German cities of the Holy Roman Empire (until 1806) under the direct jurisdiction of the emperor, in contrast to princely or territorial cities.
Originally, imperial cities were cities located on the territory of the imperial domain, but later others were added to their number, including cities that had freed themselves from the jurisdiction of various bishops. The greatest number of imperial cities was located in Swabia and Franconia and included such centers as Nürnberg, Regensburg, Augsburg, Heilbronn, and Ulm. With the decline of central authority in Germany, which began in the 13th century, they gained broad rights of self-administration and almost complete political independence within the framework of the empire. They were represented in the Reichstag, first in the mid-13th century and on a regular basis after 1489. Later, with the rise of the power of the territorial princes, many imperial cities were subjected to princely authority, and the significance of the group as a whole declined, although the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 formally reaffirmed their freedoms and right of representation in the Reichstag.