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International Capitals Everyone Seems to Get Wrong

It's easy to draw a blank when trying to remember the capital of a country. There are around 200 of them, after all. While guessing the most populous city will often pay dividends, it's far from a fool-proof plan. Here are the six most commonly misidentified international capitals in the world.

6

Morocco

The city of Rabat as seen from the harbor with many colorful fishing boats
Credit: Rudolf Ernst/ iStock

Watch a lot of movies, and you might imagine the city of Casablanca is the capital of Morocco. Even with the likes of Bogie and Bergman gracing your screens and making you fall in love with Morocco, this beautiful city isn't the capital. Nor is the popular tourist hotspot Marrakech. The capital of this international destination is actually Rabat.

Home to the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat is a hidden gem with a lot to offer. The mausoleum is a preserved holy place that's open to the public. Three members of the Alaouite dynasty are interred within. The architectural style is reminiscent of the dynasty's time.

5

Turkey

Ankara castle with a red flag stands on a hill with the surrounded red-roofed buildings
Credit: muratart/ Shutterstock

With a history dating back to the stone age, the capital of Turkey is a familiar name, but not the one most think of first. While Istanbul is probably the best-known city in the country, it's not the capital. The actual capital sits about 280 miles inland from Istanbul.

Would you be surprised to learn the capital city is Ankara? Some might be, as it has roughly one-third the population of Istanbul and is not nearly as famous. What Ankara does offer is the famous Angora (long-haired) goats and cats. In fact, Angora used to be the name of the city before it was renamed Ankara.

From Roman-era temples to a Byzantine citadel to a Seljuk era mosque, there are many different viewpoints from which to see the city. Ottoman buildings fill a large portion of the city, some having been converted into museums to educate visitors.

4

Canada

A beautiful blue and purple sunset with the snow-covered castle-like Canadian Parliament building.
Credit: Thomas Brissiaud/ Shutterstock

Toronto? Nope. Montreal? Try again. Vancouver? Still not correct. Canada's capital is Ottawa, which is close to the border with New York. It houses a bilingual parliament and has its own rich traditions, even if it isn't the top-spot to visit on a trip up north.

Home to the Rideau Canal, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ottawa boasts year-round celebrations and festivals, offers a cosmopolitan vibe, and can easily be traversed by foot. Many visitors enjoy the historic ByWard Market, which is lined with markets and cute shops.

3

Australia

A view of downtown Canberra and a river with mountains rising out of the morning mist
Credit: Chadwick Clark/ Shutterstock

If you're looking to head to Australia's capital, you start off for Sydney — that famous city with its majestic opera house. But that isn't the capital of Australia. Neither are popular places such as Melbourne, Perth, or Brisbane. The lesser-known city of Canberra doesn't always ring a bell. It is, however, the capital of Australia.

Home to just about 400,000 people, Canberra has a small-town vibe that allows visitors to experience all the city has to offer without feeling overwhelmed. From art to history to the great outdoors, this city in the land down under doesn't disappoint. You'll find museums, breweries, and incredible architecture to explore, and you'll be treated to views of mountains and valleys.

2

Brazil

A blue and pink sunset view over a modern white bridge in Brasilia
Credit: Mateus Cavalcanti Felix Oliveira/ iStock

Many guess that Rio de Janeiro is the capital of Brazil. Those people, unfortunately, are incorrect. The capital is found about 720 miles to the northwest. Brasilia is the capital of the largest country in South America.

This city is home to almost 3 million residents and has a tropical savannah climate with high humidity. If you visit, you'll want to check out the Cathedral of Brasilia, a Roman Catholic cathedral that looks more like a state-of-the-art museum in New York City than any a place of worship. The Chapada dos Veadeiros is a renowned national park with numerous waterfalls and opportunities to see wildlife. You can also visit the Poço Azul, or "Blue Pool," a natural wonder formed from quartz that is a popular snorkeling location.

1

Switzerland

The Old City of Bern, Switzerland from above
Credit: omersukrugoksu/ iStock

Since the United Nations' European headquarters are in Geneva, most people assume that it must be the capital of Switzerland. Or, they guess Zürich, the most populated city in the country. But the honor instead belongs to the city of Bern. Bern is located on the Aare River. It's the fifth-largest city in the country and offers just as much beauty as the rest of Switzerland.

The quaint, European village-style buildings that most people think of when they dream of Switzerland can be found throughout Bern. Consider visiting in the winter, when Bern looks like a Christmas village in the North Pole itself.

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