Historical precursors 
In the Holy Roman Empire, and to a degree in its successor states the German Confederation and the German Empire, so-called "free imperial cities" (nominative singular freie Reichsstadt, nominative plural freie Reichsstädte) held the legal status of imperial immediacy, according to which they were not subinfeudated to any vassal ruler and were instead subject to the authority of the Emperor alone. Examples included Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck, along with others that gained and/or lost the privileges of immediacy over the course of the Empire's history.
National capitals 
In general 
A number of countries have made their national capitals into separate entities.
- Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is outside of the country's system of counties.
- London, the capital of the United Kingdom and its constituent country England, is administratively Greater London, which consists of the City of London and 32 London boroughs. Greater London is not one of the metropolitan or non-metropolitan counties, which the remainder of England is subdivided into. London has its own assembly and directly-elected mayor, which exercise local government/devolved powers greater than any other city or place in the UK, apart from the nations/provinces of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. One of the boroughs, the City of Westminster, is the seat of government as home to the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and other notable government, judicial and religious buildings. The City of London (which is not, and never has been, the seat of government) has a unique status in British local government; it is part of Greater London for most administrative purposes, but remains a separate ceremonial county, and retains many independent local government powers and civic identity, most notably its own police force and Lord Mayor.
- Oslo, the capital of Norway is an independent city defined both as a municipality and a county.
- Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is not really a city but officially one of Japan's 47 prefectures. Its official name is Tokyo Metropolis, highlighting its special designation. It consists of 49 municipalities, 23 of which are the wards that once made up the no-longer existing Tokyo City.
Federal capitals 
In countries with a federal structure, the federal capital is often separate from other jurisdictions in the country, and frequently has a unique system of government.
- Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, is a separate entity counted not as one of the states of the country but rather as a federal capital territory.
- Brasília, the capital of Brazil, is located in the Federal District — the same was created especially for the purpose of housing the Federal capital city.
- Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is a separate bi-lingual(Dutch-French) region (the Brussels-Capital Region), independent of both Flanders and Wallonia, despite being entirely surrounded by Flanders (of which it is also the regional capital) and sharing a common language with Wallonia (French).
- Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, received the status of "Autonomous City" via a 1994 amendment to the country's constitution. Previously, Buenos Aires had been designated as a "Capital District".
- Canberra, the capital of Australia, is located in the Australian Capital Territory.
- Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, is located in a Capital District.
- Mexico City, the capital of the United Mexican States (Mexico), is coterminous with the Federal District (Distrito Federal). The 31 states and the Federal District are collectively called "federal entities" (entidades federativas in Spanish).
- Moscow, the capital of Russia, itself forms a Federal City, a capital territory, which is one of the 83 federal subjects of Russia.
- New Delhi — the capital city of India — and the old city of Delhi together form the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States, is not within any of the 50 states. It is located in and is co-terminous with (that is, has the same boundaries as) the District of Columbia. The two form one entity. Although the District of Columbia was originally created as a capital territory out of parts of Maryland and Virginia, the portion from Virginia was removed from the Federal District and returned to Virginia in 1846.
- Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is a city in the province of Ontario. There is a National Capital Region that includes Ottawa, the neighbouring city of Gatineau, Quebec, and adjacent areas, but this is not a separate political entity.
People's Republic of China 
In mainland China under the administration of the People's Republic of China, the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing are centrally-administered province-level regions, and they do not belong to any particular province. Additionally, there are several vice provincial cities that are nominally under provinces but in reality have economic policies independent of their respective provinces.
Within some provinces, there are some cities that are directly under provinces, bypassing an administrative level (prefectures and prefecture-level cities).
Republic of China (Taiwan) 
Under the administrative division system of the Republic of China, some cities are directly administered by the Executive Yuan, some are administered by provinces (the province of Taiwan is nominal), and some are subordinate to counties. The centrally-administered (Taipei City, Kaohsiung City, New Taipei City, Taichung City, and Tainan City) and province-administered ones are like independent cities under this definition.
Republic of (South) Korea 
In addition to its nine provinces, South Korea has seven province-level "metropolitan cities." By far the largest among these in terms of population is the capital, Seoul, called a teukbyeol-si (특별시; literally, special city), which is home to more than 20% of the entire population of the country. The remaining six independent cities are called gwangyeok-si (광역시; literally, large city) whose names are: Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Incheon, Gwangju, and Ulsan.
