Which is the city where no one lives?

Finding a city where no one lives may seem like an impossible task. After all, most cities, by definition, have residents living in them. However, there are some unusual cases of cities that have been completely abandoned or have no permanent residents.

What qualifies as a city with no residents?

When determining whether a city has no residents, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • The city must have been formally incorporated and recognized as a city in the past
  • The city currently has no permanent residents living within its boundaries
  • The city may have temporary or seasonal workers but no one who officially resides there year-round
  • The infrastructure and buildings of the city remain even if uninhabited

So in summary, a city with no residents is a ghost town – a city that was once thriving but has been entirely abandoned and left vacant. There are often historical cities that fit this definition.

What causes a city to become completely abandoned?

There are a few common reasons why a formerly populated city may end up empty of permanent residents:

  • Economic shifts – Changes in industry or commerce can cause a city’s economy to collapse, leading to high unemployment and people moving away to find work elsewhere.
  • Resource scarcity – Without critical resources like water, food or fuel, cities can become unlivable.
  • Natural disasters – Events like earthquakes, floods or volcanic eruptions can force inhabitants to flee.
  • War and political unrest – Conflict causes displacement and migration away from cities under siege.
  • Nuclear accidents – Radiation contamination makes cities uninhabitable, as with Pripyat near Chernobyl.
  • Infrastructure changes – With transport links like railways shutting down, some cities are bypassed causing economic decline.

In most uninhabited cities, it is a combination of factors that drive away residents over time until no one remains.

Famous examples of uninhabited cities

Here are some of the most notable examples of empty cities from around the world:

Pripyat, Ukraine

Pripyat was founded in 1970 as a Soviet nuclear city to house workers for the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant. In 1986, the Chernobyl disaster caused massive radiation leakage, forcing the evacuation of Pripyat’s 49,000 residents. Due to extreme contamination, the city has been completely abandoned ever since, with only occasional visitors on guided tours.

Varosha, Cyprus

Varosha was once a glamorous Mediterranean beach resort in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus. After the 1974 Turkish invasion, Greek Cypriot residents fled, leaving Varosha’s high-rise hotels and apartments deserted. The city remains abandoned under Turkish military control within a UN buffer zone.

Kennecott, Alaska

This mining town was built in the 1900s to support Alaska’s largest copper mine. By 1938, the resources were mostly depleted and residents moved away. Many of the wooden buildings were dismantled, leaving the abandoned town looking like a ghostly lumber yard.

Pyramiden, Svalbard

This Arctic coal mining settlement was founded by Sweden in 1910 before being sold to the Soviet Union in 1927. As coal prices fell, Pyramiden was finally deserted in 1998. The cold preserved town remains mostly intact under the snow, including a huge Lenin statue.

Houtouwan, China

This ancient fishing village on the Shengshan Island once housed over 2,000 fishermen. As industrialization shifted work away from traditional fishing, residents migrated to cities for jobs. The village has been reclaimed by lush vegetation since being deserted in the 1990s.

Centralia, Pennsylvania

The coal mining town of Centralia was home to over 1,000 people until an underground mine fire began spreading in 1962. The dangerous fumes and subsidence caused an evacuation, with only around 5 defiant residents remaining today.

Craco, Italy

This 13th century hilltop town in Basilicata was built in a location prone to landslides. After a series of natural disasters and an evacuation order in 1963, Craco was left in ruin. Its striking abandonment attracted film crews to use it as a dramatic setting.

Recent cases of abandoned cities

While most uninhabited cities are historical, there have been some prominent cases of large-scale abandonment in the modern era:

  • Hashima Island, Japan – This industrial coal mining island off Nagasaki operated from 1887 to 1974 before closing. Also known as Gunkanjima or Battleship Island, Hashima’s deserted concrete buildings are now decaying ruins.
  • Picher, Oklahoma – Picher grew in the 1900s as a lead and zinc mining center, reaching a peak population of 10,000. Mine waste contaminated groundwater, causing environmental health issues and evacuation by 2009.
  • Wittenoom, Australia – The town was built around blue asbestos mining and shut down by 1966 due to health dangers from asbestos pollution. With the power cut off in 2006, the last handful of residents left.

