A city proper is a geographical area defined by legal or political boundaries and administratively recognized urban status, usually characterized by the local administration.
A city is where a significant majority of the population living in the city works or studies. Half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and more urban people will end up in megacities as time goes on.
Megacities are cities with populations exceeding 10 million people. As a result, the top 20 most populous cities on the planet are all megacities. In addition, more than 80% of people in higher-income countries now live in cities, whereas the percentage in upper-middle-income countries ranges from 50 to 80 percent.
In the twenty-first century, rural-to-urban migration is becoming more prevalent. Better job prospects and higher incomes, as well as transformations from rural to industrial and service-based economies, are driving people to cities in droves.
The top 15 megacities globally in 2021, ranked by the number of people living in their metropolitan area, are shown below. While Tokyo is the world’s most populous city, with over 37 million residents, the rest are in China and India.
Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Tianjin are 4 Chinese metropolises, while Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata are three Indian metropolises. Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, has 22 million people, followed by Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Istanbul is ranked 13th, with one-half of the town being in Europe and Asia. With 37,393,000 residents, Tokyo is the world’s most populous metropolis. However, due to dropping birth rates and an aging population, this number is leveling out.
Cities in India and China, on the other hand, are expected to continue to grow substantially in the future years. In fact, by 2028, Delhi’s population is predicted to surpass Tokyo’s. Below are the top 15 largest cities around the world.
1. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan’s largest city, has approximately three times the population of Tianjin, China’s 20th largest city. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and the country’s most populous prefecture. The prefecture is located near the mouth of Tokyo Bay and is part of Japan’s main island of Honshu’s central Pacific coast.
Tokyo is the country’s political and economic hub and the home of Japan’s Emperor and national government. With a projected population of 39.468 million people in 2021, the Greater Tokyo Area is the world’s most populated metropolitan area.
The Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, and three G7 Summits have all taken place in the city. In addition, Tokyo is a prominent international research and development hub with several essential universities, including the University of Tokyo.
Tokyo Station is the headquarters of Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train system, and the city is served by a vast rail and subway network. Chiyoda, Shinjuku, and Shibuya are notable Tokyo districts.
2. Delhi, India
Delhi’s metro area population is expected to reach 31,181,000 in 2021, up 2.94 percent from 2020. Delhi is located on the Yamuna River and is surrounded on three sides by Haryana and on the east by Uttar Pradesh. It stretches across 1,484 square kilometers.
In 2014, WHO ranked Delhi as the most polluted city on the planet, and also, in 2016, it got the title of the eleventh worst city globally for air quality. According to one estimate, Delhi’s air pollution kills roughly 10,500 people per year.
The main commercial center in northern India is Delhi. According to recent estimates, the Delhi urban region’s economy is worth roughly $370 billion, making it India’s most or second-most productive metro area.
The prominence of national festivals and holidays such as Republic Day, Independence Day, and Gandhi Jayanti has been magnified by Delhi’s relationship and geographic proximity to New Delhi’s capital.
The Republic Day Display is a massive cultural and military parade that celebrates India’s cultural variety and military might. The India International Trade Event, organized by ITPO, is Delhi’s most prominent cultural and shopping fair, held every November and attended by about 1.5 million people.
3. Shanghai, China
Shanghai’s current metro area population is 27,796,000 at present, which rises 2.73% from 2020. Shanghai, China’s most populated metropolis on the country’s central coast, is a global financial center. Shanghai is the world’s third most populated metropolis, with a population of 24.3 million people and a land area of 2,448 square miles in 2021.
It is East China’s financial, international commerce, and cultural center, located on the Yangtze River’s estuary. Shanghai, which translates to “Sea City,” is located on the Yangzi River. New skyscrapers and old Shikumen define the city’s skyline.
Shanghai has become one of China’s most influential cities, socially, culturally, and economically, in today’s generation. The East’s Paris became recognized as a haven for sin and excess. As a result, Shanghai has been dubbed the “showpiece” of China’s burgeoning economy.
