Top 10 Largest Cities in the World
Top 10 Largest Cities in the World
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Welcome to an exciting journey through the world’s largest cities! In this “Top 10 Largest Cities in the World” list, we will explore the vibrant urban landscapes that captivate millions of inhabitants and leave an indelible mark on the global stage. From sprawling metropolises that blend tradition and modernity to bustling hubs of commerce and culture, these cities represent the epitome of human achievement and the rich tapestry of diverse civilizations. Join us as we unveil the top 10 largest cities in the world, each offering a unique and awe-inspiring experience that defines the essence of urban living in the 21st century.
#1: Tokyo, Japan (37.3 Million)
Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is renowned as one of the world’s most thriving metropolises. It’s an exciting melting pot of the old and the new, seamlessly blending centuries-old traditions with the height of technological innovation and modernity. As the economic, political, and cultural heart of Japan, Tokyo tells an engaging narrative of progress, preservation, and pulsating vibrancy. Its overwhelming energy, coupled with a deep sense of tradition, creates a unique charm that sets Tokyo apart from other major global cities.
Population and Size: As of 2023, Tokyo’s population is estimated to be around 8.3 million people in the city itself and over 37 million in the Greater Tokyo Area, according to the latest census. Covering an area of 845 square miles (2,188 square kilometers), Tokyo is the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The population density is about 9,822 persons per square mile (3,793 persons per square kilometer) in the city.
Tokyo’s population growth rate is relatively slow, in alignment with the overall trend in Japan, a nation facing demographic challenges due to low birth rates and an aging population. Despite this, Tokyo continues to attract people from all across Japan and the globe due to its abundant employment opportunities and high standard of living.
Geographic: Tokyo is located on the southeastern part of Honshu Island, the largest island in Japan. The city’s coordinates are approximately 35.6895° N latitude and 139.6917° E longitude. The geography of Tokyo is diverse, with a variety of terrains that include coastal plains in the east and rugged, hilly areas to the west.
Mount Kumotori, the highest point in Tokyo Prefecture, stands at an elevation of 6,617 feet (2,017 meters). The lowest point is at Tokyo Bay, which lies at sea level. Tokyo Bay is an inlet of the Pacific Ocean and is integral to Tokyo’s identity as a maritime city.
Natural features such as rivers, mountains, and lakes shape the cityscape of Tokyo. Significant rivers such as the Sumida River and Tama River provide picturesque landscapes and play a critical role in the city’s water system. The Tama Hills, located in western Tokyo, offer an expanse of natural beauty amid the urban hustle and bustle.
Climate: Tokyo’s climate is classified as humid subtropical, characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild winters. The average temperature ranges from 41°F (5.2°C) in January, the coldest month, to around 81°F (27.0°C) in August, the hottest month.
Tokyo experiences a high level of precipitation, with annual rainfall typically exceeding 59 inches (1,500mm). The rainy season usually occurs from early June to mid-July, followed by typhoon season from August to October. There are four distinct seasons in Tokyo: spring (March to May), summer (June to August), autumn (September to November), and winter (December to February).
Demographics: Ethnically, Tokyo, like the rest of Japan, is overwhelmingly Japanese. However, due to its global significance, Tokyo is home to a growing number of foreign residents, including Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, and individuals from Western countries.
Age distribution reflects the broader demographic trend in Japan: an aging population. The proportion of people aged 65 and above is higher than those under 15. This has profound implications for Tokyo’s social policies, particularly in healthcare and social security.
Japanese is the primary language spoken in Tokyo, with a minor fraction of residents speaking English and other languages. Shintoism and Buddhism are the primary religions in Tokyo, with a small percentage of residents identifying as Christian or followers of other faiths.
Infrastructure: Tokyo’s infrastructure is one of the most developed globally, reflecting the city’s status as a leading global city. Its efficient and extensive public transportation system is legendary, boasting the world-renowned Tokyo Metro, an extensive network of buses, and the Shinkansen (bullet train) services. Tokyo’s primary international airport, Haneda, is one of the busiest in the world.
The city’s utilities infrastructure is robust, providing reliable access to electricity, gas, and clean water. Waste management is efficient, with rigorous recycling systems in place to manage the city’s waste output.
Tokyo is at the forefront of technological communication, offering ubiquitous high-speed internet access, 5G networks, and cutting-edge IT services. The city is also home to many leading tech and electronics companies, contributing to the advanced technological environment.
Healthcare in Tokyo is top-notch, with world-class hospitals, advanced medical technology, and a high doctor-to-patient ratio. Japan’s universal healthcare system ensures all residents, including those in Tokyo, have access to affordable healthcare services.
Economy: Tokyo, the epicenter of Japan’s economy, is one of the world’s most prosperous cities. It’s a globally significant financial hub, hosting the Tokyo Stock Exchange and numerous multinational corporations’ headquarters. As of 2023, the city’s GDP exceeds $1.5 trillion, making it one of the world’s leading economies.
The city’s economic structure is diverse. Service industries, including finance, insurance, and real estate, are among the most dominant sectors, making up a considerable portion of Tokyo’s economy. In addition, Tokyo is a significant hub for the manufacturing sector, particularly electronics, automobiles, and precision equipment.
Employment in Tokyo is high, with an unemployment rate lower than the national average. The city offers vast job opportunities across various sectors, attracting people from across Japan and the globe.
Tourism is a significant contributor to Tokyo’s economy. It’s a magnet for international tourists, drawn by the city’s historical sites, modern architecture, and vibrant culture. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the city welcomed over 30 million tourists, contributing significantly to its economy.
Governance: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government, based in the towering Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, manages the city. It provides a myriad of services ranging from healthcare, welfare, disaster management to environmental policies.
Education in Tokyo is under the supervision of the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. The city offers a comprehensive education system, from elementary to tertiary level. Public and private schools coexist, providing diverse options for residents.
Public spaces in Tokyo are meticulously maintained. Parks such as Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park, and the Imperial Palace East Gardens provide residents with vital green spaces in the bustling metropolis. In addition, Tokyo’s city planning places high importance on sustainable development, ensuring the careful balance of urban growth and environmental preservation.
Culture and Entertainment: Tokyo’s cultural and entertainment scene is vibrant and diverse. It’s home to a plethora of landmarks, including the historic Tokyo Imperial Palace, the tech-forward teamLab Borderless Museum, and the iconic Tokyo Skytree.
The city’s art scene is dynamic, hosting various art galleries and museums. The Mori Art Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art are famous venues for art enthusiasts. In addition, Tokyo’s theater culture, featuring traditional Kabuki and Noh performances alongside modern theater, is thriving.
Festivals are a significant aspect of Tokyo’s cultural life. From the grand Tokyo Summer Festival to the colorful Asakusa Sanja Festival, these events add rhythm and vibrancy to the city’s life.
Sports have a considerable presence in Tokyo. The city hosted the Summer Olympics twice, in 1964 and 2021, cementing its status as a major sports hub. Baseball and football are popular, with the city hosting several professional teams, and sumo wrestling matches draw massive crowds.
Safety and Security: Tokyo is known for its low crime rate, making it one of the world’s safest cities. The city’s strong law enforcement, cultural respect for law and order, and cohesive social structures contribute to this safety.
Emergency services in Tokyo are highly efficient, with a robust system in place to handle medical, fire, and police emergencies. In addition, the city is equipped with advanced disaster preparedness measures, given Japan’s susceptibility to earthquakes and other natural disasters. Evacuation centers, emergency drills, and public awareness campaigns are integral parts of Tokyo’s disaster management strategy.
Education and Research: Tokyo is a stronghold of education and research, hosting top-ranking universities such as the University of Tokyo and Tokyo Institute of Technology. These institutions are renowned for their rigorous academic standards, extensive research facilities, and contributions to various scientific fields.
Research institutions in Tokyo are leading the charge in technological innovation, scientific research, and medical breakthroughs. Notable institutions include RIKEN, Japan’s largest research organization, and the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research.
Various scholarships are available for domestic and international students in Tokyo, offered by both the government and private entities. These scholarships aim to promote educational and cultural exchange and support talented students in their academic pursuits.
Tokyo’s history is a captivating narrative that stretches back centuries, displaying a compelling blend of tradition, transformation, and resilience.
1600’s: The area now known as Tokyo was originally a small fishing village named Edo. The real transformation began in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, established Edo as his base. This marked the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868), a time of peace and significant growth, making Edo one of the largest cities in the world with over a million inhabitants.
Meiji Restoration: The Meiji Restoration of 1868 marked a major turning point in Tokyo’s history. The emperor moved from Kyoto to Edo, marking the end of the shogunate era, and Edo was renamed “Tokyo,” meaning “Eastern Capital.” This period saw rapid modernization and Western influence in architecture, culture, and governance.
World War II: Tokyo experienced significant devastation during World War II, with numerous air raids damaging much of the city and leading to significant loss of life. However, the city demonstrated remarkable resilience in the post-war era, rebuilding and modernizing at a rapid pace. The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo symbolized the city’s successful recovery and reemergence on the world stage.
Unique and Interesting Stories
Tokyo, with its rich history and vibrant culture, is home to countless intriguing tales.
Tokyo Tower: One such story is the creation of the Tokyo Tower, an iconic symbol of the city. Built in 1958, the tower stands at 1,093 feet (333 meters), outstripping its model, the Eiffel Tower, by 43 feet (13 meters). Remarkably, the construction of the Tokyo Tower was entirely domestic, using scrap metal from damaged tanks and warships from World War II, symbolizing the country’s resilience and recovery from the ravages of war.
Fish Market: Another fascinating story revolves around the Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the largest seafood markets in the world. The market was relocated to Toyosu in 2018, but its legacy continues. It was a bustling hub where tuna auctions would start at 5:00 AM, and premium-grade tuna would sell for astronomical prices. The most expensive bluefin tuna sold here fetched a staggering 333.6 million yen (about 3 million USD) in 2019.
Supernatural: Tokyo’s stories extend to the supernatural realm as well. One example is the legend of the “Kisaragi Ghost.” It’s tied to the Kisaragi Station, an allegedly non-existent station on the Tokyo train network. The legend, originating from an internet forum post, tells of a passenger who found herself at an unknown station and couldn’t return to the regular world, making it a modern urban myth.
Tokyo, the dynamic metropolis, embodies the unity of traditional and modern elements, bustling urban life, and peaceful natural beauty. Its sheer size and density, geographic diversity, vibrant climate, demographic structure, and highly advanced infrastructure make it a city like no other. Tokyo continues to be a significant global influencer and a compelling place to live, work, and explore. With an unparalleled ability to reinvent itself while honoring its roots, Tokyo remains an extraordinary symbol of resilience and innovation on the global stage. Tokyo is #1 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#2: Delhi, India (32 Million)
Delhi, the capital of India, is not just a city, but a living museum. It stands as a symbol of India’s rich past and thriving present, making it a vital destination on the global map. This city blends seamlessly with an intriguing mixture of history and modernity, heritage and culture, mystique and charm, all at once. Delhi is much more than just a city; it is an experience. The metropolis unfolds chapters of the bygone era and walks simultaneously on the path of development, making it a thrilling and vibrant entity.
Population and Size: Delhi’s urban population stands at a staggering 32 million (10.9 Million in the city itself), an increase of approximately 20% from the previous census in 2011. This makes it the second most populous city in India after Mumbai and among the most populous cities in the world.
Despite the dense population, Delhi covers an area of 573 square miles (1,484 square kilometers), rendering the population density to be approximately 19,022 persons per square mile (7,345 persons per square kilometer). The city’s population growth rate, however, has been slowing down over the years, a trend seen in other metropolitan cities of India as well, partly due to increased urban-to-rural migration.
Geographic: Delhi, located at the northern part of India, lies at the geographical coordinates of 28.7041° N latitude and 77.1025° E longitude. This city is bordered by Haryana on three sides and Uttar Pradesh to the east.
As for the terrain, Delhi is majorly situated on the banks of the river Yamuna and has a flat topography. The average elevation of the city is approximately 709 feet (216 meters) above sea level, with the highest point being Qutub Minar at 240 feet (73 meters). The lowest point, situated at the river Yamuna, is 669 feet (204 meters) above sea level.
One of the defining geographic features of Delhi is the Yamuna river. The city is dotted with numerous lakes, and the Delhi ridge, an extension of the Aravalli Range, is the city’s green lung, protecting it from the hot winds of the Thar Desert.
Climate: Delhi experiences an extreme type of climate that is very hot in summer and chilling in winter. The city has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate bordering a hot semi-arid climate.
The summer season begins in April and ends in mid-June, with maximum temperatures often exceeding 104°F (40°C), occasionally going beyond 113°F (45°C). The monsoon season usually starts at the end of June and lasts until September, characterized by high humidity and rainfall. Winter starts in November and peaks in January, with temperatures falling near 36°F (2°C) at night and the maximum settling around 57°F (14°C).
Demographics: The population of Delhi is a blend of various ethnic groups, hailing from different parts of the country. It’s a melting pot of cultures, with Punjabis, Biharis, Bengalis, and Tamils making up a significant portion of the population, contributing to its rich cultural diversity.
In terms of age distribution, the majority of the population falls in the 15 to 59 age group. This indicates a young and dynamic population, making Delhi a hub of opportunities and growth.
Hindi, being the official language of India, is the most widely spoken language in Delhi, followed by Punjabi and Urdu. However, due to its cosmopolitan nature, a significant number of people speak English and other regional languages.
Religiously, the city has a majority of Hindus followed by Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists. Despite the diversity, Delhiites celebrate all festivals with fervor, signifying unity in diversity.
Infrastructure: Infrastructure in Delhi is comparable to the best in the world, be it transportation, utilities, communication, or healthcare.
Transportation in Delhi is well-developed and diverse. The Delhi Metro, a rapid transit system serving Delhi and its satellite cities, is one of the city’s lifelines. The Indira Gandhi International Airport is one of the busiest in the world, providing both domestic and international connectivity. The city also boasts an extensive network of roads, flyovers, and bus services.
As for utilities, Delhi has a well-developed electricity and water supply system, managed by private and government agencies. The city also has a well-laid sewage system and waste management infrastructure.
Communication infrastructure is top-notch, with widespread internet and telecom connectivity. Delhi has witnessed a digital revolution in the past decade, with most services being provided online for the convenience of the citizens.
