Top 20 World’s Largest Cities Proper By Population

When it comes to the world’s largest cities, the general idea is that the biggest cities by surface automatically include the largest population, but some of you may be surprised to find out that things are a little bit more complicated than that. Today we’re going to present a top 20 regarding the world’s largest cities proper by population, and just in case you don’t know what a city proper is, we’re going to shed some light on the matter. A city proper is characterized by a certain region within a big city that usually features its own boundaries and its own unique form of government, but there are numerous cases when a city proper actually extends much further beyond the boundaries of a simple city and encompasses neighboring villages or other localities.


20. Chennai – Municipal Corporation


Chennai is the very large capital of the Tamil Nadu state in India. This renowned metropolis had a population of 4.3 million in 2011, and it is currently one of the most important centers for education, culture and economy in the southern part of India. The city is administered by a municipal corporation called Chennai Corporation, which was founded in 1688. Even though the original influence of this corporation was limited to a radius of 67 square miles, its reach was expanded in 2011 to 164 square miles. This area is divided into 3 main sections called the South, North and Central section, all covering a total of 200 wards combined.

19. Lahore – City District


The capital of the Punjab province in Pakistan is called Lahore, and it is currently the largest populated city in the world that has a native Punjabi population: 6.3 million. As with many other important cities in Pakistan, Lahore is a so-called City District that is divided into 9 different towns. These towns are called Nishtar Town, Iqbal Town, Samanabad Town, Gulberg Town, Data Ganj Bakhsh Town, Aziz Bhatti Town, Wagah Town, Shalimar Town and Ravi Town.

Lahore is often regarded as a cultural haven of Pakistan, since it houses numerous art collections, outstanding cuisine, festivals as well as filmmaking studios. As you would expect, religion is a very important part of the lives of Lahore’s citizens, which is why the city boasts many mosques, shrines and temples.

18. London – Greater London

LondonImage credit to London SNAP

With a population of 8.1 million, London is undoubtedly the busiest city in the UK and one of the most important in the world. The Greater London administrative area and county of London was established in 1965 and includes the city itself as well as a total of 32 London boroughs. Greater London covers 607 square miles of space and is governed by a Lord Lieutenant of Greater London, which is why the area is actually considered a county rather than a city in its own right.

17. New York – Five Boroughs

New York

The five boroughs of New York City are called Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. They all cover a total area of 303 square miles, and they each have their own borough president and a borough hall. However, the title of borough president within New York is more of an honorary one since it comes with very few actual executive powers. The legislative powers within New York City are held by the New York City Council, while the executive ones are in the hands of the Mayor. With a population of 8.3 million citizens, New York’s city proper is undoubtedly one of the largest in the world.

16. Mexico City – Federal District

Mexico City

Mexico City boasts a population of 8.8 million citizens, which means that it is undoubtedly one of the largest cities in the world. The city proper of Mexico City is defined by its Federal District, which was founded officially at the heart of the city in 1824. The Federal District was expanded greatly by President Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1858 so that it would cover a total area of 660 square miles, but the area was slightly downsized to 571 square miles between 1898 and 1902.

15. Tokyo – 23 Special Wards


The famous capital of Japan, Tokyo, flaunts a population of 8.9 million citizens, but most of the population is concentrated within something called the 23 Special Wards. These wards comprise the former City of Tokyo, which was dissolved in 1943 in order to become an intricate part of today’s beautiful Tokyo Metropolis. The way these distinct municipalities function is similar to the boroughs of London that we described earlier, but they are not in any way administrated by special forms of government aside from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The 23 Special Wards occupy 240 square miles of space.

14. Jakarta – Special Capital District


The Special Capital Region of Jakarta, or simply Jakarta, is the capital of Indonesia and one of the largest cities in southern Asia, which is why it flaunts a population of 9.7 million. Due to its immense size and significance, Jakarta is actually known as a stand-alone province that has its own governor. The province is split into several municipalities that have their own mayors, but there is also a special regency that is under the administration of a regent. The 5 main municipalities of Jakarta are called Central Jakarta, North Jakarta, South Jakarta, East Jakarta and West Jakarta.

The regency we mentioned before is called Thousand Islands and represents a conglomerate of 105 small islands found on the Java Sea.

13. Seoul – Special City


The capital of South Korea is called Seoul, but it is officially known as the Seoul Special City. The population of this brimming metropolis is no less than 10 million, while the city itself is divided into 25 main districts, each varying in size and population. In turn, each of these districts is divided into neighborhoods. Apart from its incredible economic prowess and sheer size, the city of Seoul is particularly famous for its outstanding population density.

12. Shenzhen – All Districts


The city of Shenzhen can be found in the southeastern part of China, in close proximity to Hong Kong. This thriving city is known for being China’s first Special Economic Zones, and it currently features a population of about 10.4 million. This sub-provincial city is comprised of 10 districts, 8 of which are directly managed by the city administration. These districts care called Futian, Luohu, Nanshan, Yantian, Bao’an, Longgang, Guangming, Pingshan, Longhua and Dapeng.

11. Tianjin – Core Districts


The metropolis called Tianjin can be found in the northern part of China and houses about 11 million people. Tianjin is a direct-controlled municipality that is split between 13 districts and 3 counties, all under the administration of China’s central government. As the fourth-largest city in China by population, Tianjin is divided into 2 main cores, out of which the one that is in close proximity to the Hai River comprises most of the urban population. The other core is called Binhai and is located on the Bohai Sea coast.