The city is known for its skyline, museums, historic buildings like the City God Temple, Yu Garden, the China Pavilion, and buildings along the Bund, which feature numerous architectural styles such as Art Deco and shikumen. Shanghai’s sweet cuisine is likewise well-known.
Shanghai’s tourism business is a significant contributor to the city’s economy. Domestic tourists climbed by 7.5 percent to 318 million in 2017, while international tourists increased by 2.2 percent to 8.73 million. Shanghai was the world’s highest-earning tourist city in 2017, and it is predicted to remain so through 2027.
Shanghai has an extensive public park system; as of 2018, the city has 300 parks, 281 of which were free to use, and the average park area per person was 8.2 meters square. Because of their unique location, history, or architecture, some parks have become renowned tourist destinations.
4. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo’s current metro area population is 22,237,000 in 2021, up 0.88 percent from 2020. Sao Paulo’s metro area population in 2020 was 22,043,000, up 0.9 percent from 2019. So Paulo is a city in Brazil’s Southeast Region. The municipality of So Paulo is the most populated city proper in Brazil and known as an alpha global metropolis.
Several of Brazil’s tallest skyscrapers are located in the city, including the Mirante do Vale, Edificio Itália, Banespa, North Tower, and others. The city has national and international cultural, economic, and political clout. Monuments, parks, and museums can all be found there.
The Metropolitan Region of So Paulo is regarded as the country’s financial, economic, and cultural hub. It is also Brazil’s most multicultural city. Between 1870 and 2010, roughly 2.3 million immigrants from all around the world arrived in the state.
With a strong presence throughout the city, the Italian community is one of the most powerful. So Paulo has 9 million people, with 50 percent having full or partial Italian heritage. So Paulo has more Italian descendants than any other Italian city.
The city has a radial division into nine zones for traffic control and transit lines that don’t fit into the administrative divisions. The colors on the street signs designate these zones.
5. Mexico City, Mexico
Population forecasts from the United Nations are also given through 2035. Mexico City’s current metro area population is 21,919,000, up 0.63 percent from 2020. Mexico City is the country’s capital and the largest city, and North America’s most populous city.
Mexico city is prominent for cultural and financial hubs. It is situated at the height of 2,240 meters in the Valley of Mexico, a vast valley on the high plateaus of central Mexico. The city is divided into 16 territorial demarcations or sections. In 2011, it had a GDP of $411 billion, making it one of its most productive cities.
The city was responsible for 15.8% of Mexico’s GDP, and the metropolitan area was responsible for nearly 22% of the country’s GDP. The City would be the fifth-largest economy in Latin America if it were an independent country in 2013.
Therefore it has many popular tourist destinations for visitors from throughout the world. In addition, UNESCO has designated Mexico City’s historic core and “floating gardens” in the southern borough as World Heritage Sites. The National University of Mexico is the continent’s largest university, with over 300,000 students from all walks of life.
6. Dhaka, Bangladesh
Dhaka’s current metro area population is 21,741,000, up 3.5 percent from 2020. Dhaka is Bangladesh’s capital and largest metropolis, as well as the Bengal region’s central city. It is the world’s tenth-largest and fourth-most densely populated municipality, with 8.9 million people living within the city limits and over 21 million people living in the Greater Dhaka Area as of 2011.
Dhaka is Bangladesh’s economic, political, and cultural capital and one of the largest cities in South Asia, the largest in Eastern South Asia, and among the Bay of Bengal countries; and one of the largest cities in the OIC countries. The city is situated near the Buriganga River, Turag River, Dhaleshwari River, and Shitalakshya River, part of the Bengal plain.
Dhaka is Bangladesh’s financial, economic, and entertainment center, accounting for up to 35 percent of the country’s GDP. Dhaka’s population, area, social, and economic variety have increased dramatically since its inception as a modern capital city.
