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What are Some of the World's Most Populated Places?

Michael Anissimov
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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The world's most populated places are, in rough order, Mumbai in India (13.6 million people), Karachi in Pakistan (13 million), Delhi in India (11.3 million), Istanbul in Turkey (11.3 million), Sao Paulo in Brazil (11 million), Moscow in Russia (10.5 million), Seoul in South Korea (10.4 million), Shanghai in China (10 million), Beijing in China (9.5 million), Mexico City in Mexico (8.8 million), Tokyo in Japan (8.7 million), Jakarta in Indonesia (8.5 million), and New York City in the United States (8.3 million).

The most populated countries are Monaco, a nation-state in Europe that is the most densely populated sovereign nation, with 32,000 people in just 0.77 square miles (2 square kilometers), and Singapore, with 4.6 million in 273 square miles (707 square kilometers). Macau and Hong Kong, mostly autonomous special administrative regions in China, are also extremely populous, with 520,400 and 7 million in 11 and 424.3 square miles (28.6 and 1,099 square kilometers) respectively. If Macau were an independent nation, it would have the highest population density in the world.

Altogether, there are eight cities with populations over 10 million, and at least eight with population densities over 20,000 people per 0.38 square mile (1 square kilometer), seven in India and one in Bangladesh. At least several additional cities have population densities between 10,000 and 20,000 people per 0.38 square mile (1 square kilometer). For reference, a typical town or village has a population density of about 100 to 1,000 people in this same amount of space, while the average world population density, if only the land is counted, is approximately 43 people per 0.38 square mile (1 square kilometer). In general, the world's most populated places are found in south and east Asia.

The city with the highest population density in the world by a factor of almost 100%, is Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. With 6.7 million residents living in an area of about 59.4 square miles (154 square kilometers), Dhaka is often known as the rickshaw capital of the world, with 400,000 rickshaws running daily. Like the rest of Bangladesh, Dhaka is culturally related to India, its neighbor to the east.

Despite fears over overpopulation, some of the most populated places in the world are some of the most interesting places to live. Though most of the most populated cities except Tokyo, Beijing, and New York City have huge slum areas, there are also large, well-developed portions of the city that are culturally, economically, and intellectually vibrant. With the global human population increasing by about 60 million people per year, and more than half of humanity living in cities, learning to cope with highly populated areas is the wave of the future. With careful planning, highly populated cities can be pleasant, with large parks and open space, as well as highly productive economically.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated CulturalWorld.org contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.
Discussion Comments
By jmc88 — On Aug 27, 2012

@Emilski - I know what you mean. You see the pictures, and the streets are filled with people, cars, motor bikes, donkeys, bicycles, and everything else. There doesn't seem to be any kind of regulation, which I'm sure doesn't help things.

What I am really curious about is how cities in the United States didn't end up with way. Yes, a lot of these countries and cities are just now becoming developed, but American when through the same stages.

Is it just that the world population in general was lower, so American cities never got as crowded? Were American city plans better? Maybe just because the US is bigger there was more room to spread out. I doubt this, though, because India and China are also very large. I don't know. Does anyone have any ideas?

By Emilski — On Aug 26, 2012

It always amazes me reading about how some people have to live in densely populated areas. I have been to New York and Chicago and a lot of the larger American cities. There are a lot of people, but you are always able to get around.

Once you start looking at population densities, though, that's when it gets mind-boggling. I believe Los Angeles holds the record in the US, and it isn't even close to competing with other places in the world.

I have never had the chance to visit any of the crowded Asian cities, but I have seen pictures and videos. It seems like there are just constant floods of people everywhere you go. I don't think I could handle it.

By JimmyT — On Aug 25, 2012

@TreeMan - I agree. I have been to Tokyo, and it is very nice. It is just like a bigger, Asian version of New York. Mexico City, on the other hand, is much less pleasant.

People are jammed in like sardines, and you constantly see signs of poverty. Being an American or European in Mexico City or some of the impoverished Asian cities makes you almost like a celebrity. They are well aware that you being able to travel to that country means you have a decent amount of money.

Tourists who venture into different parts of town will often end up with flocks of children and even adults following them begging for money. Because of the low value of some foreign currency, one American dollar can be enough to feed a whole family for a day.

By TreeMan — On Aug 25, 2012

@dbuckley212 - I would say that the populations of most of these cities have more to do with culture and families than it does specific views of the world.

Like the article mentions, many of the most populated places in the world are extremely overcrowded and full of slums. The question then becomes "why?" A lot of countries like India, Bangladesh, China, and the like are just now becoming developed. When development starts to happen, people come from far and wide to try to find jobs and have a better life. Unfortunately, jobs aren't plentiful, people can't afford to move to new places, and they have to make whatever living they can.

Just like in America's past, poorer families or more rural families will often have more children, because that equates to more income. The same thing is happening in the developing world right now.

By Mykol — On Aug 24, 2012

My son travels all over the world with his job and has been to several of these most populated places. I love to hear of his adventures and some of the experiences he has had visiting these places.

There is always something to do, and you never have any trouble finding something new and different to do. I think this is one reason young people love to live in places that are highly populated.

By andee — On Aug 23, 2012

I have been to New York City and Mexico City, but none of the other cities mentioned in this article. While I enjoy visiting a big city, it isn't a place where I would want to live.

I think it is a matter of what you are used to. I have friends who love the city and would go crazy in a small town or in the country.

I will take large open spaces and fresh air any day over a densely populated place.

By honeybees — On Aug 23, 2012

I was somewhat surprised to see only one United States city on the list of the most populated places. As I read through that list I realized that I have not been to even one of those places.

Growing up on a farm and living on the edge of a small town now, I don't imagine I will ever make it to one of these places. It really isn't something I have a desire to do.

I am much more content where there are a small number of friendly people I know, and I don't have to fight the crowds or the traffic.

By SilentBlue — On Feb 03, 2011

@dbuckley212

Polite? I wouldn't say westerners are less polite. If you run straight into somebody in New York City, they will usually apologize. Not so in Shanghai or Tokyo.

By dbuckley212 — On Feb 01, 2011

It seems to me that Asian cities tend to be more populous than cities in the west. Perhaps this reflects various worldviews: westerners tend to be more individualistic, while the East emphasizes collectivity and polite indirectness.

By arod2b42 — On Jan 30, 2011

Some of these places must be difficult to live in in the long run. I find that when I spend a lot of time in New York City, it is refreshing to retreat to the Appalachians for some rest and refreshment. People are great to be around, but too many people for too long can be a boor. A lot of people in populated places have learned to manipulate other people. It is very competitive.

By Leonidas226 — On Jan 28, 2011

Macau is a unique area which was settled by Portuguese merchants and explorers. Today, the Macanese people are a blend of Portuguese and Chinese cultures. They even have their own specific style of cuisine.

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated CulturalWorld.org contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics,...
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