Healthcare in Delhi is a blend of public and private institutions. The city boasts some of the best healthcare facilities in the country, with world-class hospitals, diagnostic centers, and medical institutions. The government also runs several schemes to provide healthcare facilities to the economically weaker sections.
Economy: The economic landscape of Delhi is as diverse as its cultural fabric. It serves as the country’s economic powerhouse, contributing to over 4% of India’s GDP. Delhi has a robust and diverse economy that encompasses traditional industries and modern services.
Among the traditional industries, retail, construction, and manufacturing play a pivotal role. The city has numerous bustling markets like Chandni Chowk and Sadar Bazaar, which are the oldest and busiest markets in Asia.
The service sector in Delhi has flourished, with Information Technology, telecommunications, hotels, banking, media, and tourism being the key contributors. The city’s economy has shifted towards being a service-based economy, given the high percentage of people employed in this sector.
Delhi’s GDP is remarkably high, with estimates around $110 billion, reflecting the city’s economic vibrancy. The city also serves as the major hub for India’s IT services industry, with many major companies having their headquarters here.
Tourism plays a significant role in Delhi’s economy, with the city being the most visited in India and among the most visited globally. Tourist attractions range from historical landmarks, museums, parks, and vibrant markets. The city’s rich history and cultural diversity make it a hot spot for international and domestic tourists.
Governance: Delhi follows a unique system of governance. The National Capital Territory of Delhi is governed jointly by the federal government of India and the local government of Delhi. It is divided into three municipal corporations, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, and the East Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Services in Delhi are managed effectively by the government. The Delhi Jal Board ensures water supply, while the Delhi Transco Limited is responsible for the transmission and distribution of power. The New Delhi Municipal Council looks after public amenities including water supply, sewage disposal, public health, and city’s infrastructure.
The local government has played a critical role in providing quality education in Delhi. The government runs many schools and also aids private schools. There have been notable improvements in the education sector, with initiatives like the Happiness Curriculum and Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum Program.
Public spaces like parks, gardens, and recreational spaces are well maintained by the respective municipal corporations. These public spaces add to the city’s aesthetic and provide spaces for relaxation and community interaction.
Culture and Entertainment: Delhi stands as the epitome of India’s cultural kaleidoscope. The city’s rich historical past and diverse population have shaped a vibrant cultural and entertainment scene.
Landmarks like the Red Fort, India Gate, Qutub Minar, and Humayun’s Tomb serve as reminders of the city’s historical past. Modern structures like Lotus Temple and Akshardham Temple showcase the architectural brilliance of the contemporary era.
The city is a haven for art enthusiasts, with numerous galleries and art festivals throughout the year. The National School of Drama produces some of the finest actors and is known for its theater performances.
Delhi celebrates a variety of festivals that depict its cultural diversity. From the colorful festival of Holi to the sparkling Diwali, from the vibrancy of Eid to the serenity of Christmas, every festival is celebrated with pomp and grandeur.
Sports play a significant role in Delhi’s culture. The city has hosted several international sports events, including the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Cricket is followed religiously, with Feroz Shah Kotla Ground being home to many historic matches.
Safety and Security: Safety and security are given paramount importance in Delhi. The city has its own police force, the Delhi Police, which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is one of the largest metropolitan police forces in the world.
The crime rate in Delhi has seen a downward trend in recent years due to several proactive measures taken by the police. Efforts have been made to enhance women’s safety, including the deployment of women police personnel and introduction of helplines.
Emergency services in Delhi are efficient and easily accessible. These include police, fire, and medical emergency services. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority is responsible for disaster preparedness, focusing on natural calamities like earthquakes and floods.
Education and Research: Delhi is the educational hub of India, housing several prestigious educational institutions. Schools in Delhi follow the CBSE, ICSE, or the Delhi School Education Board. The government has significantly invested in improving the quality of education in public schools, making them at par with private schools.
The city is home to eminent higher education institutions like the University of Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. These universities attract students from across the country and abroad.
Research institutions in Delhi contribute significantly to the country’s research and development. Institutions like the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, National Physical Laboratory, and AIIMS contribute to advancements in various fields.
The government and private organizations offer numerous scholarships for deserving and needy students. These scholarships have encouraged students to pursue higher education and research.
Delhi, the capital of India, bears the legacy of many empires that chose it as their seat of power. Its history spans over a millennium, dating back to the 6th century BCE. The city has been rebuilt several times, each time rising from the ashes like a phoenix.
Ancient History: Delhi’s story begins with the legendary city of Indraprastha, believed to be established by the Pandavas of Mahabharata around 5000 years ago. Archeological evidence suggests the presence of human habitation dating back to the second millennium BCE.
The Sultanate Era: The first significant historical footprint was left by the Tomara dynasty, which founded Lal Kot in 736 AD. This was later conquered by the Chauhan Rajputs who built Qila Rai Pithora, the first city of Delhi. But Delhi’s golden age began in the 13th century with the Slave Dynasty under Qutb ud-Din Aibak, the first Sultan of Delhi. The Qutub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was constructed during this period.
The Sultanate era marked a period of unprecedented architectural and cultural development. This epoch saw the reign of the Khilji, Tughlaq, Sayyid, and Lodhi dynasties, each leaving their unique imprint on the city.
The Mughal Rule: In the 16th century, Delhi fell into the hands of the Mughals. Babur, the first Mughal emperor, defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the Battle of Panipat in 1526. The Mughals built several architectural marvels, including Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort. However, it was Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, who shifted the capital from Agra to Delhi and built Shahjahanabad, now known as Old Delhi. His most notable contribution is the majestic Jama Masjid.
Colonial Era to Independence: The decline of the Mughals led to the rise of the British East India Company. The 1857 rebellion or the First War of Indian Independence was a significant event during the colonial era. Following the uprising, the British Crown took over India’s administration, and Delhi was declared the capital of British India in 1911. The colonial rule ended in 1947 when India gained independence.
Unique and Interesting Stories
Delhi is not just about historical monuments and political power; it’s a city full of fascinating tales and legends that add to its charm. These stories give us insights into the city’s culture, traditions, and values, making Delhi truly unique.
The Story of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Ghalib: Delhi’s narrow lanes echo the mystic poetry of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Mirza Ghalib. Nizamuddin was a Sufi saint whose teachings focused on love and harmony. The Nizamuddin Dargah, where qawwali sessions are still held, stands as a symbol of communal harmony.
On the other hand, Ghalib, one of the most famous Urdu poets, resided in Old Delhi during the last years of the Mughal Empire. His haveli, now turned into a museum, is a testament to his timeless verses that still resonate in the hearts of Delhiites.
The Legend of Agrasen Ki Baoli: Agrasen Ki Baoli, a historical stepwell in the heart of Delhi, is surrounded by an eerie legend. Locals believe that the black water of the Baoli lured people to jump into it and commit suicide. While the Baoli is now dry, the chilling stories continue to intrigue visitors.
The Paranthe Wali Gali: In the labyrinthine lanes of Old Delhi lies a street dedicated to parathas, a popular Indian flatbread. The Paranthe Wali Gali has been serving an astonishing variety of parathas for more than a century. The shops here have hosted numerous dignitaries, including India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Bullet Baba Shrine: An unusual shrine in Delhi is the Bullet Baba Shrine, where a Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle is worshipped. The motorcycle belonged to Om Banna, who died in an accident on this bike. The bike was seized by police but mysteriously returned to the accident spot thrice. This led to the belief that the bike was miraculous, and a shrine was built in its honor.
Delhi, the bustling capital of India, is a city that has captivated the imagination of people worldwide. Its dynamic blend of cultures, rich history, diverse demographics, and world-class infrastructure make it a city like no other. Delhi’s spirit lies in its fascinating ability to integrate the old with the new, creating an experience that is uniquely its own. Whether you’re drawn by its layered history, its culinary delights, or its vivacious and bustling markets, Delhi, indeed, is a microcosm of India itself. Delhi is #2 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#3: Shanghai, China (28.5 Million)
Shanghai, a global city resting on the estuary of the Yangtze River, is the pulsating heart of modern China. As the country’s most populous city, it stands as a monument of cultural cross-pollination, an economic powerhouse, and an architectural marvel. From the neon-lit Pudong skyline to the colonial-era buildings along the Bund, Shanghai offers an evocative blend of the old and the new, the East and the West.
Population and Size: Shanghai’s urban population stands at approximately 28.5 million residents (22.3 million in the city itself). The city sprawls over an area of 2,448 square miles (6,341 square kilometers), including both the dense urban core and the vast rural suburbs. This makes for a population density of nearly 11,642 persons per square mile (4,495 persons per square kilometer), placing Shanghai among the most densely populated cities on the globe.
Shanghai’s growth rate, although slightly decelerated in comparison to the previous decade, can be attributed to the continuing urbanization of China, increased internal migration, and a sizeable expatriate community drawn to the city’s expanding economy and vibrant lifestyle.
Geography: Located on China’s eastern coast, Shanghai rests at the mouth of the Yangtze River, with the East China Sea to its east. The city’s geographical coordinates are approximately 31.2 degrees north latitude and 121.5 degrees east longitude.
The city’s topography is generally flat, with an average elevation of just 13 feet (4 meters) above sea level. The highest point in Shanghai is the peak of She Shan (or Snake Hill) at 325 feet (99 meters) above sea level, while the lowest point is at the mouth of the Dianshan Lake, approximately at sea level.
Shanghai is characterized by its rich and diverse natural features. The Huangpu River, a significant tributary of the Yangtze, divides the city into Puxi (west of the Huangpu River) and Pudong (east of the Huangpu River). Puxi is the historic center of the city, while Pudong is the modern, financial hub. Other major bodies of water in the city include Dianshan Lake and Suzhou Creek.
Climate: Shanghai features a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. The city experiences hot, humid summers with average temperatures reaching 77°F (35°C). In contrast, winters are relatively cool, with temperatures averaging around 46°F (8°C) and occasionally falling below zero. Spring and autumn are mild and pleasant transitional seasons.
The city receives a significant amount of precipitation throughout the year, with an average annual rainfall of about 47 inches (1,200 millimeters). The rainy season typically occurs during the months of May, June, and September. Additionally, Shanghai is subject to the East Asian Monsoon, resulting in heavy summer rains and potentially typhoons.
Demographics: The vast majority of Shanghai’s population is Han Chinese, the ethnic majority of China. However, the city’s status as a global hub attracts a diverse mix of ethnic minorities and international expatriates, adding to its cosmopolitan character.
Age distribution in Shanghai leans towards the working-age population, with a considerable percentage being between 15 to 64 years old. The city, like many other parts of China, is also experiencing a growing aging population due to increased life expectancy and the effects of the country’s previous one-child policy.
Mandarin is the official language and is spoken by most of the population. However, the local dialect, Shanghainese, is also widely spoken among locals. English proficiency is generally high in Shanghai, especially among the younger generation and in the business sectors.
Religion in Shanghai is diverse and broadly practiced, with Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism being the most prevalent. There are also substantial communities of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the city.
Infrastructure: Shanghai’s infrastructure reflects its status as a global city. Its transportation system is one of the most extensive and technologically advanced in the world. Shanghai boasts the world’s largest metro system by route length, two international airports (Pudong and Hongqiao), and a sophisticated network of highways and elevated roads. The city is also home to the world’s busiest container port, the Port of Shanghai, underlining its significance in global trade.
The city’s utilities, including water, electricity, and gas, are well-developed and reliably supplied. Shanghai’s ambitious environmental initiatives have resulted in a push for sustainable energy sources, with an increasing percentage of the city’s electricity generated from wind and solar power.
The healthcare system in Shanghai is robust, featuring a combination of public hospitals, private clinics, and international healthcare centers. The city is renowned for its high medical standards and advanced healthcare technologies.
Shanghai is also a leader in communication infrastructure, with widespread 5G network coverage and a growing focus on AI and digital technology. This has further solidified the city’s standing as a leading global technological hub.
Economy: Shanghai, China’s economic dynamo, is a vibrant metropolis and a major global financial hub. The city’s economic landscape is diverse and expansive, encompassing industries such as manufacturing, financial services, real estate, and technology.
Manufacturing industries in Shanghai include automotive, electronics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and steel manufacturing, among others. The city is also the financial center of China, housing the Shanghai Stock Exchange and many global financial institutions.
In recent years, the technology and information services sector has grown significantly, with Shanghai becoming a hub for startups and tech giants alike. Real estate, driven by both commercial and residential demand, has also played a pivotal role in the city’s economy.
As per the latest reports, Shanghai’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) surpassed 4.8 trillion yuan (approximately $750 billion) in 2022. The city’s employment rate remains robust, testament to its thriving economy.
Tourism is another significant economic contributor, fueled by a plethora of cultural and historical attractions and the city’s status as a global business hub. The influx of both domestic and international tourists has led to significant growth in the hospitality and retail sectors.
Governance: Shanghai is governed under the direct administration of the national government of the People’s Republic of China. The city is divided into 16 district-level divisions. The Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, headed by the Mayor, is responsible for the city’s day-to-day administration.
The local government provides a wide range of services, including public transportation, waste management, and urban planning. The city’s green spaces, such as the famous Yu Garden and Fuxing Park, are maintained by the local government, which also oversees the preservation of historical districts like the Bund and Old City.
Education is a primary focus, with the Shanghai Education Commission overseeing primary and secondary schools in the city. Shanghai students consistently perform exceptionally well in global academic assessments, reflecting the city’s high educational standards.
Culture and Entertainment: Culturally, Shanghai is a vibrant mix of East and West, old and new. It’s a city that never sleeps, with a pulsating arts scene, bustling festivals, prominent sports events, and numerous landmarks.
The city’s architectural landmarks span centuries, from the historic Yu Garden and Jade Buddha Temple to the modern skyscrapers of the Lujiazui skyline, including the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai Tower, and the World Financial Center.
In terms of the arts, Shanghai is home to many galleries and museums, including the Shanghai Museum and the Power Station of Art. The city hosts the annual Shanghai International Film Festival and the Shanghai Biennale, attracting artists and enthusiasts from around the world.
Shanghai also hosts numerous traditional festivals, such as the Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Lantern Festival. The city is a significant sports hub, hosting events like the Shanghai Grand Prix and the Shanghai Masters.