The city is presently one of Bangladesh’s most intensively industrialized areas. Dhaka is a prominent beta-global city since it is home to the headquarters of several worldwide firms. It became a megacity in the twenty-first century. Over 750 companies are listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange.
The city is home to approximately 50 diplomatic missions along with their headquarters. Rickshaws, gastronomy, art festivals, and religious diversity are all part of the city’s culture.
Around 2000 buildings from the Mughal and British periods are located in this old city, including significant constructions like the Bara Katra and Choto Katra caravansaries. The President of Bangladesh has his official residence and office in the Bangabhaban.
The National Parliament House is located in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, a modernist capital complex designed by Louis Kahn. The Prime Minister’s official residence, the Gonobhaban, is located on the north side of Parliament. Tejgaon is home to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Bangladesh Secretariat houses the majority of the government’s ministries. In the Ramna neighborhood, you’ll find the Supreme Court, the Dhaka High Court, and the Foreign Ministry. Dhaka and Mirpur Cantonments also have some key Bangladesh Army locations. Finally, the Bangladesh Navy’s main administrative and logistical headquarters are located in Dhaka.
7. Cairo, Egypt
The population of Egypt was predicted to be 101.48 million people as of January 1, 2021. Cairo, the country’s capital, has the highest population density, with 10.03 million people. Furthermore, the governorate of Giza followed, with a population of up to 9.2 million people.
Egypt’s capital and largest city are Cairo. With 21.3 million people, Cairo is the largest metropolitan region in the Middle East, the Arab world’s largest, Africa’s second-largest, and the world’s sixth-largest. Cairo is connected with ancient Egypt because it is home to the Giza pyramid complex and the ancient city of Memphis.
Cairo has long been a focal point of the region’s political and cultural life, and its preponderance of Islamic architecture has earned it the nickname “the city of a thousand minarets.” In 1979, the old core of Cairo was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, Cairo is known as a World City with a “Beta +” rating.
Today, Cairo is house to the Middle East’s and Arab world’s oldest and largest film and music industries and Al-Azhar University, the world’s second-oldest institution of higher learning. Many foreign media, enterprises, and organizations maintain regional offices in Cairo, including the Arab League, which has had its headquarters there for most of its existence.
Cairo is Egypt’s largest metropolis, with a population of nearly 9 million distributed over 453 km square. A further 9.5 million people dwell in the city’s immediate vicinity. Cairo, like many other megacities, is plagued by pollution and traffic congestion.
The city is one of only two metro systems in Africa and one of the world’s top fifteen busiest. Cairo’s economy has long been built on government institutions and services. The contemporary productive sector increased in the twentieth century to include textiles and food processing, mainly sugar cane production.
Egypt has the most significant non-oil-based GDP in the Arab world as of 2005. Cairo is home to 11% of Egypt’s population and 22% of the country’s economy. The city generates or travels through the majority of the nation’s commerce. The vast majority of publishing houses and media outlets, nearly all film studios, and half of the country’s hospital beds and universities are present.
It has fueled fast development in the city, with one out of every five structures less than 15 years old. Until recently, this expansion had outpaced city services. As a result, the majority of the places of worship are Muslim mosques. The Coptic Orthodox Church, Coptic Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Church of Egypt are Christian churches and temples.
8. Beijing, China
The People’s Republic of China’s capital is Beijing. With nearly 21 million citizens and an administrative area of 16,410.5 km2, it is the world’s most populous national capital city. It is in Northern China and is governed as a municipality with 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts under the direct control of the State Council.
Except neighboring Tianjin to the southeast, Beijing is primarily surrounded by Hebei Province; the three divisions combined create China’s megalopolis and the national capital region. Beijing is a worldwide city and one of the most important centers for culture, diplomacy, politics, commerce and finance, education, language, and science and technology globally.
