From the ancient cities of Rome and Athens to the modern metropolises of Tokyo and New York, humanity has always been drawn to the hustle and bustle of urban life. With the world’s population continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate, cities are becoming even larger and more complex.
In this big world we are in, where more than eight billion people live, there are megacities that offer community, identity, and opportunities. In every city, towering skyscrapers, bustling streets, and vibrant cultures abound. But with so many cities to choose from, which one claims the title of the largest city on the planet? In this article, we’ll learn more about the biggest city on earth and explore the contenders of the largest cities by population (in terms of the estimated 2022 population).
What is the Largest City on the Planet?
The largest city in the world is found in Asia – Tokyo, Japan, to be exact. It’s a bustling metropolis known for its cutting-edge technology, cultural landmarks, and vibrant nightlife, making it a popular destination for tourists and business travelers alike.
With an estimated population of around 37,274,000 people, Tokyo is the capital of Japan. It is situated on the East-Central coast of the island of Honshu within the Kantō region. Tokyo translates to “Eastern capital,” and it was named Edo until 1869, when Emperor Meiji renamed the city. Before it was a famous metropolis, Tokyo was a small fishing village.
Despite its size, Tokyo is well-organized and maintains a high standard of cleanliness and safety. The city is known for its efficient public transportation system, including its extensive subway network and high-speed trains that connect Tokyo with other major cities in Japan. This makes it easy for visitors to explore the city and experience its many attractions, including world-renowned museums, iconic landmarks such as Tokyo Tower and the Tokyo Skytree, and beautiful parks and gardens such as the Imperial Palace East Gardens and Yoyogi Park.
Tokyo is also a city of contrasts. It’s where you can find modern skyscrapers and traditional temples and shrines, fast-paced lifestyles and humble people, and crowded yet clean areas. The city is a hub of technological innovation, with companies such as Sony, Toyota, and Nintendo headquartered there. At the same time, it is steeped in rich cultural traditions, including the art of tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and calligraphy.
Tokyo’s blend of modernity and tradition, efficiency, and hospitality make it a must-visit destination for anyone.
Fun Facts About Tokyo, Japan
With more than 37 million people living in Tokyo, it’s the most populated urban city in the world and is one of the cities with the highest density in the world. There’s no shortage of people here, but there’s also no shortage of fun things to do and discover here. Here are some interesting facts about Tokyo, Japan, that you may like to know:
1. Tokyo was initially called Edo for a long time.
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine that Tokyo was a small fishing village called Edo, but it’s true. That village was founded in 1603.
Despite its humble beginnings, it eventually became the center of power for the Tokugawa shogunate. By the 18th century, Edo had become one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of over 1 million people.
In 1868, the city was officially renamed Tokyo, meaning “Eastern Capital” in English, during the Meiji Restoration. Interestingly, there are no official rules designating Tokyo as the capital of Japan, and some locals in Kyoto believe their former imperial city is the rightful capital.
The Edo Museum in Tokyo commemorates the city’s rich history and culture during the Tokugawa shogunate era.
2. Tokyo is home to the busiest pedestrian intersection
The Shibuya Crossing is the busiest pedestrian intersection in Tokyo and in the world. With seven crosswalks connecting the streets, it’s a sight to behold when the lights turn green and a massive wave of pedestrians hurry to their destination. Up to 2,500 people cross it at once during rush hour.
3. Tokyo is known for its vending machines and techy toilets
Tourists’ favorite things about Japan are its vending machines that sell almost anything and high-tech toilets that you can’t find anywhere else.
From hamburgers to umbrellas to even fish broth – you can all buy them on a vending machine in the city. Some of the unique vending machines in Tokyo include one that dispenses fermented soybeans, another that sells bananas, and even a “mystery vending machine” that dispenses an unknown item wrapped in white paper. There’s at least one vending machine every 12 meters in the city, so there’s one vending machine for every 23 people living in Tokyo.
Then, there are their high-tech toilets, which are equipped with various features such as heated seats and bidets, making your trips to the toilet extra cushy.
4. There’s no safer city than Tokyo
Tokyo is known for being one of the safest cities in the world, with low crime rates and a welcoming atmosphere for travelers. Crimes against tourists are rare, and locals feel comfortable enough to even fall asleep on the trains without worrying about their belongings being stolen. Thanks to its efficient law enforcement and respectful culture, Tokyo consistently ranks high on safety and low crime rate lists. If you happen to lose your wallet, there’s a high chance that it will be turned in to the nearest convenience store, where they will take great care to contact the owner and keep it safe until it’s claimed.
5. Tokyo is home to a robot hotel
Tokyo is a hub of technological innovation, and that’s evident in its Henn na Hotel, located in the Ginza district. The world’s first hotel run by robots, it’s perfect for travelers who prefer minimal human contact. The multi-lingual robots can turn their heads, blink, and even carry luggage.