Safety and Security: Shanghai is generally regarded as a safe city, with a relatively low crime rate, especially in terms of violent crimes. The city’s police force, under the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, is efficient and responsive.
Emergency services, including fire and medical services, are well-equipped and highly organized. Shanghai has an extensive network of well-equipped hospitals and clinics to handle medical emergencies.
Shanghai’s location on the East China Sea makes it vulnerable to typhoons. The city has a comprehensive disaster management plan in place, including early warning systems and well-planned evacuation protocols, ensuring a high level of preparedness for natural disasters.
Education and Research: Education in Shanghai is highly valued, with the city boasting some of the highest performing students globally. The city is home to numerous top-tier universities, such as Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Tongji University. These institutions offer a wide range of programs and are known for their research in areas such as engineering, medicine, and social sciences.
Shanghai is also a major center for scientific research and hosts many renowned research institutions, such as the Shanghai Advanced Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the ShanghaiTech University.
To promote education and attract global talent, numerous scholarships are available to both domestic and international students. These scholarships, offered by the government and various educational institutions, cover a wide range of fields and are highly competitive.
The Early Days (960-1842): Established during the Song Dynasty (960-1126), Shanghai started as a small fishing village. However, its strategic location near the mouth of the Yangtze River meant it was destined for greater things. By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Shanghai had become a walled city, and during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it grew into an important regional trading hub.
The Treaty of Nanking and the Concession Era (1842-1943): The Opium Wars marked a significant turning point in Shanghai’s history. The 1842 Treaty of Nanking that ended the First Opium War led to Shanghai’s opening to foreign trade. This led to the establishment of the International Settlement and the French Concession, areas in Shanghai where foreign powers held sway.
During this “Concession Era,” Shanghai transformed dramatically. Western-style buildings sprung up along the Bund, the city’s economic growth exploded, and it earned the moniker “Paris of the East.” However, this era was also fraught with social inequality and political tension.
The Republic of China and World War II (1912-1949): In the early 20th century, Shanghai was a hotbed of political activities. It was a key battleground during the Chinese Civil War and a refuge for Jews fleeing the Holocaust in World War II. Shanghai fell under Japanese occupation from 1937 until Japan’s surrender in 1945.
The People’s Republic of China (1949-Present): Post-1949, under the People’s Republic of China, Shanghai underwent a period of socialist transformation. The city’s industries were nationalized, and the foreign concessions were reclaimed.
The economic reforms of the late 20th century and the rapid development in the 21st century led to Shanghai’s rise as a global financial hub. Today, it is a bustling metropolis renowned for its futuristic skyline, symbolizing China’s economic might.
Unique and Interesting Stories
Story of the Bund: The Bund, Shanghai’s famous waterfront, has a unique history. Initially a British settlement, the Bund became the financial center of Asia with numerous banks and trading houses. These neoclassical buildings, known as “The Wall Street of Asia,” sharply contrast with the futuristic skyline of Pudong across the river, narrating a tale of Shanghai’s journey through time.
Tales of Old Shanghai: Old Shanghai, covering the late 19th century to the early 20th century, was a period of intrigue and transformation. It was a time when gangsters, politicians, tycoons, and artists intermingled. This era has inspired countless novels, films, and legends, painting a picture of a city steeped in glamour, danger, and mystery.
The Jewish Refuge in Shanghai: During World War II, Shanghai became a haven for Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. This little-known story underscores the city’s cosmopolitan past. The Jews found refuge in the Shanghai Ghetto, an area under Japanese control. Their legacy lives on in landmarks such as the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, now a museum.
A City Built Over a City: Shanghai’s development has been so rapid that in some areas, new buildings have been built directly on top of older ones. There are places in Shanghai where you can find old Shikumen houses with their traditional stone gates sitting right next to towering skyscrapers. This blend of old and new is a unique feature of the city, reflecting its continuous evolution.
Shanghai, with its riveting historical milestones and fascinating stories, remains a captivating city. It bears the legacy of its past while confidently striding into the future. From its intriguing concession era tales to its incredible transformation, the narratives woven into Shanghai’s fabric are as diverse and dynamic as the city itself. Understanding Shanghai’s history and its stories gives us not just insight into the city’s past but also a unique perspective on its present and future. As Shanghai continues to thrive and grow, it undoubtedly has many more exciting chapters yet to write in its extraordinary tale. Shanghai is #3 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#4: Dhaka, Bangladesh (22.4 Million)
Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern dynamism, characterized by rich cultural history, bustling markets, delectable cuisine, and an impressive array of architectural wonders. As a city, Dhaka is at once daunting and intriguing, as it is enveloped by an aura of indomitable spirit and resilience. The city represents a nexus of economic growth, cultural significance, and political importance in Bangladesh.
Population and Size: Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities on Earth. As of the latest census conducted in 2023, Dhaka’s urban population stands at approximately 22.4 million people (10.4 million within the city itself). The city spreads across a land area of about 118 square miles (306 square kilometers), creating an average population density of over 88,135 per square mile (33,987 people per square kilometer). Dhaka’s population has been growing at a staggering rate of 3.6% per annum over the past decade, primarily fueled by rural-urban migration seeking better employment opportunities and improved quality of life.
Geographic: Strategically situated in the center of the country, Dhaka sits on the eastern banks of the Buriganga River in central Bangladesh. The geographic coordinates of Dhaka are approximately 23.8103° N latitude and 90.4125° E longitude.
Dhaka is predominantly flat based on its topography, courtesy of the Bengal Delta, the largest river delta in the world. This deltaic plain results in fertile soil but also makes the city prone to flooding, especially during the monsoon season. The average elevation of Dhaka is 13 feet (4 meters) above sea level, with the highest point around 43 feet (13 meters) and the lowest near sea level.
As for natural features, the city is crisscrossed by many rivers besides the Buriganga, such as the Dhaleshwari, Sitalakhya, and Turag. These rivers contribute significantly to the city’s transport, commerce, and fishing industry. However, Dhaka is not characterized by mountains or lakes of substantial size.
Climate: Dhaka has a tropical savannah climate, dictated by the monsoon. Temperatures in the city can vary significantly, offering a hot summer and cooler winter. The average annual temperature is around 79°F (26°C). The hottest months are April and May, where the mercury often climbs above 91°F (33°C).
Precipitation in Dhaka is heavily influenced by the monsoon season, which typically lasts from June to September. The city receives an average annual rainfall of about 87 inches (2,200 millimeters), the bulk of which falls during this monsoon period.
Dhaka experiences three major seasons: the monsoon season, characterized by heavy rains; a dry, cool winter from October to March; and a hot, humid summer from March to June.
Demographics: Dhaka presents a rich tapestry of ethnic diversity, though the predominant ethnic group is the Bengalis, comprising over 98% of the city’s population. Other ethnic groups include Biharis and several tribal groups.
Age distribution in Dhaka shows a relatively youthful population. Over 60% of the city’s inhabitants are under 30, creating a vibrant, dynamic, and youthful cityscape. This young workforce is a major driver of the city’s economic growth.
The official and most widely spoken language in Dhaka is Bengali, though English is also commonly used in official and business circles due to historical ties with the British Empire.
Religiously, Islam is the dominant faith in Dhaka, with over 90% of the city’s population being Muslim. The remainder of the population follows Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions.
Infrastructure: Dhaka’s transportation infrastructure is a blend of traditional and modern systems. The city has an extensive network of buses, auto-rickshaws (locally known as CNGs), and cycle rickshaws. The city’s traffic congestion is notorious, and in an attempt to alleviate this, the city has seen the construction of the Dhaka Metro Rail, a rapid transit system aiming to provide a faster and more reliable mode of transport.
The city is served by the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, the largest airport in Bangladesh, providing connections to major cities around the world. Dhaka also has an important river port, Sadarghat, which accommodates ferries and cargo ships.
The utility infrastructure in Dhaka faces challenges but has seen significant improvements over the years. Power supply has become more stable, and efforts are being made to increase the share of renewable energy. Water supply and sanitation remain issues of concern, with the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority working to improve the situation.
Telecommunication infrastructure in Dhaka is relatively developed, with a high penetration of mobile phone users. The city also has a rapidly growing internet user base, with many connected via 4G networks and ongoing projects to roll out 5G networks.
Dhaka boasts some of the best healthcare facilities in Bangladesh, with a mix of public and private hospitals. However, there’s room for improvement in terms of accessibility and quality of healthcare services. The government has been investing in the healthcare sector, particularly in public health and preventative care.
Economy: The economy of Dhaka is vibrant and diverse, driven by various industries, including textiles, leather goods, pharmaceuticals, information technology, ceramics, shipbuilding, and steel production. The ready-made garments industry, however, plays a crucial role, as Bangladesh is one of the largest garment exporters worldwide, with many of these factories situated in Dhaka.
Employment in Dhaka is dynamic, reflecting the city’s growing economy. The service sector employs a significant portion of the workforce, particularly in retail, banking, hospitality, and public administration. The manufacturing industry, notably garments, also absorbs a considerable chunk of the city’s labor force. However, the informal economy, such as small-scale trading and daily wage labor, also plays a critical role.
Dhaka contributes significantly to Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As of 2023, the city’s GDP stands at approximately $215 billion, accounting for over a third of the country’s total GDP. Dhaka’s GDP per capita is roughly $10,200, significantly higher than the national average.
Tourism in Dhaka is a burgeoning sector. The city’s rich historical and cultural attractions, combined with a growing number of modern amenities, make it a compelling destination. Dhaka’s old city, home to historic sites like Lalbagh Fort and the Star Mosque, draws visitors from around the globe. The city also offers a unique shopping experience, particularly for textiles and handicrafts.
Governance: Dhaka is administratively divided into two city corporations: Dhaka North and Dhaka South. Each is governed by a Mayor and a council of Ward Commissioners, elected by the city’s residents. The local government is responsible for providing essential municipal services, including water, sanitation, waste management, and infrastructure maintenance.
The city corporations provide a wide range of public services. This includes waste disposal, street cleaning, maintaining public parks, and overseeing the city’s markets. Both corporations also work closely with the national government and private sector partners to enhance service provision.
The local government oversees primary and secondary education in Dhaka, with numerous public and private schools throughout the city. For tertiary education, Dhaka hosts several renowned universities, including the University of Dhaka and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
Public spaces in Dhaka, like parks and squares, are managed by the city corporations. Some of the notable public spaces in the city include Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Udyan, and Dhanmondi Lake.
Culture and Entertainment: Dhaka boasts numerous architectural and historical landmarks. The 17th-century Lalbagh Fort, the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban (National Parliament House) designed by the renowned architect Louis Kahn, and the 19th-century Ahsan Manzil are among the city’s iconic landmarks.
Dhaka has a thriving arts scene, with numerous galleries and art festivals. The Dhaka Art Summit, held biennially, showcases contemporary and traditional art from Bangladesh and beyond. The city is also home to the Bangladesh National Museum, which displays a vast collection of artifacts showcasing the country’s rich history and culture.
Dhaka is a city of festivals, celebrating numerous cultural and religious events throughout the year. Pohela Boishakh (Bengali New Year), Durga Puja, and Eid are among the most widely celebrated. The city also hosts the Dhaka International Film Festival, attracting filmmakers and enthusiasts from around the world.
Cricket is the most popular sport in Dhaka, with the city being home to the Bangladesh national team’s main venue, Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium. Football also has a significant following, with the Bangabandhu National Stadium regularly hosting matches. Dhaka also has facilities for other sports, such as golf, tennis, and swimming.
Safety and Security: Like any major city, Dhaka experiences its share of crime. However, overall crime rates have been trending downwards in recent years, due in part to increased law enforcement efforts and community-based initiatives.
Dhaka has a robust emergency services system. The city’s police force, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, is responsible for maintaining law and order. Firefighting services are provided by the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense. There are also numerous public and private hospitals equipped with emergency departments throughout the city.
Dhaka’s location in a deltaic region makes it vulnerable to natural disasters, particularly floods and cyclones. However, disaster preparedness and management have significantly improved over the years. The city has implemented early warning systems, built cyclone shelters, and conducted regular community-based disaster preparedness training.
Education and Research: Dhaka offers a wide range of educational institutions, from government-funded schools to private institutions offering international curricula. Notable schools include Dhaka College, Viqarunnisa Noon School, and Scholastica School.
The city is home to several prestigious research institutions. The Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies conducts research in social and economic development, while the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, is a global leader in health research. The University of Dhaka and other tertiary institutions also contribute significantly to research output.
Numerous scholarships are available for students in Dhaka. These are offered by both public and private entities and are available at various levels, from primary school through to postgraduate studies.
Origins and Early History: The history of Dhaka is as intriguing as it is diverse, with origins shrouded in both myth and historical chronicles. It is believed that the name ‘Dhaka’ is derived from the Dhak tree, which was common in the area in the past, or from the Dhakeshwari temple, built by the Sena dynasty.
Dhaka’s early history saw it as a part of various empires, including the Mauryan, Gupta, and Pala Empires. However, it wasn’t until the 17th century, during the Mughal Empire, when Dhaka began to gain prominence.
The Mughal Era: The Mughal era, from the early 17th century to the late 18th century, was a significant period for Dhaka. It became the capital of Bengal under Mughal rule in 1608. During this period, Dhaka was known as Jahangir Nagar, named after the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The city prospered and became a prominent center of trade, especially in muslin – a high-quality cotton textile.
Many of Dhaka’s notable architectural structures, like the Lalbagh Fort and the Choto Katra, were built during the Mughal era. These structures bear testament to Dhaka’s prosperity and the architectural prowess of the period.
The Colonial Era: The colonial era began with the establishment of British rule in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey. Under British rule, Dhaka lost its status as a provincial capital, which led to a period of economic decline. However, Dhaka remained an important administrative and commercial center, with indigo and jute industries growing under British influence.
Independence and Beyond: The partition of India in 1947 had a profound impact on Dhaka’s destiny, turning it into the capital of East Pakistan. This period witnessed the Language Movement in 1952, where several students and political activists were killed while advocating for the recognition of Bengali as a state language.
In 1971, following a brutal war of independence against Pakistan, Dhaka became the capital of the newly formed independent nation of Bangladesh. Since then, Dhaka has experienced rapid urbanization and growth, transforming into a bustling megacity that is the cultural, political, and economic hub of the country.
