10 Largest Cities in the World by Population

2019 Largest Cities in the World

The world has changed a lot since I originally wrote this article back in 2011. Almost a decade later – populations have shifted significantly along with everything else. I’ve got this idea in my head these days that I want to visit all of the largest cities in the world. I’ve been to some of them – but not all – so this might be a good focus for my travel plans in the near future. The hard part is finding a list that is accurate – this is the best I could come up with but I found at least five very different lists all based on the same criteria! New York City, Jakarta, Manila, Chengdu, and a few other cities made it to different lists fo the Top 10 largest, but the cities below were the ones that seemed to be the most consistent in terms of reported population.

The world is growing at an alarming rate. There are a huge number of estimates on the number of cities in the world, but it certainly would be safe to say that there are more than 300,000 cities in the world currently. Of course, this depends on what one defines a city. In most cases, a city is considered to be a place that is large and well-populated, and assumes more importance than a village or town. Now assuming more importance leads to several things, like better living conditions, more choice in all respects of life, and so on. These are what lure people to cities, and make cities experience population growth. Because of the large population, cities are generally managed by an authority, which in most cases is the municipal corporation of the particular city, and this body looks into all the things that make up the city. A typical city consists of further sub-areas, called districts or precincts in most places. This division of a city into smaller parts helps in better administration and ultimately leads to providing better living conditions.

For the traveler, the largest cities in the world can be an intense experience as the sights, smells, sounds, and sometimes the feel of the population can be exhilarating.

World’s Largest City by Population – Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, JapanTokyo is still the largest city in the world with a population of approximately 37.5 million people. Formerly named  Edo, the Tokyo Metropolis formed from the merger of Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is referred to as a metropolitan prefecture or a MegaCity.

On 1 July 1943, the twenty-three special wards of Tokyo merged with Tokyo Prefecture to become the Tokyo Metropolis. The residential area of Tokyo proper has 13,617,445 residents. The rest of the population lives in the Tokyo ‘burbs’.

World’s Second Largest City Delhi, India 

Delhi

Back in 2011, this rapidly growing city was fourth but today it has jumped the que to second. Delhi is one of the oldest cities of India, and is home to the Parliament and Supreme Court of India.Delhi rose from the fourth largest city in the world, to the second! The population of this city went up by more than five million people. With a population of about 29.3 million. Delhi’s NCT boundaries include Faridabad, Noida, Sonipat, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad known as Central National Capital Region which is the third-largest urban area according to the United Nations. Delhi is also the wealthiest city in India after Mumbai. It is home to several billionaires.

World’s Third Largest City – Shanghai, China

Shanghai

Back in 2011, Shanghai was the second largest city, but today it has dropped to third with an estimated population of  26.5 million people.

Shanghai has been the largest city in China for quite some time. Once just a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew quickly because of its port, and it is the world’s largest cargo port since 2005. Shanghai attracts millions of tourists every year, who flock to the city, which has got many attractions, with the City God Temple, the Oriental Pearl Tower, and many more. It is a major transport hub, with the busiest container port in the world. Shanghai gained recognition worldwide due to its trade and strong economic potential. During the First Opium War, a victory of the British over China forced China to open its foreign trade. The subsequent treaty of Nanking and the treaty of Whampoa allowed Shanghai to spread its trade all over the world. Shanghai is home to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, one of the largest stock exchanges in the world by Market Capitalization. Additionally, Shanghai has numerous Industrial, Economic, and Technological zones.

World’s Fourth Largest City – Sao Paolo, Brazil 

Sao Paolo Brazil

Sao Paolo grew from the seventh largest population in 2011  to the 4th largest today. Sao Paulo is also known as Alpha City. It is the largest city in Brazil. The city has a strong influence in arts, finance, commerce and entertainment. Current population is about 21.9 million residents. It is the largest city in Brazil, and is named to honor Saint Paul. It has one of the largest helicopter fleets in the world.  Sao Paulo is famous for its majestic skyscrapers.

World’s Fifth Largest City – Mexico City, Mexico 

Mexico City is home to around 21.7 million people and they live over 2,137Km square area. The rate of population growth is lower compared to New Delhi at 0.6% annually. Mexico City is the fifth largest city in the world.

World’s Sixth Largest City – Cairo, Egypt

Cairo

Cairo has a population of about 20.5 million residents.

