Last edited 06 Apr 2021



The term ‘megacity’ refers to metropolitan areas with a total population of more than 10 million people. The definition of what constitutes a megacity generally refers to the population of an urban agglomeration, that is, it includes people living in the immediate suburbs outside of the established border of the city.

Newsletter sign up CTA.png

Megacities are a distinctly modern phenomenon, the proliferation of which has spread with the large-scale urbanisation that has occurred in many countries around the world. Whereas only 3% of the global population lived in cities in 1800, by the end of the 20th century that figure had risen to 47%. This figure is predicted to rise to more than 70% by the second half of the 21st century, a number made even more startling by the fact that the human population is expected to have increased by two billion by that point.

Historically, the growth of big cities first occurred during the industrial revolution, when large numbers of people moved to cities in order to find work - a trend broadly associated with developed nations. In contrast, contemporary megacity development is predominantly focused in areas of the world that are the least developed, such as Mumbai.

In 1950, the only megacities were New York-Newark and Tokyo. By 1995 the number had risen to 14. In 2020, there were 34:

  1. Tokyo 37.39 million
  2. Delhi 30.29 million
  3. Shanghai 27.05 million
  4. São Paulo 22.04 million
  5. Ciudad de México (Mexico City) 21.78 million
  6. Dhaka 21 million
  7. Al-Qahirah (Cairo) 20.9 million
  8. Beijing 20.46 million
  9. Mumbai (Bombay) 20.41 million
  10. Kinki M.M.A. (Osaka) 19.16 million
  11. New York-Newark 18.8 million
  12. Karachi 16.09 million
  13. Chongqing 15.87 million
  14. Istanbul 15.19 million
  15. Buenos Aires 15.15 million
  16. Kolkata (Calcutta) 14.85 million
  17. Lagos 14.36 million
  18. Kinshasa 14.34 million
  19. Manila 13.92 million
  20. Tianjin 13.58 million
  21. Rio de Janeiro 13.45 million
  22. Guangzhou, Guangdong 13.3 million
  23. Lahore 12.64 million
  24. Moskva (Moscow) 12.53 million
  25. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana 12.44 million
  26. Shenzhen 12.35 million
  27. Bangalore 12.32 million
  28. Paris 11.01 million
  29. Bogotá 10.97 million
  30. Chennai (Madras) 10.97 million
  31. Jakarta 10.77 million
  32. Lima 10.71 million
  33. Krung Thep (Bangkok) 10.53 million
  34. Hyderabad 10 million

Ref UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Dynamics, World Urbanization Prospects 2018, Population of Urban Agglomerations with 300,000 Inhabitants or More in 2018, by country, 1950-2035 (thousands).

Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

External references


Why is London not here, as Paris itself is only about 2 million and the 11 million is the urban area, and London itself is 8 million and the urban area of that is 14 million, so therefore London is quite a bit bigger than paris.

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again