Much has been written about state rescaling, politics of scale and the rise of cities and regions in Europe. Little is known, however, about the impact of the financial crisis on these processes. By taking the view of city mayors, this paper presents a comprehensive and timely re-evaluation of central tenets of this literature in the turbulent aftermath of the financial crisis. The analysis shows the variegated pathways of state rescaling before and after the financial crisis, the multifaceted scalar strategies with which mayors have responded in different countries and cities, and the impact of such strategies on their perception of a centralisation towards the national state. The paper concludes by emphasising the continued dominance of the central state, whereas potentials for the rise of cities are rather to be sought at subnational than at European or global scales.