World’s Seventh Largest City – Dhaka, Bangladesh

Dhaka

Dhaka is the seventh largest city in the world. It has been a commercial center since the 17th century. With a population of 20.2 million (from 13.5 a decade ago!). Dhaka is considered one of the most important cities of South Asia.

World’s Eighth Largest City – Mumbai, India

Mumbai

Mumbai has 20.1 million residents. It is the wealthiest city in India with more billionaires and millionaires than all the other cities of India combined. Mumbai is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Elephanta Caves, Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the city’s distinctive ensemble of Victory and Art Deco Buildings. Mumbai is the commercial, financial and entertainment capital of India and has several financial institutions such as RBI, the Bombay Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange, And SEBI. Mumbai used to be known as Bombay.It  is the entertainment capital of India, home to Bollywood and many architectural wonders.

World’s Ninth Largest City – Beijing, China 

Beijing

Back in 2011, Beijing was the 3rd largest city. Today in 2019 with a population of approximately 20 million it has dropped to the 9th largest cities in the world. Beijing is an important city in terms of business, politics, education, finance, economy, culture. Beijing is a megacity. It is home to the headquarters of China’s state-owned companies. It is also a major hub for the national highway, expressway, and high-speed rail networks. Beijing International Airport is the second busiest airport in the world. Beijing has seven UNESCO World Heritage sites – Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Great Canal, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian.

World’s Tenth Largest City – Osaka, Japan

Osaka

Osaka is home to around 19.2  million people in 2019. That number is growing by about 0.04 percent yearly, The total area of Osaka is mere 2,720 Km square and that means the city is pretty crowded. Osaka is 10th in the list of largest cities in the world.

Exploring China and Making Friends with Terracotta Warriors and Panda Bears – Xian, Chengdu, Kunming – Flashback Friday

After I had climbed the heavenly mountain in Shangxi, I left from Tai Shan a changed man. Looking back, I can see that there was something different about me – before I had been lost, but now I was simply wandering. My next destination was to be Xi’an – I wanted to see the famous Terra Cotta Army. It was a long trip and midway through – I saw a white guy getting on the train. He was quite obviously another backpacker and so we smiled and nodded at one another, sat near each other and struck up a conversation. Where I had just come from climbing Tai Shan, he had just come from climbing Tian Shan (I think). In any event we’d just both climbed up separate holy mountains and had come from different directions to the same crossroads heading to Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. We were instant best mates.

Xian China Taxi Ride

Johnny was English and I was American – he came from a wealthy life of privilege and I was a homeless guy – it didn’t matter. We were fellow backpackers on a steam train in China drinking cheap Chinese whiskey. In Xi’an we checked into a hostel and met two lovely English girls who also wanted to go see the Terra Cotta Army. We all went to get a meal in the cafe next door ‘Genghis Kane’s Cafe’ and met up with another English backpacker, Keith (who had just sold his house and was traveling around the world) and a burned out German English teacher named Sasha. We all set off as a group and seeing the organized tour groups all wearing similar hats or armbands, we decided to make fun of them by all buying identical yellow Chinese hats – moving forward we were the yellow hat gang.

Xian China Sasha, Jane, Vago, Sasha, Johnny, Keith, and ?

I was glad to have the company as Xi’an was a tourist zoo even back in 2001. After the clean air and natural beauty of Shandong, it was a totally different environment. At the time, I remember thinking ‘This place feels evil and grey’. Even so, the company was very good and the terracotta warriors were astounding to behold.

Terracotta Warriors in Xian China

From Xi’an, Sasha was going back to work at a school in Northern China where he claimed to be a virtual slave and the girls and Johnny were heading to Tibet. Keith and I were more interested in seeing the pandas in Chengdu and eating true Szechuen hot pot. We discussed taking a boat trip down the 7-rivers gorge to see it before it was flooded and would disappear forever – but for some reason didn’t. It’s a decision I regret (as was not goint to Tibet) but which at the time made sense because I didn’t want to run out of money and was trying to be careful with my planning.

Panda Bears Chengdu China

From Chengdu, Keith and I were going to meet up with Johnny again in Kunming, get visas that would allow us to enter Laos from the land crossing, and then move onward to new adventures in a new country. Our designated meeting spot was an astoundingly cool hostel called ‘The Hump Over the Himalayas” where I made friends with a wide variety of Chinese, Israeli, European, and Australian backpackers, punk rockers, rappers, and more. I’ll save that for another flashback.

