The 10 largest cities in the world

The Growth of Urban Areas

More than half of the world's population – 55 percent – lives in cities. By 2050, that figure is predicted to jump to 68 percent, according to the United Nation's Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

As the world continues to urbanize, a handful of countries will account for much of the growth. Between 2018 and 2050, the U.N. estimates 35 percent of urbanization will occur in India, China and Nigeria alone.

Today about 4.2 billion people live in cities, with North America, Latin America and the Caribbean making up the most urbanized regions of the world and Africa remaining the most rural.

These are the world's 10 largest urban areas, or "urban agglomerations," based on 2015 data, the most recent released by the U.N's population division.

The largest cities in the world
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The largest cities in the world

10. Beijing

Country: China
2015 Population: 18.42 million

In an effort to prevent crowding and pollution, the Chinese government in 2017 announced plans to limit the capital's population to 23 million.

State-led rules have been effective in curbing population growth, according to The Guardian. Migrants have been pushed out of the capital and ongoing efforts to "beautify" the city have included "rebuilding grittier districts, rounding up street vendors, closing or moving hundreds of markets and bricking up restaurants, bars and shops without licenses."

9. New York-Newark

Country: United States
2015 Population: 18.65 million

New York is the largest city in the United States, with a population twice the size of Los Angeles, the country’s second-biggest city. The Statue of Liberty, located on the city's Liberty Island, was gifted from France to the U.S. and constructed in 1886. The statue was shipped as 350 pieces in 214 crates and took four months to assemble.

New Jersey’s Newark, located 8 miles from New York City, is home to the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the U.S. The city’s Branch Brook Park has 5,300 cherry trees, which is 1,600 more than in Washington, D.C.

8. Cairo

Country: Egypt
2015 Population: 18.82 million

Cairo is the capital of Egypt and home to more than one-quarter of all Egyptians. The city is known for the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing.

7. Kinki major metropolitan area (Osaka and Kyoto)

Country: Japan
2015 Population: 19.3 million

The Japanese city of Osaka, once the country’s capital, is the birthplace of Bunraku, Japanese puppet theater. The puppeteers are usually in full view of the audience, but are dressed in all black in order to be “invisible.”

The city is nicknamed “The Nation’s Kitchen” because of the vital role it played in managing Japan’s economy and trade during the 17th century.

6. Mumbai

Country: India
2015 Population: 19.32 million

The city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India's leading financial capital and home to the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Every day in the city, more than "200 trains make over 2,000 trips along 300 kilometres (186 miles) of track, carrying more passengers per kilometre than any railway on earth," according to National Geographic. The city offers a "ladies special" train service exclusively for women commuters to help them travel comfortably during the morning and evening peak hours.

5. São Paulo

Country: Brazil
2015 Population: 20.88 million

The Brazilian city of São Paulo has the third worst commute in the world, according to Thrillist. Residents can expect an average daily commute time of 93 minutes.

The city has the largest Japanese diaspora in the world, with an estimated population of nearly 1.5 million as of 2014.

4. Mexico City

Country: Mexico
2015 Population: 21.34 million

As a result of water shortages and drought worsened by climate change, some parts of Mexico City – originally built a mile and a half above sea level – are sinking at a rate of about 12 inches per year.

The Mexican city is unique among mega-cities in that it houses more than 6,000 acres of United Nations-protected ancient farm land within its borders.

3. Shanghai

Country: China
2015 Population: 23.48 million

China’s city of Shanghai is home to the world’s longest subway system, which stretches nearly 400 miles, and the world’s fastest train, which can reach speeds up to 267 mph.

2. Delhi

Country: India
2015 Population: 25.87 million

After Mumbai, Delhi is the second richest Indian city. As of 2017, the city had a total wealth of $450 billion and was home to 23,000 millionaires and 18 billionaires.

1. Tokyo

Country: Japan
2015 Population: 37.26 million

Tokyo, which translates to “Eastern Capital,” was named Edo until 1869 when the Japanese city was renamed by Emperor Meiji. Before the city became a metropolis, Tokyo was a small fishing village. Today, its Tsukiji Fish Market is the largest fish market in the world, known for its tuna auctions, in which a tuna once sold for $1.7 million.

As the world’s biggest urban area, Tokyo has a population that accounts for more than a quarter of all of Japan


The Biggest Cities in the Future

By 2030, the world is likely to have 43 mega-cities with more than 10 million residents, with most located in developing regions, according to the U.N.

The U.N. predicts these will be the largest urban areas in 2035:

1. Delhi, India - 43.35 million
2. Tokyo, Japan - 36.01 million
3. Shanghai, China - 34.34 million
4. Dhaka, Bangladesh - 31.23 million
5. Cairo, Egypt - 28.50 million
6. Mumbai, India - 27.34 million
7. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo - 26.68 million
8. Mexico City, Mexico - 25.41 million
9. Beijing, China - 25.37 million
10. São Paulo, Brazil - 24.49 million

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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