An administrative centre is a seat of regional administration or local
government, or a county town, or the place where the central
administration of a commune is located.
In countries which have French as one of their administrative
languages (such as Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland or many African
countries) and in some other countries (such as Italy, cf. cognate
capoluogo), a chef-lieu (French pronunciation: [ʃɛfljø],
plural form chefs-lieux (literally "chief place" or "head place"), is
a town or city that is pre-eminent from an administrative perspective.
The ‘f’ in chef-lieu is pronounced, in contrast to chef-d'oeuvre
where it is mute.
6 New Caledonia
7 Francophone West Africa
11 United Kingdom
12 Popular culture
13 See also
The capital of an Algerian Province is called a chef-lieu. The capital
of a district, the next largest division, is also called a chef-lieu.
While the capital of the lowest division, the municipalities, is
called agglomeration de chef-lieu (chef-lieu agglomeration) and is
abbreviated as A.C.L.
The chef-lieu in Belgium is the administrative centre of each of the
ten Provinces of Belgium. Three of these cities also give their name
to their province (Antwerp,
Liège and Namur).
Luxembourg is divided into two judicial arrondissements (Luxembourg
City, Diekirch), three administrative districts (Luxembourg City,
Diekirch, Grevenmacher), four electoral circonscriptions
(constituencies), twelve cantons and one hundred and five communes
(municipalities; Luxembourgish: Gemengen).
Arrondissements, districts and cantons have each a chef-lieu and are
named after it. The same is true for each commune which is composed of
more than one town or village. Usually (with a few exceptions), the
commune is named after the communal chef-lieu.
The chef-lieu of a département is known as the préfecture. This is
the town or city where the prefect of the départment (and all
services under his/her control) is situated, in a building known as
the prefecture. In every French region, one of the départments has
pre-eminence over the others, and the prefect carries the title of
Prefect of region X…,
Prefect of Department Z… and the city where
the regional prefect is found is known as chef-lieu of the region or,
more commonly, Regional prefecture. The services are, however,
controlled by the prefecture of the départment.
The chef-lieu of an arrondissement, commonly known as the
sous-préfecture is the city or town where the sub-prefect of the
arrondissement (and the services directly under his/her control) is
situated, in a building called the sub-prefecture. The arrondissement
where the département prefecture is located does not normally have a
sub-prefect or sub-prefecture, the administration being devolved
usually to the Secretary-general of the departmental prefecture, who
functions as sub-prefect for the arrondissement.
The chef-lieu of a canton is usually the biggest city or town within
the canton, but has only a nominal role. No specific services are
controlled by it. In past decades, there was always a Gendarmerie, a
treasurer and a justice of the peace.
The chef-lieu of a commune is the principal area of the town or city
that gives the commune its name, the other areas of the town being
called hamlets. French typographers will use a capital for the
‘Le’ or ‘La’ preceding the name of places having ‘chef-lieu
of town’ status, and lowercase ‘le’ or ‘la’ for hamlets.
In the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the administrative centres are
known as "chief towns" or nahias. Nahias may be in charge of a
sub-district (qda), a district (liwa), or a governorate (muhafazah).
The chef-lieu indicates the principal city of the provinces of New
Nouméa is the chef-lieu of South Province. But the
chef-lieu can also mean the principal area within a town. So
part of the town of Lifou, but is the chef-lieu of Lifou. In the
Loyalty Islands and the other islands, the name of the chef-lieu
differs from that of the name of the town. For the towns of the
mainland, the chef-lieu has the same name as the town.
Nouméa is a
town composed only of Nouméa.
Francophone West Africa
Many of the West African states which gained independence from France
in the mid-20th century also inherited the French administrative
structure of Departments and Communes, headed by a Chief-Lieu. States
still using Chief-Lieu to identify the administrative headquarters of
a government subdivision include Senegal, Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali,
Mali as examples, the administrative subdivisions
down to the Commune level each have a formal place of administrative
headquarters, titled the chef-lieu. The larger portion of the
terminology of administrative division is inherited from colonial rule
as part of French West Africa, and has survived and been somewhat
modified over time. In both nations there have been remarkably
parallel histories. With the decentralization process begun in both
nations in the 1990s, the chef-lieu has transitioned from the location
of the Governor, Commandant, or
Prefect and their staff, to the
location of Commune, Cercles of Mali/Departments of Niger, and
Regional Councils and a variety of decentralized bodies. The
chefs-lieux of a Region, Cercle or Département, is usually also a
Communal chef-lieu. Both nations collect these councils in a "High
Council of Collectivites" seated at the nation's capital. Smaller
sub-divisions in Mali's Communes (Villages, Tribal councils, Quarters)
are administered from or identified as a Place/Site (Site in French),
so the chef-lieu is literally the Chief-Place even at the lowest
In Russia, the term is applied to the inhabited localities, which
serve as a seat of government of entities of various levels. The only
exception to this rule is the republics, for which the term "capital"
is used to refer to the seat of government. The capital of
also an entity to which the term "administrative centre" does not
apply. A similar arrangement exists in Ukraine.
The term chef-lieu is applied to the capital of each Swiss canton. In
16 of the 26 cantons, the territory is subdivided into districts.
Every district also has a city nominated as chef-lieu and each has a
The term chef-lieu is used to designate the capital of each
gouvernorat (department). Each of the 24 gouvernorats is subdivided
into delegations (districts) which each have a central city as
chef-lieu of delegation.
United Kingdom it is the centre of a local authority, which is
distinct from a historic county with a county town.
The Fiancée of the pirate (1969) is a film by Nelly Kaplan, where the
action takes place in a hamlet where everyone spends their time
worrying about what everyone thinks about the chef-lieu of the town.
Seat of local government
Chef-lieu, administrative centres in Algeria, Belgium, Luxembourg,
France, Switzerland, and Tunisia
County seat, administrative centres in the USA
County town, administrative centres in Ireland and the UK
^ "Annex B: Analysis of the municipal sector" (PDF). Third Tourism
Development Project, Secondary Cities Revitalization Study. Ministry
of Antiquities and Tourism, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. 24 May 2005.
p. 4. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 April 2016.
^ Bierschenk T., Olivier de Sardan, J.‑P. (eds), 1998, "Les arènes
locales face à la décentralisation et démocratisation. Analyses
comparatives en milieu rural béninois", in Bierschenk T. &
Olivier de Sardan J.-P. (eds), Les pouvoirs au village. Le Bénin
rural entre démocratisation et décentralisation, Paris,
Karthala : 11‑51.
^ Claude Fay [La décentralisation dans un Cercle (Tenenkou, Mali).
Autrepart: Logiques identitaires, logiques territoriales, 2000, IRD
^ Bréhima Béridogo, [« Processus de Décentralisation au Mali
et Couches Sociales Marginalisées », Bulletin de l'APAD, 14,
^ for Mali, see Bréhima Kassibo, [« La Décentralisation au
Mali : État des Lieux », Bulletin de l'APAD, 14, 1997
^ REPUBLIQUE DU NIGER Loi n° 2002-017 du 11 JUIN 2002 déterminant le
régime financier des Régions, des Départements et des
Communes[permanent dead link].
^ Loi n° 2002-014 du 11 JUIN 2002 portant création des communes et
fixant le nom de leurs chefs-lieux[permanent dead link]. Includes list
of 213 communes rurales and seats, 52 Communes u