10. Delhi – Municipal Corporation


The National Capital Territory of India, Delhi, is undoubtedly the largest city in the world by area, but it is also one of the most populous cities in the world presently. In 2011, Delhi flaunted a population of 11 million citizens, which is why it was and is still considered as one of the most populous cities on the Globe. Flaunting a rich historical heritage, Delhi had numerous owners and was rebuilt and fractured several times across the centuries, and so its modern version actually comprises the remains of other smaller cities. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is divided into 3 parts, each overseeing different districts of Delhi. These divisions are called North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and East Delhi Municipal Corporation.

9. Guangzhou – All Districts


The capital of the Guangdong province of China is called Guangzhou, and it can be found on the banks of the Pearl River. As the largest city in Southern China and China’s third largest city, Guangzhou enjoys widespread economical and cultural significance. With a population of 12 million citizens in 2010, the city is divided into a total of 10 districts and 2 separate county-cities. Massive in scale, Guangzhou includes 38 towns as well as 131 sub districts.

8. Beijing – Core Districts


As you would expect, the capital city of China is absolutely massive and houses a huge number of citizens: 11 million. This directly controlled municipality is fractured into 14 districts, 137 sub districts and 2 counties, and even though Beijing is the capital city of one of the most populous countries in the world, the city itself is not the most populous in the country, since that place is currently taken by Shanghai. However, Beijing’s rich historical heritage that stretches back to 3000 years and the fact that it served as the political seat of China for nearly 8 centuries earned it a reputation as a beautiful, thriving and highly significant metropolis.

7. São Paulo – Municipality

São Paulo

The largest city proper in the entire southern hemisphere is São Paulo – Brazil’s largest city. Named in honor of the famous Saint Paul, this city is a very important hub for culture, economy, art and entertainment. The population of São Paulo is 11.3 million citizens, all living within the city’s 31 sub prefectures. In turn, these sub prefectures are divided into 96 districts, some of which feature multiple neighborhoods.

The sub prefectures of São Paulo are very similar to New York City boroughs, and they are supposed to bring financial stability and independence for local forms of government within the city.

6. Moscow – Federal City


The Federal City of Moscow contains a total of 12 so-called okrugs that are divided in turn into several districts. In 2012, Moscow’s Federal City received the addition of 3 new towns called Shcherbinka, Moskovsky and Troitsk as well as several parts of the Podolsky Districts, Naro-Fominsky and Leninsky areas. With a population of 11.9 million, Russia’s capital is a thriving economic hub that houses one of the largest conglomerates of billionaires in the world according to Forbes.

5. Mumbai – Municipal Corporation


The capital city of the Indian state Maharashtra is called Mumbai, but some of you probably know it by its former name: Bombay. This incredible city has the highest population in India (12.4 million), and if we were to count its neighboring cities of Thane and Navi Mumbai, we would sum up the world’s most populous urban areas.

The governing body of Mumbai is called a Municipal Corporation called Brihanmumbai, which is in charge of numerous structural and civic issues concerning this huge city. The corporation is led by a Municipal Commissioner that benefits from full executive powers regarding legislation.

4. Karachi – City District


Karachi is undoubtedly one of the most important cities of Pakistan, not only because it is the capital of the Sindh province, but also because it is the most populous city in the country as well as a major financial hub. Karachi has a population of 12.9 million and is undoubtedly the single largest city in the world that is linked to the Muslim faith.

Since 2011, the city of Karachi is divided into 5 distinct city districts called Karachi East, Karachi West, Karachi Central, Karachi South and Malir, all of them forming the Karachi Division presently. The military has a strong presence within the city as well, since the Karachi contains a total of six military cantonments.

3. Istanbul – City Proper


Even though many people still confuse Istanbul as being the capital of Turkey, that title goes to the second largest city in the country: Ankara. Be that as it may, Istanbul is still regarded as the country’s main economic, historical and cultural center, more so since it flaunts a rich historical heritage, a very numerous population (13.8 million) as well as a massive occupied area of 2,063 square miles.

Istanbul spans 2 continents and is divided by the Bosphorus waterway. The city is split into 39 districts since 2009, and each of these districts features its own number of neighborhoods.

2. Lagos – Core Districts


The city of Lagos houses the highest population in Nigeria, and it is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. There are an estimated 20 million people currently residing in Lagos, and even though a numerous population usually equals a thriving economy, the rate at which the city is growing could cause some serious sustainability concerns.

Metropolitan Lagos includes 16 Local Government Areas out of the 20 that comprise the Lagos State. Even though Lagos used to be the capital of Nigeria at some point, it was eventually replaced by Abuja in 1991.

1. Shanghai – Core Districts


Finally, the world’s largest city proper by population is Shanghai, which also happens to be the largest city in China by population. With 23 million citizens, this city is a very important financial center globally and boasts with the busiest container port in the world. As far as its administration is concerned, Shanghai was fractured into 17 county-level divisions that comprise just 1 real county and 16 districts.

The Huangpu District includes the main administration offices as well as the city hall. The city is so large that it doesn’t actually have a well-defined central area, but due to its administrative importance, Huangpu is often regarded as the core of this immense city.

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