Historically, these independent cities have been carved from the province that surrounds them. Consequently, they typically share a strong regional and cultural identity with the adjoining province(s). For instance, Gwangju, located at the center of Jeolla region, is heavily associated with the region. Seoul and Incheon are said to make up the National Capital Area along with the densely populated Gyeonggi that almost completely encompasses them.
One interesting relic of the newer independent cities is that, in some cases, the government administrative buildings (docheong) of the provinces they were once a part of are still located within city boundaries, meaning that these provinces have capitals that are not within their borders.
In 2006, the ruling party floated a proposal to completely eliminate all current province and independent-city borders. This plan would divide the entire republic into fifty or sixty city- or county-level administrations, similar to the system in Japan. The plan was intended to help reduce regional discrimination and animosity by eliminating provincial identity.
Many major cities in the Philippines are independent cities, classified as either "highly urbanized" or "independent component" cities. These cities do not share their tax revenues with any province, and are administratively and legally not part of any province, although many still group them as components of the provinces to which they previously belonged for convenience and reduced complexity. There are 38 of them, with 16 being located in Metro Manila, 8 in the rest of the Luzon island group, 7 in the Visayas and 7 in Mindanao.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 
The city of Brčko has the status of a "district", governed by the top-level country administration (Bosnia and Herzegovina). It is independent of both Entities that constitute Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika Srpska and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina). All other cities and municipalities are under the jurisdiction of the Entity (in Republika Srpska) or under the jurisdiction of cantons (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina).
The city of Paris is both a département and a commune; it is the only French city with this status. The Council of Paris (Conseil de Paris) exercises functions similar to those of a departmental council (conseil général) and a city council (conseil municipal). However, Paris and the départements closest to it are part of the Île-de-France région.
Examples of German independent cities are:
- Cologne (Köln)
- Frankfurt (Frankfurt am Main)
- Munich (München)
- Nuremberg (Nürnberg)
Additionally, the German city-states of Berlin and Hamburg function as federal states. The city-state Free Hanseatic City of Bremen is comprised solely of the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven (which was originally founded as an ocean port for the city of Bremen).
In Hungary, 23 of the cities are "cities with county rights". These cities have equal rights with the 19 counties of Hungary.
In Norway, Oslo is both a municipality (kommune) and a county (fylke) within itself.
Russian Federation 
In Spain, there exist two so-called autonomous cities, Ceuta and Melilla, which are located on the North African coast surrounded by Morocco and have been under Spanish jurisdiction since the 15th century. Spain is a highly decentralized state organized in autonomous communities. These two cities hold their special status because they are not large enough to be considered regions on their own. Nonetheless, they function as autonomous communities with a high degree of self-administration and law-making powers.
United Kingdom 
In the UK, having city status gives the city's local government no additional inherent powers; city status depends on a grant from the monarch and merely confers on the place so-designated the right to call itself a city. Many cities and large urban areas are unitary authorities, meaning they have their own local government, separate from the surrounding county. (However a number of large urban areas have a number of unitary authorities, such as Greater Manchester, which mean they do not have a unified, city-wide local government.) County borough referred to a borough or a city, independent of county council control in England and Wales from 1889 to 1974 with the term continuing in use in Northern Ireland. Wales re-introduced the term in 1994 for use with certain unitary authorities.
North America 
In the Canadian province of Ontario, the same type of city is referred to as a single-tier municipality (there are also separated municipalities). In Quebec, they are often called separated cities, as they are not Regional County Municipalities. Cities and towns in Alberta are not part of rural municipalities such as counties. In New Brunswick, all county government was abolished in 1967. Therefore, in theory, all cities, townships, and settlements in New Brunswick could be considered independent cities.
United States 
There are 42 independent cities in the United States, with 39 of these in Virginia (in Virginia, cities are separate from counties even if they function as county seats). The three others are Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri; and Carson City, Nevada.
Another type of locality is known as a consolidated city–county. In a consolidated city-county, as in an independent city, there is one single local government. But in a consolidated city-county, the city and the county nominally both exist, although they are the same entity (the City of Denver, Colorado, and Denver County; the City of San Francisco, California, and San Francisco County; the City of Butte, Montana, and Silver Bow County), whereas in an independent city, the county does not even nominally exist (Falls Church, Virginia; Carson City, Nevada).
Washington, D.C., is coterminous with the District of Columbia, which is not a part of any state. It cannot be considered "independent" because it is under Congressional oversight as the U.S. national capital.
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