Ask any American to name the biggest cities in the world and New York City will probably be one of the first to come to mind, and rightfully so. As the most populous city in the United State⏤home to more than 8.5 million people⏤it’s easy to see why this sprawling metropolis is commonly associated with other global juggernauts.
But here’s a fun fact. Excluding the more popular behemoths like Shanghai (3rd most populous city on the planet), Beijing (5th most populous city on the planet) and Hong Kong, China is home to half a dozen cities with populations that are actually larger than New York’s. Here they are.
Unless you’ve been to the Canton Fair, there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of Guangzhou, but it’s a city of 11 million people and it’s growing at a rapid rate. Pronounced “gwang-jo”, it’s a major destination for Chinese business and it’s the hub of China Southern, one of the world’s largest airlines.
Previously known as Canton, Guangzhou is a part of the Pearl River Delta, which includes Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and is home to nearly 50 million people. That’s about as much as the Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Houston metro areas combined!
(Read our post How to Travel Between Hong Kong and Guangzhou by Train.)
Capital to the province that gave rise to China’s spicy Sichuan cuisine, Chengdu rests in the middle of the misty Sichuan province and houses a population of more than 9.2 million people. Also, Chengdu happens to be the home of the irresistibly cute Giant Panda.
But be prepared when you visit. You WILL sweat at the dinner table.
Only a small fishing village back in the 1970’s, that all changed when Shenzen was designated as one of China’s special economic zones in 1980. Since then, Shenzhen has grown to have a population of more than 10.3 million people. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s located right by Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
Although only 30 minutes from Beijing by train, Tianjin couldn’t feel or look any more different than it is from the country’s capital. Housing more than 11 million people, the city center resembles a blend of modern Chinese skyscrapers with colonial French and British architecture, giving the city a undeniably contemporary feel.
More than 9.5 million people live in the city of Wuhan, whose location on the Yangtze River keeps it relatively unknown to those who live outside of mainland China. Pro tip – Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH) has nonstop service from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) three times weekly with China Southern Airlines. Get there with Airmule by flying between SFO and WUH.
Located roughly 500 miles down the Yangtze River from Wuhan, Chongqing is a city who’s population is the subject of some debate. Many estimate that nearly 29 million people live in Chongqing, but since the overwhelming majority are migrant workers, the local government releases an official population of about 8 million.