Beijing, China’s cultural, educational, and political capital, is the country’s second-largest metropolis by urban population after Shanghai. Headquarters of China’s largest state-owned firms and the world’s four most prominent financial institutions by total assets and the most significant number of Fortune Global 500 corporations are located in this city.
Beijing’s nominal GDP was US$458 billion in 2018, accounting for around 3.45% of the country’s GDP and placing it 12th among province-level administrative units; its nominal GDP per capita was US$21,261 and putting it first in the country. Beijing’s nominal GDP is expected to rank among the top ten largest cities in the world by 2035. In 2013, Beijing had more Fortune Global 500 headquarters than any other city on the planet.
Beijing is the “world’s millionaire capital.” it is classified as an Alpha+ metropolis, reflecting its regional and international significance and placing it among the world’s Top 10 largest cities. Beijing was voted the sixth most competitive financial hub globally in 2021 and the fourth most competitive in Asia and Oceania.
9. Mumbai, India
Mumbai’s current metro area population is 20,668,000, up 1.26 percent from 2020. Mumbai’s metro area population in 2020 was 20,411,000, up 1.12 percent from 2019. Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra, an Indian state. According to the United Nations, with a population of almost 20 million people, Mumbai is India’s second-most populated metropolis after Delhi and the world’s seventh-most populous city.
In 2011, Mumbai was India’s most populated city, with 12.5 million people living within the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Over 23 million people, Mumbai is the center of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the world’s sixth most populous metropolitan area.
Mumbai is located on India’s west coast, boasts a deep natural harbor, and was named an alpha world city in 2008. It is a place for the millionaires and billionaires in India. Mumbai is the country’s financial, commercial, and entertainment capital.
It is one of the top ten retail centers globally, contributing 6.16 percent of India’s GDP and accounting for 25% of industrial output, 70% of marine trade, and 70% of capital transactions in the Indian economy. Mumbai has the eighth-largest number of billionaires of any city on the planet, and its billionaires had the world’s highest average worth in 2008. Significant financial institutions and the corporate offices of prominent Indian and multinational enterprises are located in the city.
It has some of India’s most prestigious scientific and nuclear research institutes. Bollywood and Marathi film industries are also based in the city. The business opportunities in Mumbai draw people from all over India. It has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
10. Osaka, Japan
Osaka’s current metro area population is 19,111,000, down 0.28 percent from 2020. Osaka’s metro area population in 2020 was 19,165,000, down 0.3 percent from 2019. Osaka is located in Japan’s Kansai region. It is the capital and the country’s third most populous city, after Tokyo and Yokohama.
It is also the major component of the Keihanshin Metropolitan Region, Japan’s second-largest metropolitan area and the world’s tenth-largest urban area with more than 19 million inhabitants, with a population of 2.7 million according to the 2020 census. Osaka is a significant Japanese financial center and one of the country’s most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities.
The Osaka Securities Exchange and the headquarters of global electronics corporations, including Panasonic and Sharp, are located in the city. In addition, Osaka is home to numerous essential universities, including Osaka University, Osaka Metropolitan University, and Kansai University, making the city an international center for research and development.
Osaka Castle, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Dtonbori, Tstenkaku in Shinsekai, Tennji Park, Abeno Harukas, Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine, and Shitenn-Ji, one of Japan’s oldest Buddhist temples, are just a few of the city’s famous attractions.
Together, three Kansai cities, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, petitioned Kansai Electric Power Company to end its nuclear power dependence on February 27, 2012. They also asked for information on electricity usage and supply and lower and stable pricing in a letter to KEPCO. Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto were all owners in the plant, with Osaka owning 9% of the shares, Kobe 3%, and Kyoto 0.45%.
In June 2012, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto unveiled a proposal to reduce the city’s reliance on nuclear power for the shareholders’ meeting.
