Cities have existed since the first known civilizations in mankind. Described as a densely settled place with extensive systems for housing, transportation, sanitization, utilities, land use, production of goods and communication, cities in 2021 are where more than half of the global population live.
In the following article, we will look at 15 of the largest cities in the world.
1. Tokyo, Japan
With a population of more than 37.339 million, Tokyo is the largest city in the world as of 2021. Originally named as “Edo” about its original location at the meeting point of Sumida River and Tokyo River, the name was later changed to “Tokyo”. The city has survived earthquakes and even bombing raids by the Allied forces during World War II, only to become the largest urban economy in the world by gross domestic product. Tokyo is rich in architecture, with numerous skyscrapers and the city is interspersed with a well-developed road network.
2. Delhi, India
With an estimated population of over 31 million, Delhi is one of the oldest cities in the world, having been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BC and houses New Delhi, the official capital of the country of India. Delhi is considered the second-largest urban area in the world and the second-wealthiest city in India and produces the second-highest GDP per capita. The city is extremely rich in architecture, with various traditional Hindu temples, fortresses from the Mughal era and various buildings in the Indo-Saracenic style that are still used as official headquarters of the Central government.
3. Shanghai, China
Located on the southern estuary of the Yangtze River and the Huangpu River flowing through it, with a population of 27 million, Shanghai is the largest city in the People’s Republic of China and the third-largest city in the world. Once a fishing village, Shanghai gained importance in the 19th century due to its favourable port location and is one of the four direct-administered municipalities in the country currently. The city features several architectural styles, ranging from Art Deco to Shikumen, and is famous for its Lujiazui Skyline.
4. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Honouring the Apostle, Saint Paul of Tarsus in its name, the city of Sao Paulo is an alpha global city and the most populous city in the Western and Southern Hemisphere. The city is located on a plateau and is home to a lot of diasporas like Arab, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese and Jewish. Colloquially known as “Sampa” or “Terra da Garoa”, the city has a motto of “I am not lead, I lead”. Sao Paulo has the largest economy by GDP in the Southern Hemisphere and has an influence all over the world.
5. Mexico City, Mexico
The capital of Mexico is the largest city in North America and the fifth-largest city in the world. Located in the large valley in the high plateaus in central Mexico, the city is one of the most important cultural and financial centres in the world. With a population of roughly 21.9 million, Mexico City is the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world. Mexico City was originally built on an island by the Aztecs in 1325, then subsequently redesigned in accordance with Spanish urban standards and established as a municipality in 1524. The residents have the right to elect both the head of government and representatives of the assembly and benefit from many progressive policies.
6. Dhaka, Bangladesh
Inhabited since the first millennium, the city of Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and also the largest city in the Eastern part of South Asia. The city has served as a provincial capital of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century and also as the administrative capital of East Pakistan after independence in 1947. Dhaka saw the introduction of electricity, railways and Western-style educational institutions during the British Era and today it is one of the most densely industrialized regions in Bangladesh, along with contributing about 35% to the country’s economy.
7. Cairo, Egypt
Home to the world-famous Giza pyramid complex and also the ancient of Memphis, the capital of Egypt, Cairo, is the largest city in the country and the seventh-largest city in the world as of 2021. Titled “ The City of A Thousand Minarets”, Cairo boasts of having Al-Azhar University, the world’s second-oldest institution of higher learning and also the regional headquarters of many international media, business and organizations. The city of Cairo has one of the two metro systems in Africa and also has a well-developed infrastructure in all aspects like healthcare, education and transportation. The city also has a rich culture and many famous pieces of architecture that include churches, mosques and museums.
8. Beijing, China
The capital of the People’s Republic of China, the city of Beijing is the world’s most populous national capital, with almost 21 million residents. It is a global city and one of the world’s leading centres in many aspects like culture, economy, politics, education and science and technology. Beijing houses the largest number of Fortune 500 companies in the world, along with being home to most of the headquarters of China’s largest state-owned companies and the four biggest financial institutions by total assets. Having a combination of both modern and traditional architecture, the city has been the political centre of China for most of the past eight centuries.
