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10 Most Populous National Capitals
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January 3, 2020
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Travel Trivia Editorial
asia

The current world population is approximately 7.6 billion, with China, India, and the United States topping the charts as the world's most populous nations. But while these countries tend to have the overall highest populations, do they also have the most populous capital cities? Read on to find out just which countries have the busiest capitals.

Seoul, South Korea

Aerial view of Seoul, South Korea at sunset
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This bustling metropolis has a population of approximately 9.9 million. Before Korea was formally divided, Seoul was the country's capital for just over 600 years — in fact, it is so much a part of the country's history that the word Seoul has become synonymous with the word "capital" in Korean. This city is known for its busy nightlife, its delectable food (bibimbap, anyone?), and the K-pop groups that have become international sensations.

Jakarta, Indonesia

Skyline of Jakarta skyscrapers and highway
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With a population of about 10 million, Jakarta is so large that it is actually often classified as a province, not a city. It is one of the most affordable cities in the world, making it a popular destination for students and backpackers.

The shopping opportunities are pretty impressive, too — Jakarta is home to over 130 mega-malls, many of which are open 24 hours a day. If you do plan on doing some shopping, though, it might do you good to figure out transportation well in advance, as Jakarta has some of the worst traffic in the world.

Moscow, Russia

Moscow Kremlin building with Moscow river and bridge in front
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Moscow is Russia's most populous city, with a population of approximately 12.5 million. Although St. Petersburg may be a more popular tourist spot, there is no shortage of things to do in Moscow throughout the year. History buffs may enjoy VDNKh, an open air exhibit dedicated to Soviet architecture. This area is also home to plenty of great restaurants featuring retro Soviet dishes. In the winter months you can break out your ice skates to glide along Europe's largest skating rink. Moscow also has a budding craft beer scene, with many bars popping up in the Taganskaya district.

Manila, Philippines

Aerial view of Manila, Philippines
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The capital city of the Philippines has a population of just under 14 million, and is home to huge parks, plenty of cafes, and incredible churches. Visitors might enjoy exploring the San Agustin Church and Museum, an ornately decorated site full of artwork and elegantly sloping ceilings. If you feel like reconnecting with your inner child, you might consider taking a trip to Star City. This partially indoor theme park features the standard roller coasters and games, but also has a snow room full of ice sculptures and a toboggan ride — perfect for escaping the summer heat.

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

View of skyscrapers over the Congo river
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Formerly known as Léopoldville, Kinshasa is the largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a population of about 14 million. This city is located along the bank of the Congo River, and largely grows crops of cassava, sugarcane, and oil palms. The enormous population of Kinshasa is starkly divided, with parts of the city living far below the poverty line and other areas enjoying enormous wealth and affluence.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Skyline view of Dhaka at sunset
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With a population of over 19 million, Dhaka is the most densely populated city in Bangladesh and one of the most crowded cities on the planet. In fact, Dhaka has approximately 14,405 residents per square mile. The name Dhaka may refer either to the dhak tree or to the goddess Dhakeshwari. Dhaka became a prominent trade center in the 17th century, and is now home to several universities, a national library, and multiple museums and art galleries.

Beijing, China

Beijing, China skyline with traffic on highway below
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Located in the north of China near the Hebei Province, Beijing has a population of approximately 20 million. This ancient city receives over 144 million tourists every year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Visitors can't miss the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, but there are plenty of other things to see as well — try taking in a ballet performance at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, or spend an afternoon unwinding at Beihai Park.

Cairo, Egypt

A mosque in the city of Cairo, Egypt, with the pyramids of Giza in the background
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Cairo is not only the largest city in Egypt; it's the largest city in all of Africa, with a population of nearly 21 million. This capital city is located along the Nile River, about 100 miles away from the Mediterranean Sea. It is perhaps best known for its proximity to the Pyramids of Giza, which were built as long ago as 2465 B.C. and were included in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Cairo is also home to a number of the top academic institutions in Egypt, including Cairo University and Ain Shams University.

New Delhi, India

Crowded city street
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New Delhi has a population of 29 million, making it the second most populous city in the world after Tokyo. However, the UN projects that Tokyo's population will begin to decline in the coming years, while the population of New Delhi will rise. If the current projections hold true, this bustling capital could become the world's most populous city by 2028.

Visitors to this region can visit beautiful monuments, enjoy the delicious food, and shop in one of the city's many markets. If you want to get off the beaten path, consider taking a trip to Purana Qila, a 2,500-year-old fort that is illuminated at night.

Tokyo, Japan

Aerial view of Tokyo at night with the Tokyo Tower lit up in center
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With a population of over 37 million, Tokyo is currently the most populous city in the world. Tokyo translates to "eastern capital," a name that this city obtained in 1868. Visitors to the area will find no shortage of things to do. Although it is a busy city, Tokyo has plenty of green spaces to explore if you need a break from the hustle and bustle. Try spending a few hours at Rikugien, a large landscape garden filled with rolling hills, forests, and multiple teahouses. If you'd prefer to get lost in the city itself, take some time to walk around the Asakusa district — this historic area of Tokyo can be easily explored on foot.