Ask any flyweight boxer, and they'll probably tell you that size isn't everything. This is certainly the case for some of the world's most popular tourist hotspots. The likes of London, New York and Tokyo are obviously huge, but there are some top-drawer cities that are relative tiddlers. What they lack in size, they more than make up for in impact and appeal, however.
One of Europe's boom destinations in the last couple of decades, Dubrovnik has a splendid location on the Adriatic coast. The walled city centre and offshore islands provide the glamorous photos, but the mountains rise up pretty much from the coast, sandwiching the city into a narrow strip. Fewer than 50,000 people live here – the city has a population of 44,743, according to the Croatian Bureau of Statistics. That's about the same size as Tamworth in NSW.
The waterside location of Reykjavik is pretty spectacular, even if many people just use it as a base for exploring Iceland's glaciers, waterfalls and national parks. But while Iceland is big on sights, it is low on population. The world's most northerly capital city hosts 132,252 people, according to Statistics Iceland. Being generous and including the wider urban area, that goes up to 232,280. Geelong in Victoria is comfortably bigger than Reykjavik.
WHERE? NEW ZEALAND
The world's most southerly capital is hardly a giant, either. Surrounded by green space and water, Wellington is a delightful city to stroll around, but it is dwarfed by New Zealand's only genuine big city – Auckland. Statistics New Zealand reckons the major urban area of Wellington has just 215,100 residents. That's a smidge smaller than Hobart.
Being the nearest city to the Angkor temple complexes has given Siem Reap a busy international airport, a massive collection of hotels and a hugely outsized prominence. At times it can feel like there are more visitors than locals, and that's not too far from the truth. The National Institute of Statistics of Cambodia puts Siem Reap's population at 225,607. Again, that's about Hobart-sized.
Photo: Getty Images
The romantic, canal-riddled staple of the Grand Tour is pretty big if you include the satellite towns on the mainland that no-one wants to go to. According to the Istituto Nazionale di Statistica Italia, that mish-mash conglomerate is home to 846,962 people. But the island city itself, the bit that most people truly recognise as Venice, has just 51,298 people. That's about the size of Mildura-Wentworth.
Photo: Julian Elliott Photography
Another Italian classic is eyebrow-raisingly diddy as well. Florence was the epicentre of the Renaissance, birthplace of a zillion pieces of art and a political powerhouse for centuries. But Istituto Nazionale di Statistica Italia figures put the city's population at a mere 359,755. In other words, one of the great European cities is only a touch bigger than Wollongong.
SALT LAKE CITY
The capital of Utah receives intercontinental flights, and is the hub of a massive ski industry. Others stop by on tours through the American West's national parks to see the unusual HQ of the Mormon church. But figures from the US Census Bureau show Salt Lake City has a population of just 199,723. That number's considerably higher when you throw in the rag-tag conurbation that surrounds it, but the city itself is just slightly bigger than Townsville in Queensland.
Perhaps the world's most famous university city, Cambridge has produced a string of Nobel prize winners. It's also one of those handsome, heritage-packed British cities that's surprisingly tiny compared to the unheralded grim ones like Wakefield and Luton. The UK Office for National Statistics has the population of Cambridge at 162,006. It is, therefore, comfortably beaten by Townsville.
Nadi, Viti Levu, Fiji. Photo: Alamy
Fiji's major international airport is in Nadi, and the country's hugely important tourism industry is heavily concentrated on the western side of Viti Levu. But the Fijian population is concentrated in the capital Viti Levu, in the south-east. As per figures from the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics, Nadi is home to just 59,717 people.
The rest of the world tends to think Cairns is much bigger than it is. Ask people to name Australian cities, and it'll be usually one of the handful they can pick out. But the Great Barrier Reef tourism capital is only the 15th largest city in the country, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The population of Cairns is just 155,340 – which makes it as big as, well, Cairns.
See also: The world's 10 smallest countries