Earth is home to more than 7.7 billion people and we have to put them somewhere. For millions of people, cities are that somewhere, with everyone existing next to each other with varying degrees of comfort. These are the 10 most populated cities in the world, according to the World Population Review.
Osaka, Japan | 19.2 Million
For tourists, Osaka is about two things. The first is eating. The Japanese term "kuidaore," which translates to “eat yourself broke” or “eat until you drop,” is frequently used to describe the city. The second is shopping. The city is full of stores, outlets, malls, bodegas, stalls and vendors. Between those two, you should have a pretty good idea of what your itinerary will be full of in Osaka.
Beijing, China | 20 Million
There’s some irony in the fact that 20 million people have such ready access to the Forbidden City, a palace that traditionally carried strict, and often fatal, punishment for unauthorized visitors. Though not ironic is the fact that Beijing remains the seat of the Chinese government. That was the original point of the Forbidden City, after all.
Mumbai, India | 20.2 Million
Mumbai is another one of those old cities that was renamed by the British empire, and has made the modern decision to change back. That’s why some readers may recognize the name Bombay, which was the name of the city up until 1995, when the political party Shiv Sena came to power in the city. Whatever you call it, there are a lot of people living in the city.
Dhaka, Bangladesh | 20.3 Million
For a city with so many people, we haven’t heard a whole lot about Dhaka. It’s the capital of Bangladesh, so that’s something. It kind of makes it seem like a city of more than 20 million people is some kind of well-kept secret. Not to Bangladeshis, obviously, but to the rest of us.
Cairo, Egypt | 20.5 Million
Unlike the other cities on this list, Cairo’s population growth is apparently on track for disaster. Just 11 years from now, in 2030, the city’s projected to hit 119 million and the government’s scrambling for solutions. Hopefully they figure something out quickly because 11 years is pretty much the blink of an eye when it comes to city planning.
Mexico City, Mexico | 21.7 Million
Mexico City’s origins are in some very cool terraforming done by the Aztecs. They expanded a small natural island in Lake Texcoco into an island large enough to house their fortified city, Tenochtitlán, by dumping dirt into the lake until the island was big enough. Today, the sprawl of Mexico City has far exceeded what the island could have held.
São Paulo, Brazil | 21.8 Million
São Paulo’s size caught us a little off guard. Rio de Janeiro is in the news so often that it’s almost like the default Brazilian city. But São Paulo’s population beats Rio’s by millions. It’s a financial center for Brazil but doesn’t sacrifice culture to achieve it. Case in point, São Paulo’s ethnic diversity is huge, with reasonably large Jewish, Japanese, Italian and Arab populations, among others.
Shanghai, China | 26.3 Million
The fact that Beijing wasn’t the most populous city in China was a little surprising, though we’d say Shanghai would have been our second guess for “largest Chinese city.” Shanghai’s a great place to experience the convergence of old and new Chinese culture and certainly has enough going on that you won’t be bored. Lost maybe, but not bored.
Delhi, India | 29.4 Million
Delhi is expanding so much that it’s approaching the next step in the development of cities, where the word city may not even apply anymore. Megacity gets closer, but we’re almost thinking that a modernized form of city-state might be more appropriate. City will work for now, but we imagine there’s going to be an etymologically significant conversation happening in the Indian government soon.
Tokyo, Japan | 37.4 Million
Tokyo was the only city that could possibly be expected to top this list, even if you didn’t know the exact population. It’s huge and full of people, two things that seem like simple statements until you actually put them in context. It’s constantly brought up in conversations about population density, city planning and the psychology of living in a huge modern city and is the place to watch if humanity’s going to understand its urban future.