This function uses the free Nominatim API provided by OpenStreetMap to find the bounding box (bb) associated with place names.

  display_name_contains = NULL,
  viewbox = NULL,
  format_out = "matrix",
  base_url = "",
  featuretype = "settlement",
  limit = 10,
  key = NULL,
  silent = TRUE



The name of the place you're searching for


Text string to match with display_name field returned by


The bounds in which you're searching


Character string indicating output format: matrix (default), string (see bbox_to_string()), data.frame (all 'hits' returned by Nominatim), sf_polygon (for polygons that work with the sf package) or polygon (full polygonal bounding boxes for each match).


Base website from where data is queried


The type of OSM feature (settlement is default; see Note)


How many results should the API return?


The API key to use for services that require it


Should the API be printed to screen? TRUE by default


Defaults to a matrix in the form: min max x ... ... y ... ... If format_out = "polygon", one or more two-columns matrices of polygonal longitude-latitude points. Where multiple place_name occurrences are found within nominatim, each item of the list of coordinates may itself contain multiple coordinate matrices where multiple exact matches exist. If one one exact match exists with potentially multiple polygonal boundaries (for example, "london uk" is an exact match, but can mean either greater London or the City of London), only the first is returned. See examples below for illustration.


It was inspired by the functions bbox from the sp package, bb from the tmaptools package and bb_lookup from the github package nominatim package, which can be found at

See for details.


Specific values of featuretype include "street", "city", for details). The default featuretype = "settlement" combines results from all intermediate levels below "country" and above "streets". If the bounding box or polygon of a city is desired, better results will usually be obtained with featuretype = "city".


if (FALSE) { getbb("Salzburg") # select based on display_name, print query url getbb("Hereford", display_name_contains = "USA", silent = FALSE) # top 3 matches as data frame getbb("Hereford", format_out = "data.frame", limit = 3) # Examples of polygonal boundaries bb <- getbb ("london uk", format_out = "polygon") # single match dim(bb[[1]][[1]]) # matrix of longitude/latitude pairs bb_sf = getbb("kathmandu", format_out = "sf_polygon") # sf:::plot.sf(bb_sf) # can be plotted if sf is installed getbb("london", format_out = "sf_polygon") getbb("accra", format_out = "sf_polygon") # rectangular bb # Using an alternative service (locationiq requires an API key) # add LOCATIONIQ=type_your_api_key_here to .Renviron: key <- Sys.getenv("LOCATIONIQ") if(nchar(key) == 32) { getbb(place_name, base_url = "", key = key) } }