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Smallest country in the world

Laura Puttkamer
Vatican City

Big cities get bigger, small towns stay small: this is how modern nomadism works in the 21st century between the metropolises and countries of our world. But the world’s smallest country benefits from being constantly overlooked – and only opens its doors to a handful of people.

Vatican City is the world's smallest country with only a little more than 800 inhabitants. Image: Unsplash




Russia is the largest country in the world, but it is also interesting to ask which countries are actually the smallest. Here you can see which country is clearly the smallest by mass and population, and what other small nations there are – not all of which are known.

Less than 0.5 million inhabitants

The world’s smallest country is clearly the Vatican. It has a land mass of only 0.49 km². Rome completely surrounds the independent city state. San Marino is also a so-called “microstate” in Italy. With 60 km², San Marino is the fifth smallest country in the world.

Since small countries almost always have small populations, typically less than half a million, they are small in two respects. Singapore is an exception: It is home to almost 6 million people. In terms of land mass, however, Singapore is among the 20 smallest countries in the world with its 726 km². Jamaica is about eight times larger but has only half the population.

The smallest country in the world

The Vatican is by far the smallest country in the world. It can be crossed in about 10 minutes on foot and measures less than one square kilometre. High walls surround the land guarded by the famous Papal Swiss Guard. This is because, as the Pope’s residence and place of work, security plays a major role in the Vatican.

Despite its small size, the Vatican has a great influence on the world, namely culturally, politically, and spiritually. The country is the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, which has over one billion members worldwide. St Peter’s Basilica dominates the small country. Visitors from all over the world come to Vatican City to see the Pope or even to get an audience, to visit the cathedral, to see the Sistine Chapel or to wander through the famous museums.

In total, about 800 people live permanently in the Vatican, where the main language is Latin.

Monaco is the world's second smallest country by size. By population, Tuvalu is second. Image: Unsplash

Smallest country in the world place second

The second smallest country in the world is Monaco, with an area of just over 2 km² and a population of about 39,000. It is located on the French Riviera directly on the Mediterranean Sea and it’s a playground for the rich and beautiful. Numerous private yachts, expensive cars and Formula 1 references make up the cityscape. The famous Princess Grace, a US actress who married into the royal family of Monaco, is also ubiquitous here. She died in a tragic car accident on the country’s winding roads and is revered to this day.

Monaco’s economy relies heavily on tourism, luxury goods and financial services. In addition, the holiday destination also has a lot of casinos.

… and third

Besides the Vatican and Monaco, the island states of the Caribbean and the South Pacific are also among the world’s smallest countries. Nauru is in third place with 21 km². It is home to 12,000 people, fewer than Monaco. The country is one of the least visited in the world. Probably only about 15,000 people who are still alive today have visited the country once.

Until the 1990s, Nauru long made a living from producing phosphate – an important ingredient in fertilisers. However, the supply dried up, leading to an economic collapse. To date, about 90% of Nauru’s population is unemployed. There are plans to relocate the entire population to another island. Australia supports the small country financially but has also faced criticism for using Nauru as an offshore detention and processing centre for immigrants.

Nauru is the third smallest country in the world. Image: Unsplash

Top 10 of the smallest countries

The list has small populations ranging from 500 to 73,000. Depending on whether you count land mass or inhabitants, the ranking will be different. Here is the list by population (United Nations estimates from 2022):

  1. Vatican with 517 inhabitants and 0.44 km²
  2. Tuvalu with 11,387 inhabitants and 26 km²
  3. Nauru with 12,769 inhabitants and 21 km²
  4. Palau with 18,058 inhabitants and 459 km²
  5. San Marino with 33,644 inhabitants and 61 km²
  6. Monaco with 36,313 inhabitants and 2 km²
  7. Liechtenstein with 39,558 inhabitants and 160 km²
  8. Marshall Islands with 41,952 inhabitants and 181 km²
  9. Saint Kitts and Nevis with 47,745 inhabitants and 261 km²
  10. Dominica with 73,006 inhabitants and 751 km²

By comparison, Germany’s largest city, Berlin, has an area of almost 892 km², making it larger than any country on this list. Europe’s smallest countries are the Vatican, Monaco, and San Marino. The largest country in the world is Russia, with an area of 17.1 million km². And the most populous country in the world is China with 1.4 billion people, closely followed by India with 1.399 billion.

The smallest and largest countries in the world are easy to determine – but what about the largest city in the world? 

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