In this January 2018 report from the Fraser Institute, they pegged the average population density of Paris to be about 21,067 inhabitants per square kilometer (2014 population year). It is the second densest city in their report after Hong Kong, but the densest in Europe. By comparison, Vancouver sits at around 5,493 inhabitants per square kilometer (2016 population year).
Now, these are of course city averages. Some neighborhoods will be higher and some will be lower. According to a January 2018 study by Alasdair Rae — who is a works in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield — these are the most densely populated square kilometers across Europe (or at least within the 39 countries that he looked at).
Paris, once again, comes in near the top with a peak density somewhere around 52,218 inhabitants per 1km square. The square in question is in the neighborhood of Goutte D’Or. And the only square within the study to come in denser is one from the L’Hospitalet de Llobegrat in Greater Barcelona (53,119 inhabitants per square kilometer).
Now let’s take a look at how these sorts of densities actually manifest themselves. Below is an aerial capture from Google Maps showing a section of Goutte D’Or in Paris. The buildings are all pretty much 7 storeys (mid-rise), but the blocks are mostly filled in. Lots of interior courtyard apartments. This is one way to get to over 50,000 people per square kilometer.
Returning to Vancouver as a point of comparison, below is an aerial capture from downtown Vancouver at exactly the same scale as the Paris capture. I couldn’t find a density map of downtown, but it’s probably safe to assume that it’s greater than 5,493 and a lot less than 52,218 residents per square kilometer.
What you see here is typical Vancouverism. Lots of slender point towers, careful tower positioning and spacing, and generally low podiums. It is a perfect demonstration that height and density do not necessarily correlate. It is possible to have low buildings and high density, which is something that Europe obviously does very well.
But here’s the important question: In which of these two examples would you rather live? Please leave a comment below.