World Facts

The 10 Largest Cities in the World

Shanghai, China is said to be the world's most populated city.

Urban centers have been proliferating across the world as large populations settle in cities to take advantage of better economic opportunities, modern infrastructure, and other amenities. Asian cities have particularly recorded outstanding growth, and most of the largest cities are currently situated on the continent such as Shanghai, Beijing, Delhi, Mumbai, Tokyo, Karachi, and Guangzhou. The only African city in the list is Lagos.

10. Mumbai - 12.4 million

#10 Mumbai - 12.4 million

Mumbai lies on the western coast of the Indian Peninsula, and it has approximately 12.4 million inhabitants. Mumbai developed around a fort established by the British in the 17th century. Its natural harbor facilitated its growth, and by the 18th century, Mumbai was home to a thriving manufacturing sector. The largest population of billionaires and millionaires for any Indian City reside in Mumbai. Mumbai hosts such important financial institutions as the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Reserve Bank of India. As an art center, Mumbai hosts the Bollywood industry as well as the Marathi cinema industry.

9. Guangzhou - 13.5 million

#9 Guangzhou - 13.5 million

Guangzhou is recognized as the educational, economic, technological, and cultural hub of southern China. Its location on the Pearl River facilitated its growth as a port hub. Its history stretches for more than 2200 years, and it was an important terminus on the Silk Road. The city's administrative region had approximately 13,501,100 residents in 2015, and it is recognized as an Alpha- Global city. Foreign expatriates, as well as illegal immigrants, have been trooping into Guangzhou in the recent years from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe earning the city the reputation of the "Capital of the Third World."

8. Tokyo - 13.6 million

#8 Tokyo - 13.6 million

Tokyo lies on Honshu's eastern coast, the largest of the four islands that make up Japan. The city is the Japanese capital and one of Japan's forty-seven prefectures. The city was initially called Edo but was renamed in 1868 when the Japanese imperial family relocated there from Kyoto. Tokyo's metropolis has an estimated 13,617,445 residents. Tokyo is home to fifty-one of the Fortune Global 500 firms, and it is ranked 4th in the Global Cities Index. The inhabitants of Tokyo are almost all Japanese with communities of Chinese and Koreans. Tokyo is home to headquarters of large corporations and financial institutions while the manufacturing sector is mainly concentrated in Yokohama, Chiba, and Kawasaki.

7. Istanbul - 14 million

#7 Istanbul - 14 million

Istanbul had a fascinating history having been established around 660 BCE as Byzantion and reestablished in 330 CE as Constantinople. Istanbul was a capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires, the latter which transformed it into an Islamic center. The city was positioned along the infamous Silk Road which facilitated the settlement of diverse peoples in its territory. Istanbul has over 14 million inhabitants, and it attracts millions of tourists yearly as one of the most sought-after European tourist destinations. Istanbul has also earned a reputation as a historical, arts, cultural, and entertainment hub.

6. Karachi - 14.9 million

#6 Karachi - 14.9 million

Karachi serves as the capital of Sindh Province, and its greater metropolitan area has 14.9 million residents. The city enjoys strategic location on the Arabian Sea, and it is home to Port Bin Qasim and Port of Karachi which are among Pakistan's largest ports. The city was established as a fortified village in 1729 called Kolachi, and it gained prominence with the occupation of the British. Karachi's residents belong to different ethnicities, races, and religions making it Pakistan's most diverse and secular city. Karachi's formal economy was valued at $113 billion in 2014, and it generates about 20% of the nation's GDP.

5. Tianjin - 15.2 million

#5 Tianjin - 15.2 million

Tianjin lies in China's northern coastal region, and it has over 15 million residents. Tianjin developed as a trading center after the Grand Canal was opened in the era of the Sui Dynasty. The City particularly grew under the Qing Dynasty as well as the Republic of China, and it has served as a treaty port since 1860. Tianjin is also a gateway to Beijing, and European architecture represents its colonial history. The city's GDP in 2014 was 1.572 trillion yuan with the highest GDP per capita in the country at $17,126.

