Below are the ten largest cities in the world ranked in order of the most recent population figures from the United Nations World Urbanization Prospects report.
We have included urban agglomerations in this list, which is where one city has got so big it has engulfed another — like Tokyo, which now also includes Yokohama.
There are several advantages to living in a large city — the main one being that cities are where people can find work. But cities can often be lonely places, lacking in community spirit. And when they are so large, problems like pollution and providing adequate sanitation can be an ever-growing problem.
Let’s look at the ten largest cities in the world, counting down to number one.
10 Kolkata (Calcutta), India
Population: 14.4 million
Kolkata was once the capital of British India and half the city still lives as if it still was. There are old gentlemen’s clubs aplenty, some of the best golf courses in India and the thriving Kolkata race course.
All these activities carry on regardless of the acute housing shortage in the city, with many people living in institutional shelters in the Metropolitan District and one-third of the population living in slums (bustees).
Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal and lies on the Hooghly River. There is a wide divide between wealth and poverty and the streets are teeming with millions of people every day.
Despite the problems, Calcutta is one of the friendliest cities in India to visit. One of the most famous sites is the ancient Kali Temple, which is an extremely Holy site for Hindus.
9 Dhaka, Bangladesh
Population: 15.4 million
Dhaka is trying hard to overcome its problems and seems to be winning the battle. Investments from overseas is turning it into one of the fastest-growing cities in the world.
Known as the Rickshaw Capital you will see 400,000 rickshaws a day on the streets, along with huge amount of traffic.
The city suffers from pollution, poverty and overcrowding and it is trying to tighten up its building regulations after the owner of an eight-story garment factory ignored warnings of cracks in the Spring of 2013 before it collapsed in April that year killing 127 people and injuring 1,000 more.
There are a large number of garment factories in Dhaka and the garment trade is one of their biggest exports.
8 Beijing, China
Population: 15.6 million
Beijing will be remembered by many people as Peking and is an exotic city to visit. It is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and lies in northern China where it is the home to the Cultural and International Trade Center.
Much of this city is attractive, from beautiful modern apartments with an old-world exterior to the elegant Chinese houses surrounding large courtyards. However pollution is bad, and not all living conditions are good.
Beijing is one of the ancient cities of China and there are many attractions to visit including the famous Forbidden City, known as Gu Gong in Chinese, as well as Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and the Ming Tombs.
You can also visit the famous Birdnest Stadium which was the home of the 2008 Olympic Games.
7 Mumbai, India
Population: 19.7 million
Formerly called Bombay, Mumbai is a city where time stands still. Despite modern hotels and apartments you are more likely to find ancient Austin Sevens waiting to serve as taxis than modern people-carriers, and horses and carriages wait by the side of the road to take tourists on tours of the city.
Most people who visit Mumbai head for the Gateway to India, a tourist attraction where you can see snake charmers and be blessed by people pertaining to be priests. Indian women are also often seen washing their clothes in the river, which is part of their every day lives.
Mumbai is also home to Bollywood, India’s film industry. There is a huge divide between the rich and the poor in the city, but it’s an extremely exciting place to visit.
6 Sao Paulo, Brazil
Population: 19.9 million
On a first visit, Sao Paulo is so big it is intimidating. There is hardly anything beautiful about it — yet its residents would not live anywhere else. There is a lot of smog and Sao Paulo’s traffic is horrendous.
Like Mumbai, there is a massive divide between rich and poor with many people living in run-down and over-populated favelas. The city is also not well maintained in places, with crumbling sidewalks.
However, it is hive of activity and a cultural hub, with a large number of art-cinemas and experimental theaters. Many clubs are open 24-hours and everywhere you go you hear the exciting throb of Latin-American music.
One of the main attractions is The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Sao Paulo has the largest number of Japanese residents outside Japan and a large Arab community.
5 Shanghai, China
Population: 20.2 million
Shanghai, known as Ju for short, is a bustling, multicultural city which is home to the World Finance Center, the sixth tallest building in the world. It is one of the most influential cities in the world and has a real glamor attached to it.
Lying on the estuary of the Yangtze River, the famous Nanjing Road is always packed with people and one of the main attractions is the YuYuan Garden with its magnificent temple.
Shanghai is also one of the world’s centers of international trade, which is why the city has such an international flavor.
Many richer members of Shanghai society live in modern high-rise flats overlooking the city — while the majority of the population live in sprawling suburbs.
4 New York-Newark
Population: 20.4 million
New York City is famously known as the City That Never Sleeps. When combined with its conjoined neighbour Newark, the resulting urban agglomeration ranks as the third largest city in the world.
New York is one of the most exciting cities on the planet, with its famous yellow cabs, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and the Great White Way —Broadway, where you can see the best shows in the world.
New York hit headlines around the globe in 2001 when terrorists flew two planes into the city’s twin towers, housing the World Trade Center, on September 11. A total of 2,978 people died and many more people were injured.
The cleared site now houses a 9/11 memorial and museum and is one of the first places tourists head for when they visit the city. A memorial service is held there every September 11 at the exact time the planes hit the towers.
A new One World Trade Center, the fourth tallest building in the world, has also been built on the site.
3 Mexico City
Population: 22.7 million
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and the seat of its federal powers. It is a city of contrasts; on the one hand it is the wealthiest city in Latin America but like many Mexican cities it has its poor areas where children beg on the streets.
However, the poverty here is actually the lowest in all of Mexico. One of the main attractions is the magnificent cathedral in the city center. The city stands 7,200ft above sea level.
Pollution was particularly bad in the past, when huge numbers of people moved to the city from other parts of Mexico. However, thanks to government efforts this has now been improved.
2 Delhi, India
Population: 22.7 million
You will find two different worlds in Delhi — ancient and modern. There is Old Delhi, once the capital of Islamic India, which comprises narrow lanes and historic mosques. Then there is New Delhi, created by the British Raj, which has spacious tree-lined avenues and is home to the city’s government buildings.
Delhi has been destroyed several times by invaders through history, but has always been built up again. New Delhi is one of the fastest growing cities in the world today.
Hindi, English, Urdu and Punjabi are all spoken in Delhi and nine different religions are practiced.
Residential accommodation varies from wealthy apartments and houses where a lot of British ex-pats live, to government-provided accommodation which is often as small as one bedroom which has to accommodate an entire family.
There are also large slums, and you will find people living in shacks by the side of the road in many parts of the city.
1 Tokyo, Japan (including Yokohama)
Population: 37.2 million
Tokyo was originally called Edo, until 1868 when the Emperor moved there from Kyoto and the name was changed to Tokyo — meaning Eastern Capital.
It wasn’t always the world’s largest city because major parts of it were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and again in WWII air raids.
Two of the major attractions include the magnificent Sensoji Temple in the Asakusa district and the 634m high Tokyo Skytree which has observation platforms overlooking the city.
On the outskirts, there is also a Disney theme park and the Ghibli animation film studio. The urban agglomeration including neighbouring Yokohama makes this the biggest city in the world.
Residential property mostly comprises 2-4 bedroom apartments in concrete skyscrapers that dominate the city.
Every day the population of the center of Tokyo swells by over 2.5 million people as people commute into it from other areas to work. Because of the demand, there are even people specially employed at stations to push people on to trains like sardines during rush hour.
Capsule hotels have also become popular in Tokyo, which squeeze in guests into as small a space as possible. They offer rooms roughly 7ft long by 4ft wide and 3ft tall — which is big enough to lie down in but not much else.