10 largest cities in the world

Top 10 Largest Cities in the World

The largest cities in the world have all grown to be densely populated mega metropoles during the most recent times in human history. Fueled by the Industrial Revolution, millions upon millions of people all around the world increasingly left the rural areas of their respective countries in favor of settling in big cities. There they found jobs, better educational opportunities, better infrastructure, and many more things that characterize big city life.

Today there are now close to 500 cities on Earth with a population of over 1 million. 23%, roughly 1 in 4 people, of the world’s population live in one of such cities. But the current Top 10 largest cities in the world all easily surpass even the 10 million mark.

The following ranking lists the Top 10 largest cities in the world by population based on the number of inhabitants in the city proper.

The 10 Largest Cities in the World 2024

10 largest cities in the world

1. Shanghai, China

The Pudong district of Shanghai, the world’s largest city by city population.

Founded: 746 (as Qinglong)
Region: Municipality of Shanghai, China

City population: ~ 21.9 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 40.0 million

Founded in 746 and originally named ‘Qinglong’, Shanghai has since grown to become the largest city in the world by city proper population. The city has been used as a major trading port since its beginning and retained its importance over all the Chinese dynasties and rulers since. But now it has reached a status of even global importance. Almost 22 million people call the city on China’s East Coast home, that’s more people than in China’s capital city of Beijing.

And there are no signs Shanghai will stop growing anytime soon either. It has established itself as one of the major economic and technological hubs of the planet and also includes the world’s busiest port. The name of the city translates to “Upon the Sea”, an apt name for this major port city lying at the East China Sea.

2. Mumbai, India

Mumbai Skyline Wide | Took this Shot in the South of Mumbai,… | Flickr
View of downtown Mumbai.

Founded: 3th Century BC
Region: Maharashtra, India

Urban city population: ~ 21.3 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 26.6 million

Mumbai is India’s largest city and second-largest city in the world by city population. The city consists of seven islands separated by rivers. Mumbai was founded in the 3rd Century BC when it became a major settlement within the Maurya Empire. The city is named after the goddess Mumbadevi, who represents Mother Earth in Hinduism. It quickly evolved into one of the most important cities on the Indian subcontinent, both in terms of economy and culture. Situated right by the Arabian Sea, it is also the largest port city in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean in general.

In 1534 the city came under Portuguese rule and was renamed “Bombaim” (Portuguese for “Good Little Bay”). A century later the British Empire then took over India, including Mumbai, and anglicized the Portuguese name to “Bombay”, a name under which the city is still known in much of the English-speaking world. As the largest city of the now independent and most populous country on Earth, the official name of the city has been changed back to Mumbai, which is now home to over 21 million people.

3. Karachi, Pakistan

A street in Karachi.

Founded: 1729 (as Kolachi)
Region: Sindh, Pakistan

City population: ~ 20.4 million
Urban metropolitan population: ~ 20.4 million

Karachi comes third among the largest cities in the world. Karachi lies in southern Pakistan at the Arabian Sea. It is a very spread-out city, without a distinctive downtown area and characteristic skyscrapers in the middle of it. Many people may therefore be surprised about the fact that Pakistan’s major port town is indeed the world’s second-largest city with a population of over 20 million. The city was founded only in 1729 but vastly grew after the British Empire took control of Karachi in 1839. While not the capital anymore, Karachi is generally considered the economically and culturally most important city in the now-independent country of Pakistan.

Karachi was originally named “Kolachi” in honor of the fisherwoman Mai Kolachi who is said to have founded the town after heroically saving her husband in the middle of a heavy storm.

4. Beijing, China

View on downtown Beijing.

Founded: 1045 BC (as Jicheng)
Region: Municipality of Beijing, China

City population: ~ 19.0 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 20.9 million

Beijing is the fourth-largest city in the world. Aside from being China’s capital city, Beijing is also one of the oldest cities in the country and the world, having been founded roughly 3,000 years ago. Beijing was founded in 1045 BC as ‘Jicheng’. From its earliest years, the city served as the capital for various entities throughout Chinese history. First, it was the capital of the ancient Chinese State of Ji (hence the original name), later it became the capital of the successive State of Yan. Eventually, Beijing became the capital of a united China. Around 19 million people live there nowadays.

Beijing can be translated to “Northern Capital”, alluding to the city’s geographical location in Northeastern China.

5. Dehli, India

View of central Delhi.

Founded: 1052
Region: National Capital Territory of Delhi, India

City population: ~ 18.7 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 33.4 million

Delhi is India’s second-largest city with a population of over 18 million people. Founded in the 11th century, Delhi’s prominence grew under various Indian dynasties, most notably the Mughals, who left an indelible mark on its architecture and culture. In the mid-17th century, Delhi experienced a shift in power as the Marathas and later the British East India Company asserted their influence. The city in India’s North became a key administrative center during the British colonial period. After India regained its independence, Dehli continued to be the political center of the country and its major economic hub alongside Mumbai.

Today, Dehli and India’s capital of New Dehli together form the National Capital Territory of Dehli, a special administrative union territory.

6. Shenzhen, China

china, shenzhen, architecture, cityscape, skyline, buildings HD wallpaper
View of downtown Shenzhen.

