I'm trying to make a map like this for the Low Countries/Rhineland, where I basically show how spread out all the urban areas would be there if the urban areas had similar densities to American urban areas. I have all the data I need for the UK and for the Netherlands, but I can't find all the data I need for France or Germany or, in particular, Belgium. For each of those countries, I'm looking for:

  • a shapefile of the boundaries of all the built-up/urban areas in that country (as opposed to metropolitan areas or administrative city boundaries), which includes data of the population and area (or density) of each of those built-up areas
  • a shapefile of the boundaries of the smallest subdivisions possible for that country (akin to Local Super Output Areas for the UK or Buurten for the Netherlands), which includes data of the population and area (or density) of each of those subdivisions, and preferably also the population centroids of each of the subdivisions. I've found a 1km^2 grid for Germany, but not for the other two countries.

Does anyone know where I could get these shapefiles?

I would prefer shapefiles based on 2011 census data. I've looked on Eurostat, but they don't have built-up area shapefiles, and they only do detailed shapefiles for the whole of the EU put together, which my computer isn't powerful enough to cope with.


4 Answers 4


These are a few of good options to start:

The European Environmental Agency provides a Urban morphological zones, which gives polygons of urban areas across Europe defined by Corine land. You can download the data here

You can also check out Global Administrative Areas (GADM) here which is is a spatial database of the location of the world's administrative areas (or adminstrative boundaries) for use in GIS and similar software.

Mapzen automatically extract the latest OpenStreetMap data into manageable, metro-area shapefiles in a variety of formats for you to use.

  • Is there a way of getting population data for the urban morphological zones as well? The .dbf only seems to contain the area data, not the population data.
    – user68150
    Feb 29, 2016 at 17:28

The Urban Atlas data from the European Environment Agency should also be of use. It provides "land use and land cover data for Large Urban Zones with more than 100.000 inhabitants as defined by the Urban Audit".

The Shapefiles can be downloaded from the above link. An example of the data is provided below:

enter image description here

  • Hi, I have downloaded one of the many zipped files. Every time I try to unzip a file a lock appears on the unzipped folder and when I doublec lick on it it says "you do not have the permissions necessary to view the contents of" the data set. Did you experienced the same problem?
    – VDC
    Sep 30, 2016 at 16:47

The european project Corine Land Cover gives you raster and vector data in different urban categories:

  • 111 - Continuous urban fabric
  • 112 - Discontinuous urban fabric
  • 121 - Industrial or commercial units
  • 122 - Road and rail networks and associated land
  • 123 - Port areas
  • 124 - Airports
  • 131 - Mineral extraction sites
  • 132 - Dump sites
  • 133 - Construction sites
  • 141 - Green urban areas
  • 142 - Sport and leisure facilities ....

Here shown is the class 111+112+121+122 for Hungary.

Class 111+112+121+122 Hungary

The dataset is unfortunaly 10 years old (CLC2006). Changes between 1990-2000 (urban morphology),1990-2006 and 2000-2006 (Vector and Raster data about changes between the CLC1990, CLC2000 inventory and the CLC2006 inventory) are also available. The urban morophology dataset has a short list what kind of layers of the list above are used, to calculate this data set.


The OECD's Functional urban areas by country has shapefiles of urban areas by country with the population living within those areas. They have data for France, Belgium, and Germany. The population data appears to be from 2015. They have summary reports for each country and use 4 sub-classes of urban areas.

Here is the link: http://www.oecd.org/cfe/regional-policy/functionalurbanareasbycountry.htm

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