Getting started with PostGIS

PostGIS is a PostgreSQL extension that adds support for geographic objects allowing location queries to be run in SQL.


I started using PostGIS and I will add here all the tips I think are useful, for you or the future me. I have just added a request on SVG porn to add a logo ( let’s see what happens :).


I will install PostGIS on an AWS EC2 instance. I choose official Ubuntu AMI on a postgis-sg security group configured properly to accept inbound connection on PostgreSQL port only from my office IP and few internal EC2 instances.

On an Ubuntu server install PostGIS See tutorial How to Install and Configure PostGIS on Ubuntu as a reference.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntugis/ubuntugis-unstable
sudo apt-get install postgis

If you already have a [PostgreSQL] instance probably you can skip the following two instructions about creating a database and a user, for instance, mydb and myuser.

Create a mydb database

sudo -i -u postgres
createdb mydb

Create user myuser.

createuser --no-createdb myuser
psql -c "ALTER USER myuser WITH PASSWORD '***';"

Enable PostGIS extension

psql -d mydb
mydb=# CREATE EXTENSION postgis;

Check it

mydb=# SELECT PostGIS_version();
(1 row)

Modify file /etc/postgresql/x.y/main/postgresql.conf, where x.y is current version and set

Modify file /etc/postgresql/x.y/main/pg_hba.conf, where x.y is current version and set

Restart PostgreSQL: sudo service postgresql restart.


The public schema will be used, I tryed to install PostGIS extension in another schema, but as a newbie, I could not figure out how to do it :P

Create your first table, holding locations in lat/lng format.

CREATE TABLE location (
	name VARCHAR(256),

Insert the coordinates of two locations, the Colosseum and the Duomo of Milan. Note that 4326 value is fixed since it corresponds to World Geodetic System EGS84, also used by the GPS.

INSERT INTO location (name, geo) VALUES
('Colosseo', ST_GeographyFromText('SRID=4326;POINT(41.8902102 12.4900422)')),
('Duomo', ST_GeographyFromText('SRID=4326;POINT(45.4640976 9.1897378)'))

Calculate distance from two locations

SELECT ST_Distance(
  (SELECT geo FROM location WHERE name = 'Colosseo'),
  (SELECT geo FROM location WHERE name = 'Duomo')

Get geo data in GeoJSON format.

SELECT ST_AsGeoJSON(geo) FROM location;