9. Mumbai, India
Located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, Mumbai, also known as Bombay, is the second-largest city in India, with a population of more than 20 million. It was named an alpha world city in 2008 and has the highest number of millionaire and billionaire residents. Home to the famous Indian cinema industry of Bollywood, Mumbai is constituted of seven different islands. Rich in architecture with a distinctive ensemble of buildings in the Art Deco and Victorian styles, Mumbai also houses UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Elephanta Caves and the Victoria Terminus. Mumbai is considered the financial, commercial and entertainment capital of the country.
10. Osaka, Japan
Officially established as a municipality in 1889, the city of Osaka in 2021 is the second-largest in Japan and the tenth-largest in the world. Having briefly served as the imperial capital in the 7th and 8th centuries, Osaka developed into an important regional port with a rich and flourishing culture. Famous landmarks in the city include Shitenno-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan and also the Osaka Castle and the Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine. The city is also home to the National Bunraku Theatre where bunraku, the traditional puppet plays are performed. The city of Osaka is a hub of tall skyscrapers blended with traditional architecture, rich culture and mouth-watering food.
11. Karachi, Pakistan
Ranked as a beta global city, Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan is a premier industrial and financial centre, housing two of the country’s largest ports, the Port of Karachi and Port Bin Qasim, along with Jinnah International Airport, the busiest airport in the whole country. Following the independence of Pakistan, the population of the city increased drastically due to refugees and migrants and it also experienced rapid economic growth. With a population of more than 16 million, Karachi is one of the fastest-growing cities and people representing almost every ethnic group in Pakistan can be found here. Once known as the “City Of Lights”, today, Karachi is one of the biggest contributors to the GDP of Pakistan.
12. Chongqing, China
Situated in the transitional area between the Tibetan Plateau and the plain on the middle and lower parts of Yangtze River, the city of Chongqing is one of the four National Central Cities in China and also the twelfth-largest in the world. The area of the city is crisscrossed by rivers and mountains and is famous for its ‘night rain in the Ba Mountains’. Being one of the three headquarters of the Allies during World War II, and also serving as the strategic centre of many other wars, Chongqing has many historic war-time buildings and sites, some of which have since been destroyed. There are also pieces of ancient architecture present in the city where China’s first underwater museum was built.
13. Istanbul, Turkey
Historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the most populous city in the European continent. Unique in being stretched over the two continents of Europe and Asia, Istanbul, with a population of about 15.4 million is the economic, cultural and historic centre of the country. Founded by Megarian colonists in 660 CE, the city grew in size, becoming a beacon of the famous Silk Road and one of the most important cities in the history of the world. The city is primarily known for its Byzantine, Ottoman and Christian Architecture with the most famous building being Hagia Sophia. There are also areas in the city filled with rows of buildings in the Neoclassical, Renaissance Revival and Art Nouveau styles.
14. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Located on the western shore of South America’s south-eastern coast, Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina is also the largest city in the country. Originally named by the founders as “Real de Nuestra Señora Santa Maria del Buen Ayre”, after the Madonna of Bonaria in Sardinia, Italy, it has been abbreviated to “Buenos Aires”—the meaning of which can be translated as “fair winds” or “good airs”. The city has complete autonomy in electing its government and has one of the best “quality of life” ranks in all of Latin America. Buenos Aires is the most visited city in South America, because of its rich culture and preserved eclectic European architecture. The city, being a recipient of millions of immigrants from all over the world, is also considered one of the most diverse cities in all of America.
15. Kolkata, India
Located on the eastern bank of Hooghly River, Kolkata, the fifteenth-largest city in the entire world is also the capital of the state of West Bengal in India. The cultural capital of the country, being the administrative centre during most of the British Era houses many famous examples of Colonial Architecture, some of which still serve their original purpose. The city is home to various ethnic and religious groups, all of whom come together to celebrate music, food, sports and festivals. Kolkata is also known for its exuberant lifestyle, bustling streets and boisterous people. The city is also known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage, with many art styles originating there.
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