From London and Cardiff to Belfast and Edinburgh, there are 76 cities in the United Kingdom. Here’s everything you need to know.

The United Kingdom has a very specific definition of a city. City status in the UK is officially granted by the reigning monarch (currently, that’s King Charles III) and isn’t necessarily based on typical factors like population size or area.

Historically, UK cities were granted charters if they had a cathedral, but given the country’s secular nature, this is no longer the case. This long-standing tradition has resulted in a number of peculiarly small cities, though, such as St Davids in Wales, which has a population of less than 2000 inhabitants. In comparison, London, the UK’s capital, has an enormous population of over 8 million.

Cities in the United Kingdom therefore come in a huge range of sizes and shapes, and with the newest cities being added to the list in 2022 during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebration, there’s some confusion online as to how many cities there actually are in the UK. To help clarify the situation, I’ve gone through and listed all the cities in the article below, with there being an official count of 76 cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Keep reading, to find out how many cities there are in the United Kingdom.

How many cities are in the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom is a sovereign state composed of four distinct nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Across these four constituent home nations, there is a grand total of 76 cities. This number breaks to 55 in England, 8 in Scotland, 7 in Wales and 6 in Northern Ireland, including the newest cities which were officially conferred during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in 2022.

City status is traditionally granted by royal charter, a practice that dates back centuries and reflects the city’s importance in the national fabric. Over the years, the criteria for city status have evolved, incorporating considerations beyond mere size to encompass historical, administrative or symbolic importance.

The number of cities can change, as new charters are granted to mark significant royal or national events. This blend of ancient tradition and contemporary recognition underscores the diverse and evolving nature of the United Kingdom’s urban identity.

Travel Tramp London
London, the UK’s capital, actually consists of two cities, the City of London and Westminster.

Read more: What is the United Kingdom? Everything You Need to Know.

What is a city in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, a city is not simply defined by its population size, geographical area or economic significance, as is common in many other countries. Instead, city status is a symbolic and ceremonial designation granted by the monarch, traditionally through the issuance of a royal charter. This practice has historical roots stretching back centuries, reflecting a city’s importance within the national and sometimes the ecclesiastical framework. Historically, city status was often associated with having a cathedral, a criterion dating back to King Henry VIII’s reign, but this is no longer a strict requirement.

The process of granting city status has evolved into a more formalised system, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. New cities are now typically created as part of civic honours awarded during significant royal or national celebrations, such as royal jubilees or significant anniversaries of key events. The decision follows a competitive application process known as ‘city status competitions‘, where towns across the UK can apply for the honour. The criteria for these competitions have broadened over time to include factors like historical significance, regional importance, and a strong sense of community identity, rather than just size or having a cathedral.

The Cabinet Office handles the competition process, and submissions are reviewed by a committee before recommendations are made to the monarch for final approval. Winning this prestigious status is often seen as a mark of distinction that can enhance a town’s reputation, increase its visibility, and sometimes provide economic benefits.

As part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022, 7 towns were awarded city status across the United Kingdom after submitting applications. The creation of new cities through this competitive and ceremonial process underscores the blend of tradition and modern governance that characterises the United Kingdom.

Is England a country
Bristol was granted city status in 1542.

Read more: How Many Counties in the UK (United Kingdom)?

List of cities in England

Here’s a list of the 55 English cities, in alphabetical order:

  1. Bath
  2. Birmingham
  3. Bradford
  4. Brighton & Hove
  5. Bristol
  6. Cambridge
  7. Canterbury
  8. Carlisle
  9. Chelmsford
  10. Chester
  11. Chichester
  12. Colchester
  13. Coventry
  14. Derby
  15. Doncaster
  16. Durham
  17. Ely
  18. Exeter
  19. Gloucester
  20. Hereford
  21. Kingston upon Hull
  22. Lancaster
  23. Leeds
  24. Leicester
  25. Lichfield
  26. Lincoln
  27. Liverpool
  28. City of London
  29. Manchester
  30. Milton Keynes
  31. Newcastle upon Tyne
  32. Norwich
  33. Nottingham
  34. Oxford
  35. Peterborough
  36. Plymouth
  37. Portsmouth
  38. Preston
  39. Ripon
  40. Salford
  41. Salisbury
  42. Sheffield
  43. Southampton
  44. Southend-on-Sea
  45. St Albans
  46. Stoke-on-Trent
  47. Sunderland
  48. Truro
  49. Wakefield
  50. Wells
  51. Westminster
  52. Winchester
  53. Wolverhampton
  54. Worcester
  55. York

Here’s a map of the 55 cities in England:

Read more: How Many Cities in England? Everything You Need to Know.

List of cities in Wales

Here’s a list of the 7 cities in Wales:

  1. Bangor
  2. Cardiff
  3. Newport
  4. St Asaph
  5. St Davids
  6. Swansea
  7. Wrexham

Here’s a map of the 7 cities in Wales:

Read more: How Many Cities in Wales? Everything You Need to Know.

List of cities in Scotland

Here’s a list of the 8 cities in Scotland:

  1. Aberdeen
  2. Dundee
  3. Dunfermline
  4. Edinburgh
  5. Glasgow
  6. Inverness
  7. Perth
  8. Stirling

Here’s a map of Scotland’s 8 cities:

Read more: How Many Cities in Scotland? Everything You Need to Know.

