Given a shapefile with polygons, how do I convert the polygons to individual lines instead? I know how to do this in QGIS, but I'm looking for a Shapely function which does the same thing.

2 Answers 2


bugmenot123 is ok but I find easier use the boundary of the polygons. If you have a multipolygon or a polygon with holes the boundary returns a multilinestrig, if you have a polygon without holes the boundary returns a linestring.

Here is a simple example so you can see how it works:

import shapely
from shapely.geometry import MultiPolygon, Point

pol1 = MultiPolygon([Point(0, 0).buffer(2.0), Point(1, 1).buffer(2.0)])
pol2 = Point(7, 8).buffer(1.0)
pols = [pol1, pol2]

lines = []
for pol in pols:
    boundary = pol.boundary
    if boundary.type == 'MultiLineString':
        for line in boundary:

for line in lines:
    print line.wkt

According to https://shapely.readthedocs.io/en/stable/manual.html#polygons:

  • You can get the outer ring of a Polygon via its exterior property.
  • You can get a list of the inner rings via its interior property.

According to https://shapely.readthedocs.io/en/stable/manual.html#collections-of-polygons:

  • For a MultiPolygon you can iterate over its Polygon members via iterating via in or list() or explicitely using its geoms property.

Collect all the rings and you have the lines.

  • Tbh, I actually output the individual lines by getting the coordinates defining the polygons' vertices then creating LineStrings from consecutive coordinates. But your solution works as well. Mar 27, 2018 at 9:01
  • 3
    Please post your own solution then. Mar 27, 2018 at 11:34

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