11. Karachi, Pakistan
Karachi’s current metro area population is 16,459,000, up 2.27 percent from 2020. Karachi’s metro area population in 2020 was 16,094,000, up 2.24 percent from 2019. Karachi, the capital of Pakistan, is the world’s eleventh-largest city. Pakistan’s major industrial and financial center, with an anticipated GDP of $164 billion in 2019. It is ranked as a beta-global city.
Karachi is Pakistan’s most cosmopolitan metropolis, with a diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious population and one of the most secular and socially liberal cities in the country. Karachi acts as a transportation hub due to its location in the Arabian Sea.
It is home to Pakistan’s two primary seaports, the Port of Karachi and Port Bin Qasim, and its busiest airport, the Jinnah International Airport. Karachi has emerged as Pakistan’s most important industrial and financial hub. It collects a third of Pakistan’s tax revenue and accounts for roughly 20% of its total GDP.
Karachi produces around 30% of Pakistan’s industrial output, while its ports handle approximately 95% of Pakistan’s foreign trade. The city’s formal economy was valued at $114 billion in 2014, making it the largest in the country. Karachi is home to about 90% of the international firms that operate in Pakistan.
Since 2009, Karachi has hosted the annual Karachi Fashion Week, considered Pakistan’s fashion hub. Karachi was a pioneer in cable networking in Pakistan, with the most sophisticated cable networks of any city in the country, and has seen an increase in information and communications technology and electronic media.
Pakistan’s software outsourcing hub has emerged in the town. Karachi is home to the majority of Pakistan’s public and private banks. Karachi contributes a significant amount of Pakistan’s tax revenue because it is home to its main ports. Because most of Pakistan’s substantial multinational firms are in Karachi, income taxes are paid here.
12. Chongqing, China
Chongqing’s current metro area population is 16,382,000 in 2021, up 3.21 percent from 2020. Chongqing’s metro area population in 2020 was 15,872,000, up 3.37 percent from 2019. Chongqing’s metro area population in 2019 was 15,354,000, up 3.48 percent from 2018.
The city of Chongqing and other neighboring cities make up the Chongqing municipality, which is roughly the size of Austria. It can claim to be the world’s largest city due to a classification technicality, even if it does not have its largest urban area. Chongqing has a long and illustrious history as well as a diverse culture.
It serves as the financial heart of the Sichuan Basin and the upstream Yangtze as one of China’s National Central Cities. It is a significant manufacturing and transportation hub and one among China’s “13 developing megalopolises,” according to research.
Chongqing is classified as a Beta city, the world’s second-best. According to the Nature Index, Chongqing is one of the top 100 cities in the world in terms of scientific research outputs and is home to several prestigious colleges.
13. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul’s current metro area population in 2021 is 15,415,000, up 1.48 percent from 2020. Istanbul’s metro area population in 2020 was 15,190,000, up 1.48 percent from 2019. Istanbul’s metro area population in 2019 was 14,968,000, up 1.47 percent from 2018. Istanbul is the economic, cultural, and historical hub of turkey.
The metropolis, which spans the Bosporus strait and lies in both Europe and Asia, has over 15 million people, accounting for 19% of Turkey’s total population. Istanbul is Europe’s most populous metropolis and the world’s fifteenth-most populous city. In 2018, more than 13.4 million international visitors visited Istanbul, becoming it the world’s eighth most visited city, eight years after it was crowned European Capital of Culture.
Istanbul is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the headquarters of several Turkish businesses contains over a third of the country’s GDP. Istanbul’s Byzantine and Ottoman architecture are the city’s most notable features. Despite its Turkish status since 1453, it is home to several ancient, Roman, Byzantine, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish monuments.
Istanbul has been a cosmopolitan metropolis for much of its history, but it has become more homogenized after the end of the Ottoman era. Turkish people, also the majority ethnic group in Turkey, are the city’s dominant ethnic group. In 2018, Istanbul had the eleventh-largest economy among the world’s urban centers, accounting for 30% of Turkey’s industrial output, 31% of GDP, and 47% of tax revenues.