Unique and Interesting Stories
The Story of Muslin: Dhaka’s history is intricately tied to muslin, a delicate and finely woven cotton fabric. In the Mughal era, Dhaka was renowned across the world for producing the finest muslin, known as ‘Daka’. This gossamer-like fabric was a luxury item demanded by royalty and the elite, and Dhaka’s weavers were masters in the craft. The British colonial period saw the decline of the muslin industry due to industrial competition and oppressive policies. However, recent efforts have been made to revive this historic craft, linking Dhaka back to its glorious past.
The Legend of Dhakeshwari: The Dhakeshwari Temple, from which the city supposedly derives its name, holds an interesting legend. It was believed to be built by a king of the Sena dynasty, Ballal Sen, in the 12th century. According to legend, the king had a dream where the goddess Dhakeshwari directed him to build a temple in her honor. The Dhakeshwari Temple still stands today as the most important Hindu place of worship in Dhaka.
Language Martyrs and the Birth of International Mother Language Day: An interesting story from more recent history is the struggle for language rights that led to the creation of International Mother Language Day. On February 21, 1952, students and political activists protested against the imposition of Urdu as the sole official language by the Pakistani government. The demonstration was met with violent retaliation, leading to several deaths. This event, known as the Language Movement, was a significant factor leading to Bangladesh’s independence. In tribute to the language martyrs, UNESCO declared February 21 as International Mother Language Day in 1999, emphasizing the importance of linguistic diversity and rights worldwide.
Dhaka, with its heady mix of culture, history, and rapid urbanization, presents an intriguing microcosm of Bangladesh. Its significant growth in population and economy encapsulates both the challenges and opportunities faced by emerging cities in developing nations. Despite the hurdles in infrastructure, healthcare, and utilities, Dhaka’s continued improvements in these sectors underscore the city’s determination to overcome its growing pains. The city’s rich heritage, youthful demographic, and ongoing development all position Dhaka as a city with a bright future, bridging its traditional roots with modern aspirations. Dhaka is #4 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#5: São Paulo, Brazil (22.4 Million)
Brazil’s booming metropolis, São Paulo, serves as the country’s economic engine while boasting a multicultural tapestry distinct from its counterparts. Often dubbed the “New York of South America,” São Paulo is a city of immense diversity and stark contrasts, home to soaring skyscrapers, remarkable cultural institutions, vibrant nightlife, and gastronomical delights that capture the essence of its multiethnic population. This city of 10 million Paulistanos (residents of São Paulo) is a microcosm of Brazil and the world beyond, revealing a rich narrative of both triumph and challenge.
Population and Size: São Paulo has an urban population of approximately 10 million inhabitants within the city and 22.4 million in the broader metropolitan area, making it the most populous city in Brazil and the Western Hemisphere. The city itself sprawls over an area of 587 square miles (1,521 square kilometers), yielding a population density of nearly 17,035 inhabitants per square mile (6,575 inhabitants per square kilometer). This scale and density contribute to São Paulo’s frenetic pace and urban sprawl.
The city’s population growth rate, while slowed compared to its rapid expansion in the 20th century, remains steady at about 0.7% annually. This increase stems from a combination of natural growth and continuing (though reduced) migration from other parts of Brazil and the world, attracted by São Paulo’s economic opportunities.
Geographic: Geographically, São Paulo lies in southeastern Brazil, at coordinates 23.5505° S, 46.6333° W. The city is roughly equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the country’s western border, with Bolivia and Paraguay to the west.
São Paulo’s topography is a blend of plateaus and uneven terrain, with an average elevation of around 2,493 feet (760 meters) above sea level. The city’s highest point is Pico do Jaraguá, a mountain reaching 3,724 feet (1,135 meters) in height, located within the Jaraguá State Park. Conversely, the Tietê River, one of the city’s significant natural features, represents one of its lowest points at approximately 2,362 feet (720 meters) above sea level.
The city’s terrain and natural features like the Tietê and Pinheiros rivers, though heavily affected by urbanization, have shaped São Paulo’s development. These rivers, unfortunately, have been subject to pollution due to urban growth but remain critical to the city’s geography and ongoing sustainability efforts.
Climate: São Paulo has a tropical monsoon climate, characterized by substantial annual rainfall and moderate temperature variation. The city experiences an average annual temperature of approximately 67.1°F (19.5°C) , with cooler winters (June-August) averaging 59°F (15°C) and warmer summers (December-February) averaging 75.2°F (24°C).
Rainfall is abundant, with the wet season running from October through March, culminating in approximately 55 inches (1,400mm) of annual precipitation. São Paulo’s climate, coupled with its elevation, often leads to the phenomena locally known as “São Paulo’s drizzle” – frequent light rain that can extend over several days, particularly in the colder months.
Demographics: São Paulo’s demographic fabric is a tapestry of ethnicities, a testament to its history of immigration. The majority of its population is of mixed race (Pardo) or White, primarily of Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish descent, followed by Black, Asian (primarily Japanese), and Indigenous peoples.
In terms of age distribution, São Paulo exhibits a relatively young population, with the majority of residents aged between 15 and 59 years old. However, due to better healthcare and living conditions, the city’s elderly population (60 and above) is rapidly growing.
Portuguese is the city’s official and most widely spoken language. However, due to its immigrant history, other languages such as Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and English are commonly heard throughout the city.
Catholicism is the dominant religion, followed by Protestantism, Spiritism, and a growing number of non-religious individuals. However, São Paulo’s religious landscape reflects the city’s diversity, with a presence of Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Afro-Brazilian religions such as Umbanda and Candomblé.
Infrastructure: São Paulo’s infrastructure mirrors its status as Brazil’s economic powerhouse. The city’s transportation network is one of the most comprehensive in Latin America, encompassing a vast bus system, an expanding metro and overground train network, numerous taxis, and a growing number of bike lanes. São Paulo’s airports, Congonhas Airport (domestic) and Guarulhos International Airport, serve millions of passengers annually, connecting São Paulo globally.
The city has a robust utilities system, with virtually all residents having access to electricity, clean water, and sanitation services. However, challenges persist in areas such as waste management due to the city’s size and population.
São Paulo boasts a comprehensive telecommunications infrastructure, with widespread Internet and mobile phone access. It is a significant information and communication technology hub for South America.
Healthcare in São Paulo varies from public to private providers. The city has some of Brazil’s best hospitals and clinics, such as the Hospital das Clínicas, Latin America’s largest medical complex. The public healthcare system, Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), provides free care to all citizens, but struggles with capacity constraints and funding.
Economy: São Paulo’s economy is as diverse as its people. As the economic powerhouse of Brazil, the city accounts for approximately 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The services sector is the largest contributor, followed by industry and commerce. São Paulo’s industry is varied, ranging from automotive and textiles to high-tech and financial services.
In terms of employment, São Paulo is Brazil’s primary job creator, offering opportunities in sectors as diverse as IT, finance, manufacturing, and hospitality. The city is home to the headquarters of numerous Brazilian companies and multinational corporations, acting as the country’s business hub.
In 2023, São Paulo’s GDP was estimated at around $350 billion, making it one of the most economically potent cities in the Southern Hemisphere. This wealth, however, is unevenly distributed, with high levels of income inequality.
Tourism also forms a key component of São Paulo’s economy. The city is Brazil’s top destination for business tourism, attracting visitors for conventions, fairs, and business meetings. Moreover, São Paulo’s cultural richness, culinary diversity, and vibrant nightlife make it a popular destination for leisure tourism.
Governance: The governance of São Paulo involves both the municipal and state levels. The Municipal Government, led by the Mayor and the Municipal Chamber (City Council), is responsible for local services, including urban planning, education, public transport, and public spaces.
São Paulo’s city services strive to cater to its vast population. In transportation, the city runs an extensive public bus system and is investing in expanding the metro and overground train networks. São Paulo is also known for its large number of parks and public spaces, with Ibirapuera Park being one of the most popular.
Education in São Paulo, like the rest of Brazil, is governed at the federal, state, and municipal levels. The city’s public education system includes preschool, primary, and secondary schools, as well as vocational education centers.
Culture and Entertainment: São Paulo is a cultural melting pot. From its numerous landmarks like the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), the Museum of the Portuguese Language, and the São Paulo Cathedral, to its vibrant theater scene featuring both local and international productions, the city offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences.
São Paulo is also home to various festivals throughout the year. The São Paulo International Film Festival and the São Paulo Art Biennial are international drawcards. Not to be missed is the São Paulo Carnival, a celebration of music, dance, and culture that fills the city’s sambadrome with vibrancy and energy.
In the realm of sports, São Paulo is a footballing powerhouse, hosting several prominent clubs, including São Paulo FC, Corinthians, and Palmeiras. The city’s arenas, like the Morumbi and Allianz Parque, often echo with the roars of passionate fans.
Safety and Security: Safety and security in São Paulo present a mixed picture. While the city has seen a decrease in crime rates over the years, issues like theft, burglary, and violent crime persist. The city’s security is overseen by the Military Police (for patrolling and crime prevention) and the Civil Police (for criminal investigations), both under the São Paulo State Secretariat of Public Security.
Emergency services in São Paulo are comprehensive, with services for medical emergencies (SAMU), firefighting (Corpo de Bombeiros), and police emergencies available 24/7.
Disaster preparedness focuses on managing the city’s frequent flood events and occasional droughts. The Civil Defense, along with city and state entities, work towards managing these risks, offering public guidance and response coordination.
Education and Research: São Paulo stands as Brazil’s intellectual capital, hosting renowned educational and research institutions. The University of São Paulo (USP), for instance, is one of Latin America’s most prestigious universities. There’s also the São Paulo State University (UNESP) and the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), which contribute to the city’s intellectual vigor.
São Paulo is a hub for research, thanks in part to institutions like the Butantan Institute, a leader in biomedical research, and the Institute for Technological Research.
Various scholarship programs are offered by the city’s universities, as well as through the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), which provides grants across a range of academic disciplines.
Founding and Early Years: São Paulo’s history begins on January 25, 1554, when a mission was established by Jesuit priests Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta. This mission, named São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, was situated on a plateau surrounded by rivers, a strategic location for the Jesuits’ goal of evangelizing the indigenous populations.
Over the centuries, São Paulo evolved from a small missionary town into a booming metropolis. The city’s development was greatly spurred by the 17th-century Bandeirantes (pathfinders or pioneers), Paulistas who undertook expeditions into the Brazilian interior in search of precious metals and indigenous slaves.
19th Century Boom: In the 19th century, São Paulo underwent a profound transformation. The discovery of gold in the neighboring province of Minas Gerais attracted a surge of migrants, turning the city into a critical supply point. Additionally, the boom of the coffee industry, following the abolition of slavery in 1888, saw São Paulo emerge as the principal hub for coffee exportation. This era was marked by significant wealth accumulation, leading to the city’s urban expansion and development.
Industrialization and Growth in the 20th Century: The 20th century heralded a new chapter in São Paulo’s history with industrialization, driven by both local and immigrant entrepreneurs, especially Italians. This industrial boom attracted migrants from across Brazil and overseas, transforming the city into a melting pot of cultures.
The city continued to grow in the latter half of the 20th century, becoming the largest city in Brazil, South America, and the Southern Hemisphere. São Paulo developed into Brazil’s economic powerhouse, with industries ranging from manufacturing and commerce to finance and technology.
Unique and Interesting Stories
The Tale of Adoniran Barbosa: One of the city’s most iconic figures is Adoniran Barbosa, a beloved samba musician who became famous for his poignant songs about São Paulo’s working class. Born as João Rubinato in 1910, Barbosa adopted his stage name as he thought it sounded more ‘musical’. His song “Saudosa Maloca” (Mournful Shanty), which tells the story of a group of homeless men who lose their makeshift home to development, has become an enduring symbol of São Paulo’s rapid urbanization and the social challenges it has brought.
The Story of the Municipal Market: São Paulo’s Municipal Market, known as Mercadão, has a captivating history. Opened in 1933, it was designed by the renowned architect Francisco Ramos de Azevedo. The market is not only known for its wide array of local and exotic foods but also its stained glass windows, designed by Russian artist Conrado Sorgenicht Filho, famous for his work in São Paulo’s Sé Cathedral. These windows depict various aspects of food production. The market’s rich history and vibrant atmosphere make it a must-visit location in the city.
The Saga of the Bandeiras Monument: São Paulo’s Bandeiras Monument, located in Ibirapuera Park, narrates a unique story. This grand sculpture, completed in 1954 to commemorate the city’s 400th anniversary, was crafted by Italian-Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret. The monument depicts a group of bandeirantes, demonstrating their diverse backgrounds. While the monument glorifies the bandeirantes, their expeditions also represent a dark chapter in Brazilian history involving indigenous slavery and territorial expansion at the expense of native populations. The monument, thus, sparks a dialogue on history, memory, and interpretation.
São Paulo is a city of staggering scale and diversity. Its massive population and robust economy underscore its status as a global city. From its dynamic demographic profile to its expansive infrastructure, São Paulo exemplifies both the challenges and triumphs of urban development. Despite its issues—like stark socio-economic inequality, environmental degradation, and urban sprawl—São Paulo remains a vibrant metropolis brimming with culture, opportunity, and a spirit of resilience that marks its unique character among the world’s leading cities. São Paulo is #5 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#6: Mexico City, Mexico (22.1 Million)
Mexico City, the nation’s capital and largest city, stands as a vibrant beacon of cultural, political, and economic importance in the heart of Mexico. Officially known as Ciudad de México (CDMX), the city boasts a rich history extending back to the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest. Today, it is an eclectic amalgamation of old and new, colonial and indigenous, tradition and innovation, making it one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
Population and Size: Mexico City’s urban population is approximately 22,1 million (12.3 million within the city proper), which spans an area of 573 square miles (1,485 square kilometers). This makes Mexico City one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world.
The population density within the city proper is around 21,466 persons per square mile (8,283 persons per square kilometer), showcasing the densely packed nature of the city. The population growth rate is modest at around 0.5% annually. Mexico City, with its dynamic labor market and cultural attractions, continues to attract individuals from all over Mexico and the world.
