By definition, a city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.
Let’s dug deeper. Cities generally have complex systems for sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing, and transportation. The concentration of development greatly facilitates interaction between people and businesses, benefiting both parties in the process. A big city or metropolis usually has associated suburbs and exurbs. Such cities are usually associated with metropolitan areas and urban areas, creating numerous business commuters traveling to urban centers for employment. Once a city expands far enough to reach another city, this region can be deemed a conurbation or megalopolis.
10 – Seoul, South Korea
Metro/Urban Population: 9.82 million (2005) UNdata
Seoul, capital of South Korea (Republic of Korea), located in the northwestern part of the country on the Han River. Seoul is 31 km (19 mi) from the Yellow Sea port city of Incheon, and about 40 km (25 mi) from the border with North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). It is the largest city and chief commercial, manufacturing, administrative, and cultural center of South Korea. The word Seoul is a Korean term meaning capital city. Originally known as Hansŏng, Seoul was renamed Kyŏngsŏng in 1911. The city has officially been called Seoul since 1945, when Korea, then a single country, was liberated from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.
Seoul has a continental climate with four distinct seasons, including hot, humid summers and cold, relatively dry winters. Average high temperatures are 1° C (33° F) in January and 29° C (83° F) in July. Seoul receives an average annual precipitation of 1,370 mm (54 in), of which 70 percent usually falls between July and September.
9 – Shenzhen, China
Metro/Urban Population: 7.009 million (2000) UNdata
What was a tiny fishing village on the border of Hong Kong in 1970 is now a buzzing metropolis of over seven million people. With 13 buildings at over 200 meters tall, including the Shun Hing Square (the 8th tallest building in the world), Shenzen is a marvel of lights after sunset. You can’t help but ask yourself if you are in a video game or in a real city.
8 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Metro/Urban Population: 1.589 million (2010) UNdata
This is probably the most impressive city worldwide that has less than 2 million residents. Marvelous modern buildings reach the sky here, and while the skyline is not too dense, it does allow buildings to soar and stand out.
Kuala Lumpur has three of the 25 tallest buildings worldwide, including the tallest twin buildings, the Pretonos Towers (which are arguably the second and third tallest overall in the world) as well as the 420 meters Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower.
7 – Toronto, Canada
Metro/Urban Population: 2.503 million (2006) UNdata
Toronto is a meeting place, a crossroads of many cultures and ethnicities. Toronto is downtown Canada, the biggest city in the country with a skyline to match. Toronto has 7 structures in its skyline that stand at over 200 metres, including the astonishingly tall 553 metres, CN Tower, which is often referred to as the tallest freestanding structure in the world.
While mostly untrue (because there are taller TV masts in the world), the CN Tower possesses the world’s highest observation deck, making this city’s skyline one of the most immediately identifiable.
6 – Singapore
Metro/Urban Population: 5.312 million (2012) World Bank
One of the best (urban) planned and cleanliest metropolitan cities in the world, Singapore looks like an architectural model city come to life. The buildings cannot be higher than 280 meters due to air traffic control restrictions, but that has added a tall (but not too tall) and consistent building height and space pattern that makes this skyline unique: Three buildings are exactly 280 meters tall and 5 others (8 total) stand at just over 200 metres.
The buildings are mostly light-coloured and there is a large expanse of greenery dotted around the city core. This South-Eastern city is definitely in a league of its own.
5 – Tokyo, Japan
Metro/Urban Population: 13.35 million (May 1, 2014)
Tokyo is the world’s most populated city. Its skyline has a number of unique characteristics that set it apart from other big city skylines, among them 15 structures at over 200 meters tall (including the Tokyo Tower which changes colors every night). But because of the density and vast size of the city, every corner appears to have its own skyline.
With the height restrictions and the required red lights that flash atop all mid to tall-sized buildings make the city look spectacular at night. Tokyo is filled with neon lighting and unique, contemporary architecture, and like New York City is also often portrayed in movies for its aesthetic and eye-catching cityscapes. Interesting fact: Tokyo houses the world’s largest fleet of helicopters to get around town if traffic gets too crazy.
4 – New York City, USA
Metro/Urban Population: 8.337 million (2012)
New York City has one of the densest and most diverse skylines, with a huge collection of buildings and building styles. Thanks to Hollywood’s obsession with the city, it is also the most easily recognizable skyline in the world.
New York City has an amazing 44 buildings over 200 meters – the most in the world! Home of the famous, now destroyed World Trade Center Towers, the Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations, New York City is the financial capital of the western world. Upon the completion of the new “Freedom Tower” (built on the old site of the World Trade Centers), it may rank higher in this list (depending on how good it looks of course).
3 – Shanghai, China
Metro/Urban Population: 14.35 million (2000) UNdata
Not to be mistaken for a space station, Shanghai is a real city! China’s biggest and most advanced city, Shanghai was said to be the most cosmopolitan city in the beginning of the 20th century, but lost its glory during the “Mao era”.
It is now quickly regaining its position as one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world as well as a showcase of modern architecture. In Shanghai you’ll find 18 structures that are over 200 meters tall, one of which is the insanely tall, the 468m downtown Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
2 – Chicago, USA
Metro/Urban Population: 2.715 million (2012)
Chicago is the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. When Chicago built its first steel high-rise in 1885, it was not the tallest structure in the world but the first example of a new form of engineering that would change nearly every city on earth.
Chicago has 17 buildings over 200 meters tall (three of which are among the top 20 tallest buildings in the world, including the tallest in North America). Chicago has some of the finest mid-century architecture and examples of modern skyscrapers.
1 – Hong Kong, China
Metro/Urban Population:7.155 million (2012) World Bank
Hong Kong is number one on my list for many reasons: Hong Kong has whopping 39 buildings over 200 meters tall. It also boasts four of the 15 tallest buildings in the world… that’s all in one city! Hong Kong’s skyline shows a large selection of distinct sky-reaching towers, with beautiful night lighting and reflection. This city exemplifies the post-modern skyscraper and skyline. Finally, the mountain backdrop makes this skyline (as you can clearly see) the greatest on the planet!
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