In 2018, the city’s gross domestic product adjusted for purchasing power parity was US$537.507 billion, with manufacturing and services accounting for 36% and 60% of total economic production, respectively. Istanbul’s productivity outperforms the national average by 110 percent. Trade is economically significant, contributing to 30% of the city’s total output.
Companies located in Istanbul produced $83.66 billion in exports and received $128.34 billion in imports in 2019, accounting for 47 percent and 61 percent of the national totals, respectively. Istanbul is also known for its Ottoman cuisine’s exquisite and intricately prepared meals.
14. Buenos Aires, Argentina
In 2021, the population of the Buenos Aires metro region will be 15,258,000, up 0.69 percent from 2020. In 2020, Buenos Aires’ metro area’s people were 15,154,000, up 0.64 percent from 2019. Buenos Aires is Argentina’s capital and largest city.
The city is located on the Ro de la Plata’s shore, 150 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, and is coextensive with the Federal District. Buenos Aires is the national center of trade, industry, politics, culture, technology, most essential ports. Buenos Aires is Argentina’s largest city and capital and the continent’s second-largest metropolitan region.
It is in the western bank of the Rio de la Plata estuary and is not part of the Buenos Aires Province or its metropolis; Buenos Aires is a self-governing autonomous district given autonomy in 1994. Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, or the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, is its official name.
Buenos Aires has a population of 2,891,000 people as of 2016. In 2010, the city proper of Buenos Aires had an official population of 2.89 million, which has since expanded modestly to an estimated 2,891,000 in 2016. The area has a population of over 3,800 square kilometers and just over 13.5 million people.
The city has a population density of 13,680 people per square kilometer, although the suburbs have a thickness of only 2,400 persons per square kilometer.
Around 13.5 million people live in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. Because of slow migration to the surrounding regions and low birth rates, the population of Buenos Aires has remained about 3 million since 1947, whereas the bordering districts have grown fivefold.
15. Kolkata, India
Calcutta’s current metro area population is 14,974,000 in 2021, up 0.84 percent from 2020. Calcutta’s metro area population in 2020 was 14,850,000, up 0.64 percent from 2019. Calcutta’s metro area population in 2019 was 14,755,000, up 0.5 percent from 2018. Kolkata, or Calcutta in English, is the capital of West Bengal, India, and is situated on the Hooghly River.
Kolkata is East India’s commercial and educational capital and one of the country’s oldest running ports. Now Kolkata has a population of 4.6 million people. With more than 14.3 million people, the major urban area, which includes the suburbs, is India’s third most populous metropolitan area.
The population density in the city is 24,000 people per square kilometer or 63,000 people per square mile. It is one of the highest densities on the planet. The city itself is classified as a megacity, with a total surface area of 205.00 square kilometers.
The Calcutta Stock Exchange is located in Kolkata, the commercial and financial capital of East and North-East India. Also, It is a major commercial and military port and, aside from Bhubaneswar, the only city in eastern India with an international airport.
Once India’s largest metropolis, Kolkata suffered a steady economic collapse in the decades after independence due to rapid population growth and a rise in militant trade unionism, which included numerous strikes sponsored by left-wing organizations.
The city improved after the Indian economy was liberalized in the 1990s, and the West Bengal state government implemented improvements in economic policy. The economy of Kolkata’s metropolitan area is estimated to be worth $150 to $250 billion, making it India’s third-most productive metro area.
While there are certain drawbacks to extensive urbanization, such as pollution and overcrowding, the benefits exceed the drawbacks for most individuals. People are moving to cities for various reasons, including convenience, better jobs, more accessible access to social services, and higher income, even in the post-COVID period.
The quality of life for urban people will undoubtedly increase as bright, green cities emerge, and more substantial urban regions will evolve into megacities. But with the growing population, it’s also necessary to ensure the proper environment and sanitation to live in.
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