Nine things we learned from this population density map of Europe

Ooooh, data-y. Image: Dan Cookson.

“I’ve been playing around with EU population data (2011),” a housing information specialist by the name of Dan Cookson tweeted recently, “Tricky to design interactive map of 1.9 million 1km grid squares that works visually at all scales.”

Tricky, perhaps – but he’s done it anyway, and the resulting map is not just informative but oddly beautiful, too. You can see at a glance which bits of Europe are bustling with people, and which are all but deserted. You can see where cities blend into each other, and where they’re cut off from what one might otherwise think of as suburbs.

Best of all, because it’s a series of 1km squares, you can zoom right in. As a result, you can see which European countries are practically deserted, and which bits of Glasgow are the most overcrowded, all from the same map.

It’s a stunning piece of work, and you should go and look at it right now. But to whet your appetite, here are some of the things we learned from playing with it for a bit.

Spain is basically empty...

The map represents different population densities using seven different colours: yellow suggests a high rise city, reds mean urban, pinks are suburban, blues mean rural and white means completely empty.

 The map contains data for all EU and EEA countries as of 2011 (back when the UK was definitely one of them *sigh*). And, except, in the frozen north, only one is primarily white, suggestion vast tracts of nobody.

Step forward Spain, where 47m people are packed into the coastal regions, Galicia in the north east and a few cities in the interior.

...except where it’s basically rammed

That, though, means getting a lot of people into a very small amount of space. Compare Barcelona, whose metropolitan area contains around 5m people...

...with Hamburg, which is roughly the same size.

The former has far more of those ultra-dense yellow squares, and they spread far beyond the city proper into outlying suburbs. Beyond that, though, the landscape quickly fades to white. Around Hamburg, the population gradient is far less steep.

Almost nobody lives in the Alps

Well, it probably gets cold there, I guess. Talking of which...

Finland has the most northerly population in Europe

Maybe this is just me, but when I think of the true north of Europe, I tend to think of Norway or Sweden. This is obviously stupid, as Helsinki, which lies on Finalnd’s southern coast, is actually north of quite a lot of Sweden.

What is less obvious is that the more populated regions of Finland continue a long, long way north of the more populated regions of the Scandinavian peninsula. Look:

London is denser in the north and east than in the south and west

That’s probably no surprise – south-west London is a lot posher than north-east – but nonetheless, the extent of it is striking:

But the most densely populated areas are west

The most crowded single square I could find, however, was this one:


Maida Hill, huh? Who’d have thought it?

No one lives in the Pennines either


Liverpool doesn’t really border Manchester

The old metropolitan counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside were contiguous. So are their modern replacements, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region.

Look at the population density map, though, and there is very clearly a gap between them:

Wigan and Leigh are part of Greater Manchester, officially. Look at the population density map, though, and they’re not really any more attached to Manchester than they are to Liverpool.

Richard Gadsden, a Manchester LibDem councillor and occasional reader of this site, once suggested to me that it might have made sense to have a sort of buffer zone between the two great north western cities, containing places like Warrington and Wigan that were linked to but not really part of them. Looking at this map, I can kind of see his point.

Density is good

While we’re at it: note how few yellow square there are in the North West. Now compare that with Paris:

Paris and Barcelona are densely populated. They’re also, in many ways, pretty great.

Density is not the enemy. That’s really all I’m saying here.

Oh, and we should build some more houses, but you probably inferred that bit.

You can play with Cookson’s entire map here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites

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These maps of petition signatories show which bits of the country are most enthusiastic about scrapping Brexit

The Scottish bit. Image: UK Parliament.

As anyone in the UK who has been near an internet connection today will no doubt know, there’s a petition on Parliament’s website doing the rounds. It rejects Theresa May’s claim – inevitably, and tediously, repeated again last night – that Brexit is the will of the people, and calls on the government to end the current crisis by revoking Article 50. At time of writing it’s had 1,068,554 signatures, but by the time you read this it will definitely have had quite a lot more.

It is depressingly unlikely to do what it sets out to do, of course: the Prime Minister is not in listening mode, and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has already been seen snarking that as soon as it gets 17.4m votes, the same number that voted Leave in 2016, the government will be sure to give it due care and attention.

So let’s not worry about whether or not the petition will be successful and instead look at some maps.

This one shows the proportion of voters in each constituency who have so far signed the petition: darker colours means higher percentages. The darkest constituencies tend to be smaller, because they’re urban areas with a higher population density. (As with all the maps in this piece, they come via Unboxed, who work with the Parliament petitions team.)

And it’s clear the petition is most popular in, well, exactly the sort of constituencies that voted for Remain three years ago: Cambridge (5.1 per cent), Bristol West (5.6 per cent), Brighton Pavilion (5.7 per cent) and so on. Hilariously, Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North is also at 5.1 per cent, the highest in London, despite its MP clearly having remarkably little interest in revoking article 50.

By the same token, the sort of constituencies that aren’t signing this thing are – sit down, this may come as a shock – the sort of places that tended to vote Leave in 2016. Staying with the London area, the constituencies of the Essex fringe (Ilford South, Hornchurch & Upminster, Romford) are struggling to break 1 per cent, and some (Dagenham & Rainham) have yet to manage half that. You can see similar figures out west by Heathrow.

And you can see the same pattern in the rest of the country too: urban and university constituencies signing in droves, suburban and town ones not bothering. The only surprise here is that rural ones generally seem to be somewhere in between.

The blue bit means my mouse was hovering over that constituency when I did the screenshot, but I can’t be arsed to redo.

One odd exception to this pattern is the West Midlands, where even in the urban core nobody seems that bothered. No idea, frankly, but interesting, in its way:

Late last year another Brexit-based petition took off, this one in favour of No Deal. It’s still going, at time of writing, albeit only a third the size of the Revoke Article 50 one and growing much more slowly.

So how does that look on the map? Like this:

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit of an inversion of the new one: No Deal is most popular in suburban and rural constituencies, while urban and university seats don’t much fancy it. You can see that most clearly by zooming in on London again:

Those outer east London constituencies in which people don’t want to revoke Article 50? They are, comparatively speaking, mad for No Deal Brexit.

The word “comparatively” is important here: far fewer people have signed the No Deal one, so even in those Brexit-y Essex fringe constituencies, the actual number of people signing it is pretty similar the number saying Revoke. But nonetheless, what these two maps suggest to me is that the new political geography revealed by the referendum is still largely with us.

In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this, the number of signatures on the Revoke Article 50 has risen to 1,088,822, by the way. Will of the people my arse.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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