Recent field demonstrations of quantum key distribution (QKD) networks hold promise for unconditionally secure communication. However, owing to loss in optical fibres, the length of point-to-point links is limited to a hundred kilometers, restricting the QKD networks to intracity. A natural way to expand the QKD network in a secure manner is to connect it to another one in a different city with quantum repeaters. But, this solution is overengineered unless such a backbone connection is intercontinental. Here we present a QKD protocol that could supersede even quantum repeaters for connecting QKD networks in different cities below 800 km distant. Nonetheless, in contrast to quantum repeaters, this protocol uses only a single intermediate node with optical devices, requiring neither quantum memories nor quantum error correction. Our all-photonic ‘intercity’ QKD protocol bridges large gaps between the conventional intracity QKD networks and the future intercontinental quantum repeaters, conceptually and technologically.