Geographic: Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, a large valley in the high plateaus in the center of Mexico, at coordinates 19.4326° N latitude, and 99.1332° W longitude. The city is essentially in the tropics, lying slightly to the south of the Tropic of Cancer.
The topography of Mexico City is primarily flat with gently rolling hills. It’s surrounded by high mountain ranges, making the valley a kind of bowl that traps and concentrates air pollution. The city’s average elevation is 7,380 feet (2,250 meters) above sea level, making it one of the highest capital cities in the world. The highest point in the city is Cerro del Ajusco, at 12,894 feet (3,930 meters), while the lowest point is found at the Botanical Garden in Chapultepec at 7,185 feet (2,190 meters).
Natural features such as the lakes of Xochimilco are a prominent part of the cityscape. However, many of the city’s original lakes have been drained for urban development. Rivers like Magdalena and Eslava run through the city, while majestic mountains like Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl provide a breathtaking backdrop.
Climate: Mexico City’s high altitude and position in the tropics contribute to its mild, pleasant climate. The city enjoys a subtropical highland climate, characterized by warm days and cool nights.
The average annual temperature is around 64°F (18°C), with a mild variation between the coldest month (January, around 54°F (12°C)) and the warmest month (May, around 64°F (18°C)). Precipitation is concentrated in the summer months, with the city receiving around 32 inches (800 mm) annually.
Mexico City’s year is generally divided into a dry season (November to April) and a rainy season (May to October). Despite the rainfall, the summer months are often considered the most beautiful as the city turns lush and green.
Demographics: The population of Mexico City is ethnically diverse, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the city. The majority of residents are Mestizo, a mix of indigenous and Spanish ancestry. There are also significant populations of indigenous people, primarily Nahuatl, and individuals of wholly European descent.
In terms of age distribution, Mexico City exhibits a demographic typical of many developing countries with a youthful population. About half of the city’s residents are under 30, with a median age of around 28.
Spanish is the predominant language, spoken by virtually all inhabitants. However, numerous indigenous languages can also be heard, reflecting the city’s rich cultural diversity.
In terms of religion, the vast majority of Mexico City’s inhabitants identify as Roman Catholic, though there is also a significant number of Protestants, and a growing population of individuals who claim no religious affiliation.
Infrastructure: Mexico City’s infrastructure is extensive and modern. The city boasts an impressive public transportation network that includes the Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, commonly known as the Metro, one of the largest and busiest subway systems in the world. Additionally, the Metrobús, a bus rapid transit system, and traditional buses serve the city, while numerous taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are also widely used.
Utilities, including electricity and water, are generally reliable in Mexico City, though occasional shortages and disruptions can occur.
The city has an extensive telecommunications network, with widespread internet and mobile phone coverage. Both national and international media have a strong presence in the city, with numerous newspapers, television stations, and radio stations operating.
Healthcare in Mexico City is served by a mix of public and private entities. The city has some of the best healthcare facilities in the country, including highly regarded hospitals such as the Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI and Hospital Español.
Economy: The economy of Mexico City is diverse and robust, accounting for about a sixth of Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The city’s GDP is the highest among all cities in Mexico, making it the economic heart of the nation.
Several industries drive the city’s economic vitality. The services sector, which includes finance, insurance, and real estate, is by far the most significant contributor to the city’s GDP. Mexico City is a major financial center in Latin America, hosting the Mexican Stock Exchange and the headquarters of several national and international banks.
Manufacturing also plays a crucial role in Mexico City’s economy, particularly in sectors such as food and beverage, tobacco, clothing, paper products, and pharmaceuticals.
The city boasts a vibrant employment landscape. However, like many large cities, it has a dichotomy between formal and informal employment. Formal sector jobs are found in government roles, large corporations, and established small and medium enterprises. In contrast, the informal sector, encompassing street vendors and small-scale, unregistered businesses, provides a significant portion of employment.
Tourism in Mexico City has seen steady growth in recent years. The city’s rich history, architectural treasures, gastronomic delights, and vibrant arts scene attract visitors from around the world. In 2021, it was named the number one place to visit by the New York Times due to its dynamic cultural offerings and innovative culinary scene.
Governance: Mexico City is both a federal entity within Mexico, equivalent to a state, and the capital of the country. The head of government is an elected Mayor. The city’s government is responsible for public services such as water, waste management, and public transportation, among others.
Education in Mexico City is overseen by the Secretariat of Public Education. The city is home to many of Mexico’s most prestigious educational institutions and universities, including the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
Public spaces in Mexico City are numerous and diverse, including parks, squares, and historical sites. Chapultepec Park, one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, and the Zócalo, the city’s main square, are among the most significant public spaces, providing residents and tourists alike with green spaces, recreational opportunities, and cultural events.
Culture and Entertainment: Mexico City is a bustling epicenter of arts, culture, and entertainment. Historical landmarks are abundant, with the city’s Historic Center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasting many colonial-era buildings, including the stunning Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace.
The city’s arts scene is world-renowned, with numerous galleries and museums, including the Museo Frida Kahlo, the Palacio de Bellas Artes, and the Museum of Anthropology. Contemporary art is also thriving, with spaces like the Museo Jumex and the University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC) offering innovative exhibitions.
Mexico City also hosts many annual festivals, such as the Day of the Dead celebrations, the International Film Festival, and the Festival Internacional de las Luces, a celebration of light-based art.
Sport is a significant part of Mexico City’s culture. The city is home to several professional football clubs, the most notable being Club América and Cruz Azul. The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, which hosts the Mexican Grand Prix, and the Estadio Azteca, one of the world’s largest football stadiums, are iconic sporting venues.
Safety and Security: Like any major city, safety and security are critical issues in Mexico City. The crime rate varies across the city’s different areas, with certain neighborhoods experiencing higher rates of crime than others. However, the government has implemented numerous measures to reduce crime and improve safety, including increased police presence and surveillance cameras in many areas.
Emergency services in Mexico City are robust, with a dedicated emergency number, 911, that can be dialed for police, fire, or medical emergencies. The city’s healthcare facilities are equipped to handle emergencies, with specialized hospitals and trauma centers.
In terms of disaster preparedness, Mexico City is located in an area prone to earthquakes. The city has implemented an early warning system for earthquakes and conducts regular drills to prepare citizens for such events.
Education and Research: Education is highly valued in Mexico City, with the city’s literacy rate being one of the highest in the country. The city hosts numerous prestigious educational institutions, from primary and secondary schools to universities and research institutions.
Among higher education institutions, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education stand out. UNAM, one of the oldest universities in the Americas, is recognized as a leading research institution worldwide.
Mexico City is a hub of scientific research in Mexico, with many research institutions and think-tanks. The city also encourages research through scholarships and grants for both Mexican and international students. CONACYT, the National Council for Science and Technology, is the primary body overseeing and funding research in Mexico.
Mexico City’s history is a grand tapestry woven from threads of empires, cultures, conquests, and revolutions. The city’s roots reach back to the 14th century when the Aztecs, also known as the Mexica, established their capital, Tenochtitlan, on an island in Lake Texcoco.
Downfall of Aztec Empire: In 1521, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés led an expedition that resulted in the downfall of the Aztec Empire. He razed Tenochtitlan to the ground and, using the city’s ruins, built the new Spanish capital of New Spain, christened as Mexico City. Many of the city’s oldest buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace, were constructed during this colonial era.
Independence: Mexico’s struggle for independence from Spain began in 1810, with Mexico City becoming the epicenter of this movement. In 1821, after a decade-long war, the Spanish finally relinquished control, and the city became the capital of the newly independent Mexico.
Wars: The 19th and early 20th centuries were turbulent times for Mexico City. The Mexican-American War, the Reform War, and the French Intervention were events that led to significant political and territorial changes. The Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century brought further upheaval and transformation, with Mexico City at the heart of these historic changes.
Earthquake: In the latter half of the 20th century, Mexico City expanded rapidly, growing into a bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis. Tragedy struck in 1985 when a devastating earthquake hit the city, killing thousands and causing widespread destruction. However, Mexico City displayed resilience and has since been rebuilt, retaining its status as a vibrant global city.
Unique and Interesting Stories
Mexico City has a rich collection of stories that reflect its deep history and diverse culture.
Mexican Flag: One such tale is about the origins of the Mexican flag, which features an eagle perched on a cactus, devouring a serpent. This image is based on an Aztec legend that prophesied that the Aztecs would build their city where they saw this sign. It was on an island in Lake Texcoco, where Mexico City now stands, that they allegedly saw the prophetic symbol.
Sinking: Another fascinating story involves the sinking of Mexico City. Because the city was built on a lake, it has been sinking at an alarming rate due to the extraction of groundwater. Some areas of the city have sunk more than 30 feet (9 meters) in the last 100 years. This phenomenon has resulted in many uneven buildings and streets, contributing to the city’s unique character.
Intriguing Figure: Mexico City has also had its share of intriguing figures. One such person is La Malinche, an indigenous woman who played a crucial role in the Spanish conquest as Hernán Cortés’ interpreter and advisor. She has been a contentious figure in Mexican history, seen by some as a traitor and by others as a victim or even a symbolic mother of the new Mexican people.
Island of the Dolls: The story of the “Island of the Dolls” (Isla de las Muñecas) is another intriguing tale. Located in the canals south of the city center, the island is home to hundreds of dolls that were hung by the island’s former, and only inhabitant, Julián Santana Barrera. Barrera hung the dolls to appease the spirit of a girl who allegedly drowned nearby. Today, the eerie island is a tourist attraction.
Mexico City, a sprawling metropolis with deep historical roots, is a captivating fusion of different epochs, cultures, and ideas. From its dynamic demographic makeup to its bustling urban infrastructure, from its geographic and climatic uniqueness to its vibrant culture, the city offers a myriad of experiences that are as diverse as they are intriguing. Its rich tapestry of life continues to unfold, contributing to an ever-evolving narrative that invites both residents and visitors to participate in its shared story. From the echoes of ancient civilizations to the pulsating rhythm of modern urban life, Mexico City truly embodies the soul of Mexico. Mexico City is #6 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#7: Cairo, Egypt (21.7 Million)
Located in the northeast of the African continent, Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, is often described as the cradle of civilization due to its historical significance. Cairo is an amalgamation of ancient history and rapid modernization, seamlessly combining centuries-old landmarks with bustling modern metropolises. It has served as the capital of numerous civilizations and empires, making it an extraordinarily diverse city with a unique blend of cultures, beliefs, and traditions.
Population and Size: Cairo, with its current urban population of approximately 21.7 million inhabitants (9.6 million within the city), remains the largest city in Africa and the Middle East. Spread across an area of around 1,191 miles (3,085 square kilometers), Cairo has a population density of approximately 8,060 people per square mile (3,112 people per square kilometer). The population has grown steadily at an annual rate of about 2.04% over the last decade, a rate slightly lower than the national average. This growth can be attributed to the continued economic opportunities the city offers and its cultural and historical significance, which continues to draw people from across the nation and the globe.
Geographic: Cairo is strategically situated at 30.0444° N, 31.2357° E, along the Nile River in northeastern Egypt. The city is nestled between the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the spectacular Sahara desert to the west, enjoying a unique geographic placement that has shaped its historical, economic, and cultural trajectory.
The topography of Cairo is relatively flat due to its positioning in the Nile Delta. However, the city’s southernmost point, at Moqattam Hills, has an elevation of approximately 345 feet (105 meters) above sea level. This terrain has influenced Cairo’s expansion over the centuries, with growth being predominantly towards the north and the west. Cairo is remarkably devoid of natural lakes, but the life-giving Nile River, Egypt’s primary water source, flows through the city, offering a stunning natural spectacle.
Climate: Cairo’s climate is a hot desert type, characterized by a significant temperature difference between summer and winter. Summers (May to October) are intensely hot and dry, with temperatures often exceeding 95°F (35°C). Winter (November to April), on the other hand, offers a stark contrast with mild and somewhat pleasant temperatures, usually hovering around 68°F (20°C).
The city experiences minimal annual precipitation, averaging less than an inch a year, mostly during the winter months. Despite the scorching summer heat, Cairo’s weather is generally comfortable due to low humidity levels. Additionally, the city’s location near the Sahara desert influences its seasonal “Khamsin” wind, a hot, sand-laden wind that blows from the south, primarily in the spring.
Demographics: The demographic landscape of Cairo is predominantly homogenous, with the vast majority of the population being ethnic Egyptians. However, a subtle blend of minorities, including Nubians, Bedouins, and other small ethnic communities, adds to the city’s cultural richness.
In terms of age distribution, Cairo’s population is relatively young, with a median age of around 24 years. About two-thirds of the population are under the age of 30, making Cairo a youthful and dynamic city.
Arabic is the official language and is spoken by virtually all Cairenes. English and French are also widely understood and used, particularly in business and tourism sectors.
Religiously, Cairo is predominantly Muslim, with Islam being practiced by the majority of the population. However, the city is also home to a sizeable Coptic Christian community and small clusters of other religious minorities, highlighting the city’s religious diversity.
Infrastructure: Cairo’s infrastructure is a blend of historical grandeur and modern practicality. From ancient pyramids and mosques to contemporary high-rises and metro lines, the city’s built environment reflects its deep-rooted history and rapid modernization.
The city boasts an extensive transportation system, including the Cairo Metro, one of only two metro systems in Africa. The metro serves over 4 million people daily, providing an efficient and affordable means of transportation. Cairo International Airport serves as the primary aviation hub, linking the city to the rest of the world. The city’s road network is extensive but is often subject to traffic congestion due to the high population density.
Cairo’s utilities infrastructure is robust, with most households having access to electricity, water, and sanitation facilities. However, as the city continues to grow, challenges in maintaining and expanding these utilities remain.
In terms of communication, Cairo is a hub for media and telecommunication in the Middle East and North Africa. With widespread access to internet services and a high rate of mobile phone penetration, the city is one of the region’s most connected.
Cairo’s healthcare system includes both public and private facilities. The city is home to several of Egypt’s most important hospitals and medical research institutes. However, like many growing megacities, Cairo faces challenges in ensuring accessible and high-quality healthcare for all its residents.
Economy: Cairo serves as Egypt’s economic hub, contributing significantly to the nation’s GDP. As of 2023, the city’s GDP stands at approximately $140 billion, making it one of the largest economies in the Middle East and North Africa.
