Commonly confused capital cities

One of the things I miss most while being in lockdown is catching up with friends for the occasional game of pub trivia.

I can usually be relied upon to carry the hopes of the team on the sport questions and geography. I’m a whizz on my capitals, and my favourite to pull out is that the capital of Burkina Faso is Ouagadougou.

However, ask me the capital of Canada and despite being told multiple times that it is Ottawa, I’ll invariably answer any one of the larger cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec City) before even thinking of the right answer.

It just won’t stick for some reason. I bet people from countries other than Australia have the same issue when trying to think of Canberra.

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Here are some of the cities most commonly confused as being capital cities.

Auckland, New Zealand
Much as Canberra doesn’t stand out for much in the minds of tourists, and hardly registers as a place of interest, so too with Wellington. A lot of people assume the much larger, and much more temperate Auckland, is the capital city. The important thing to remember is that the capital is located as close to the meeting point between the North and South Island as possible.

Istanbul, Turkey
No, the real capital isn’t Constantinople, either.

The capital of Turkey is Ankara, which only has a population one-third of Turkey’s most famous and most sung about city. The best way to remember this one is that Ankara is actually responsible for Angora wool from the Angora goat (Angora being the anglicised word for Ankara).

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Geneva, Switzerland
It might be home to the Swiss branch of the United Nations and a host of banks and financial institutions as well, but Geneva is not the capital of Switzerland. That honour belongs to Bern. Here’s a visual reminder to help you out next time.

Tel Aviv, Israel
Many of the mistakes that come with confusing capital cities are based on the assumption that the most populous city is going to be the capital city, but that is not the case when it comes to Israel. Jerusalem is the capital, and the most populous city of Israel, yet many people assume Tel Aviv is the capital. The fact that the UN does not recognise Jerusalem as the country’s capital probably has something to do with the confusion on this one.

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Johannesburg, South Africa
If I was to pretend that Canada’s capital was the only one that regularly caught me out at trivia, I would be lying. I have definitely fallen for the trap of thinking Johannesburg is the country’s capital before, but there is good reason to be stumped by the capital when it comes to South Africa and that is the fact that it essentially has three capital cities – Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloemfontein. Pretoria is the capital for the country’s executive branch, Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative). Basically, you can provide any of three answers and still be right at trivia. I wish Canada would adopt this system.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The real answer is in the name, guys. Rio de Janeiro isn’t even Brazil’s most populous city, that honour falls to Sao Paulo. But Brasilia, which is the actual capital is a long way behind both of those cities. Rio de Janeiro obviously is the place to go for travellers – it has all the best beaches and famous landmarks, such as the Christ the Redeemer statue, so it is hardly surprising it is the first city that comes to mind.

Which capital cities do you often trip up on? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben



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