Top 10 Highlights
Population figures vary based on the time of the census or other estimate and the area being measured. These figures are the latest figures we could find and are based on each cities broad geographic area (the ‘Greater’ city areas).
Cities with similar populations share some of the rankings. There are therefore more than 10 listings.
10a. Guangzhou, China
Land Area: 3,173 SqKm
Guangzhou is the capital city of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong and the third largest city in China. Formerly known as Canton, it is just 120km from Hong Kong and has long been one of the most important manufacturing, trading and transportation centres in the country.
Guangzhou is historically famous for its Cantonese cuisine and features a rich and vibrant restaurant scene. Shopping and entertainment have grown rapidly over the last decade.
10b. Cairo, Egypt
Land Area: 1,658 SqKm
Cairo straddles the Nile River just before it forms a delta and floods into the Mediterranean. The capital of Egypt, Cairo is the biggest city in Africa as well as the Middle East.
It is a culturally vibrant city and is home to the world’s second oldest university, al-Azhar. It also has a strong music and movie economy. Egypt’s Government sector resides in Cairo as does much of the country’s commercial operations.
The Pyramids of Giza, Great Sphinx and other remnants of ancient Egypt are just outside metropolitan Cairo.
9. Beijing, China
Land Area: 3,497 SqKm
Over 3,000 years old, Beijing, which literally means ‘northern capital’, is the cultural, judicial, educational and political centre of China. Formerly known as Peking, the city is home to most of the country’s Government owned Enterprises.
Beijing International Airport is the second busiest airport in the world and the city is a major transport hub for the country and the region.
8. Osaka, Japan
Land Area: 11,170 SqKm
Osaka is located on the southern half of Japans largest island, Honshu. It was historically the main commercial centre for Japan although many corporations have more recently moved to Tokyo. It has a strong food culture and is considered to be a leading culinary destination globally.
7a. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Land Area: 3,173 SqKm
Sao Paulo effortlessly mixes commerce with the arts and entertainment, creating a juggernaut economy that hosts the countries Stock Exchange, the Brazilian Formula 1 Grand Prix, Sao Paulo Art Biennial, Fashion Week, golf Open and the world’s largest Gay Pride parade.
Rio normally gets the attentions of tourist writers but Sao Paulo can’t be ignored.
7b. Mexico City, Mexico
Land Area: 9,560 SqKm
Mexico City has one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas and is also one of the highest capital cities at 2,250 m (7,380 ft). It is overwhelmingly the most important city in Mexico in terms of politics, finance, commerce, arts, tourism, manufacturing and entertainment and one of the most important cities in the America’s.
The Spanish destroyed the city, then known as Tenochtitlan, in the 1500’s and rebuilt it using Spanish architecture. Catholic churches were built on the ruins of Aztec temples. It’s a fascinating history and a fascinating city.
7c. New York City, USA
Land Area: 30,671 SqKm
Many people consider New York City to be the capital city of the western world and in fact it was the capital city of the USA from 1785-1790. It is one of, if not the, global centre of finance, commerce, the arts, fashion, media and international diplomacy.
Founded as a trading post in the 1600’s, the city straddles the Hudson River and the islands of Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island. The port of New York is a natural safe harbour.
There are many iconic landmarks in and around the city including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Broadway, Wall Street, Coney Island, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and many more.
7d. Mumbai, India
Land Area: 1,176 SqKm
Mumbai is the capital of the Indian State of Maharashtra and sits on the Arabian Sea on the west coast of the country. This is one of the most densely packed urban areas in the world. Not surprisingly it is a major commercial and trading centre for India, responsible for 25% of the country’s industrial production, 70% of the financial transactions and 70% of the maritime trade. The Reserve Bank, Stock Exchange and head offices of many National and International corporations reside here.
Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is also home to the Indian film and television industry, popularly known as Bollywood (Bombay and Hollywood). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Indian Premier League (IPL) are based here as well as teams in a variety of other sports. The city is also rich in literature and music culture.
Being a trading port has led to Mumbai being very multicultural and the food and entertainment options here are testament to the great diversity of humanity in this wonderful place.
7e. Karachi, Pakistan
Land Area: 803 SqKm
Karachi is the financial, commercial and manufacturing centre of Pakistan and its main seaport. It is the largest Muslim city in the world and an important centre for education throughout the region and the Muslim world in general.
6. Manila, Philippines
Land Area: 4,863 SqKm
Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and, along with Quezon City (QC), that is also a part of the broader Manila Metropolitan area, its main commercial centre. It has a history that pre-dates the Roman empire and was once known as the Pearl of the Orient because of its location in the sea trade routes around south east Asia. More recently it suffered major destruction in World War II.
While it is undoubtedly a big, bustling city, there are a wide range of historically significant sites, lots of shopping, sports and entertainment, and a great selection of accommodation from budget through to grandiose.
5. Delhi, India
Land Area: 1,590 SqKm
There is really no way to describe Delhi, particularly ‘old’ Delhi, except to say that it is a very visceral experience. The mass of human life and activity is quite breathtaking. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the city has an incredible range of things to do and see that make the effort to get around the place more than worthwhile.
As the capital city of India, Delhi has a great history. It effortlessly blends British colonialism, Islam and Hindi, and modern capitalism in a mish-mash that is pure India.
4. Shanghai, China
Land Area: 6,340 SqKm
Shanghai is China’s biggest city and is the hub of trade and finance for the country. Not surprisingly Shanghai has the busiest container port in the world and is home to many of China’s largest corporations. The Shanghai Stock Exchange is the third largest in the world based on turnover.
The city has more than doubled in population since 1982, largely reflecting the demographic movement of people from rural areas into the cities. This has seen an incredible amount of development which has added a modern overlay on and around the old Shanghai.
As one of the main transport hubs of China, Shanghai has a large focus on hospitality and tourism. With a rich and colorful history there are a myriad of options for tourists from around the world.
This is a 21st Century megalopolis of the most vibrant kind.
3. Seoul, South Korea
Land Area: 10,400 SqKm
Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and its financial, commercial and administrative capital. It is one of the largest commercial cities in the world with many of the world’s Fortune 500 companies based here.
Much of the cities growth has occurred since the Korean War in the 1950’s and like many other Asian cities there is a fascinating mix of the old and the new. The city’s rich history dates back thousands of years giving an amazing array of traditional architecture and city planning, together with modern skyscrapers, office buildings and apartments.
2. Jakarta, Indonesia
Land Area: 6,392 SqKm
Located on the north coast of the Indonesian island of Java, Jakarta is the largest city in Indonesia and capital of the country. It has seen enormous growth over the last decade, outstripping most other cities in the world in terms of population and economic growth.
Indonesia’s history includes a long period of colonial rule which ended during World War II. Today Jakarta and Indonesia more generally are thriving as the country grows and prospers into the 21st century.
1. Tokyo, Japan
Land Area: 13,500 SqKm
Tokyo is the commercial capital of Japan, home to the Japanese government, the Japanese Emperor and Imperial Family. It was extensively damaged during World War II and rebuilt following the war to become on of the world’s most dynamic and exciting cities.
Today the city offers a kaleidoscope of shopping, dining and sightseeing options that show the many unique characteristics of the Japanese culture to great effect.
The world’s largest megalopolis.
The last national census in China was in November, 2010. 6 million people were employed to do the census, going to every household in the country. Yes, 6 million people. For a good insight into the scale of population and economic growth in China read this article from the Telegraph newspaper in the UK. Incredible stuff.