The Largest Cities In The World By Population

By Ellen Kershner on May 28 2020 in Geography

The lights of Tokyo, Japan. Luciano Mortula - LGM / Shutterstock.com.
  • Today the Earth, it is thought to be in the neighborhood of 7,787,190,943
  • Tokyo has always been the largest city in Japan, and is one of the most prominent cities in the world.
  • Shanghai is the most populous city in China, and some believe it is the largest city on Earth.
  • As Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo is also one of the 10 largest metro areas on the globe.
  • Also coming it around 20 million is Beijing, the capital city of China

Earth is constantly evolving, changing from day-to-day. As its population continues to grow, cities are getting more crowded and resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Looking back to ancient times, researchers estimate that the worlds’ population in the year 1,000 AD was anywhere from 275,000,000 to 300,000,000. Today, it is thought to be in the neighborhood of 7,787,190,943; five years ago, it was thought to be around 7.2 billion.

Out of all the countries on the globe, China has the largest population, which exceeds 1.4 billion. India comes in a close second with 1.355 billion, and the United States comes in third at around 328 million. It makes sense that some of the largest cities in the world are in Asia since these and other countries are so highly populous. 

1 - Tokyo, Japan: 37,393,129

Japan is divided up into prefectures, or provinces. Tokyo is on the Pacific coast of Honshu and is a “merged city-prefecture” that is further divided into regions and provinces. There are thought to be 23 wards in this vast metropolitan area, and in 2016 the total population was about 11,274,641. These numbers include the historic city’s boundaries, but also its urban sprawl beyond those. It extends way past this, making accurate population counts somewhat complicated. It has always been the largest city in Japan and is one of the most prominent cities in the world.

2 - Delhi, India: 30,290,936

Located in central northern India, Delhi (also called the National Capital Territory of India) is a fast-growing city and the largest in its country. How quickly is it expanding? In 1950, its population was around 1,369,469; in 2016, its population was estimated at 18.6 million. These numbers usually include the city’s population, plus adjacent suburban areas.

3 - Shanghai, China: 27,058,479

Shanghai’s numbers also include outlying suburban areas. It is the most populous city in China, and some believe it is the largest city on Earth. Fifty years ago, it had approximately 4,288,091 inhabitants; 2015 saw its numbers grow by 3,576,298 in the years after 2015. Its average population density is 2,059 people for every square kilometer; this number swells to 3,854 in its urban areas. Shanghai is also called The Pearl of the Orient.

 4 - San Paolo, Brazil: 22,043,028

As Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo is also one of the 10 largest metro areas on the globe. It is also referred to as Cidade da Garoa or Sampa, and the numbers shown include people living in its surrounding suburban areas. Back in 1950, it had around 2,334,000 inhabitants, so within fifty years its numbers have increased almost tenfold.

5 - Mexico City, Mexico: 21,782,378

Not far behind San Paolo, Mexico City comes in next with numbers reaching close to 22 million. It is Mexico’s capital city as well as the seat of the Mexican Union; it has a gigantic financial center is known as the biggest Spanish-speaking city on Earth. In 1950, its population was less than 3.5 million.

6 - Dhaka, Bangladesh: 21,005,860

This densely populated city is in South Asia, near India. It is the largest city in Bangladesh and is also one of its busiest. It is by the Buriganga River and is reportedly growing by about 3.6 per year since 2015. Fifty years ago, its population was just 335,760. With a total area of 300 square kilometers, its density is 23,234 people per square kilometer.

7 - Cairo, Egypt: 20,900,604

Almost all of Egypt’s people live along the Nile river banks and Suez Canal, Cairo, and Alexandria. Cairo is Egypt’s biggest city and capital, the largest city in the Middle East and Africa, and it sits near the Nile Delta. Since 2015, its numbers have grown by about 2.12 percent a year.

8 - Beijing, China: 20,462,610

Also coming it around 20 million is Beijing, the capital city of China. This number will likely increase, as it is one of the fastest-growing cities on the continent. According to the censuses, from 2000 to 2010 the population grew from 13,569,194 to 19,612,368 – that is 44 percent! It is estimated that Beijing’s average growth rate (since the 1960s) is about 20 percent each decade.

9 - Mumbai, India: 20,411,274

Located in on India’s western coast at the Ulhas River, Mumbai, or Bombay, is also bordered by the Arabian Sea. Though it is not growing as fast as some other cities, it is once of the most densely populated. Its density is about 73,000 people per square mile. The last census in India was taken back in 2011, and at that time the population was estimated at 20,748,395, including its outlying areas.

10 - Osaka, Japan: 19,165,340

This city is in Japan’s Kansai region, felt to be the “cultural heart” of the country. Osaka is also the name of the prefecture that the city is in, and is part of Keihanshin, the country’s second-biggest metro area. Osaka’s 1960 population was 7,005,284, and since 2015 its annual population change has been relatively steady, at about -0.14 percent.

Other Large Cities

After Osaka, the next largest cities include Karachi, Pakistan; Chongqing, China; Istanbul, Turkey; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lagos, Nigeria and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo come in next, with both at around 14.3 million.

Other Parts of the World

Moving to other parts of the world, Paris, France’s 2020 population was about 11 million; London was at 9.3 million; and New York City came it at around 8.3 million. The two other highest-populated cities in the United States are Los Angeles (almost 4 million) and Chicago (about 2.7 million). Canada’s top three are Toronto (5.4 million), Montreal (3.5 million) and Vancouver (2.27 million)

The Largest Cities In The World By Population

RankCityCountryPopulation 2020
1TokyoJapan37,393,129
2DelhiIndia30,290,936
3ShanghaiChina27,058,479
4São PauloBrazil22,043,028
5Mexico CityMexico21,782,378
6DhakaBangladesh21,005,860
7CairoEgypt20,900,604
8BeijingChina20,462,610
9MumbaiIndia20,411,274
10OsakaJapan19,165,340
11KarachiPakistan16,093,786
12ChongqingChina15,872,179
13IstanbulTurkey15,190,336
14Buenos AiresArgentina15,153,729
15KolkataIndia14,850,066
16LagosNigeria14,368,332
17KinshasaDR Congo14,342,439
18ManilaPhilippines13,923,452
19TianjinChina13,589,078
20Rio de JaneiroBrazil13,458,075
21GuangzhouChina13,301,532
22MoscowRussia12,537,954
23ShenzhenChina12,356,820

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