The city’s economy is diverse, with key sectors including manufacturing, construction, telecommunications, and information technology. Cairo’s manufacturing sector produces goods ranging from textiles to automobiles and food products. The city’s strategic location on the Nile River has historically facilitated trade and commerce, a factor that continues to play a significant role in its thriving economy.
Employment in Cairo is driven by both the public and private sectors, with a significant portion of the city’s workforce employed in government services. However, over the last decade, the private sector, particularly in areas like technology, retail, and finance, has seen substantial growth.
Tourism forms a vital part of Cairo’s economy. Home to iconic historical landmarks such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and the Egyptian Museum, the city draws millions of tourists each year. In addition to its historical and cultural attractions, Cairo’s vibrant street life, bustling markets, and rich culinary scene contribute to its status as a premier tourist destination.
Governance: Cairo’s local governance structure is multifaceted, composed of the Cairo Governorate and various city councils. The Cairo Governorate, headed by the Governor, oversees all aspects of the city’s administration, from public utilities and transport to health and education. Local councils at the district level handle more localized issues.
Public services in Cairo are diverse and extensive, encompassing utilities, public transportation, waste management, and more. Nevertheless, rapid urbanization and population growth have presented challenges to delivering these services efficiently and equitably.
Education in Cairo is overseen by the Ministry of Education and the Cairo Governorate. The city boasts numerous public and private schools, offering education in Arabic, English, French, and German.
Cairo’s public spaces are a testament to its historical and cultural richness. The city offers a variety of parks, gardens, and public squares, including the famous Tahrir Square. These public spaces serve as vital communal areas for social interaction and cultural events.
Culture and Entertainment: Cairo, often referred to as the city of a thousand minarets, boasts an incredibly vibrant and diverse cultural scene. From its ancient pyramids and historical mosques to contemporary art galleries and theaters, the city’s cultural offerings are vast and varied.
Landmarks such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, and the Citadel offer glimpses into the city’s historical and cultural depth. Contemporary arts are promoted in places like the Cairo Opera House and various art galleries scattered throughout the city.
Cairo’s festivals, such as the Cairo International Film Festival, the Cairo Jazz Festival, and various religious festivals, highlight the city’s rich cultural tapestry. Sports also play a significant role in Cairo’s culture, with football being particularly popular. The city hosts several internationally recognized football teams and stadiums.
Safety and Security: Cairo, like any major global city, faces challenges related to safety and security. The city’s crime rate is generally comparable to other cities of similar size. However, petty crime such as pickpocketing can be an issue, particularly in crowded areas. More serious crimes are relatively less common.
Emergency services in Cairo are extensive and responsive, with several hospitals and clinics offering 24/7 emergency care. The city’s fire department and police force are also well-equipped to respond to emergencies.
In terms of disaster preparedness, Cairo’s geographical location exposes it to certain natural hazards, including earthquakes and occasional flooding. The government has made strides in improving the city’s preparedness for such events, investing in early warning systems and emergency response infrastructure.
Education and Research: Cairo is a leading center for education and research in the Middle East and Africa. The city is home to numerous universities, including the esteemed Cairo University, Ain Shams University, and the American University in Cairo. These institutions offer a wide range of programs in various fields and contribute significantly to academic research in the region.
The city also hosts several dedicated research institutions, including the National Research Center and the Agricultural Research Center. These institutions conduct critical research in fields such as agriculture, medicine, engineering, and natural sciences.
Scholarship programs are available for students from diverse backgrounds. Notably, the Egyptian government and various international bodies offer scholarships for Egyptian students and foreign students studying in Egypt. These scholarships provide opportunities for students to pursue quality education and contribute to Cairo’s intellectual vibrancy.
Cairo, the capital of Egypt, has a history that spans millennia, intertwining diverse civilizations and cultures. The city’s chronicle can be divided into several eras, each of which has left its indelible mark on Cairo’s tapestry.
Early Cairo: The roots of Cairo can be traced back to 2000 BCE, when the ancient city of Memphis, located near present-day Cairo, served as Egypt’s capital. In the 1st century, the Romans established a fortress town known as Babylon-in-Egypt, parts of which still exist in Old Cairo.
Fatimid Dynasty: However, the Cairo we know today truly began to take shape in 969 CE with the arrival of the Fatimid Dynasty. They founded Al-Qahirah (The Victorious), known in English as Cairo. The Fatimids constructed significant buildings like Al-Azhar Mosque, which later became one of the world’s oldest universities.
Rule of Mamluks: The city further flourished under the rule of the Mamluks from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The Mamluks, former slave soldiers who rose to power, left an enduring architectural legacy, constructing many mosques, madrasas, and caravanserais, contributing to Cairo’s reputation as the city of a thousand minarets.
Modernization: In the mid-19th century, under the rule of Khedive Ismail, Cairo underwent significant modernization. Ismail envisioned Cairo as a “Paris on the Nile,” leading to the construction of numerous European-style buildings and infrastructure.
20th Century: Recent Cairo’s more recent history is equally notable. In the 20th century, the city was at the center of major political and social changes, from the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952 to the Arab Spring protests in 2011. Today, Cairo continues to evolve, striving to balance its rich historical heritage with the demands of a rapidly modernizing metropolis.
Unique and Interesting Stories
Cairo’s rich history has given rise to a myriad of fascinating stories and legends that add to the city’s allure.
Cairo Name: One such tale revolves around the origins of the name Cairo. The city was originally named Al-Qahirah after the planet Mars, known as “Al-Najm Al-Qahir” in Arabic, which was rising in the sky at the time the city was founded. The Fatimids considered this a favorable omen, hence the name.
Giza Pyramids: Another interesting narrative pertains to the iconic Pyramids of Giza. Contrary to popular belief, these ancient wonders were not built by slaves but by paid laborers. This revelation emerged from ancient papyrus scrolls discovered at the Red Sea port of Wadi al-Jarf, offering a unique insight into the pyramid builders’ lives.
Cairo Cemetery: Cairo’s City of the Dead, a sprawling cemetery that has become home to living residents, offers another fascinating story. In this vast necropolis, tombs and mausoleums double as dwellings, with families living amongst their ancestors. This unusual living arrangement, a response to Cairo’s housing shortage, presents a poignant blend of life and death, history and the present.
Nilometer: The tale of Cairo’s “Nilometer” is another intriguing narrative. Constructed in 861 CE, this ancient device was used to measure the Nile’s water level. High readings indicated a bountiful harvest, low readings predicted famine, and readings in the middle meant a balanced year. The Nilometer represents the ingenuity of Cairo’s inhabitants and their symbiotic relationship with the Nile.
Cairo, with its rich history, cultural diversity, and dynamic urban landscape, is truly a city like no other. It is a city where the past and present intermingle in a captivating dance, offering an unparalleled experience for inhabitants and visitors alike. Cairo is a testament to human civilization’s resilience and ingenuity, serving as a mirror reflecting humanity’s historical journey while simultaneously gazing into the future’s boundless possibilities. As the city continues to grow and evolve, it carries with it the profound legacy of its past, shaping its trajectory in a rapidly changing world. Cairo is #7 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#8: Beijing, China (21.3 Million)
Beijing, known formerly in the Western world as Peking, is the capital of the People’s Republic of China, and one of the most populous cities in the world. A city of rich historical heritage, it has been the heart of China’s history for centuries, the epicenter of its culture, politics, education, and innovation. Beijing’s cityscape is an intriguing blend of old and new, from the ancient Forbidden City palace complex and Temple of Heaven to the contemporary architecture of the National Stadium and CCTV Headquarters.
Population and Size: Beijing boasts an urban population of approximately 21.3 million residents, a figure that represents both the city proper and the larger municipality region. The city alone has 19 million residents. Covering a total area of 6,336 square miles (16,411 square kilometers), Beijing is almost twice the size of New York City in the United States. The city has a population density of around 2,999 people per square mile (1,158 people per square kilometer). Over the past decade, the city has seen a steady annual population growth rate of about 0.5 percent. Despite the city’s rapid modernization and development, its growth rate is tempered by stringent residency laws and efforts to curb population congestion in the city center.
Geographic: Beijing is located in the northern part of China, centered at approximately 39.9° N latitude and 116.4° E longitude. The city is neighbored by Hebei Province to the north, west, and south, and Tianjin Municipality to the east.
The topography of Beijing is quite diverse, defined by the juxtaposition of flatlands and mountains. The city is predominantly flat, consisting of vast plains that make up three-quarters of its territory. The northwest and north, however, are dominated by the imposing ranges of the Xishan and Jundu Mountains.
Elevation varies significantly across the city. The flat plains of urban Beijing lie at an elevation of around 131 feet (40 meters), while the mountainous high points in the northwest reach above 6,562 feet (2,000 meters), with the highest peak, Mount Lingshan, standing tall at 7,556 feet (2,303 meters).
Beijing is blessed with several natural features. It is dotted with lakes such as Kunming Lake and Shichahai Lake, and the beautiful Yongding and Chaobai Rivers flow through the city. These water bodies play a significant role in the city’s climate and local culture.
Climate: Beijing experiences a monsoon-influenced humid continental climate, characterized by hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. This is due to its position at the northern edge of the North China Plain.
Summer temperatures can rise above 86°F (30°C), while winter temperatures can plunge below 14°F (-10°C). The city’s annual average temperature is around 54°F (12°C).
Precipitation patterns show a marked seasonal variation. Most rainfall occurs in the summer months, particularly July and August, due to the influence of the East Asian monsoon. Winter months are typically dry, with much of the precipitation falling as snow.
Demographics: Beijing’s populace is relatively homogenous in terms of ethnicity, with the Han Chinese making up approximately 95% of the population. Minorities, including the Manchu, Hui, and Mongol ethnic groups, constitute the remainder.
In terms of age distribution, Beijing’s population structure shows a relatively even spread. However, the city is characterized by a prominent working-age population, a consequence of migration for employment and education.
The official language spoken is Mandarin Chinese, and it is the medium of instruction in schools and universities. While the younger generations are increasingly learning English, day-to-day conversations are predominantly in Mandarin, with a distinct Beijing dialect.
When it comes to religion, Beijing, like the rest of China, is largely secular. A small percentage of the population practices Buddhism, Taoism, or folk religions. There are also small communities of Muslims, Christians, and other religious groups.
Infrastructure: Beijing’s infrastructure is a testament to China’s rapid development over the past few decades.
The city has a comprehensive transportation network. The Beijing Capital International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, and the city’s high-speed railway connects it to most other major Chinese cities. Beijing’s metro system, one of the longest and busiest in the world, along with an extensive bus network, services the city’s daily commuting needs.
The utilities infrastructure is highly developed, with almost all households having access to electricity, clean water, and sanitation facilities. The city’s energy mix is increasingly favoring renewable sources, aligning with China’s environmental goals.
Beijing’s communication infrastructure is state-of-the-art, with widespread internet and mobile network coverage. The city leads in the adoption of 5G technology, making it a global pioneer in this arena.
Healthcare facilities in Beijing are some of the best in the country. The city has several top-tier hospitals, and healthcare coverage has improved significantly in recent years, with both public and private insurance schemes available.
Economy: Beijing, as the capital city of the world’s second-largest economy, is a vital hub of economic activity. Its strategic importance and robust infrastructure have facilitated the growth of several industries.
The primary industries in Beijing encompass technology, finance, and real estate. As the Silicon Valley of China, Beijing’s Zhongguancun area houses numerous tech giants, startups, and research institutions, propelling it to the forefront of the technology sector. The city’s financial industry is bolstered by the presence of numerous banks, investment firms, and insurance companies. Real estate, despite recent cooling measures, continues to be a significant contributor to the city’s GDP.
In terms of employment, Beijing has a diverse labor market. It attracts skilled workers from across the country, particularly in the technology, finance, and public sectors. The city’s employment rate has remained relatively steady, with unemployment typically lower than the national average.
Beijing’s GDP is impressive, reflecting its status as one of the wealthiest cities in China. As of 2023, the city’s GDP is estimated to be over 3.5 trillion yuan ($490 Billion), accounting for a substantial portion of China’s overall economic output.
Tourism plays a pivotal role in Beijing’s economy. Home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and the Summer Palace, Beijing attracts millions of domestic and international tourists annually, contributing significantly to the local economy.
Governance: Beijing, being the capital city, is directly administered by the national government of China, with the Beijing Municipal Government taking care of day-to-day operations.
The city government provides a wide range of services, from maintaining public order to managing public transportation and city planning. Public spaces, including parks, gardens, and squares, are well-maintained, providing residents and tourists with places for recreation and relaxation.
Education in Beijing is overseen by the municipal education commission. The city is home to many of China’s top universities and research institutions, making it a hub for higher education. Various initiatives and policies support education, from early childhood to tertiary levels, ensuring high literacy rates and fostering academic excellence.
Culture and Entertainment: Beijing’s rich history and cultural heritage are manifest in its landmarks, arts scene, festivals, and sports.
Landmarks in Beijing include the ancient Forbidden City, the largest palace complex in the world, and the Temple of Heaven, where emperors performed annual rites for a good harvest. Modern architecture is represented by the Bird’s Nest National Stadium and the iconic CCTV Tower.
In the realm of arts, Beijing is renowned for its traditional Chinese opera, particularly Peking Opera, and its thriving contemporary art scene, exemplified by the 798 Art Zone. The city hosts several art exhibitions, music festivals, and dance performances throughout the year.
Beijing’s traditional festivals, such as the Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, and Lantern Festival, offer fascinating insights into Chinese culture. Sports also play a significant role, with the city having hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Safety and Security: Beijing is considered one of the safer major cities in the world. The crime rate is relatively low, with violent crime being rare. The city’s police force is efficient and responsive, contributing to a sense of security among residents and tourists.
Emergency services in Beijing are well-coordinated and effective. The city has a robust network of hospitals and clinics for medical emergencies, while the fire department and emergency response teams are equipped to deal with a range of situations.
Disaster preparedness is a critical aspect of Beijing’s safety infrastructure. Given its vulnerability to earthquakes, the city has implemented stringent building codes and regularly conducts earthquake drills.
Education and Research: Beijing is the epicenter of academic excellence and research in China. The city is home to renowned educational institutions such as Peking University and Tsinghua University, which rank among the world’s best universities.