China Chengdu Canals

And, as you can see in this photo sequence (above) …by the time I reached Chengdu, I was no longer a homeless guy wandering around China – I’d more or less turned into a 20-something backpacker from the Pacific Northwest. Looking at the transition now – nearly twenty years later – it’s an astonishing transformation and I can’t help wondering what might have happened if I would have stayed in the USA and never gone to see the world.

China German English Teacher Sasha

Xian China Motorcycle Taxi Driver

Park in Kunming China

View from room in Chengdu China

China Red Panda Chengdu

Chengdu China Panda Bears

Climbing Tai Shan / Mt. Tai in Shandong China – Friday Flashback

Tai Shan China ShandongOne of the young artists I met in Beijing had told me that there was a legend that anyone who climbed the Great Wall of China would be a hero. I’d been planning on climbing it anyway – but that just made it better. After that I spent three days exploring Beijing but then I actually had something that I had come to China wanting to do…

Temple of Heaven 2001 Tai Shan Bottom

I don’t remember how I heard about Tai Shan (Mt. Tai) but back when I had been freezing in my VW Van in Seattle’s winter – I had somehow got it into my head that I was going to go to China and climb the Sacred Taoist mountain, Tai Shan. And so I found a train and set out.

Tai Shan China Shandong

Shandong Province, where Mt. Tai and the city of Taishan are is Southeast of Beijing. Traditionally, the province is known for being the place where the Yellow River empties into the sea and as the birth place of Confucius. It is also famous for Tai Shan which is one of the ‘Great Five’ mountains of China – the others being Heng Shan, Song Shan, Heng Shan, and Hua Shan. Each of them represent a direction – Tai Shan is East.

Tai Shan China Shandong

Tai Shan is also the holiest. It was climbed by every emporor, Mao, Confucius and famous writers. The legend I was told was that if you climb Tai Shan, then you will live to be 101 years old. Over 6 million people per year go to the peak of Tai Shan, but the majority of them take cable cars. There were no cable cars when I visited – and I wouldn’t have taken one anyway. Tai Shan is sacred to Buddhists and Taoists both.

Tai Shan China Shandong

Over thousands of years the 4,630 foot peak (1545 meters) has been scaled so many times that today there are 6660 steps which lead to the summit. At the bottom there are temples in the village of Tianwei, where one should pay respects to the gods before beginning. I prayed with many older people at the Dai Temple.

Mt Tai Shan Shandong Province

My fellow pilgrims included many older people, and amazing group of nurses, an army officer with a lame foot on crutches,  and many others. We were all there to climb Tai Shan. There was a comaraderie among us – I felt it even as I wondered how some of them would possibly make it to the top.

Tai Shan China Shandong

I had take the train to Taishan from Beijing. On board I met a young student who offered to let me stay at his house. I declined because I wanted to get an early start and had already figured out that if I were a guest, it probably involved some obligatory drinking. Instead, I had taken a hotel room for two nights so I would have a safe place to leave my rucksack. There was lodging available at the top of Taishan in the monastary, which I wish I had taken advantage of – but my plan was to make it a day trip.

Tai Shan China Shandong

The path up the mountain is not a wild path. Huge characters had been carved into the mountain at every turn. Each natural feature had been sculpted for thousands of years. I moved up the mountain quickly, but not as quickly as the vendors who carried heavy burdens even balanced on the ends of poles that rested on their shoulders. At each resting point, vendors were selling water, snacks, trinkets, souvenirs. At the midpoint, the Midway Gate to the  Temple of Heaven, there was a veritable bazaar.

Tai Shan China Shandong

I was the only white person I saw that day. At that time, Americans were still a rarity in China and for many of the Chinese I encountered, I was the first white person they had ever seen. I heard the term ‘laowei’ many times and was greeted and smiled at by nearly everyone. When I reached the top, I rested before crossing under the Gate to Heaven. The Chinese who came after me all smiled, shook my hand, congratulated me, and I could tell they felt proud of me – I was their ‘laowei’ by virtue of the journey we had made together. Laowei means white ghost and was a term I heard used for me over and over again during my time in China.

Taishan China 2001

On the top, I found what can only be described as a village. I ate noodles, I prayed in a Taoist temple, I drank a beer. After several hours, I was resting near the top of the stairs and watched with pride as the crippled Army soldier hobbled through the gate of the Temple of Heaven. We acknowledged our shared accomplishment with a smile and a salute.

Tai Shan China Shandong

The journey down was fast but more exhausting. I really wish I would have stayed on top – but there is no going backwards. At the bottom, I bought some trinkets as souvenirs from vendors selling old things – a belt of turtles carved of stone, a box made of bone, and three silver Chinese coins.

