Largest Cities in the World

by | January 21, 2021

Cities of outstanding global importance are designated as cosmopolitan cities. A cosmopolitan city is of central importance in a political, economic or cultural area. In contrast to the sometimes synonymously related term metropolis, which can also be used in relation to a specific region or function, the global city system uses the earth’s entire urban system as the frame of reference and comparison. The international presence of a cosmopolitan city is reflected in its high level of awareness, which suggests a recurring media distribution. The level of awareness of a cosmopolitan city is also derived from its historical significance. “Ancient Rome”, “ancient Athens”, or “divided Berlin” are terms used in historiography around the world.

Here is the list of top 100 largest cities in the world by population:

Largest Cities on the Earth by Population

Ranking City Country Continent Population
1 Tokyo Japan Asia 37,393,239
2 Delhi India Asia 30,291,047
3 Shanghai China Asia 27,058,591
4 Sao Paulo Brazil South America 22,043,139
5 Mexico City Mexico North America 21,782,489
6 Dhaka Bangladesh Asia 21,005,971
7 Cairo Egypt Africa 20,900,715
8 Beijing China Asia 20,462,721
9 Mumbai India Asia 20,411,385
10 Osaka Japan Asia 19,165,451
11 Karachi Pakistan Asia 16,093,897
12 Chongqing China Asia 15,872,290
13 Istanbul Turkey Asia 15,190,447
14 Buenos Aires Argentina South America 15,153,840
15 Kolkata India Asia 14,850,177
16 Lagos Nigeria Africa 14,368,443
17 Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Africa 14,342,550
18 Manila Philippines Asia 13,923,563
19 Tianjin China Asia 13,589,189
20 Rio De Janeiro Brazil South America 13,458,186
21 Guangzhou China Asia 13,301,643
22 Lahore Pakistan Asia 12,642,534
23 Moscow Russia Europe 12,538,065
24 Shenzhen China Asia 12,356,931
25 Bangalore India Asia 12,326,643
26 Paris France Europe 11,017,341
27 Bogota Colombia South America 10,978,471
28 Chennai India Asia 10,971,219
29 Jakarta Indonesia Asia 10,770,598
30 Lima Peru South America 10,719,299
31 Bangkok Thailand Asia 10,539,526
32 Hyderabad India Asia 10,004,255
33 Seoul South Korea Asia 9,963,563
34 Nagoya Japan Asia 9,552,243
35 London United Kingdom Europe 9,304,127
36 Chengdu China Asia 9,135,879
37 Tehran Iran Asia 9,134,819
38 Nanjing China Asia 8,847,483
39 Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam Asia 8,602,428
40 Wuhan China Asia 8,365,088
41 Luanda Angola Africa 8,329,909
42 New York City City United States North America 8,323,451
43 Ahmedabad India Asia 8,059,552
44 Xi An Shaanxi China Asia 8,001,076
45 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Asia 7,996,941
46 Hangzhou China Asia 7,642,258
47 Hong Kong Hong Kong Asia 7,547,763
48 Dongguan China Asia 7,407,963
49 Foshan China Asia 7,326,963
50 Riyadh Saudi Arabia Asia 7,231,558
51 Shenyang China Asia 7,220,215
52 Surat India Asia 7,184,701
53 Baghdad Iraq Asia 7,144,371
54 Suzhou China Asia 7,070,103
55 Santiago Chile South America 6,767,334
56 Dar Es Salaam Tanzania Africa 6,701,761
57 Pune India Asia 6,629,458
58 Madrid Spain Europe 6,617,624
59 Haerbin China Asia 6,387,306
60 Toronto Canada North America 6,196,842
61 Belo Horizonte Brazil South America 6,084,541
62 Singapore Singapore Asia 5,935,164
63 Khartoum Sudan Africa 5,828,969
64 Johannesburg South Africa Africa 5,782,858
65 Qingdao China Asia 5,620,088
66 Dalian China Asia 5,617,960
67 Barcelona Spain Europe 5,585,667
68 Fukuoka Japan Asia 5,528,743
69 Saint Petersburg Russia Europe 5,467,919
70 Ji Nan Shandong China Asia 5,360,296
71 Yangon Myanmar Asia 5,331,911
72 Zhengzhou China Asia 5,322,807
73 Alexandria Egypt Africa 5,280,775
74 Abidjan Ivory Coast Africa 5,202,873
75 Guadalajara Mexico North America 5,179,590
76 Ankara Turkey Asia 5,117,714
77 Chittagong Bangladesh Asia 5,019,935
78 Melbourne Australia Oceania 4,967,844
79 Sydney Australia Oceania 4,926,098
80 Monterrey Mexico North America 4,874,206
81 Addis Ababa Ethiopia Africa 4,793,810
82 Nairobi Kenya Africa 4,734,992
83 Hanoi Vietnam Asia 4,678,309
84 Brasilia Brazil South America 4,645,954
85 Cape Town South Africa Africa 4,617,671
86 Jiddah Saudi Arabia Asia 4,610,287
87 Changsha China Asia 4,577,834
88 Kunming China Asia 4,443,297
89 Changchun China Asia 4,425,872
90 Xinbei Taiwan Asia 4,398,494
91 Urumqi China Asia 4,368,976
92 Shantou China Asia 4,327,427
93 Rome Italy Europe 4,257,167
94 Hefei China Asia 4,241,625
95 Kabul Afghanistan Asia 4,221,643
96 Montreal Canada North America 4,220,677
97 Tel Aviv Israel Asia 4,181,590
98 Porto Alegre Brazil South America 4,137,528
99 Recife Brazil South America 4,127,202
100 Ningbo China Asia 4,116,320


