What is the largest city in the world by area?
Defining the largest cities in the world can be tricky as countries can have different definitions of what a city is. What the United States considers a “city” can be very different from what China considers to be a “city.”
The largest city in the world is Sermersooq in Greenland. Sermersooq, formally named Kommuneqarfik Sermersooq, was formed on January 1, 2009, from five smaller municipalities. It spans over 531,900 square kilometers (205,400 square miles) and has a population of just 23,123 people. Because of this, Sermersooq’s population density is 0.043 persons per square kilometer (0.11 persons per square mile).
The second-largest city in the world is also located in Greenland. Avannaata was formed on January 1, 2018. It encompasses an area of 522,700 square kilometers (201,816 square miles) and has 10,726 inhabitants. Its population density is even less than that of Sermersooq, as 0.02 persons per square kilometer (0.05 persons per square mile).
China has the highest number of the world’s largest cities. The third-, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-largest cities in the world by area are all located in China: Nagqu, Hulunbuir, Jiuquan, and Shigatse.
Nagqu is a prefecture-level city encompassing 450,537 square kilometers (173,953 square miles) of land and containing 89 townships, 25 towns, and 1,283 villages.
This is followed by Hulunbuir, which has an area of 263,953 square kilometers (101,913 square miles). While Hulunbuir’s population is 2.549 million, most of the city is sparsely populated. The majority of the population resides in the Hailar District. Hulunbuir is mostly a grassy plateau – not what Western cultures consider being a “city.” Despite being a “city,” it is one of China’s most unspoiled pieces of land, with vast wilderness and national forest parks.
The fifth-largest city in the world is Jiuquan, another prefecture-level city located in the Gansu Province of China. Jiuquan spans an area of about 191,342 square kilometers (73,878 square miles) and has a population of 1.095 million, making it more densely populated than the other cities on the list (5.7 persons per square kilometer/15 persons per square mile).
Following Jiuqun is the prefecture-level city of Shigatse, which as an area of 182,000 square kilometers (70,721 square miles). With a population of just over 703,000, the city has a population density of 3.9 persons per kilometer (10 persons per square mile). Jiuquan is divided into one district and 17 counties.
Around the world, the largest cities in each country are also the most sparsely populated. In Australia, the largest city by area is Kalgoorlie-Boulder, which has a city council and mayor but only has a population of about 30,000 on land that is larger than Portugal at 100,000 square kilometers (38,610 square miles). The largest city in Brazil and the third-largest in the world, Altamira, is 159,534 square kilometers (61,596 square miles) and has a population of 109,938. This is the case for the largest U.S. cities as well. Yakutat is the largest city by area in America with an area of 24,509 square kilometers (9,463 square miles) and a population of only 660. Yakutat is about six times the six of Rhode Island.
The ten largest cities by area are:
New York is the largest city in the world by area at 12,093 km2 (4,669 mi2). New York’s estimated population is 20,870,000, the highest in the United States. Of the ten largest global cities by area, eight are in the United States.
The two largest cities by area that are not in the U.S. are Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan, and Moscow, Russia. Tokyo-Yokohama is the world’s third-largest city at 8,230 km2 (3,178 mi2), and Moscow is the seventh-largest at 4,662 km2 (2,274 mi2). Tokyo-Yokohama is the most populous urban area in the world with almost 38 million inhabitants and has a very high population density of 11,950 inhabitants per mi2 and 4,614 per km2.