Several leading research institutions, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, are based in Beijing, driving innovation in fields like technology, medicine, and environmental science.
The government offers numerous scholarships to domestic and international students, encouraging academic pursuits and facilitating access to higher education. The Beijing Government Scholarship, for example, provides funding for undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the city’s universities.
Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, is a city rich in history that spans over three millennia. Its origins trace back to the Western Zhou period (1046-771 BCE), when it was established as Ji, a city-state. Beijing’s progression from a modest city-state to a bustling global metropolis is a captivating story, marked by important historical milestones.
The Yuan Dynasty-The Emergence of Beijing as Capital: Beijing rose to prominence during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), established by Kublai Khan, the grandson of the great Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. Kublai Khan relocated the capital from Karakorum (in present-day Mongolia) to Beijing, then known as Khanbaliq. During this period, Beijing transformed into a cosmopolitan city, attracting scholars, merchants, and artists from across Eurasia.
The Ming and Qing Dynasties-Architectural Brilliance: The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) left an indelible architectural legacy. The Forbidden City, a sprawling imperial palace complex, was constructed during the Ming Dynasty, as was the Temple of Heaven, an iconic Taoist temple. The Summer Palace, a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens, and palaces, and the Old Summer Palace, known for its extensive collection of gardens, fountains, and European-style palaces, were constructed during the Qing Dynasty. These architectural feats are symbols of Beijing’s historical richness.
The 20th Century-Political Turmoil and Rebirth: The 20th century was marked by political upheaval. The fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 led to a brief period of the Republic of China. This was followed by a long and grueling civil war, culminating in the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Beijing was again chosen as the capital, and under the leadership of Mao Zedong, the city underwent significant changes.
The infamous Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) had a profound impact on Beijing. During this tumultuous period, traditional cultural artifacts and structures were targeted, and many historical relics and artifacts in the city were destroyed.
Following the end of the Cultural Revolution, Beijing and China at large entered a new phase of economic reform and modernization under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Today, Beijing stands as a thriving metropolis that blends history and modernity, tradition and innovation.
Unique and Interesting Stories
Beijing is not only a city steeped in history but also a treasure trove of fascinating stories and anecdotes that provide unique insights into its cultural tapestry.
The Legend of the Nine Dragon Screen: In the heart of Beijing stands a stunning porcelain relic known as the Nine Dragon Screen, built during the Qing Dynasty. According to legend, the tenth dragon, embossed on the reverse side of the screen, came to life one night and flew into the sky. The emperor ordered a replica to be made, but the tenth dragon would always escape. To this day, the screen only displays nine dragons on the front, with the tenth forever missing.
Peking Man-A Glimpse into Prehistoric Times: In the early 20th century, archaeologists uncovered a series of hominid fossils near Beijing, now known as the Peking Man. The fossils, which date back to around 500,000 years ago, provide evidence of early human habitation in the area and have offered crucial insights into human evolution.
The Ming Tombs-An Unfortunate Architect: The Ming Tombs, located on the outskirts of Beijing, are the final resting place of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. According to folklore, the architect who designed the tomb layout was imprisoned by the emperor, who wanted to keep the location secret. It’s said that the architect left a clue about the tombs’ layout in the form of a mural in his home, leading to their eventual rediscovery.
Beijing, a city steeped in history and tradition, simultaneously embraces the modern world, making it a fascinating blend of the old and the new. As the political, educational, and cultural heart of China, it continues to influence and shape the nation’s journey. The city’s booming economy, robust infrastructure, and the spirit of its people contribute to Beijing’s ever-evolving dynamism, making it a compelling study and a global city in its own right. Whether viewed through the lens of its historical significance or its contemporary appeal, Beijing undoubtedly commands attention on the world stage. Beijing is #8 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#9: Mumbai, India (20.9 Million)
Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is a vibrant city, embodying the pulsating heart of India. Renowned as the country’s commercial capital, Mumbai is a bustling metropolis that never sleeps, offering a vivid blend of cultures, traditions, and architectural wonders. Its dynamic cityscape brimming with soaring skyscrapers, colonial-era structures, vibrant bazaars, and sprawling slums epitomizes the stark contrasts defining India’s socio-economic diversity. The city’s appeal stretches beyond its impressive economic prowess to include a rich history, a vibrant cultural scene, and the legendary Bollywood film industry.
Population and Size: Urban Mumbai is home to approximately 20.9 million people, making it the most populous city in India. The city itself has 12.7 million people. Covering a geographical area of about 233 square miles (603 square kilometers), the city boasts a density of 54,506 persons per square mile (21,061 persons per square kilometer) – one of the highest worldwide. The city’s population has been growing at an approximate rate of 1.1% annually over the last decade. This growth can be attributed to several factors, including urban migration driven by the allure of economic opportunities, especially in sectors like finance, entertainment, and information technology.
Geography: Mumbai is located on the western coast of Maharashtra, a state in the western part of India. It lies on the Konkan coast, with its coordinates being approximately 19.0760° N latitude and 72.8777° E longitude. The city spans a length of 17 miles (48 kilometers) from north to south and 9 miles (22 kilometers ) from east to west at its broadest points.
The city’s topography is largely flat, with slight undulating hills scattered throughout. Mumbai’s average elevation is 46 feet (14 meters) above sea level, with the highest point being the Juhu Aerodrome at about 72 feet (22 meters), and the lowest point at sea level along the coastal regions. Mumbai is characterized by a deep natural harbor, lending it the status of an important port city.
The city’s natural features include the Ulhas River to the northeast, which forms part of its boundary, and the Thane Creek, which splits Mumbai from the mainland. It is interspersed with several lakes, the most notable of which is the Vihar Lake, supplying part of the city’s drinking water.
Climate: Mumbai has a tropical climate, more specifically, a tropical monsoon climate. It experiences high levels of humidity due to its coastal location. Temperatures range between 68°F (20°C) in winter (December to February) to around 86°F (30°C) in summer (March to May). The city receives substantial rainfall during the monsoon season, which lasts from June to September, accounting for 80% of its annual rainfall.
Despite the heavy monsoons, the city enjoys a short, mild winter and a long, hot summer. The winter months, especially between November and February, are the best time to visit, as the climate is pleasantly cool and dry.
Demographics: Mumbai’s population is a vibrant mosaic of ethnicities, languages, and religions, reflecting the city’s rich history of migration and its welcoming ethos. The majority of the city’s population are Maharashtrians, contributing to the widespread use of the Marathi language. However, the city is also home to sizable communities of Gujaratis, North Indians, South Indians, Parsis, and Jews, making it a multicultural and multilingual city.
Hindi and English are widely spoken in Mumbai, aside from Marathi. The city’s religious composition is predominantly Hindu, followed by sizable Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and Jain communities. It’s also home to India’s largest Jewish community.
The age distribution in Mumbai is skewed towards the working-age group of 15 to 59 years, who constitute approximately 70% of the population. This is a reflection of the city’s attractiveness to young job-seekers from across the country.
Infrastructure: Mumbai’s infrastructure is a mix of colonial-era buildings, modern skyscrapers, and informal settlements. Its transportation network is dense and highly diversified, boasting an extensive suburban railway network – the city’s lifeline, ferry services, a bus rapid transit system (BEST buses), and auto-rickshaws. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport connects the city to global destinations.
Utilities include an extensive network of water and sewage treatment facilities. Electricity in Mumbai is supplied by the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) and Reliance Energy among others.
Communication infrastructure in Mumbai is modern and extensive. The city has high-speed internet connectivity and an excellent network of mobile communication. It is also the headquarters of numerous national newspapers, television, and radio broadcasting companies.
Healthcare infrastructure in Mumbai includes both public and private entities, offering advanced medical services. Major hospitals include the Apollo Hospitals, Bombay Hospital, and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). However, access to healthcare services is still a significant issue for many residents, especially those living in slums.
Economy: Mumbai, the financial capital of India, is a city that significantly contributes to the nation’s economy. It houses the country’s major financial institutions, including the Reserve Bank of India, Bombay Stock Exchange, and the National Stock Exchange of India. The city’s gross domestic product (GDP) is about $368 billion, accounting for approximately 6% of India’s total GDP as of 2023.
Mumbai’s economy is primarily driven by sectors such as finance, information technology (IT), textiles, and entertainment. The city is home to numerous multinational corporations and has a thriving startup ecosystem, earning it the moniker of ‘India’s Silicon Valley.’
The city has a low unemployment rate, with employment opportunities spread across various sectors. Mumbai’s textile industry, once its economic backbone, has transformed into a hub for high-end textile design and fashion. The city also has a robust informal economy, with thousands working in street vending, domestic work, and small-scale manufacturing.
Tourism is another key pillar of Mumbai’s economy. The city’s rich historical heritage, diverse cuisine, and Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry by output, attract millions of tourists each year, contributing significantly to its revenues.
Governance: Mumbai is governed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the largest civic organization in India, handling a population of over 20 million. BMC is responsible for civic infrastructure and administration, public health, and other essential city services. It manages the city’s water supply, waste management, public education, and the operation of public spaces.
Education in Mumbai is managed by BMC’s education department, which runs numerous schools across the city. Despite the city’s extensive public school system, private schools remain a popular choice due to perceived higher quality.
Public spaces in Mumbai, such as parks, beaches, and open spaces, are managed by various municipal authorities. These include iconic spots like Marine Drive, Chowpatty Beach, and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
Culture and Entertainment: Mumbai is a vibrant cultural hub, housing numerous landmarks, arts venues, and sports facilities. Iconic landmarks include the Gateway of India, Haji Ali Dargah, Elephanta Caves, and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city’s thriving arts scene is highlighted by institutions like the National Centre for Performing Arts, Prithvi Theatre, and Jehangir Art Gallery. Mumbai’s film industry, Bollywood, shapes much of the city’s cultural ethos, hosting several film festivals and events.
Festivals are an integral part of Mumbai’s cultural fabric. The city celebrates diverse festivals with great fervor, from the traditional Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali to Christmas and Eid.
Sports are widely followed in Mumbai, with cricket being the most popular. The city is home to the Mumbai Indians, a successful team in the Indian Premier League, and houses iconic cricket venues like the Wankhede Stadium.
Safety and Security: Mumbai’s crime rate is relatively high compared to other Indian cities, reflecting its massive population and socio-economic disparities. However, most crimes are property-related, with violent crime rates being relatively low.
Emergency services in Mumbai are well-organized, with a centralized number, 112, connecting to police, fire, and ambulance services. The Mumbai Police is the primary law enforcement agency, supported by specialized units for traffic management, crime investigation, and anti-terrorism.
Mumbai’s disaster preparedness is overseen by the Disaster Management Unit of the BMC, with plans and infrastructure in place to tackle natural calamities like monsoons and earthquakes, which the city is prone to.
Education and Research: Mumbai is home to several esteemed educational institutions. Noteworthy universities include the University of Mumbai, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The city also houses prestigious schools like Campion School and Dhirubhai Ambani International School.
Mumbai is a hub for scientific research, with renowned institutions such as the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. These institutions lead pioneering research in nuclear science, astrophysics, and other disciplines.
Several scholarships are available for students in Mumbai, provided by both the government and private entities. These aim to promote education among economically disadvantaged groups and to support research and innovation.
From its origins as a fishing settlement to becoming a strategic port, and finally emerging as a global metropolis, the history of Mumbai is a fascinating tale of transformation. The journey begins with the ancient kingdom of Ashoka, under whose reign the islands that now form Mumbai were a part of his extensive empire.
Various Kingdoms: The city came under the rule of various kingdoms after Ashoka, including the Satavahanas, Abhiras, Vakatakas, Kalachuris, Konkan Mauryas, Chalukyas, and Rashtrakutas, before it was eventually annexed by the Sultanate of Gujarat in the 14th century.
Portuguese Control: The Portuguese took control of Mumbai in the 16th century and christened it ‘Bombaim,’ meaning ‘good little bay.’ The islands remained under Portuguese control for over a century until they were gifted to the British as part of the dowry for Catherine of Braganza’s marriage to Charles II of England in 1661.
Seven Islands: The British East India Company leased the islands from the Crown in 1668 and started developing them. The construction of the Hornby Vellard, a major engineering project that connected several islands, paved the way for Mumbai’s urban growth. By the 19th century, reclamation projects merged the seven islands into a single landmass that forms the city we know today.
Landmarks: During the British Raj, Mumbai flourished as a trade and commerce center. Landmarks such as the Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, and the University of Mumbai were built during this time.
Independence: Following India’s independence in 1947, Mumbai transformed into a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis, growing to become the financial and entertainment capital of India.
Unique and Interesting Stories
Mumbai, a city steeped in history, has no shortage of unique and intriguing stories.
Gateway of India: One such tale is the creation of the iconic Gateway of India. Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, the Gateway ironically saw the last British troops depart India in 1948, marking the end of British rule.
Private Residence: Another captivating story involves Antilia, a skyscraper residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, which is reportedly the world’s most expensive private residence, valued over $1 billion. The 27-story building boasts a range of extravagant features, including a multi-story garage, three helipads, and a floating garden.
Indian Cinema: Mumbai is also the birthplace of the Indian cinema. The city’s film industry, fondly known as Bollywood, has a fascinating history. Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, made the country’s first full-length feature film, Raja Harishchandra, in 1913. Today, Bollywood produces over a thousand films annually, with its influence reaching global audiences.
Lunchbox Deliverymen: One cannot talk about Mumbai without mentioning the dabbawalas, an impressive network of lunchbox deliverymen. Each day, they deliver home-cooked meals to tens of thousands of office workers across the city with near-perfect precision. Their unique coding system and logistical efficiency have earned them a Six Sigma rating, attracting attention from business schools and researchers worldwide.
Adversities: Lastly, Mumbai’s resilience is evident in its recovery from numerous adversities, such as the devastating 1993 bombings, the 2008 terrorist attacks, and the annual monsoon floods. The city’s indomitable spirit is encapsulated in its popular phrase ‘Mumbai never stops.’
Mumbai, the City of Dreams, is a metropolis of contrasts, where age-old traditions co-exist with modern aspirations. Its teeming population, varied topography, coastal climate, and rich cultural tapestry all contribute to its unique character. Mumbai’s infrastructure reflects its status as a global city, even as it grapples with the challenges of rapid urbanization.
