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Cities With the Highest Population Density in the World

30. San Juan, Philippines

People per sq. mile: 52,946

The first two cities on the list come from the same metro area: the National Capital Region of the Philippines. In fact, the Metro Manila area is so dense, that 7 cities from the urban zone make it on the list of most densely populated cities in the world. San Juan has 86% more people per square mile than NYC, and we’re only going to get more crowded from here.

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29. Pasay City, Philippines

People per sq. mile: 53,554

Passay is another incorporated city that sits within the Manila metro area. The city is home to nearly a half million people covering an area less than the size of Hot Springs National Park in the U.S.

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28. Howrah, India

People per sq. mile: 53,670

Howrah is just across the Hooghly River from Kolkata, itself a member on this list. Even though it doesn’t rank in the top 25 of India’s most populous cities, Howrah comes in at #5 in the country when looking at population density.

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27. Nea Smyrni, Greece

People per sq. mile: 53,717

In spite of its crowdedness (or maybe that’s the cause of it?), Nea Smyrni has many green spaces and parks. Like much of the Athens metro area, multilevel apartments with balconies dominate the cityscape.

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26. Mislata, Spain

People per sq. mile: 54,695

Mislata won’t win any awards when it comes to total population, especially since it sits next to the third largest city in Spain. But the city crams nearly 50,000 into a space that isn’t even an entire square mile. The majority of the city is apartment-style dwellings with shops at street level.

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25. Kallithea, Greece

People per sq. mile: 53,717

This small (in size) suburb of Athens actually borders the Mediterranean Sea. While it has lost 14% of its population since 1981, the area is still the second most densely habited in Greece.

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24. Macau

People per sq. mile: 54,790

This autonomous Special Administrative Region occupies two main islands off China’s coast and utilizes some reclaimed land to fill in the rest of the space. The city-island area is basically the Las Vegas of Asia and features many high-profile casinos.

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23. Paris, France

People per sq. mile: 55,673

The Paris metro area has around 12.5 million inhabitants but only about 2 million of them are in Paris proper. Even so, they are a crowded bunch. For example, Paris has nearly twice the density of New York City.

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22. Pasig, Philippines

People per sq. mile: 55,958

Pasig is another city in the Manila, Philippines metro area. At one time a rural settlement outside of Manila proper, the city is now home to the Ortigas Center business district, complete with multiple skyscrapers and a large shopping mall.

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21. Guttenberg, New Jersey

People per sq. mile: 58,577

You might be surprised that the only American city in the top 30 isn’t NYC. Instead, it’s Guttenberg, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from the 79th Street Boat Basin. Its skyline is dominated by the trio of Galaxy Towers that house nearly 1/5 of Guttenberg’s population.

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20. Malabon, Philippines

People per sq. mile: 58,607

We’re back to the Philippines again with another city in the Manila metro area. Sometimes Malabon is facetiously called the Venice of Manila due to its location among the river basin abutting Manila Bay. It is prone to frequent flooding, even just from high tides, and is currently sinking further below sea level.

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19. Malé, Maldives

People per sq. mile: 59,559

If it’s an island, it most likely is on this list. And that’s the case with Malé, too. The capital of the Maldives occupies Kaafu Atoll, so there’s a limited amount of space to be had. Basically, a third of the island nation’s population lives on this built-up urban mass.

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18. Montrouge, France

People per sq. mile: 59,705

Just outside Paris' southern city limits lies Montrouge (aka mont-rouge or “red mountain”). Once an artist haven in the 1900s, the area was somewhat neglected. Now it’s a trendy Parisian “suburb” that is seeing its population climb and climb.

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17. Neapoli, Greece

People per sq. mile: 60,186

The densest population center in Greece isn’t around Athens; it’s in northern Greece’s Thessaloniki urban area. Just up the hill from the coast, much of the neighborhood surround a sports complex featuring soccer fields, gyms, public pools, and the ocean club.