A cosmopolitan city has or was of central importance for large parts of the world in the political, economic and / or cultural area. In addition, it is required that a cosmopolitan city dominate its own limited world economy.

Political importance

World cities in the political sense are and were the centers of power of the great world empires and influential economies. Historically important world cities were Alexandria, Rome, Madrid, Constantinople, London, Berlin, Moscow or Lisbon and Vienna, which exercised their power on several continents. The most important political centers of today are mostly the capitals of the major economies such as Washington, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo or Beijing. The seat of government of a state is also the location of various embassies and consulates. It is not infrequently the seat of national associations, non-governmental organizations and lobby groups at the same time; this increases its global relevance.

As the headquarters of the most important international institution, the United Nations (UN), New York can, with some restrictions, also be regarded as a global political center. A number of UN specialized agencies and other international institutions are based in Geneva and Vienna.

Brussels, the seat of the European Commission and NATO, is also of international political importance, especially since these institutions act and are recognized not only within Europe or the transatlantic area, but also worldwide.

Economical meaning

World cities in the economic sense are predominantly metropolises with a large number of globally active companies. They are mostly centers of the most varied branches of industry and especially of the highly paid finance and service industries. An above-average per capita economic performance in the national and international comparison framework is an indication of this.

The three largest economic regions of the highly developed world (East Asia, Europe, North America) have each developed a leading metropolis (Tokyo, London and New York).

Complementary financial centers that are still of paramount international importance are Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul and Sydney in the Pacific region; Frankfurt am Main, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Amsterdam and Zurich in Europe and Chicago and Toronto in North America.

Important financial centers have also developed in emerging economies, but with the exception of Mexico City and Shanghai, their stock exchange trading volumes have not yet reached that of the established metropolises such as Mumbai, Moscow, Istanbul, Bangkok or São Paulo.

Due to the great mutual interdependence of the world economy, the financial metropolises are usually also important transport hubs, especially in air traffic.

Cultural significance

World cities in the cultural sense are much more difficult to identify objectively because there are few quantifiable indicators (such as government or corporate leadership, passenger numbers or the trading volume of the stock exchange). Cultural metropolises have z. B. central functions for the circulation area of ​​a world language such as London, New York and Los Angeles for large parts of the Anglophone world, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Madrid for Latin America, Paris for large parts of Francophone Africa and Cairo for the Arab world.

World cities with a cultural focus are points of attraction for artists and cultural workers such as Berlin and Vienna, places of high tourist attraction and locations of important institutions (museums, theaters, annual festivals, etc.) of paramount importance or pioneers of cultural developments.

Metropolises of global importance often have a high concentration of colleges, universities and research institutions.

Cities with a cultural focus also include centers in which cultural goods such as fashion, film, music, art, architecture or video games are produced. Milan as a fashion center or Mumbai as a film city (Bollywood) can be named as examples. General sporting events such as the Olympic Games and World Championships as well as local sports clubs of international importance (Real Madrid, Los Angeles Lakers) contribute to the cultural reputation of a city.

Religious centers of worldwide importance such as Jerusalem, Rome and Mecca form a special group.