The city’s spirit, embodied in its resilient population, remains undeterred by these challenges. Mumbai continues to charm and attract people from all walks of life, making it a truly cosmopolitan city that symbolizes the pulsating energy and diversity of India. Mumbai is #9 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
#10: Osaka, Japan (19 Million)
Osaka, the city of vibrancy and vitality, has etched its place on the map of Japan as an economic and cultural hub. Known for its architecture, nightlife, and lip-smacking street food, Osaka also takes pride in being a bustling commercial center of the Kansai region. Its stunning mix of traditional and contemporary aesthetics offers a glimpse into the true essence of Japan. This dynamic city, with its unique characteristics and a robust infrastructural framework, serves as a nucleus of growth and prosperity in the country.
Population and Size: Osaka boasts an urban population of approximately 19 million inhabitants with 2.8 million within the city. This megacity sprawls over an area of 86 square miles (223 square kilometers), with a population density of nearly 32,558 people per square mile (12,556 people per square kilometer). Over the last decade, Osaka’s population growth rate has been relatively slow, reflecting the broader demographic trend of Japan where the country faces a population decline due to an aging society and low fertility rates.
Geographic: Situated on the eastern coast of the island of Honshu, Osaka sits nestled between the Yodo river in the east and the Osaka Bay to the west. It is located at coordinates 34.6937° N, 135.5023° E. Its strategic location in the Kansai region, near ancient capitals like Kyoto and Nara, has played a significant role in its historical and economic development.
The topography of Osaka is primarily flat, with the city’s elevation ranging from 0 meters at sea level near Osaka Bay to 123 feet (37.5 meters) in the northern part of the city. The Yodo River, originating from Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan, is a defining geographical feature of Osaka. It flows through the city into Osaka Bay, serving both as a water source and aiding in transport and commerce.
In addition to the river, Osaka’s terrain is adorned by lush parks and gardens that provide residents and tourists with a refreshing natural landscape amidst the concrete structures of the city. The Osaka Plain, on which the city is built, has contributed to its growth as a commercial and transport hub throughout history.
Climate: Osaka experiences a humid subtropical climate, characterized by hot, humid summers and mild winters. The average annual temperature is approximately 61.7°F (16.5°C), with July being the hottest month (average 81.7°F (27.6°C)) and January being the coolest (average 42.8°F (6.0°C)).
Rainfall is relatively high, with an annual average precipitation of about 51 inches (1,300 millimeters). The majority of rainfall occurs during the rainy season (Tsuyu) from mid-June to late July. The city also occasionally experiences typhoons in late summer and early autumn.
Osaka experiences four distinct seasons, with cherry blossoms in spring and vibrant autumn leaves offering a scenic display of the city’s natural beauty.
Demographics: Osaka is relatively homogenous in terms of ethnicity, like the rest of Japan, with Japanese making up the majority of the population. However, Osaka is home to one of the largest Korean communities in Japan, known as Ikaino, contributing to the cultural diversity of the city.
The age distribution in Osaka is reflective of Japan’s demographic issues, with a significant portion of the population aged 65 and above. The city’s median age is 46.3 years, much higher than the global average. This poses unique challenges in terms of healthcare, social security, and workforce availability.
The primary language spoken in Osaka is Japanese, with the local dialect known as Osaka-ben, notable for its distinct intonation and vocabulary. In terms of religion, Shinto and Buddhism are the most prevalent, with a significant number of temples and shrines scattered throughout the city.
Infrastructure: Osaka’s infrastructure is modern, well-developed, and efficient. The city’s transportation network is highly comprehensive, encompassing railways, subways, buses, and ferries. The city is served by two major airports: Kansai International Airport, the primary international gateway to the region, and Osaka International Airport for domestic flights. Osaka’s extensive railway network, including the Shinkansen (bullet train), provides fast and efficient connections to other cities in Japan.
Osaka’s utility services are robust and reliable, with the city boasting efficient water and sewage systems, reliable electricity supply, and effective waste disposal mechanisms. High-quality healthcare services are available throughout the city, with numerous hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers providing both general and specialized care.
As for communication, Osaka enjoys high-speed internet connectivity and widespread mobile coverage. The city has been at the forefront of embracing technological advancements in communication, with widespread use of cashless transactions and digital services.
Economy: Osaka is the economic powerhouse of the Kansai region and Japan’s third-largest city by GDP. With an annual GDP of approximately $341 billion, the city plays a crucial role in driving Japan’s economy.
Osaka’s economy is diverse and robust, dominated by manufacturing, services, and trade. It’s home to numerous leading corporations like Panasonic, Sharp, and Suntory. The city has been a major manufacturing hub since the Edo period, with key industries including electronics, pharmaceuticals, and heavy machinery.
The service industry in Osaka is growing at a remarkable pace, especially the Information Technology (IT) and finance sectors. The city has a stock exchange that is one of the largest in Japan, reflecting its significance in finance.
The employment scenario in Osaka is robust, with the unemployment rate typically lower than the national average. It has a highly educated and skilled workforce, contributing to its strong economic performance.
Tourism plays a significant role in Osaka’s economy. With a wealth of cultural and historical attractions, coupled with its famous cuisine, the city attracts millions of visitors each year, both domestically and internationally. Key attractions include Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan, and the Dotonbori district.
Governance: Osaka’s governance is a two-tier system consisting of the Prefectural and City governments. The Osaka Prefecture oversees broader regional matters, while the city government, led by the Mayor, handles the local administrative services.
The city provides various public services, including healthcare, social security, and waste management. Osaka’s public transportation, overseen by the city government, is recognized globally for its efficiency and punctuality.
Education is given a high priority in Osaka. The city boasts a high literacy rate, and the education system consists of elementary, junior high, and high schools, followed by universities and vocational institutions. Numerous public and private schools offer quality education.
Public spaces in Osaka, including parks, gardens, and recreational facilities, are well-maintained and easily accessible. These spaces play a critical role in the city’s urban planning, contributing to its livability and appeal.
Culture and Entertainment: Osaka’s vibrant culture and entertainment scene reflects its historical heritage and contemporary influences. The city’s landmarks, such as the iconic Osaka Castle and Tsutenkaku Tower, offer glimpses into its rich history, while modern attractions like Universal Studios Japan represent its contemporary side.
The city is also known for its thriving arts scene. The National Museum of Art and Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts house impressive collections, and the city’s theatre district is famous for traditional Bunraku puppet theatre and Kabuki performances.
Festivals are an integral part of Osaka’s culture. The Tenjin Festival, one of Japan’s top three festivals, is celebrated with fireworks and a grand procession. Similarly, the Osaka Asian Film Festival is a significant event in the cinema world.
Sports also play a major role in Osaka’s culture. The city has a professional baseball team, the Orix Buffaloes, and a J-League soccer team, Cerezo Osaka. Furthermore, Osaka frequently hosts international sporting events, such as the World Athletics Championships.
Safety and Security: Osaka has a low crime rate, making it one of the safest cities in the world. Petty crimes like pickpocketing or burglary are rare, and violent crime is even rarer.
The city’s emergency services, including police, fire, and medical services, are efficient and prompt. The 110 and 119 emergency numbers provide immediate assistance in case of crime or accidents.
Osaka is well-prepared for natural disasters, a necessity in earthquake-prone Japan. Disaster preparedness drills are regularly conducted, and stringent building codes ensure that infrastructure can withstand earthquakes. The city also has detailed disaster management plans in place for typhoons and floods.
Education and Research: Osaka is a center of educational and academic excellence. It has numerous highly reputed schools that adhere to Japan’s rigorous educational standards, nurturing students for their future endeavors.
Higher education in Osaka is world-class. The city houses many prestigious universities and research institutions, including Osaka University and Kansai University. These institutions offer a range of programs and contribute significantly to research in various fields such as technology, medicine, and social sciences.
The city and prefectural government, along with various organizations, offer scholarships to attract and support talented students from all over the world. This fosters a diverse and vibrant academic community, helping Osaka maintain its position as a global leader in education and research.
The history of Osaka is both rich and vibrant, reflecting the cultural, economic, and political progression of Japan. The roots of Osaka can be traced back to the 5th century when it served as a significant port and trade center. The early history of Osaka is synonymous with the rise of Buddhism in Japan, which was introduced through trade and cultural exchanges.
Strategic Location of Capital: During the Asuka period, in the 7th century, Osaka (then known as Naniwa) served as the capital of Japan. It housed the imperial palace, and its strategic location made it an important political and economic hub. This period was followed by the Nara period when Nara replaced Osaka as the capital, but Osaka continued to play a vital role as a cultural and commercial center.
Well Planning: Osaka’s significance increased exponentially during the Edo period (1603-1868). Under the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Osaka was developed into a well-planned city with advanced infrastructure. It became the “merchant capital” of Japan, boasting a bustling economy driven by trade. The construction of Osaka Castle during this period by Toyotomi Hideyoshi stands as a testament to Osaka’s historical significance.
World War II: In the Meiji era, Osaka played a key role in Japan’s industrialization, becoming a center for modern industries like textiles and manufacturing. During World War II, Osaka experienced heavy bombing but quickly bounced back in the post-war years. It is this spirit of resilience that has seen Osaka evolve into the thriving metropolis it is today.
Unique and Interesting Stories
One of the intriguing stories about Osaka is the tale of its foundation. According to legends, the city was established by Emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan. This adds a sense of mystique and reverence to Osaka’s origin story.
Osaka Castle: The story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who built Osaka Castle, is another fascinating tale. Born into a peasant family, Hideyoshi became one of Japan’s most powerful feudal lords. His rise to power is often seen as a symbol of determination and ambition. The construction of Osaka Castle was his attempt to create a symbol of his power and to fortify the city. However, he died just two years after the completion of the castle, leading to a power struggle that eventually brought about the end of his clan.
Dialect: Osaka is also known for its unique dialect, Osaka-ben, which is often associated with humor and warmth. An interesting tale about this dialect involves a popular local phrase, “mokkari makka,” which roughly translates to “how’s business?” This phrase, commonly used as a greeting in Osaka, reflects the city’s long history as a merchant town.
Cuisine: Another intriguing story from Osaka revolves around its cuisine. The city is fondly referred to as the “Kitchen of the Nation” due to its food culture. One of the reasons for this nickname is the story of “kuidaore,” an expression that means to ruin oneself by extravagance in food. This term came into existence during the Edo period when Osaka’s thriving economy allowed its citizens to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, particularly regarding food. This legacy continues today, with Osaka renowned for its culinary scene.
Osaka, a city steeped in history and buzzing with modern life, offers a unique blend of the traditional and the contemporary. Its well-developed infrastructure, vibrant culture, and robust economic growth make it not only an attractive destination for tourists but also a desirable place to live. Amidst its sprawling urban landscape, Osaka manages to preserve its natural beauty and traditional heritage, offering a quality of life that is both dynamic and harmonious. In the heart of the Kansai region, Osaka shines as a beacon of Japanese resilience and innovation. Osaka is #10 on our list of Top 10 Largest Cities in the World.
Cities and Maps
Cities and maps share a fascinating and intricate relationship, one that goes beyond mere navigation and cartography. While cities are bustling, vibrant entities shaped by the creativity and energy of their inhabitants, maps serve as visual representations, capturing the essence and complexity of urban landscapes.
Cities, with their diverse neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, and cultural tapestries, are living entities that evolve and transform over time. They have a unique personality and spirit, rooted in the people, history, and geography that define them. Cities embody a sense of place, attracting residents and visitors alike with their opportunities, challenges, and distinct characteristics. From the bustling streets of New York City to the enchanting canals of Venice, each city has its own story to tell.
Maps, on the other hand, distill the vast complexity of cities into manageable visual representations. They capture the layout of streets, the positions of buildings, and the geographical features that define a city’s physical landscape. Maps serve as tools for orientation, guiding us from point A to point B and helping us navigate unfamiliar territories. They offer a sense of direction and structure in the midst of urban chaos, allowing us to make sense of the sprawling metropolises and intricate city grids.
But maps do much more than just provide directions. They are windows into the soul of a city, reflecting its unique character, heritage, and diversity. Maps highlight the landmarks that shape a city’s identity, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. They showcase the neighborhoods that define a city’s cultural fabric, from the vibrant markets of Marrakech to the bohemian quarters of Berlin. Maps become visual storytellers, encapsulating the essence of a city and enticing us to explore its hidden gems and untold narratives.
While cities are dynamic and ever-changing, maps offer a glimpse of stability and permanence. They freeze a moment in time, preserving a city’s layout and structure for future generations to study and appreciate. Historical maps are invaluable resources, allowing us to trace the growth and evolution of cities over centuries. They reveal the layers of history embedded in a city’s architecture and urban planning, shedding light on its past triumphs, challenges, and transformative moments.
Ultimately, cities and maps are intertwined in a symbiotic relationship. Cities inspire the creation of maps, providing the raw material and inspiration for cartographers to capture and represent their essence. Maps, in turn, provide us with a visual language to interpret and navigate cities, unlocking their treasures and enabling us to engage with their unique offerings. Together, cities and maps shape our perceptions, ignite our curiosity, and deepen our connection with the places we inhabit or visit.
Learn more about Maps
- Topographical Maps: Representation of the physical features of a region or area.
- Contour Maps: Representation of the contours of the land surface or ocean floor.
- Raised Relief Maps: Representation of land elevations with raised features indicating landforms.
- Terrain Maps: Representation of the physical features of a terrain or landmass.
- USGS Topographic Maps: Representation of topographic features and land elevations based on USGS data.
- USGS Historical Topographic Maps: Representation of historical topographic maps created by the USGS.
- Watershed Maps: Representation of the areas where water flows into a particular river or lake.
- Elevation Maps: Representation of land and water elevations with high precision.
- Physical Maps: Representation of physical features of the Earth’s surface such as landforms, oceans, and plateaus.
- Bathymetric Maps: Representation of the topography and features of the ocean floor.
- NOAA Maps: Representation of atmospheric, oceanographic, and environmental data by NOAA.
- Nautical Maps: Representation of the underwater features and depth of an area for navigation purposes.
- Geologic Maps: Representation of the geologic features of an area such as rock types, faults, and folds.
- Satellite Maps: Representation of earth from high-definition satellite imagery.
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