Tai Shan China Shandong

In the village, I ate a meal that I didn’t know the name of and drank a Tsingtao (also from the same province). I would live to be 101 and would become a hero. I was no longer feeling like a homeless guy from Seattle in China– I decided to cleam myself up a little. Something changed in me on that day and I’ve never been the same since. I am fully confident that I actually will live to be 101 years old. I have also carried a strange certainty that the crippled soldier and I will someday cross paths again.

Tai Shan China Shandong

A Homeless Guy on the Great Wall, in the Forbidden City, and more – Slideshow Saturday

In 2001, I was a homeless guy but I decided to go to China. In my first days, I climbed the Great Wall of China, visited the Temple of Heaven, and walked through Tiannaman Square. These are some of the pictures I took in those first days in China. I’m happy to finally share them.

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I was a Homeless Guy in China – Flashback Friday

American Vagabond in China

Back in 2000, just when the dot-com crash was happening – I quit my job at a company called Tech Planet, bought a VW van for $150, moved out of my house, and decided to write a book about how to live without being a wage slave. Eventually, that book turned into Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagobond. The Portland Mercury wrote my favorite review of it in which they actually compared me to one of my literary heroes – Jack Keroac. All of that however, came later. By the end of 2000, I was growing increasingly tired of living in a van in Seattle rain and was looking at options of either driving south to Mexico or finding some other way to stay warm without being a wage slave. My brother, trying to explain why I should be grateful to live in the USA, said something like “You should see how people in China live…” which I took completely the wrong way. I decided to go to China.  There was one problem – I was a homeless guy without any money…so I took my last $100 and went to one of the Native American casinos along I-5 – I knew I would win. I put my money in a slot machine and won closet to $1500. Next I bought a ticket to Beijing. Then I went back to the casino and won another $2000 on the same slot machine! That’s how my international travel started.

I parked my VW van in my mom’s backyard and then hitch hiked back to Seattle. My friends dropped me off. I went through customs and was on my way. There was a connecting flight in Vancouver, British Columbia. When we landed, I had to run through the Vancouver airport to make my flight – as I ran, I saw TV’s playing footage of the huge Nisqually earthquake that had hit Seattle Tacoma International Airport – the same airport I’d just left. These were early days in the internet – I didn’t have a smart phone (no one did) and I didn’t have a laptop or access to the web. It would be days before I found out the details of the quake because I would have to get to China, find an internet cafe or English language newspaper, and frankly, I had more pressing concerns. I hadn’t made any arrangements for where I would stay or what I would be doing in China.

Beijing kids 2001
These were the first Chinese people to speak to me in English “Hey Mister, Take Picture” I wonder where they are now..

 

I didn’t have any credit cards, hotel reservations, or anything else. I’d bought a Lonely Planet China Guidebook the day before in Seattle. Essentially, I was a scrungy 29-year-old homeless guy who arrived in the Beijing Airport without a clue. It was awesome. I had astounding culture shock. I had about $1500 in US currency – I changed $500 over to Chinese Yuan, figured out how to get on and pay for a bus and decided I would get off at the twelfth stop. No reason.

View from my beijing hotel room
This is the view from my first Beijing Hotel Room

 

Very few Chinese seemed to speak English and I didn’t speak any Mandarin. I got off at the 12th stop and with the help of a friendly Chinese workman who spoke no English managed to figure out where I was using street signs and the Lonely Planet maps. There was a hotel nearby and I managed to find it, paid two nights rent, and locked myself in my room with the snacks I’d bought along the way. For two days I crammed Mandarin learning some basic phrases, directions, etc – I used the Lonely Planet to figure out what I wanted to do in China, and I slept off my jetlag.

American Vagabond in China
There was heavy smog and a sand storm in Beijing when I arrived

 

When I emerged two days later, I was ready to climb the Great Wall of China, visit Tiannamen Square, and visit the Forbidden City. I had also located a fun sounding backpacker’s hostel and some internet cafes. I was ready for China. I had one month before my return flight to Seattle and my visa expiration date – but I already knew that I was going to burn that flight and stay in Asia for a while.

Tomorrow for Slideshow Saturday – I’ll share some of the pictures I took of those first days in China – climbing the wall at Badaling, the Forbidden City, and Tiannaman Square. These were film days – so I don’t have hundreds of shots – still, it’s fun to finally share them.

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