So while modern cities rarely become completely empty of people, extreme unhealthy or dangerous conditions can still drive away inhabitants.

Common traits of uninhabited cities

Despite the unique stories behind each location, ghost towns and abandoned cities often share some common characteristics:

  • Houses, buildings and infrastructure remain intact but deteriorating
  • Streets and areas heavily overgrown with vegetation
  • Nature reclaiming developed areas as plants and animals move in
  • Eerie silence and stillness with no signs of human activity
  • Personal belongings and artifacts left behind by former residents
  • Damage or decay from abandonment, weathering and neglect
  • No electric power, running water or other utilities operating

The shells of unoccupied cities create striking, haunting scenes that seem frozen in time. They serve as reminders of the ephemeral nature of even the largest human settlements.

Factors that could contribute to future abandoned cities

Looking ahead, what factors might cause more cities to empty out and become modern ghost towns?

  • Climate change making areas inhospitable through drought, rising seas, etc.
  • Economic depression or collapse of a key industry for one-company towns
  • Dwindling local resources like oil, minerals or groundwater
  • Nuclear disasters making cities unlivable due to contamination
  • Political instability or conflict causing mass relocation
  • Pandemics prompting quarantines and site abandonment
  • Rezoning laws excluding residential use in certain districts
  • New transport links bypassing and isolating towns
  • Declining birth rates and aging populations in remote areas
  • Crumbling infrastructure making a city too costly to maintain

Of course, the future trajectory of urbanization points more towards growing megacities rather than shrinking cities. But under certain dire scenarios, large-scale abandonment could occur in localities that become casualties of change.

Why are empty cities so intriguing?

What is it about uninhabited cities that captures public imagination? Some reasons these eerie ghost towns hold such fascination:

  • They seem frozen in time, like relics of the past.
  • It’s hard to imagine places designed for thousands of people empty of humans.
  • They evoke an apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic or dystopian future.
  • People are drawn to mystery and places with dark histories.
  • The emptiness inspires thoughts of mortality, impermanence and inevitability of decay.
  • They highlight the relentless power of nature to reclaim developed areas.
  • Their haunting beauty and traces of human activity create striking photographer scenes.
  • Imagining once-vibrant cities devoid of life is unsettling.

In the end, perhaps their reminder of the temporariness of even great cities resonates and touches something primal in us.

Could a major city be abandoned in the future?

Is it possible that a major global city and center of culture could empty out and become an uninhabited ghost metropolis? While highly unlikely, one can imagine scenarios that could cause mass abandonment:

  • A catastrophic direct nuclear strike leaves a city radioactive and unlivable for decades.
  • A severe pandemic with high mortality causes populations to flee urban centers to isolate in rural areas.
  • Major climate change events like rising sea levels force coastal populations to move inland.
  • Critical infrastructure loss during war leads to a city without power, water or transportation.
  • A country’s economic or political collapse causes skilled workers to emigrate en masse.
  • Automation eliminates a majority of jobs, depressing the local economy.
  • A real estate crisis or housing bubble leads buildings to sit vacant.

However, in reality, major world cities have remarkable resilience and capacity to bounce back from disasters. Abandoning an entire metropolis requires extreme circumstances that are hard to foresee arising.

Preserving the heritage of empty cities

For uninhabited cities, should an effort be made to preserve or repurpose them rather than letting them continue to decay? Potential preservation approaches include:

  • Turning them into museums or historical sites for guided tours.
  • Using them as settings for arts, films or performance pieces.
  • Stabilizing deteriorating buildings to prevent collapse.
  • Adaptive reuse redevelopment for new functions.
  • Decontamination and environmental remediation if needed.
  • Installing safety measures like fences and warning signs.
  • Banning salvage of materials by outsiders.

But questions remain about who would fund such initiatives. And some argue empty cities should be left alone as monuments to impermanence.


From sudden calamities to slow economic declines, a surprisingly large number of cities worldwide have become completely uninhabited ghost towns. While each empty city has its own unique story, they share common traits like decaying infrastructure, takeover by nature and eerie quiet. While it’s unlikely any major cities will turn into ghost towns soon, these unoccupied places continue to inspire fascination as both historical artifacts and compelling settings that fire the imagination.

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