Fürstenau and Werdenberg lock heads over which is the world's smallest city

Fürstenau and Werdenberg lock heads over which is the world's smallest city

When it comes to small-town pride, it can be argued that no country does it better than Switzerland. Case in point: two communities, Werdenberg and Fürstenau, have been in the grips of an argument over which is the smallest city in the world.

Fürstenau versus Werdenberg: Which is the world's smallest city?

For years, the approximately 351 residents of Fürstenau, Canton Graubünden have been able to sleep soundly in their beds, safe in the knowledge that their claim to being the smallest city in the world was unchallenged - at least, from within Switzerland. That was until December 1, 2023, when a new challenger entered the competition; Werdenberg, Canton St. Gallen.

In a video posted to social media, user Der Praktikant made the claim that the area around Werdenberg is actually the smallest city in the world. Instead of bandying the claim about with no evidence, the influencer managed to corner an official from the local castle and museum, who confirmed that Werdenberg was given city status in 1352.

Video: Fabian Der Praktikant / YouTube

Werdenberg's historical claims face up to modern reality

With a population of between 60 and 90 people and only three streets, Werdenberg would easily be named the smallest city in the world, much to Fürstenau’s dismay. However, it wasn’t long before the “city” of the Swiss mountains got some help, with a former Werdenberg local contacting 20 Minuten to highlight the fact that technically the area does not have its own local council and is instead controlled by the 6.600-strong St. Galler community of Grabs.

Speaking to the newspaper, Grabs council clerk Werner Hefti confirmed that while Werdenberg is technically entitled to call itself a city for historical reasons, it is not “its own political community. So it doesn’t have a city council or its own authorities.” For its part, Fürstenau can boast its own council and municipal system, so maybe it is entitled to be the smallest city in the world as it has the institutions to back it up.

Which should be named the world's smallest city

However, trust the Swiss government to pour cold water onto the debate: speaking to 20 Minuten, a spokesperson for the Federal Statistical Office said that according to today’s definition, an area of Switzerland can only call itself a city if it has more than 10.000 people who live, work or stay overnight there. While cities can be made based on “institutional and historical criteria”, for the federal authorities neither Werdenberg, Grabs or Fürstenau are considered “statistical cities.”

But where’s the fun in that? Do you support Werdenberg because of its size and ancient claim to the title of “city", or will you be backing Fürstenau because of its independence? Let us know in the comments below!

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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