The hotel’s name, “Henn,” meaning “to change,” reflects its commitment to offering an extraordinary and comfortable experience that goes beyond the ordinary. Additionally, the hotel features keyless locking and entry through facial recognition technology and offers free Wi-Fi to its guests.
But the robots don’t stop there – in Shinjuku, visitors can head to the Robot Restaurant for a unique dining experience. There, they can witness robot monsters, dancers, and lasers perform while snacking on bento boxes.
6. There are lots of themed cafes in Tokyo
Tokyo is known for its abundance of themed cafes catering to all interests. From vampire cafes, Alice in Wonderland, maid cafes, cat cafes, hedgehog cafes, Totoro cafes, Moomin cafes, PomPomPurin Cafe, and many more, there is a themed cafe for almost everything.
Some of these cafes are limited editions and pop-up stores, only available temporarily. However, some popular ones have become permanent establishments, allowing visitors to indulge in their favorite themes all year round.
7. There are more neon signs in Tokyo than anywhere else in the world
Tokyo outshines even Las Vegas when it comes to neon signs. With more streets and entire blocks adorned with vibrant neon lights, Tokyo is undoubtedly the neon capital of the world. Some of the best places to witness this spectacular sight are Shinjuku, particularly in the Kabukicho district, and Shibuya, especially around the Shibuya crossing.
8. Tokyo boasts the most Michelin stars in the world
For over a decade, Tokyo has maintained its position as a top culinary destination for being the city with the most Michelin stars in the world. The city’s food scene is known for its exceptional, inventive, and exclusive restaurants, and Tokyo has an impressive 263 stars awarded to its restaurants as of November 15, 2022.
Kanda, Quintessence, and Joël Robuchon are among the most renowned three-star restaurants globally.
9. Tokyo has its own Eiffel Tower
The Tokyo Tower, a prominent landmark in Tokyo, was constructed in 1958 and stands 333 meters (1,092 feet) tall. It was designed after the Eiffel Tower in Paris and is actually taller than its inspiration. The tower is painted in orange and white to comply with air regulations. It serves as the master control for broadcasting television signals, FM radio reception and transmission, traffic information transmission, and weather and air pollution data collection.
The Tokyo Sky Tree, built by Nikken Sekkei, is now the world’s tallest tower and measures 634 meters (2,080 feet) tall, making it the second-tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa. Visitors to Tokyo can visit both towers for breathtaking views of the city.
10. Tokyo has its own Disneyland theme park
Tokyo has its own unique versions of Disneyland and theme parks that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Tokyo Disneyland will make you feel the magic of Disney but with a Tokyo twist. It was the first Disney resort built outside the United States, opening in 1983. It was the largest single Disney park at that time, with a 114-acre plot.
The Tokyo Disney Resort now comprises two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Tokyo Disneyland is one of the most popular parks, employing over 20,000 people, and is less expensive compared to its American counterparts.
11. Tokyo is home to the busiest train station in the world
Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, which is owned by the JR East Keio Corporation, is located in the Shinjuku and Shibuya wards. With an estimated 3.5 million daily commuters, it is the most crowded train station globally.
12. People are employed to push you on busy trains
This may be weird, but it’s true! In Tokyo, there are staff members known as Oshiya, which means “Pushers” in English. Although their official title is “Passenger Arrangement Staff,” their job is to push commuters onto crowded trains during busy periods to ensure as many people as possible can get on board. This unique job exists only in Tokyo.
13. There are anti-suicide lights in the metro stations in Tokyo
Japan is also known for its high rates of suicides, and the fast-paced lifestyle and problems at work in Tokyo contribute to some of them. To prevent suicides, Tokyo’s metro stations have been equipped with blue anti-suicide lights since 2009. According to a scientific study published in 2013, the strategy has been successful, with suicide rates dropping by up to 84%. Blue light has been shown to help people under psychological pressure to relax more quickly.
14. The Harajuku district is known worldwide for its fashion
Harajuku has long been a center for eye-catching fashion, predating the popularity of Harajuku style among American music stars. The trend began during the post-World War II Allied occupation of Japan, when foreigners and locals mixed styles, and was further propelled by the 1967 Olympic Games held in Tokyo.
Nowadays, Harajuku is renowned worldwide as the hub of youth culture and street fashion in Tokyo. It hosts major fashion events such as Rakuten Fashion Week, attracting designers and fashion enthusiasts alike.
15. There are many capsule hotels in Tokyo
Due to the scarcity of space in Tokyo, the city has embraced the concept of capsule hotels. These hotels offer guests the option to stay in compact, capsule-like accommodations that are not much larger than their body size and are ideal for those seeking affordable overnight stays. While capsule hotels have gained popularity in various cities worldwide, Tokyo was one of the pioneers in introducing the concept. They are particularly suitable for solo travelers who want to save on lodging expenses.
16. Tourists and foreigners can enjoy tax-free shopping in the city
Tax-free shopping is available to foreigners in Tokyo. When making a purchase of 5000 yen or more at licensed stores, tourists can present their passports to receive a tax refund. Despite Tokyo’s reputation as an expensive city, foreign visitors can take advantage of this perk to save money on their purchases. Just remember to bring your passport along when you go shopping!
