Overpass API

What is the Overpass API?

For querying OpenStreetMap raw data, the OpenStreetMap project has been providing the Overpass API service for a couple of years. It makes it possible to query OpenStreetMap data for objects with specific tags, in a specific area or at a specific point in time.

The public Overpass API service is provided for experienced OpenStreetMap contributors. They look for erroneously or incompletely tagged objects or create special interest maps, e.g. a map of hotels. It allows them to do that without running their own PostgreSQL database and lowers the hurdles for users with limited technical knowledge to query OpenStreetMap data. The flexibility and absence of usage fees leads to a great popularity among the OpenStreetMap community – therefore the public servers are under heavy load.

Some of our customers who set up their own applications based on Overpass API have been unsatisfied with the performance of the overloaded, public Overpass API.

Whom is Overpass API suitable for?

Overpass API allows unfiltered access to the OpenStreetMap raw data. It is suitable if you are used to the OpenStreetMap tagging system and its idiosyncrasies. Overpass API uses its own query language. Thematic and spatial extracts of small size using filter rules, which are not determined in advance, are its strength.

EarthOnDrive Overpass API services aims to

  • experienced users of Overpass API, and
  • users of existing software which has already been using Overpass API.


    There are better alternatives for Overpass API, especially in the following two cases:

  • Overpass API returns data in the OpenStreetMap XML format. Almost all GIS systems are unable to process it.
  • Direct usage of Overpass API queries in web application can be recommended in some cases only because flexibility, not performance is the key strength of Overpass API.
  • There are other methods to access OpenStreetMap data instead of using Overpass-API:

  • Shape files by EarthOnDrive contain a large proportion of the OpenStreetMap data but have a ordered, edited catalogue of feature classes. Shape files are the simplest way to use OpenStreetMap data in GIS systems, e.g. QGIS and ArcGIS, and spatial databases such as PostGIS and Oracle Spatial. Thanks to the edited feature class catalogue, you do not have to understand the tagging system of OpenStreetMap.
  • EarthOnDrive offers ready to use map renderings as well. They can be provided as tile servers, pre-rendered tile packages, WMS or single map images. We will determine the appearance of the map together with you.
  • We can run a PostGIS database for you or support you setting it up, if you would like to have almost the same flexibility of querying as provided by Overpass API but would like to use the data in a GIS system.

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