The Biggest Cities in the U.S.

These cities have the largest populations in the country, with amenities to match.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Aug. 14, 2019, at 11:30 a.m.

The Biggest Cities in the U.S.

Slideshow

If city life is what you crave, look no further.

Yellow cabs iare rushing trough the city in the sunset time. Manhattan, New York City, US.

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You want to live in a major urban center, but how do you know which city has what you want? What may seem like a major metro area can turn out to be more sprawling and suburban than you expect. The U.S. News Best Places to Live ranking includes the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., but the population of a metro area may not provide the full picture of the size of those primary cities. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest cities based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates for 2018, the most recent data available. Read on for the biggest cities in the U.S. by population.

25. Portland, Oregon

25. Portland, Oregon

Glowing Sunrise of the Porltand Skyline with Mt Hood in the Background

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City Population: 653,115

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 8
Metro Area Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330

Portland is the 25th-largest city by population in the U.S. While the larger Portland metro area is home to 2,382,037 residents, the city of Portland accounts for just 653,115 residents. In the Best Places to Live ranking, Portland takes the No. 8 spot thanks to its steady population growth due to net migration and its desirability, based on a series of SurveyMonkey surveys asking U.S. residents where they would prefer to live. In the Most Desirable Places to Live ranking, Portland takes the top spot, tied with Honolulu, San Francisco and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Learn more about the Portland metro area.

24. Nashville, Tennessee

24. Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee. Nashville is known as the country-music capital of the world. The city is also known for its culture and commerce and great bar scene

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City Population: 669,053

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 15
Metro Area Population: 1,830,410
Median Home Price: $248,883
Median Annual Salary: $47,110

Nashville has a slightly larger population than Portland, but its metro area is smaller by more than 500,000 people. Nashville’s downtown hosts the central business district as well as the city’s renowned country music scene, but neighborhoods with a more suburban feel are also within the city limits. The metro area includes cities like Murfreesboro and Franklin, which offer a much more small-town feel than Nashville.

Learn more about the Nashville metro area.

23. Detroit

23. Detroit

Aerial Skyline of Detroit Michigan at night

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City Population: 672,662

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 92
Metro Area Population: 4,304,613
Median Home Price: $156,508
Median Annual Salary: $52,100

Once a much larger city, Detroit is currently the 23rd-most populous city in the U.S. with 672,662 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Motor City’s population peaked in 1950, with 1,849,568 residents living within the city limits. But long-term job loss and other issues led many people to leave Detroit for the suburbs or other major cities. The Detroit metro area, however, remains large with more than 4.3 million residents, and many of them still drive into the city regularly for work, sporting events or other entertainment.

Learn more about the Detroit metro area.

22. El Paso, Texas

22. El Paso, Texas

El Paso is a city and the county seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States, in the far western part of the state.

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City Population: 682,669

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 110
Metro Area Population: 838,527
Median Home Price: $151,300
Median Annual Salary: $38,610

The city of El Paso, with a population of 682,669, makes up the majority of the metro area’s population, which is 838,527. At the western tip of Texas, El Paso is just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, a major Mexican city with more than 1.4 million residents, according to United Nations data. With other major U.S. metro areas far off, however, more El Paso residents live within the city proper, and there are few cities or towns than can technically be considered suburbs. The outskirts of the city of El Paso include rural land, with plenty of farms holding an El Paso address.

Learn more about the El Paso metro area.

21. Boston

21. Boston

Boston, Massachusetts, USA downtown skyline over the park at dusk.

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City Population: 694,583

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 27
Metro Area Population: 4,771,936
Median Home Price: $423,450
Median Annual Salary: $65,420

It may come as a surprise that Boston doesn’t rank higher on the list of biggest cities, but only 694,583 residents call the city of Boston home. Many other cities and towns are located close to the heart of Boston, including Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline, and some visitors unfamiliar with the area won't even recognize that they’ve left Boston itself when traveling to these places.

Learn more about the Boston metro area.

20. Washington, D.C.

20. Washington, D.C.

The united states capitol building in Washington dc, USA

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City Population: 702,455

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 19
Metro Area Population: 6,090,196
Median Home Price: $376,767
Median Annual Salary: $69,210

The nation’s capital isn’t a part of a state, but it still manages to be home to 702,455 residents. Of course, the surrounding cities in Maryland and Virginia, where many people who work in the District of Columbia live, account for many more people – the entire Washington metro area contains more than 6 million residents. Washington ranks No. 19 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Its flourishing job market, with plenty of federal government, government contractor and tech jobs, helps keep the median annual salary high at $69,210.

Learn more about the District of Columbia metro area.

19. Denver

19. Denver

Denver, Colorado, USA downtown skyline viewed from Red Rocks at dawn.

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City Population: 716,492

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 2
Metro Area Population: 2,798,684
Median Home Price: $393,842
Median Annual Salary: $57,400

The Denver metro area ranks No. 2 on the overall Best Places to Live list, and the city is home to 716,492 residents. But about 2.8 million residents populate the metro area, which includes Aurora and Lakewood, among many other cities. Denver’s downtown certainly offers the city atmosphere many newcomers are looking for, but the city proper includes a variety of neighborhoods, such as Five Points, Washington Park and Cheesman Park, that evoke different vibes – whether it’s more eclectic, quiet or with easy access to parks and downtown.

