Aire urbaine

An aire urbaine (literal and official translation: "urban area"[1]) is an INSEE (France's national statistics bureau) statistical concept describing a core of urban development and its 'rim' of commuter activity. In spite of its appellation, it is similar in function to many of the world's metropolitan areas.


The aire urbaine is based on France's nationwide map of interlocking administrative commune municipalities: when a commune has over 2000 inhabitants and contains a centre of dense construction (buildings spaced no more than 200 metres apart), it is combined with other adjoining communes fulfilling the same criteria to become a single unité urbaine ("urban unit" [2]); if an urban unit offers over 10,000 jobs and its economical development is enough to draw more than 40% of the population of a nearby municipalities (and other municipalities drawn to these in the same way) as commuters, it becomes a pôle urbain ("urban cluster"[3]) and the "commuter municipalities" become its couronne ("rim"[4]), but this only on the condition that the urban unit itself is not part of another urban cluster's rim. The aire urbaine is an urban cluster and its rim combined, or a statistical area describing a central urban core and its economic influence on surrounding municipalities.

Lesser aires urbaines

If an urban unit offers 5,000~10,000 jobs (thus becoming an 'average' urban cluster) yet manages to draw commuters numbering more than 40% of the population of nearby municipalities (and other municipalities drawn to these in the same way), the whole qualifies as an 'average' aire urbaine; a 'small' aire urbaine fulfils the same commuter criteria but is centred on an urban unit (or 'small' urban cluster) offering 1,500~5,000 jobs.[5]

France's aires urbaines

The following is a list of the fifteen largest urban areas of France, based on population data gathered at the 2006 census. The classification of the population is sometimes different from the INSEE number.

Classif. Insee number
Urban area Population
Yearly percent change
1 001 Paris [6] 12 089 098 +0.7%
2 002 Lyon [7] 2 118 132 +0.8%
3 003 Marseille [8] 1 780 095 +0.8%
4 004 Lille [9]
(figures do not include the part of Lille's
metropolitan area which lies on Belgian territory)
1 264 716 +0.3%
5 005 Toulouse [10] 1 256 887 +1.9%
6 007 Bordeaux [11] 1 120 149 +1.1%
7 006 Nice [12] 1 091 903 +0.9%
8 008 Nantes [13] 763 118 +1.0%
9 009 Strasbourg [14]
(figures do not include the part of Strasbourg's
metropolitan area which lies on German territory, see Strasbourg-Ortenau)
638 670 +0.6%
10 010 Toulon [15] 595 884 +0.8%
11 012 Rennes [16] 571 753 +1.3%
12 011 Douai-Lens [17] 546 723 –0.2%
13 014 Grenoble [18] 531 440 +0.5%
14 013 Rouen [19] 523 236 +0.1%
15 015 Montpellier [20] 510 391 +1.5%

See also


External links

  • Geopolis: research group,university of Paris-Diderot, France - Population of urban areas of 10,000 or more
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