Countries With More Than One Capital – What Are They?

Are you aware some countries have more than one capital? Some countries around the world, such as Bolivia, divide their administrative, legislative and judicial headquarters between two or more capitals.

Most countries in the world have only one capital that houses the seat of government. For example, capitals such as Buenos Aires, Washington, Paris and Tokyo are the administrative headquarters of their respective countries, in addition, often, some capitals are also the largest cities in the nation.

While most capitals are chosen from an existing city, some countries have decided to create new cities to establish their capitals there.

These cities are called “planned cities”, as is the case of Brasília, capital of the Federal District and of Brazil.

Thus, the city was designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer, and has a modernist air that led to it being declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1987.

On the other hand, there are countries that have more than one capital for several reasons. Thus, they divide the administrative, legislative and judicial headquarters between two or more cities. Check them out below.

Countries with more than one capital

#1. South Africa – the only country with 3 capitals

South Africa is the only country in the world that has three official capitals: Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Pretoria. Instead of concentrating all parts of government in one city, the South African executive branch is in Pretoria, the judiciary in Bloemfontein and the legislature in Cape Town. Therefore, this division is made in part to accommodate the various ethnic groups that span across the country.

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#2. Bolivia

An example of a country with two capitals is Bolivia. Thus, La Paz and Sucre are two Bolivian cities that divide the different parts of the government between them. This division dates back to the late nineteenth century when opposing political factions had different aspirations about how the country should govern its people.

#3. Chile

Also in South America, another country that has two capitals is Chile. Despite Santiago being its official capital, in addition to its largest city, the national legislature was transferred to Valparaíso in 1990. By this time, the country was recovering from the Pinochet regime and seeking to decentralize political power.

#4. South Korea

Unlike other nations, South Korea adopted the dual capital model as recently as 2012. Therefore, Seoul, which has long been the official capital and economic and cultural center of the country, now shares its administrative headquarters with the city of Sejong. This second capital is where many of the most important government agencies are located. Thus, the division of capital was carried out to deconcentrate Seoul’s political power.

#5. Côte d’Ivoire and Benin

The official capital of Côte d’Ivoire is Yamoussoukro, but the de facto seat of government is Abidjan. However, having a seat of government does not mean that the city is not officially the capital, but it performs all the functions that a government would function. The same situation exists in Benin, a country in West Africa, which has an official capital in Porto Novo and a de facto capital in Cotonou. In both cases, the largest city functions as the de facto capital, but official government functions are intentionally located elsewhere.

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#6. Georgia

Tbilisi is the official capital of Georgia and where the executive government resides. While the president and cabinet are in the country’s largest city, the country’s legislative capital is Kutaisi. In Georgia, laws are made in one part of the country, but executive functions are performed in another.

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#7. Honduras

Unlike other countries, Honduras has a particular situation because instead of having a capital, it has an entity called the Municipality of the Central District. In this district is the de facto capital Tegucigalpa, which is also the largest city in the country. But also Comayagüela, which is also considered a constitutional capital along with Tegucigalpa.

#8. Malaysia

The official capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. However, as the city was highly populated, the government decided to plan a new city that could handle the administrative functions of the country at the federal level. For this reason, in 1999, the government and judiciary moved to the city of Putrajaia.

#9. Montenegro

Although Podgorica is the official capital of Montenegro, the city of Cetinje is an honorary capital in honor of the country’s history. In other words, it was the country’s former capital and still functions as an important cultural center for the nation.

#10. Netherlands

The Netherlands is another nation that effectively has two capitals. Under the constitution, Amsterdam is the capital, but the Dutch parliament and government have been in The Hague for hundreds of years, giving it the functions of capital. In addition, The Hague is also home to many important international government agencies, such as the International Criminal Court.

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#11. Western Sahara

Western Sahara is disputed territory on the northwest coast of Africa. As such, there are two entities within the territory that are claimed by competing factions and each has its own capitals. In other words, Morocco considers Laiune the capital, but the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic considers Tifariti the capital of its self-proclaimed territory.

#12. Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka the country’s official capital is Colombo, but for the past four decades, the national legislature has resided in a nearby suburb called Sri Jaiavardenepura-Kotte. As is often the case in countries with a dominant city, the move was made to alleviate congestion in Colombo.

#13. Swaziland

Unlike some of the countries that have recently adopted a two-capital system, Swaziland has always had two capitals. Thus, Lobamba is where the elite rulers reside and is considered the traditional seat of power in the country, in addition to being the place where the Parliament meets. Mbabane, however, is the administrative capital where the rest of government functions are performed.

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#14. Tanzania

Dar es Salaam is the historic capital and largest city in Tanzania. However, the city of Dodoma is in a more central location compared to the rest of the country. For this reason, in 1973 the government transferred the administrative headquarters to Dodoma, although many of the government agencies and foreign embassies in Tanzania remain in Dar es Salaam.


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