status in the 21st century.

What is the smallest city in Wales

As noted above, St David’s is the smallest city in Wales as well as the smallest city in the UK.

Wales is also home to St Asaph, the second smallest city in the UK, which was granted city status in 2012 and has a population of just 3,355 people. St Asaph is the smallest city in the United Kingdom that does not have a cathedral.

The two other cities in Wales with a population of under 100,000 people are Bangor (18,808) and Wrexham (61,603).

What is the smallest city in Northern Ireland

Armagh is the smallest of the six cities in Northern Ireland. Home to just 14,777 people it is the 72nd largest city in the United Kingdom. Armgh became a city in 1994.

Other small cities in Northern Ireland are Newry (population 29,946) and Lisburn (population 45,370).

Oldest cities?

Many of the cities in the UK have been considered cities since ‘time immemorial’. There are no written records of when they were first referred to as cities. Examples of this in England are Canterbury, York, Exeter, Wells and the City of London. Examples in Wales are Bangor and St David’s.

There are several places that claim to be the oldest settlement in Britain, including Colchester, which was mentioned by Pliny the Elder in 77AD. Colchester was only incorporated as a city in 2022 as a part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebration which makes it both one of England’s oldest cities and its youngest.

2022 new cities

Eight towns have been made cities in 2022 to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Queen's Platinum Jubilee Cities
Eight cities were created in 2022 to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

The list includes three cities in England, plus one each in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.

For the first time, cities outside of the mainland UK, in Crown Dependencies and British overseas territories were considered, and city status was also awarded to the Isle of Man and the Falkland Islands, bringing the total number of awards to eight.

The table below lists each newly recognised city.

23Milton Keynes248,800England
58Bangor, Northern Ireland61,011N Ireland
Douglas27,938Isle of Man,
Stanley2,460Falkland Islands,

The cities were awarded following an honours competition which took in 38 places from across the UK. Prospective cities were required to explain their local community identity, their cultural heritage, their royal links.

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