Fairfax ( FAIR-faks), colloquially known as Fairfax Courthouse, Downtown Fairfax, or Fairfax City, and officially named the City of Fairfax, is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 22,565, which had risen to an estimated 24,013 as of 2015.
The city of Fairfax is an enclave surrounded by the separate political entity Fairfax County. Fairfax City also contains an exclave of Fairfax County, as detailed below.
The city of Fairfax and the area immediately surrounding the historical border of the city of Fairfax, collectively designated by Fairfax County as "Fairfax", comprise the county seat of Fairfax County. The city is part of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as a part of Northern Virginia. The city is 17 miles (27 km) west of Washington, D.C. The Washington Metro's Orange Line serves Fairfax through its Vienna station, which is a mile northeast of the city limits. CUE Bus and Metrobus operate in Fairfax. Virginia Railway Express's Burke Centre station is situated three miles southeast of the city's boundaries. Virginia's largest public educational institution with 35,189 students in 2017 is George Mason University, which is located in unincorporated Fairfax County, along the city's southern border.
The city derives its name from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who was awarded 5,000,000 acres (20,000 km2) of land in northern Virginia by King Charles. The area that the city now encompasses was settled in the early 18th century by farmers from Virginia's Tidewater region.