4. Lagos - 16 million

#4 Lagos - 16 million

Lagos began as a settlement named Eko which was the main trade hub of the Benin Empire. The Portuguese renamed the area as Lagos in 1427 and in 1851 the British annexed the territory. Lagos is among the fastest-growing cities in Africa and the world with over 16 million residents. The city is home to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, one of the largest in Africa and about 82% of all the international airline departures in West Africa come from Lagos. The city of Lagos generates 75% of its revenue internally, and it contributes 32% of the Nigerian GDP. The city is at the center of the country's movie sector popularly known as Nollywood. Numerous films are shot in the Festac region of Lagos. The city is fashioning itself into a global city complete with cultural festivals and tourist destinations.

3. Delhi - 16.7

#3 Delhi - 16.7

The City of Delhi is made up of two regions. Old Delhi lies in the north, and it is the historic Delhi while New Delhi was established in British India as its capital in the 20th century. The national capital territory comprises the two divisions, the surrounding metropolitan area, and also the adjacent rural areas. Delhi is situated on the west bank of the River Yamuna. Delhi has had inhabitants from the 6th century BC, and it has been the capital of several empires and kingdoms. Delhi's wealth is estimated at $450 billion, and it is home to 23,000 millionaires in addition to 18 billionaires. The city's proper population was more than 16.7 million in 2011.

2. Beijing - 21.5 million

#2 Beijing - 21.5 million

Beijing is the capital of China, and it sits on the North China plain in the country's north-central region. The city, also called Peking, has an eventful history from being one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China to foreign occupation as well as civil war in the 20th century. Beijing established itself as an industrial sector in the aftermath of the Communist Revolution of 1949. Automobiles, textiles, petrochemicals, aerospace equipment, and semiconductors are some of the products produced by the city's industrial sector. Beijing is home to over 20 million residents. As a cultural center, Beijing boasts of seven World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO.

1. Shanghai - 24 million

#1 Shanghai - 24 million

Shanghai's population of 24 million makes it the top populous city proper not only in Asia but the world as well. Shanghai strategically lies in the Yangtze River Delta and the city's port is ranked as the world's busiest having handled 37 million TEUs in 2016. Qinglong Town, founded in 746, preceded Shanghai and it grew as a trading port in Imperial China. Shanghai's economic potential made it a center of conflict in the 19th century as the British and French fought to control the city. The Japanese also invaded Shanghai during the 2nd World War. Shanghai is an economic and trading hub in modern day China, and it has reported double-digit growth since 1992 excluding the global recession of 2008 and 2009. Shanghai's top three service sectors are real estate, financial services, and retail while manufacturing accounts for about 40% of the total output. Shanghai hosts numerous industrial zones such as the Shanghai Hongqiao Economic and Technological Development Zone. Shanghai attracts populations of local immigrants as well as foreign settlers from Japan, the US, and Korea.

The Largest Cities in the World

RankCityEstimated Population
1Shanghai24,256,800
2Beijing21,516,000
3Delhi16,787,941
4Lagos16,060,303
5Tianjin15,200,000
6Karachi14,910,352
7Istanbul14,160,467
8Tokyo13,513,734
9Guangzhou13,080,500
10Mumbai12,442,373
11Moscow12,380,664
12São Paulo12,038,175
13Lahore11,126,285
14Shenzhen10,467,400
15Jakarta10,075,310
16Seoul9,995,784
17Wuhan9,785,392
18Kinshasa9,735,000
19Cairo9,278,441
20Dhaka8,906,039
21Mexico City8,874,724
22Lima8,693,387
23London8,673,713
24New York City8,537,673
25Bengaluru8,443,675
26Bangkok8,280,925
27Ho Chi Minh City8,224,400
28Dongguan8,220,207
29Chongqing8,189,800
30Nanjing8,187,828

More in World Facts