World’s Largest Cities: Urbanization has surged throughout the past century, leading to the current scenario where over 55% of the global population, totaling more than 4.3 billion individuals, resides in urban areas.
Determining the world’s largest cities becomes a variable task, hinging heavily on the criteria used to define city limits and calculate population figures.
The visual representation below relies on the most recent authoritative censuses and forward-looking estimates to arrange the leading cities in order, employing the three prevalent measurement standards.
Largest Cities by City Proper Size
Our initial measurement focuses on the city proper, which pertains to the administrative boundaries of a city.
As defined by the United Nations, a city proper is “the singular political jurisdiction that encompasses the historic core of a city.”
Taking this metric into consideration, the Chinese city of Chongqing emerges as the leader, boasting an administrative boundary comparable in size to that of Austria, while housing an urban population of 32.1 million residents.
Impressively, Chongqing’s monorail system holds dual records as the world’s lengthiest and busiest, featuring an impressive network of 70 stations.
The city is also home to the Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, which ranks among the top 50 busiest airports worldwide. Furthermore, Chongqing secures a position among the world’s top 50 hubs for scientific research.
This measurement sees other Chinese cities prominently dominating the rankings:
The initial non-Chinese metropolis, Delhi, has been undergoing one of the most rapid urban expansions globally.
According to the United Nations, India is anticipated to witness an addition of over 400 million urban residents by 2050, in contrast to 250 million individuals in China and 190 million in Nigeria.
Ranking of Largest Cities by Urban Area
This assessment predominantly disregards political boundaries and instead focuses on a city as a cohesive, interconnected built-up region.
As described by Demographia, urban areas function as unified economic entities, linked together by commuting patterns, social interactions, and economic activities.
Following this criterion, Tokyo takes the lead in the rankings:
About 10% of Japan’s population resides within the city proper of Tokyo.
However, when considering the broader Tokyo metropolitan area, which encompasses cities like Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba, the total population of Tokyo surpasses 37 million, accounting for approximately 30% of the country’s total population.
As a result, even with one of the world’s most extensive railway systems, trains in Tokyo are exceptionally crowded, with a boarding rate reaching 200% during peak hours in the most densely populated zones. The city is also renowned for the Shibuya Crossing, recognized as the busiest intersection globally.
Ranking of Largest Cities by Metropolitan Area
Furthermore, Tokyo maintains its leading position according to our final criterion: metropolitan area.
This measurement resembles the concept of urban area but is often defined by official entities, either for statistical purposes or administrative governance.
In the United States, this concept materializes as metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), examples being Chicago-Naperville-Elgin or Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler.
With the ongoing increase in the global urban populace, upcoming cities, particularly across Africa and Asia, are poised to compete for the title of being the most populous.
According to projections by the United Nations, urban areas are anticipated to accommodate 68% of the world’s population by the year 2050.