The Population of the World’s Capitals on a Map

A country’s capital can hold a lot of symbolism. Yet depending on the size of the country, the population of these capital cities varies significantly. The largest world capital is home to more than 21.5 million people, while no one resides permanently in a couple of the smallest capitals.

And while even the smallest capital is typically the most well-known and populous in the country, that’s not the case in 36 countries where their capital is far from their largest city.

View World Capitals in a full screen map

National capitals data from Wikipedia. Countries whose capital is not their largest city data also from Wikipedia

10 Most Populous Capitals in the World

Nearly 119 million people altogether live in 10 of the world’s largest capitals. Can you guess which one is home to the most?

  • Beijing – population of 21,542,000
  • Tokyo – 14,094,034
  • Moscow – 13,104,177
  • Kinshasa – 12,691,000
  • Jakarta – 10,562,088
  • Cairo – 10,107,125
  • Seoul – 9,508,451
  • Mexico City – 9,209,944
  • London – 9,002,488
  • Dhaka – 8,906,039

Among the 10 most populous world capitals listed above, Beijing, the capital of China, stands out with a staggering population of 21,542,000. Even though it’s the largest capital, Beijing’s population represents just 1.5% of the rest of the country. Moreover, this large capital is only China’s third largest city, after Chongqing and Shanghai.

Asia is home to the majority of the most populous capitals. In addition to Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, and Dhaka all rank within the top 10 for population. Of these, the highest percentage of the entire country’s population lives in Seoul (18.3%).

Check out the rest of the most populous capitals on the map before moving on to the opposite… least populous.

Smallest World Capitals

On the other hand, less than 600 people reside in each of the 10 smallest capitals, the smallest of which house zero people.

  • Ngerulmud – population of 0
  • Plymouth – 0
  • King Edward Point – 22
  • Adamstown – 40
  • West Island – 134
  • Kingston – 341
  • Brades – 449
  • Vatican City – 453
  • Atafu – 541
  • Alofi – 597

Two of the world’s capitals have no permanent residents. Ngerulmud, the capital of island country Palau, became the capital in 2006, but has no residents. As for Plymouth, Montserrat, volcanic eruptions caused evacuation starting in 1995, but it has not been replaced as the official capital.

Shockingly, the remaining small capitals (the ones with people living in them) are the largest city in each country. That’s not the case for the countries in the next section.

36 Countries Whose Capital Is Not Their Largest City

A country’s capital is typically the most well-known and populous. Yet in 36 countries, the capital is not the largest city. Of these, the largest discrepancy between the population of a country’s capital city and their largest city is over than 19,750,00 people. Let’s go over that and others with big gaps now.

Country (or territory) Capital Population Largest city Population Ratio
India New Delhi 249,998 Mumbai 20,000,000 80
Palau Ngerulmud 0 Koror 11,200 41.32
Burundi Gitega 135,467 Bujumbura 1,092,859 26.06
Ivory Coast Yamoussoukro 361,893 Abidjan 4,348,000 21.7
Pakistan Islamabad 1,014,825 Karachi 14,910,352 14.69
United States Washington, D.C. 670,050 New York City 8,398,748 12.72
Australia Canberra 431,380 Melbourne 5,312,163 12.6
Nigeria Abuja 1,235,880 Lagos 7,937,932 10.2
Tanzania Dodoma 410,956 Dar es Salaam 2,497,940 7.7
Bolivia Sucre 360,544 Santa Cruz de la Sierra 1,453,549 7.1

India’s capital, New Delhi, is home to 249,998 people. Yet you’ll have to travel across the country to get to the largest city in India. Mumbai is where 20,000,000 people live, 80 times more than the country’s capital.

Another interesting discrepancy is Palau, mentioned in the previous section. It has the second-largest difference in population between the capital and another city, due to Ngerulmud’s zero residents. Previously, Koror was the capital until 2006 and it remains the largest city in the country with 11,200 people.

Even though Koror is home to the most people in Palau, it’s far from one of the Biggest Boomtowns of Every U.S. State.