Founded: 331
Region: Guangdong, China

City population: ~ 17.9 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 67.8 million

Shenzhen comes sixth among the largest cities in the world. Up until 1953, the city was just a small village and mainly used as a train station. But the city in Southeastern China, situated right next to Hong Kong, has since experienced an unprecedented growth in importance and population. Almost 18 million inhabitants now live within its city limits. No other city in the world has experienced such rapid growth in such a short time. Shenzhen is also part of the Pearl River Delta Metropolitan Region, the world’s largest metropolitan area, with a metro population of over 67 million.

Shenzhen has now established itself as a major global high-tech and IT hub and represents the center of Chinese technology research and companies. Additionally, the city’s port situated at Deep Bay, part of the South China Sea, also belongs to the world’s busiest ports, making Shenzhen a trading post of global importance.

7. Kinshasa, DR Congo

View on Kinshasa surrounded by the Congo River.

Founded: 1881 (as Leopoldville)
Region: Kinshasa City Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo

City population: ~ 17.1 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 17.2 million

Kinshasa is the seventh-largest city in the world, the largest city of the DR Congo, and at the same time the largest city in Africa and the largest city outside of Asia. Kinshasa is also the by far youngest city among the ten largest cities in the world, having been founded only in 1881 by the American-Welsh explorer and colonizer Henry Morton-Stanley. The city was originally named “Leopoldville” in honor of Leopold II., King of Belgium, who financed Morton-Stanley’s expeditions and later owned the city as his private property. After the king’s death, the city, situated right by the Congo River, one of the longest rivers in the world, became the capital of Belgian Congo.

Once the Congolese gained independence in 1960, the city was renamed Kinshasa in 1966, after the region surrounding the city which was referred to as “Nshasha” by the native locals. Kinshasa translates to either “Place/Hill of Salt” (in the Kongo language) or “Place of Exchange” (in the Teke language). The city is now the capital of the DR Congo and the most important economic hub of Central Africa as well as one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, with a current population of over 17 million.

8. Guangzhou, China

largest cities in the world - guangzhou
View on downtown Guangzhou with the Pearl River in the middle.

Founded: 214 BC (as Panyu)
Region: Guangdong, China

City population: ~ 16.1 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 67.8 million

Guangzhou is the eighth largest city in the world and the capital of the Chinese Guangdong Province, the most populous province of China. Guangzhou has a city population of over 16 million people. The city traces its roots back over two millennia when it was founded during the Qin Dynasty and originally named “Panyu”. During the Han Dynasty, the city was then made the capital of the Guang Prefecture in 226 CE and renamed to its current name. In the following centuries, the city established itself as the largest and most important town in Southern China. Eventually, the city further established itself as a major international trade port, welcoming merchants from across Asia, the Middle East, and later Europe.

Located on the Pearl River near its outflow into the South China Sea, Guangdong is part of the Pearl River Delta Metropolitan Region, which represents the largest metropolitan area in the world, with a combined metro population of over 67 million.

9. Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria
View on downtown Lagos.

Founded: 15th Century (as Eko)
Region: Lagos State, Nigeria

City population: ~ 15.9 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 21.3 million

Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria with a city population of almost 16 million. The city was founded sometime in the 15th Century as “Eko” after the Benin Empire conquered the entire area of what is now the city. Only shortly afterward, the city was renamed by the Portuguese colonizers, who took over the region by the late 15th Century, into Lagos (Portuguese for “Lakes”). The British, who took over the city later, kept the name in place.

As the largest city of the now independent Nigeria, Lagos now also belongs to the fastest-growing cities anywhere in the world and has established itself as the major port city of Sub-Saharan Africa. This isn’t really surprising considering Nigeria as a whole belongs to the most populous and fastest-growing countries in the world.

10. Istanbul, Turkey

View from the Asian side on the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul, which connects Asia to Europe.

Founded: 660 BC (as Byzantium)
Region: Istanbul Province, Turkey

City population: ~ 15.6 million
Metropolitan population: ~ 15.9 million

Istanbul had many names over the years and has consistently belonged to the world’s most populous cities for the last 2,500 years. With its current population of more than 15 million, the city has reached a new record recently. The city was originally founded by the ancient Greeks in 660 BC and named ‘Byzantium’. Due to its attractive geographical position right between Europe and Asia, the city very quickly evolved into an extremely powerful and important city both in terms of trade and geopolitics. It has kept its geopolitical and trade importance to this day.

The city was later conquered by the Romans. Roman emperor Constantine I then renamed the city ‘Constantinople’ (City of Constantine) in 330 and made it the Eastern capital of his Roman Empire. In 1453 the Ottoman Empire conquered the city and made it their capital. Nowadays, the city is named Istanbul (translated from old Greek literally meaning “To The City”) and is part of the modern-day Republic of Turkey.

The 10 Largest Cities in the World

(as of December 2023, by population within the city proper)

Top 10 Largest Cities in the World by Population:
1. SHANGHAI, China
21.9 million people
2. MUMBAI, India
21.3 million people
3. KARACHI, Pakistan
20.4 million people
4. BEIJING, China
19.0 million people
5. DELHI, India
18.7 million people
6. SHENZHEN, China
17.4 million people
17.1 million people
16.1 million people
9. LAGOS, Nigeria
15.9 million people
10. ISTANBUL, Turkey
15.6 million people
The 10 largest cities in the world by population within the city proper.
Municipalities and metropolitan areas that include multiple cities/towns are counted separately and are not included with their combined population among the largest cities in the world.
Updated as of December 2023.

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