Districts of Germany

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This article is about the "Districts" (Kreise) of Germany. For "Government Districts" (Regierungsbezirke), see Regierungsbezirk.
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The districts of Germany are known as German: Landkreise, except in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein where they are known simply as German: ''Kreise'' (singulars: Landkreis and Kreis). It would make them second level administrative subdivisions in 12 of the 16 states and third level administrative subdivisions in 4 of the 16 states.

The districts are at an intermediate level of administration between the Länder (German states) and the municipal governments (Gemeinden). They are not to be confused with the larger Regierungsbezirk. They correspond to level 3 administrative units of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS 3), and roughly equivalent to counties in the United States.

The title German: "Reichskreis" (Imperial Circle) was given to groups of states in the Holy Roman Empire.

Types of districts[edit]

The majority of the districts are rural districts[1] (Landkreise) of which there are 295. Cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants (and smaller towns in some states) do not usually belong to a district, but take over district responsibilities themselves, similar to the concept of independent cities. These are known as urban districts (Kreisfreie Städte / Stadtkreise)—cities which constitute a district in their own right—and there are currently (2011) 107 of them, bringing the total number of districts to 402.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, there are some cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants which are not urban districts, for example Recklinghausen, Siegen, Paderborn, Bergisch Gladbach, Neuss and Moers. These cities, however, take over many district responsibilities themselves although belonging to a district. Moers is the biggest city in Germany (and at present time the only one with more than 100,000 inhabitants) that is neither an urban district, nor takes over district responsibilities.

There are also three so-called Kommunalverbände besonderer Art (Municipal unions of special kind, a fusion of a district and a district-free town: Besides the Regionalverband Saarbrücken (Saarbrücken regional association), 1974–2007: Stadtverband Saarbrücken, Saarbrücken town association), there is the Region Hannover since 2001 and the Städteregion Aachen (Aachen region of towns) since 2009.


Map of German districts. Yellow districts are urban, white are rural.

The districts are responsible for the following:

  • According to federal and regional laws:
    • The building and upkeep of B roads
    • Other building plans which cover more than one local authority's area
    • Caring for national parks
    • Social welfare
    • Youth welfare
    • The building and upkeep of hospitals
    • The building and upkeep of state schools of secondary education
    • Household waste collection and disposal
    • Car registration
    • Electing the Landrat or Landrätin, the chairperson of the district
  • According to local laws: (differ in each region)
    • Financial support for culture
    • The building of pedestrian zones and bicycle lanes
    • Financial support for school exchanges
    • The building and upkeep of public libraries
    • Revitalisation of the economy
    • Encouraging tourism
    • The management of Volkshochschulen (state run adult education colleges)

All these tasks are carried out by local (municipal) authorities operating together. Urban districts have these responsibilities and also those of the municipalities.

District council[edit]

The district council, the Kreistag, is the legislative body of the district and is responsible for local self-administration. The parliament is elected directly every five years, except in Bavaria where it is elected every six years.

District administration[edit]

The executive authority is an officer known as Landrat or Landrätin, who administers the district. In parts of northern Germany, this is also the name of the district administration, which in southern Germany is known as Kreisverwaltung or Landratsamt.

Lists of districts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Country Compendium, A companion to the English Style Guide". European Commission Directorate-General for Translation (EC DGT). May 2014. pp. 47–48.