List of cities in Northern Ireland

Here are the 6 cities in Northern Ireland:

  1. Belfast
  2. Londonderry (also known as Derry)
  3. Lisburn
  4. Newry
  5. Armagh
  6. Bangor

And finally, here’s a map of Northern Ireland’s 6 cities:

Read more: How Many Cities Are in Northern Ireland? Everything You Need to Know.

What are the UK’s newest cities?

The most recent additions to the list of UK cities were made to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022. Seven towns in the UK (plus Stanley, in the Falkland Islands, an Overseas Territory of the UK) were awarded city status through the civic honours competition, a special occasion marking the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne. These new cities are:

  • Colchester in England, one of the oldest recorded towns in Britain, known for its rich history dating back to Roman times.
  • Doncaster in England, with a heritage steeped in Roman and medieval history, now recognized for its contributions to railway and mining history.
  • Milton Keynes in England, a modern town established in 1967, known for its innovative urban planning and design.
  • Douglas in the Isle of Man, serving as the island’s capital and largest town, marking a significant recognition for the Crown Dependency (and not included as one of the UK’s cities, due to the Isle of Man’s unique political status).
  • Dunfermline in Scotland, a historic settlement that was once a capital of Scotland, rich in medieval and royal history.
  • Bangor in Northern Ireland, a town with ancient roots stretching back to the 6th century, now recognized for its educational and cultural contributions.
  • Wrexham in Wales, with a history that traces back to the pre-Roman era, today acknowledged for its industrial heritage and cultural significance.
How many cities in Wales
Wrexham is one of the newest cities in the United Kingdom.

What’s the smallest city in the UK?

The smallest city in the United Kingdom by population is St Davids, which is located in Pembrokeshire, Wales. St Davids, with its petite size, carries the prestige of city status primarily due to the presence of St Davids Cathedral, a magnificent and historically significant site.

Despite its small population, which numbers just over 1,700 residents, St Davids holds city status, a testament to the unique criteria for city designation in the UK that extend beyond mere population size. This distinction highlights the blend of historical and cultural significance that can elevate a locale to city status within the UK, regardless of its physical or demographic scale.

What’s the largest city in the UK?

The largest city in the United Kingdom by population is London. As the capital city of England and the UK, London is a significant cultural, financial, and political centre. With a diverse and vibrant population exceeding 8 million residents in the Greater London area, it stands as one of the world’s leading cities in terms of finance, arts, commerce, education, entertainment, fashion, healthcare, media, professional services, research and development, tourism, and transportation.

London’s extensive history, which stretches back to its founding by the Romans as Londinium, has left it with an impressive architectural heritage, cultural institutions and historical landmarks, making it not only the UK’s largest city but also one of its most influential and globally recognised cities in the world.

London. Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash.

So, how many cities are in the United Kingdom?

In conclusion, the United Kingdom’s cities number 76 across its four constituent nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. As I said at the start of this article, this number varies significantly when you search online, as many websites have yet to update the count to include recent additions, such as Wrexham and Milton Keynes.

Depending on your definition of the UK, this number could also be increased if you were to count cities like Douglas, which is in the Isle of Man (which I don’t count as being part of the United Kingdom proper due to its status as a ‘Crown Dependency!). Given the ever-evolving nature of the UK, the number of cities is likely to increase in the future, so watch this space for updates!

FAQ: How many cities are in the UK?

Here’s an FAQ on the topic, ‘How many cities are in the United Kingdom?’:

Q1. How many cities are there in the United Kingdom?

As of the latest update, the United Kingdom is home to 76 cities. These are spread across its four constituent countries: 55 in England, 8 in Scotland, 7 in Wales, and 6 in Northern Ireland.

Q2. What criteria are used to designate city status in the UK?

City status in the UK is granted by the monarch, historically through a royal charter. Criteria have evolved over time and now encompass historical significance, cultural and administrative importance, and a strong sense of community, rather than just population size.

Q3. Can a town apply to become a city?

Yes, towns can apply for city status during special competitions, often held to mark significant national or royal occasions. These competitions invite applications from towns, which are then evaluated on various criteria before city status is awarded to the successful candidates.

Q4. What was the occasion for the most recent addition of cities in the UK?

The most recent additions were made in 2022 to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, marking her 70 years on the throne. Eight towns were granted city status through this special competition.

Q5. Which are the newest cities in the UK?

The newest cities, awarded in 2022, are Colchester, Doncaster, Milton Keynes, Douglas (Isle of Man), Dunfermline, Bangor (Northern Ireland) and Wrexham, amongst more.

Q6. What is the smallest city in the UK?

St Davids in Pembrokeshire, Wales, holds the distinction of being the UK’s smallest city by population, with just over 1,600 residents. Its city status is largely due to the historical and religious significance of St Davids Cathedral.

Q7. What is the largest city in the UK?

London is the UK’s largest city by population, with over 8 million residents in the Greater London area. It serves as the capital of both England and the United Kingdom.

Q8. Does having a cathedral still automatically confer city status?

No, having a cathedral no longer automatically grants a town city status, a practice that has changed over the years. Today, city status is awarded through a formal application and review process.

Q9. How often are new cities created in the UK?

New cities are created infrequently and typically coincide with significant national or royal celebrations. There is no set schedule for when city status competitions are held.

Q10. Can city status be revoked?

Historically, city status in the UK is considered a permanent honour once granted. There are no recent instances of city status being revoked from an area once it has been awarded.