What are the cities of Wales, and why are two of them the size of a village?

Wales' diverse list of cities ranges from a capital comfortable in hosting major international events to the UK's two smallest cities. Credit: Visit Wales

Wrexham became Wales' seventh city last week, when it was announced the town would be granted the status for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.

So what are the other six - and why are two of them no bigger than a village?


Credit: Visit Wales

Our capital, Cardiff was granted city status in 1905. With a population of 362,750, it is Wales' largest city and the 13th largest in the UK.

Cardiff became the seat of government for Wales in 1999 and the Senedd opened in Cardiff Bay in 2006.

The city is home to two Cathedrals: Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St David and Llandaff Cathedral; and four universities: Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, University of South Wales and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.


Credit: Visit Wales

Swansea became a city in 1969 during Prince Charles' investiture tour, and with a population of 245,480, it is now Wales' second largest city.

Copper was smelted in the city from 1716, while a lead works opened in 1755.

By the 19th century, Swansea became a centre of the metalworking industry and huge amounts of zinc and copper were exported through the city's port.

Home to Swansea University and Swansea Metropolitan University, a recent redevelopment in the city has delivered the Copr Bay development that features a 3,500-capacity indoor arena.


Credit: Visit Wales

Newport has now lost its mantle as Wales' newest city to Wrexham, having only been granted city status in 2002.

It once had the country's largest coal-exporting port, and the Newport Transporter Bridge is one of only six working transporter bridges in the world.

The 'Chartist Rising' at Newport in November 1839 was the most serious manifestation of physical force Chartism in the history of the movement.

The city recently completed a regeneration of its indoor market, bringing a plethora of independent traders to the city centre.


Credit: Visit Wales

Despite becoming a city officially in 1974, Bangor is Wales' oldest city with a cathedral dating back to the sixth century. 

Bangor translates as 'Wattle fence', named after a 6th century monastery on the site that had a wattle fence.

With a population of just 18,000 Bangor is one of Wales' smallest cities, and around half of those are university students.

During the second world war, parts of the BBC were evacuated to Bangor during the worst of the blitz.

St Asaph

Credit: Visit Wales

Moving east and inland, St Asaph, or Llanelwy in Welsh, makes Bangor look huge in comparison to its population of 3,500.

St Asaph Cathedral dates back to the 13th century and is the smallest ancient cathedral in the UK.

The William Morgan Bible - the first version of the whole bible that was translated into Welsh from Greek and Hebrew - is kept in the cathedral.

St Asaph has always been considered a city, due to the importance attached to it over the last 2000 years, with a Roman road passed through from the second century AD.

However, in 2012 St Asaph was granted City Status during the Diamond Jubilee year of HM The Queen Elizabeth II.

St Davids

Credit: VW

Beating St Asaph to the title of the UK's smallest city is St David's in Pembrokeshire which has a population of 1,840.

Named after St David, the patron saint of Wales, he was born and buried here.

St Davids Cathedral was built between the 12th and 14th century, and stands on the former site of a 6th century chapel.

Due to its importance to Christianity, St Davids was made a city in 1994, however, it should have been given city status in 1992.

The then Welsh Secretary David Hunt said the Pembrokeshire cathedral town should be given its "rightful title", however, the Queen, in conjunction with UK ministers, chose only Sunderland for the honour.


Credit: Visit Wales

And then there's Wales' newest city, Wrexham, after the town was granted city status on Friday, May 20.

Home to the oldest international football stadium in the world, Wrexham is also home to Glyndŵr University and Wrexham lager.

It has made international news, especially in North America, following Hollywood duo Ryan Reynolds and rob McElhenney's purchase of Wrexham AFC. Despite an FA Trophy defeat to Bromley on Sunday, the club still holds out in hope of returning to the football league.

It is also in the running to be named the UK's City of Culture for 2025, after it made the final four of the competition. The winner is expected to be announced later in May.

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Who next?

If Wales' diverse mix of cities proves anything, it's that there's no one-shape-fits-all category that a place must tick to become a city.

That begs the question, where in Wales could be the country's eighth city in the future?

Could Machynlleth be recognised as the historic centre of Welsh political power and the home to the building where Owain Glyndŵr held a parliament after being crowned Prince of Wales in 1404?

Would Aberystwyth, with its world famous university that was the birth place of the study of international relations, welcome a status upgrade?

Or could Carmarthen, which many believe is the oldest town in Wales, become a city nearly 2,000 years after it was founded in 75 AD?