Countries With Two or More Capitals, or Other Interesting Capital Situations

Oct 11, 2017

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, but so is the The Hague

Most countries in the world have one capital city where the government resides. Examples of such places are Washington, Paris, and Tokyo. Very often those cities are also the largest in the country. There are, however, some countries that have two or more capital cities, or other interesting capital situations. The reasons why a country have multiple capital cities may be historic or to spread out government functions in the country.


The most well-known example of a country with two capital cities is Bolivia. La Paz and Sucre are two cities that have agreed to divide the different parts of the government between them. This division dates back to the late 19th century, when opposing political factions had different aspirations about how the country should govern itself.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is another country that effectively has two capital cities. According to the constitution, Amsterdam is the capital city, but the parliament and the Dutch government have been in The Hague for hundreds of years, giving that location the functions of capital city. The Hague is also the headquarters of many important international governmental agencies, such as the International Criminal Court.

South Africa

South Africa takes it one step further by having three official capitals: Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Pretoria. Rather than concentrating all the parts of the government in one city, the South African executive branch is in Pretoria, the judicial branch is in Bloemfontein, and the legislative branch is in Cape Town. This division is done in part to accommodate the various ethnic groups that are distributed throughout the country.

Cote D’Ivoire and Benin

The official capital of Cote D’Ivoire is Yamoussoukro, but the de facto seat of government is Abidjan. Having a de facto seat of government means that the city is not officially the capital but performs all the functions that a government would function. The same situation exists in the West African country of Benin, which has an official capital in Porto-Novo and a de facto capital city in Cotonou. In both cases, the largest city functions as the de facto capital, but the official government functions are intentionally located elsewhere.


The official capital of Chile is Santiago, which is also its largest city. The national legislature was moved to Valparaiso in 1990, however, as the country was recovering from the Pinochet regime and looking to decentralize the political power in the country.


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


Honduras has a unique situation because rather than having a capital city, it has an entity called the Municipality of the Central District. In that district, there is the de facto capital Tegucigalpa, which is also the country’s largest city. There is also Comayagüela, however, which is also considered a constitutional capital with Tegucigalpa.


The official capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. As that city because too crowded, however, the government decided to plan a new city that could handle the administrative functions of the country at the federal level. In 1999, the government and the judiciary moved to the city of Putrajaya.


Although Podgorica is the official capital of Montenegro, the city of Cetinje is an honorary capital in a gesture to the country’s past. It was the former capital of the country and still operates as an important cultural center.

South Korea

South Korea adopted the two capital model as recently as 2012. Seoul has long been the official capital and the economic and cultural center of the country, but Sejong City is now the administrative capital where many of the government’s most important agencies are located. The move was carried out to deconcentrate the political power of Seoul.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s famous capital city is Colombo, but for the past four decades the national legislature and has resided in a nearby suburb named Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. As is often the case in countries with a dominant city, the move was made to relieve congestion in Colombo.


Unlike some of the countries that have recently adopted a two capital system, Swaziland has always had two capital cities. Lobamba is where the elite rulers live and is considered to be the traditional seat of power in the country. It is also where the Parliament convenes. Mbabne, however, is the administrative capital where the rest of the government functions take place.


Dar es Salaam is the historic capital and largest city of Tanzania. The city of Dodoma, however, is in a more central location relative to the rest of the country. That is why in 1973 the government moved the capital to Dodoma, although many of the government agencies and the foreign embassies in Tanzania remain in Dar es Salaam.

Western Sahara

Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast of Africa. There are two entities within the territory that are claimed by competing factions, and each have their own capital cities. Morocco considers Laayoune the capital, but the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic considers Tifariti to be the capital of its self-proclaimed territory.