Contenders for the Largest City in the World
Besides Tokyo, here are some of the next largest cities in the world:
1. Delhi, India
2022 Population: 32,065,760
In second place is Delhi, India. Located in the northern part of India, Delhi is the second-richest Indian city and is also the second-largest city in the world. Delhi is a vibrant, diverse, and historic city that has been inhabited for over 2,500 years. It’s composed of two main parts: Old Delhi in the north and New Delhi in the south, which has served as India’s capital since 1947. This community is situated along the Yamuna River and about 100 miles south of the grand Himalayan mountains.
One of the defining features of Delhi is its rich history and culture. The city has been the capital of several empires throughout history, including the Mughal and British Empires, and as a result, it is home to many stunning monuments, such as the Red Fort, Qutub Minar, and Humayun’s Tomb. The city is also known for its lively bazaars, including Chandni Chowk, one of India’s oldest and busiest markets.
Delhi is also a modern and dynamic city with a bustling economy and a thriving cultural scene. The city is home to a number of world-class universities, including the prestigious University of Delhi, as well as a growing tech sector that is attracting investment from around the world.
Despite its size and rapid development, Delhi faces many challenges, including pollution, traffic congestion, and poverty. However, the city is also working to address these issues with initiatives such as the Delhi Metro, a rapid transit system that has helped reduce traffic congestion, and programs to improve air quality and reduce poverty.
2. Shanghai, China
2022 Population: 28,516,904
Shanghai is the most populous city in the world’s most populous country, with an estimated population of over 28 million people. Located in East Central China on the South shore of the Yangtze River, Shanghai is a bustling metropolis that has undergone rapid development and modernization in recent years. It was one of the first places to receive Western trade ships, which helped it grow into the commercial and industrial center of China that it is today.
One of the defining features of Shanghai is its impressive skyline, which is dominated by skyscrapers such as the Shanghai Tower, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Oriental Pearl Tower. The city is also known for its vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and theaters showcasing the best of Chinese and international art and culture.
Shanghai is also a major center of business and commerce, with a thriving economy that has been fueled by its strategic location and favorable business environment. The city is home to several multinational corporations and is a hub for international trade and investment, particularly in finance, technology, and manufacturing. It’s also home to the world’s longest subway system (reaching nearly 400 miles) and the world’s fastest train (running up to 286 mph).
Despite its modernity and development, Shanghai is also steeped in history and tradition. The city has a rich cultural heritage, with ancient temples and gardens such as the Jade Buddha Temple and the Yuyuan Garden that offer a glimpse into China’s past. Shanghai is also famous for its cuisine, which is known for its bold flavors and innovative techniques.
3. Dhaka, Bangladesh
2022 Population: 22,478,116
Dhaka is one of the largest cities in the world and the capital of Bangladesh, with an estimated population of over 22 million people. Located in the central part of Bangladesh alongside the Buriganga River, Dhaka is a vibrant and bustling city that is known for its rich culture, history, and unique blend of old and new. It’s part of the Dhaka Division and Dhaka District. The city is home to numerous industries, including textiles, garments, and pharmaceuticals, and is a hub for international trade and investment.
One of the defining features of Dhaka is its fascinating history, which can be seen in its many historic buildings and monuments. The city has been inhabited for over a thousand years and has been the capital of various empires throughout history, including the Mughal Empire and the British Raj. As a result, Dhaka is home to numerous historic landmarks, including the Lalbagh Fort, the Ahsan Manzil, and the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho.
Like Mumbai, the population density of this city is bursting at the seams, but the growth shows no signs of slowing. Hundreds of thousands of low-income immigrants arrive in the city each year, many of whom are displaced due to natural disasters. This creates a high-energy environment but also poor living conditions, heavy traffic, and pollution – which is a challenge to sustainability for the government.
4. São Paulo, Brazil
2022 Population: 22,429,800
Shifting down to South America, São Paulo, Brazil, is the largest city on the continent, with an estimated population of more than 22 million people. Located in the southeast, just inland from the Santos port on the South Atlantic Ocean, São Paulo is a sprawling metropolis that is known for its diverse culture, vibrant nightlife, and impressive architecture.
São Paulo is about 450 kilometers Southwest of the iconic city of Rio de Janeiro, emerging from its neighbor’s shadow during the coffee boom in the late 19th century.
One of the defining features of Sao Paulo is its impressive skyline, which is dominated by towering skyscrapers such as the Mirante do Vale and the Edifício Itália. The city is also known for its vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, theaters, and music venues showcasing the best of Brazilian and international art and culture. São Paulo is also famous for its cuisine, which is known for its bold flavors and fusion of Brazilian, Italian, and other international influences.
São Paulo is also a major center of business and commerce in Latin America, which is responsible for its rapid population growth. The city is home to a number of multinational corporations and is a hub for international trade and investment, particularly in the areas of finance, technology, and manufacturing.