Many islands are known for their remote locations and vast beaches, offering tranquility from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis. And then there are islands which have developed into thriving and crowded cities themselves, where buildings are built back-to-back up to their shorelines. These are the islands you want to visit if you are coming down with a case of ochlophilia — a love of crowds.
Because even with the risks associated with living in a crowded island, where space is a luxury, locals still assert that these are some of the most idyllic places to live. Feeling the wanderlust yet? Consider getting a guided tour off FreeTour.
Let’s start us off with the quaint little tropical island from our cover picture…
The capital of the Republic of Maldives, the tiny island of Male is also the country’s most populous city. Formerly surrounded by fortifications and gates, the city’s grand forts and bastions were destroyed when President Ibrahim Nasir remodeled the city after the monarchy was abolished. The ancient Male Friday Mosque, however, remains.
Covering an area of about 1.77 square kilometers, the island is home to about 100,000 people (population density of 47,415/sq km) and serves as the political, economic and cultural center of Maldives. Male is especially prone to flooding, but its government has responded by building a massive seawall surrounding the entire island.
Ap Lei Chau (Aberdeen Island), Hong Kong
Ap Lei Chau or Aberdeen Island, an island of Hong Kong, was a fishing village before the First Opium War. It also shelters nearby Aberdeen Harbour, providing excellent protection for fishing boats during a typhoon. The population of Ap Lei Chau is 86,782 as of 2007, and its area is 1.30 square kilometers, giving it a population density of 66,755 people per sq km, according to government data. The northern part has the highest population, while the southern part of the island is less densely populated.
Ile Saint-Louis, France
One of the two natural islands on the Seine river in Paris, France, the Ile Saint-Louis is connected to Paris by bridges. While tourists flock to Paris for its historic sights, museums and architecture, many consider the Ile Saint Louis as a quaint oasis from the crowded and bustling capital city.
The island (which covers an area of .11 square kilometers and 22,409 per sq km) has shops, cafes and restaurants, but only has narrow, one-way streets, two bus stops and no metro stations. It is also home to the beautiful St. Louis en l’Ile Church, built in 1622. The residents of Ile Saint-Louis are also no strangers to flooding. In 1658, a major flood caused the collapse of the Point Marie bridge, and in 1785, a river flood destroyed the Pont Rouge bridge.
Considered the economic and cultural center of New York, Manhattan has 2020 population of 1,694,251. The population lives in a land area of 22.96 square miles (59.5 sq km), or 69,464 residents per square mile (26,924/sq km), more dense than any individual American city. Incredibly, during the day, commuters from other New York City boroughs and outside the city double Manhattan’s population to 3.1 million.
Venice Center, Italy
A city renowned for its museums, architecture and canals, Venice is located in northeastern Italy, in the Venetian lagoon. The city, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, covers an area of 414.57 sq km (160.07 sq mi). In 2009, census figures show that there were 270,098 people residing in Venice’s commune (the population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia; around 60,000 in the historic city of Venice; 176,000 in the Mainland; and 31,000 live on other islands in the lagoon).
The population of the city of Venice, however, has been falling in the last few years, with residents being forced out by unaffordable housing, the high cost of living, and a lack of jobs outside tourism.
A small island on the Baltic coast, he Hanseatic city of Lubeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany. It is one of the country’s major ports, with a maritime history that dates back to the 12 century.
The basic structure of the city features many 15th- and 16th-century patrician residences, public monuments (the famous Holstentor brick gate), churches and salt storehouses, and has remained unaltered despite sustaining damage during the second World War. The island covers an area of 214.13 sq km (82.68 sq mi) and is home to a population of 215,846 as of 2020.
Vasilyevsky Island, Russia
Surrounded by the rivers of St. Petersburg, Vasilyevsky Island is located across the water from the Winter Palace. Two of the most famous St. Petersburg bridges, Palace Bridge and Blagoveshchensky Bridge, connect it with the mainland to the south.
Covering an area of 10.9 sq km, the island has a population of 209,188 in 2017 and is home to academic life and various industries, although a number of its former factories have been converted for other uses. The easternmost tip of the island, an arrow-shaped spit, features a number of museums, including the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange and two Rostral columns.
Santa Cruz del Islote, Colombia
Located off the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Santa Cruz del Islote is one of the most densely populated islands on Earth despite having such a low population count. The tiny, mostly artificial, 2.4-acre island, was a barren island first settled in the late 19th century as temporary housing for fishermen and coconut plantation workers.
It sits on a shallow reef and has since grown in landmass to accommodate a growing population. Residents “expand” the island by adding to the shoreline, using coral, shells, rocks and other fillers to provide a foundation for another home. The only unoccupied space on Islote is a public square about half the size of a tennis court.
Lilla Essingen, Sweden
Located at the edge of central Stockholm, Sweden, Lilla Essingen is a residential area densely packed with apartment buildings. Covering an area of .23 square kilometers, most of the tiny island was originally an industrial area. It was the hub for facilities of a manufacturing company that would eventually become Electrolux.
Ebeye Island, Marshall Islands
Ebeye is the most populous island of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, as well as the center for Marshallese culture in the Ralik Chain of the archipelago. Settled on 80 acres of land, it has a population of more than 15,000 residents. Over 50 percent of residents are estimated to be under the age of 18. Some of the residents of Ebeye are refugees or descendants of refugees from the effects of the cataclysmic 15-megaton Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954.