Five Commonly Mistaken Capitals

Some of the world’s cities are so lovely and well known that people often mistake them for country capitals. After all, who says the capital has to be the most beautiful and famous city in the country?

1. Bern vs. Zurich

Zurich vs Bern

Switzerland is a confederation consisting of 26 cantons, most of which have been fully sovereign states until 1848, when the Swiss federal state was established. Nowadays, each canton has its own capital, government and constitution, and although Zurich is the largest, richest and most important city in the country, Bern serves as Switzerland’s de facto capital.

2. Brasilia vs. Rio de Janeiro

Rio vs Brasilia

With its alluring beach culture, fantastic carnival, and spectacular natural setting which has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, it’s no wonder Rio de Janeiro is often mistaken for Brazil’s capital. Well, it actually was until 1960, when Brasilia, a futuristic city built in the middle of the desert by architect Oscar Niemeyerc and Brazilian urbanist Lucio Costa, took its place.

3. Canberra vs. Sydney

Sydney vs Canberra

Sydney and Melbourne have always struggled for the place of Australia’s foremost city, but in 1908 the strong competition between the two cities eventually led to a compromise and the entirely planned city of Canberra was set to become the nation’s capital city. Even so, it was Melbourne, (not Sydney) that operated as the capital city of Australia until 1927, when the federal parliament moved to Canberra.

4. Ottawa vs. Toronto

Toronto vs Ottawa

The 21st century has witnessed a vigorous rivalry between two wonderful and culturally vibrant Canadian cities. It still does, but surprisingly, none of them is Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

By the middle of the 19th century, however, both Toronto and Montreal (and even Quebec) were, for brief periods of time, capitals of the united Province of Canada. Everything changed on December 31, 1857, when, mainly from strategic reasons, Queen Victoria chose smaller Ottawa – a city positioned exactly between Toronto and Quebec, to be the nation’s capital. And it has remained so ever since.

5. Wellington vs. Auckland

Wellington vs Auckland
New Zealand

Although Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand since 1865, many people still mistake it for beautiful Auckland, which is indeed the country’s largest and most populous area. Now, the debate on which of the two is better is a long one and really just comes down to preference. In the meantime, Wellington remains “the coolest little capital in the world” – Lonely Planet.

Other major confusions include: Ankara and Istanbul, Rabat and Marrakesh, New Delhi and Mumbai, Pretoria and Johannesburg (or Cape Town), Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Not actually an eloquent example, but still a good one is the case of Bucharest (Romania’s capital city) and Budapest (Hungarian capital), which people always mistake for one another.

Do you know other similar situations?

  1. How about call Bucharest by its REAL name, BUCURESTI, that way no one will ever confuse it for Budapest.

  2. Dar es Salaam – Dodoma
    Abidjan – Yamoussoukro
    Giza – Cairo
    Dubai – Abu Dhabi
    Karachi – Islamabad
    Ho Chi Min City – Hanoi
    Yangon – Naypyitaw

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