Contrasts between first-tier and second-tier cities in Europe: a functional perspective

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    Second-tier cities have been experiencing renewed interest within policy and research contexts, which is reversing a tradition of relative neglect due to the long-standing focus on large cities and capitals. This paper compares European second-tier and first-tier cities with regard to the presence of urban functions and how these are spread over their urban regions. The analysis shows the existence of a substantial ‘first city bonus’: a surplus of urban functions in first-tier cities which cannot be explained by their size or network embeddedness. We also show that second-tier cities are better served with urban functions in the absence of a dominant capital. In first-tier urban regions, the core municipality exploits the critical mass of the urban region to support its own functions, leaving that region functionally underserved. Second-tier cities lack this absorptive capacity, and their urban regions are endowed with more urban functions. These functional differences mean that second-tier cities demand a differentiated research and policy approach, in which city-regional integration becomes an important territorial development strategy. Rather than the dispersion process in first-tier cities leading to a ‘regionalization of the city’, integration in second-tier urban regions may be seen as a process of ‘citification of the region’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)996-1015
    JournalEuropean Planning Studies
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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    • urban regions
    • urban functions
    • second-tier cities
    • metropolitan integration


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