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Settlements come in many different sizes and these can be ranked according to their population and the level of services available. In studying the geography topic of settlements, we look for patterns and we observe how outcomes are influenced by different factors. in studying settlement hierarchy, you should see that settlement size influences the number of services available in the settlement and that as the size of a settlement increases, the frequency of that settlement type decreases.

Settlements in order of size










Large city






Large town














Where conurbations have joined to become one large urban area.


A group of large cities and their suburbs that have strong links connecting them to each other.

A city and surrounding towns that are in close proximity and have started to merge into each other.

A city with a large population and many services.


A city would have a wide range of services but not as many as a large city.


Large towns now see a much more varied range of shops available when compared to villages.

Towns see an increase in services, for example, they would have senior schools and police stations.

Villages start to have some basic services like a petrol station or a vilage shop.

Hamlets have very tiny populations and few services, if any.


Isolated dwelling often in rural areas, these tend to be farmhouses or holiday homes.

10 million + people



3-10 million people



1-3 million people



300,000 - 1 million people


100,000-300,000 people








100 - 1,000 people



< 100 people



a few buildings at most

Geography topics for you to learn and enjoy

Some cities are so large,

they can be

seen from space

Have a look closely at this image. Here is Berlin taken from a satellite in October 2006. If you look closely, you can see lakes and forests, rivers and canals, roads and railways. If you know where to look or look particularly closely, you might even be able to make out the airport.

settlement hierarchy | settlement geography

What will you find in a village, town or city?

Here is a large hospital. It can cater for hundreds of patients a day. Would you expect to find this in a village? town? or city?


There are many different services that you can find in settlements. Can you think of any more?

University College Hospital, London

Have a look at this list of services that you might find in settlements. For each one, have a think about whether you would expect to find it in a village, a town or a city?



Mouseover for the answers!
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Village, town or city? Where will you find these?

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