Print map - Intra-urban population dynamics, 2001-2004

Intra-urban population dynamics, 2001-2004


  • Cities located in the ‘Blue Banana’ (the densely populated area ranging from Northwest England to Northern Italy) mainly grew in the cores but also in their hinterlands.
  • Other cities in Western Europe tended to mainly grow in their hinterlands.
  • Eastern European cities tended to decline in their core but grew in their surroundings.
  • In the period 2001-2004, different European areas were characterised by a specific phase of urbanisation. Depending on the area, most cities were either in the phase of sub-urbanisation or re-urbanisation.

Observations for policy

The evolution of cities and their position in the urbanisation cycle depend on the relation between the urban core and its hinterland. The urbanisation cycle is composed by urbanisation, sub-urbanisation, counter-urbanisation and finally re-urbanisation.

Different cities in Europe were in different phases of the urbanisation cycle. Cities of the so-called ‘Pentagon’ area (London-Hamburg-Munich-Milan-Paris) were mainly in the phase of re-urbanisation during the period 2001-2004, whereas many cities in Eastern and Southern Europe were characterised by suburbanisation. However, different developments can be identified: In Eastern Europe suburbanisation came along with a decline in population whereas in Southern Europe the total population was growing. Such different developments imply different circumstances that have to be taken into consideration by urban policies.

Policy context

The 6th Cohesion Report states that long-term investments like large-scale infrastructures need to be planned in the light of likely future population change. Identifying trends of the past can help to project future development. The position in the urbanisation cycle provides an appropriate starting point for conclusions with regards to possible future phases.

The Territorial Agenda 2020 underlines that urbanisation taking place in a territorially uncoordinated manner can cause environmental problems. Moreover, urban sprawl causes in general high, unsustainable energy consumption. Another aspect refers to urban landscapes that are of high regional value and are thus to be protected and developed in qualitative terms.

Map interpretation

Three main types of urban evolution can be distinguished for Europe:

  • In the urban and central parts of Europe (‘Pentagon’) that are characterised by high population density, many Larger Urban Zones grew due to population growth in both their cores and their hinterlands. In many cities the growth in the core was faster than in the surroundings. This development is a sign of re-urbanisation.
  • Decline in population mainly occurred in Eastern European countries. However, in many urban areas in Eastern Europe the surroundings grew but population decrease in the core outweighed this increase. Growing surroundings hint at cities in the phase of suburbanisation. The two main growing cities and hence exceptions in Eastern Europe were Warsaw and Prague.
  • Cities in the Mediterranean countries generally grew. In these cities, especially population in the hinterlands increased, whereas for the core of Mediterranean cities both increase and decline could be identified. In contrast to Eastern Europe, suburbanisation in Southern Europe came along with overall population growth.

Concepts and methods

The layer of the map consists of circles that can be distinguished by colour and by size. The size of the circle indicates the size of the population living in the Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) in 2000. Larger Urban Zones (LUZ) contain major cities and their surrounding travel-to-work areas. LUZs are defined as groupings of existing administrative areas (often LAU2 units). Their boundaries do not necessarily coincide with those of NUTS3 regions.

The distinction by colour comprises two levels of dynamics over the period 2001 to 2004. First, population growth is identified by “blue/green” colours, and population decline by “yellow/brown” colours. Second, within each of these two groups, different combinations of growth and decline in the urban core and its hinterlands are identified by individual colours.

For declining LUZs four different types can be distinguished. Either the decline in the core is larger than the decline in the hinterlands (dark green), or vice versa (light green). Another distinction for shrinking LUZs is that population decreases because population decrease in the core is larger than population growth in the hinterlands (dark blue), or vice versa (light blue).

Also for growing LUZs four different types can be distinguished. The population grows because either population increase in the hinterlands is larger than population decline in the core (orange), or vice versa (red). The last distinction is that population growth in the hinterlands is larger than population growth in the core (yellow), or vice versa (green).

Switch to our desktop site