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16. Kathmandu, Nepal

People per sq. mile: 61,972

Kathmandu is situated within Nepal’s bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley and is surrounded on all sides by the tall mountains of the Himalayas. The constrained geography concentrates the city’s population into a high density.

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15. Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium

People per sq. mile: 62,404

Sitting just outside of the Brussels pentagon (the city center), Saint-Josse-ten-Noode is a predominantly residential area with easy access to the country’s economic hub. On average, the city has the oldest buildings of the entire Brussels metro area.

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14. Kolkata, India

People per sq. mile: 62,813

Similar to other megacities in South and Southeast Asia, Kolkata’s already high population density is probably much higher than the “official” count. As much as a fourth of the area’s residents live in unregistered slums (lacking municipal services and devoid of authorized estimates).

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13. Bally, India

People per sq. mile: 64,031

Bally is across the river from Kolkata and the northern neighbor of Howrah (the 28th city on the list). It is known for its historic temples, and with places of worship come people.

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12. Saint-Mandé, France

People per sq. mile: 65,115

Saint-Mandé is just to the east of Paris’ boundaries. Its density is equal to 102 people occupying the space of a football field without the end zones. Thank goodness residents can escape to the Vincennes Zoo nearby.

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11. Vincennes, France

People per sq. mile: 66,371

Directly bordering Saint-Mandé, Vincennes has double its neighbor’s population on double the amount of land, enough to edge it just ahead in the rankings of most densely populated.

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10. Chennai, India

People per sq. mile: 66,961

Chennai is India’s fourth-most populous urban area and its second-most densely populated. The city itself has around 4.5 million people, and the whole urban area is about double that. That comes out to the population of New York City crowded into an area about the size of New Orleans.

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9. Le Pré-Saint-Gervais, France

People per sq. mile: 67,047

Le Pré-Saint-Gervais is outside Paris’ northeast corner. An upper-class area with easy links into the city center, it is continually drawing more people, placing in the top 10 most crowded cities in the world.

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8. Levallois-Perret, France

People per sq. mile: 68,458

Levallois-Perret is Europe’s densest incorporated area. It lies between the Paris city center (the cultural heart) and La Défense (the economic heart). That perfect positioning has drawn over 63,000 people into a space under a square mile in area.

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7. Caloocan, Phillipines

People per sq. mile: 72,302

Caloocan is officially comprised of two unconnected areas within Metro Manila, but even with both areas, it still is one of the most densely populated in the world. Imagine the population of Philadelphia within an area 85% smaller.

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6. Bnei Brak, Israel

People per sq. mile: 73,159

Tel Aviv is a famous cosmopolitan coastal city in Israel. Many people might be surprised that just outside its official boundaries is a small city comprised mostly intensely Orthodox Jews. If you don’t like apartment dwelling, you won’t like living here.

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5. Dhaka, Bangladesh

People per sq. mile: 73,583

Dhaka is the most populous cities proper in the entire world. The metropolitan area of almost 14.5 million is crammed into an area the size of Little Rock, Arkansas. Needless to say, elbow room is at a premium.

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4. Mumbai, India

People per sq. mile: 73,837

Mumbai is the 6th most populous city proper in the entire world and is home to India’s famous Bollywood Indian cinema industry. Its density is equivalent to Chicago having a third more residents.

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3. Pateros, Philippines

People per sq. mile: 79,114

This city is famous for two things. The first is it being the home of the duck-raising industry and, therefore, balut (boiled duck embryo) is a popular street food. It’s also famous for cramming 64,000 people into an area just over half a square mile in size.

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2. Cairo, Egypt

People per sq. mile: 97,350

Cairo is the second most populated city on the whole continent of Africa. Imagine if the entire New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area occupied a space the size of Chicago.

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1. Manila, Philippines

People per sq. mile: 107,561

The most densely populated incorporated area in the world is Manila proper. Within the city limits are 1.7 million people. If Manila were a football field, you’d need to cram 161 people onto it and live comfortably. That’s 278% greater than New York City’s density!

(image via Flickr)

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