The Most Cosmopolitan Cities in the World

Toronto is considered to be one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities. Editorial credit: JHVEPhoto /
Toronto is considered to be one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities. Editorial credit: JHVEPhoto /

Extensive globalization has brought about many changes on every continent (except Antarctica) which include changing demographics in the large cities. The world is now home to at least ten major cosmopolitan cities. But what, exactly, does cosmopolitan mean?

Cosmopolitan is quite different from metropolitan, and it refers to a sense of harmony between large population of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. A cosmopolitan city is one where a multitude of cultures is represented. These major cities are spread throughout the world, and the major cosmopolitan centers are presented in this article.

Most Cosmopolitan Cities


The number 1 cosmopolitan city in the world is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As of 2014, an astounding 83% of the population was born outside of the country. This great diversity is because the country is experiencing rapid economic growth that attracts individuals looking for job opportunities. Dubai has been named one of the safest cities in the world. The city is home to one of the busiest airports in the world, over 5,000 restaurants, and one of the world's largest shopping malls. These are all things that appeal to international citizens.


The second most cosmopolitan city is Brussels in Belgium. The population here is 62% foreign born. This city is the headquarters of EU administration and NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Brussels offers visitors and residents alike a rich history with a plethora of museums, theaters, and historic buildings. The city has also appealed to several multinational corporations which bring international employees with them.


Number 3 on the list is Toronto in Canada with nearly half, 46%, of its population coming from other countries. More than 200 different ethnic groups call Toronto home, and they bring with them over 140 languages. It is an important industrial, financial, and commercial center in Canada and with that comes significant employment opportunity, a driving force behind migration.

Auckland, Sydney, Los Angeles

Following behind Toronto are three cities that share the same percentage of foreign-born residents. These are Auckland in New Zealand, Sydney in Australia, and Los Angeles in the US. The populations here are 39% foreign-born. In Auckland and Sydney, this high rate is because the local government has been working on an economic opportunity structure with private and public sectors that would be beneficial to locals and immigrants. In Los Angeles, this high number of foreign-born residents consists of people from around 140 countries and on any given day, 86 different languages can be heard on the streets.

The Other Cosmopolitan Cities

Other major cosmopolitan centers in the world include Singapore (38%), London (37%), New York (37%), Melbourne (35%), Amsterdam (28%), Frankfurt (27%), and Paris (25%).

Future Population Trends

The cities on this list are expected to continue attracting foreign-born individuals in the future. Not only do the economy here offer more employment opportunities, but the growing foreign populations often settle into distinct neighborhoods creating “mini-countries” within the cities (like “Chinatowns” or “Little Italies” for example). This fact helps to reduce the fear of starting life in a new country as new immigrants can find comfort and familiarity in these neighborhoods. Also, increased immigration to these cities will continue as families look to reunite. Often, one or two family members set out to begin a new life in a foreign place. Once that life has been established, immigrants often look to bring family members closer and to support them in their search for an improved quality of life. This trend, of course, leads to increased diversity within cities.

The Most Cosmopolitan Cities In The World

RankCityForeign born population (% of total), 2014
4Los Angeles39
6New York37

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