The 10 biggest Asian cities

Which are the biggest cities in Asia? But, first of all, what data should be taken into account to measure the size of a city? Actually, the answer is not as simple as it might appear. It is certainly possible to measure the size of a city by the number of inhabitants, as well as by the number of square kilometres occupied. One should, however, decide in both cases whether to take into account data on the city alone or on the metropolitan area. The biggest city in the world, taking into account the population of its metropolitan area, would be Tokyo, for example, with 37 million inhabitants; if, however, one were to take into account the city population alone, then the municipality of Chongqing, in China, would rank first, with over 32 million inhabitants. Taking into account the geographical extension of the city, the largest one would again, undoubtedly, be Chongqing, which measures an impressive 82,000 square kilometres (almost 40 times larger than the aforementioned Tokyo).

The 10 largest cities in Asia

In order to do the ranking of the 10 largest Asian cities, we decided to take into account the population of the city area alone, without including the remaining metropolitan area: here follows the resulting top ten ranking.

1 – Chongqing, China: 32 million inhabitants

With its 32 million inhabitants spread over an impressive 82,000 square kilometres (so that it has a population density of 389 inhabitants per square kilometre), Chongqing is the largest city in China, Asia and the world. Yet, this name is not very familiar outside of China: despite its large number of inhabitants, this megalopolis is overshadowed by the commercial power of cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. The municipality – which is almost as big as Austria – is home to futuristic bridges, towering skyscrapers, bold subways, and stands where the Yangtze and Jialing rivers converge. Right where the two waterways meet is the famous Chaotianmen Bridge, among the longest steel arch bridges in the world.

2 – Shanghai, China: 24.8 million inhabitants

According to some rankings that do not take into account the total population of the immense Chongqing, the most populous city in China and in the world is Shanghai,  with 24.8 million inhabitants over 6,300 square kilometres: here the population density is 3,922 inhabitants per square kilometre (whereas in Rome, for example, it is 2,235 inhabitants per square kilometre). Practically a city covering half the surface area of Valle d’Aosta, which has been increasingly populated since the 19th century, attracting Russians, Europeans and Americans in search of fortune. And indeed, to this day, the architecture of this huge Chinese city fully demonstrates its cosmopolitan past.

3 – Beijing, China: 21.8 million inhabitants

We are still in China when it comes to the third biggest city in Asia (and again, in the world), as well as one of the most beautiful and fascinating Asian cities in terms of history and culture: we are talking about Beijing, a city comprising an area slightly smaller than that of the Lazio region, with its 16 thousand square kilometres. It is not surprising that a tourist’s visit to Beijing is a real feat, with the certainty from the outset that he will only be able to see a small part of it: typically, this means the area around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, also bearing in mind that the Great Wall of China lies less than 100 kilometres away.

4 – Chengdu, China: 20.9 million inhabitants

Another Chinese city features among the top ten biggest cities in Asia: Chengdu, with its 14,000 square kilometres, has almost 21 million inhabitants. This metropolis is located in the south-west of the country and is a focal point for China’s transport and communications system. As the capital of Sichuan, it is famous for its blend of traditional and modern architecture.

5 – Karachi, Pakistan: 20.3 million inhabitants

The fifth biggest city in Asia takes us outside of China and into Pakistan: here Karachi, with its 3,500 square kilometres, has more than 20 million inhabitants. In fact, not significantly fewer than Shanghai, but confined in an area that is almost half the size. Pakistan’s largest city is the most populous centre in the Islamic world and is the financial and economic heart of the country.

6 – Guangzhou, China: 18.6 million inhabitants

The top 10 Asian metropolises ranking brings us back to China with the sixth position. The city of Guangzhou – also known as Canton – measures over 7,000 square kilometres and has 18.6 million inhabitants. It is considered the culinary capital of the country and boasts, among other things, the world’s tallest circular building, the Guangzhou Circle, which is 138 metres high and was designed by architect Joseph Pasquale.

7 – Shenzhen, China: 17.4 million inhabitants

The Chinese city of Shenzhen,  with its 2,050 square kilometres, is characterised by a particularly high population density of 8,534 citizens per square kilometre. What changed the face of this city was the creation of China’s first Special Economic Zone in the 1980s, which turned an old fishing town into the megalopolis it is today, the cradle of the most interesting Chinese start-ups.

8 – Delhi, India: 16 million inhabitants

The capital and largest city in India, Delhi has been the centre of great empires since the Middle Ages: a city full of history but above all of people, with a population density of 11,289 inhabitants per square kilometre.

9 – Istanbul, Turkey: 15.5 million inhabitants

Between Europe and Asia, Istanbul, the city divided by the Bosporus, stretches a good 5,000 kilometres, with a density of 2,987 inhabitants per square kilometre, combining the remains of ancient Constantinople with the latest Turkish architecture.

10 – Tianjin, China: 13.8 million inhabitants

This is the first city in the top ten ranking (and the last one) to be surpassed in population by a non-Asian city: in the world ranking, indeed, Tianjin comes after Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tianjin, also known as Tientsin, has a surface of almost 12,000  square kilometres and almost 14 million inhabitants.