Learn more about the Denver metro area.

18. Seattle

18. Seattle

Great Wheel in Seattle at night.

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City Population: 744,955

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 9
Metro Area Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120

Seattle and its surrounding suburbs have seen significant growth, making this area both a highly desirable place to live and an expensive one. Inside the Seattle city limits, 744,955 people are full-time residents, while the larger metro area totals 3,735,216 residents. People living just outside Seattle may not have direct access to the Puget Sound, but there’s a good chance they won’t have to commute into the city each day, as there are plenty of major employers in the suburbs. Microsoft's headquarters, for example, is located in Redmond, Washington.

Learn more about the Seattle metro area.

17. Indianapolis

17. Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA downtown cityscape and Monument Circle at dawn.

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City Population: 867,125

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 38
Metro Area Population: 1,989,030
Median Home Price: $173,700
Median Annual Salary: $48,030

In central Indiana, the state capital is home to 867,125 people. While dozens of surrounding cities and towns make up the Indianapolis metro area, none have an individual population over 100,000, which makes the area a major draw. Ranking No. 38 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Indianapolis receives its highest score for its low cost of living. Indianapolis-area residents spend just 20.72% of the median annual household income on housing expenses.

Learn more about the Indianapolis metro area.

16. Charlotte, North Carolina

16. Charlotte, North Carolina

Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, USA Skyline Drone Aerial

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City Population: 872,498

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 20
Metro Area Population: 2,427,024
Median Home Price: $213,983
Median Annual Salary: $50,150

With a population of 872,498, Charlotte is the 16th-most populous city in the U.S. Contributing to Charlotte’s rank is the fact that the entire metro area is growing rapidly. Between 2013 and 2017, the Charlotte metro area increased in population by 7.06% due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it the 14th-fastest growing metro area out of the 125 most populous in the U.S.

Learn more about the Charlotte metro area.

15. San Francisco

15. San Francisco

Aerial View of San Francisco Skyline at Sunset, California, USA

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City Population: 883,305

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 7
Metro Area Population: 4,461,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700

With a population of 883,305, San Francisco draws people to the city – and keeps them there – with its views of the San Francisco Bay, hilly terrain and Northern California climate. Of course, other parts of the San Francisco metro area are popular spots for people to relocate as well, including Oakland, Palo Alto and Berkeley. The total population of the San Francisco metro area is nearly 4.5 million residents.

Learn more about the San Francisco metro area.

14. Columbus, Ohio

14. Columbus, Ohio

Sunset comes to the downtown urban core of Columbus Ohio

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City Population: 892,533

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 51
Metro Area Population: 2,023,695
Median Home Price: $182,600
Median Annual Salary: $50,020

With a population of nearly 900,000, the capital of Ohio is the most populous city in the state. However, if you include the surrounding suburbs, with cities such as Dublin, Grove City and Westerville, the metro area's population is only the third-largest in the state. While the Columbus metro area is home to 2,023,695 people, Cleveland, with more than 2.7 million residents, and Cincinnati, with more than 2.1 million residents, are larger metro areas.

Learn more about the Columbus metro area.

13. Fort Worth, Texas

13. Fort Worth, Texas

Downtown Fort Worth and the iconic West Seventh Street Bridge crossing the Clear Fork Trinity River.

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City Population: 895,008

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 21
Metro Area Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250

With 895,008 residents, Fort Worth is the 13th-most populous city in the U.S. Fort Worth is the only city on this list that isn’t the largest municipality in its metro area. The Dallas-Fort Worth metro area is aptly named, as both major cities contribute to the large population and economy of the region. The metro area is home to more than 7 million residents.

Learn more about the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

12. Jacksonville, Florida

12. Jacksonville, Florida

The Skyline of Jacksonville with beautiful Reflections in the Water

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City Population: 903,889

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 42
Metro Area Population: 1,447,884
Median Home Price: $174,658
Median Annual Salary: $45,760

With just over 900,000 residents, the city of Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the contiguous U.S., in addition to being the 12th-largest city by population in all 50 states. The Jacksonville metro area, which is home to 1,447,884 residents, reaches up to Florida’s border with Georgia and includes plenty of coastal mileage. Like many other spots in Florida, Jacksonville is growing fast: The metro area increased in population by 6.88% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.

Learn more about the Jacksonville metro area.

11. Austin, Texas

11. Austin, Texas

Austin Texas Austin Texas golden sunset at pedestrian bridge urban modern skyline cityscape at Lady Bird Lake a perfect afternoon sunset in the capital city

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City Population: 964,254

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 1
Metro Area Population: 2,000,590
Median Home Price: $292,500
Median Annual Salary: $51,840

Ranking No. 1 on the overall Best Places to Live list three years in a row, Austin has a metro area population of 2,000,590, with almost half of its residents living in the city. For years, Austin has attracted many young professionals with its ever-growing number of tech jobs. As the cost of living has increased over the years, more companies have set up shop outside the city center, where apartment rents and home prices are lower.

Learn more about the Austin metro area.

10. San Jose, California

10. San Jose, California

Houses and Palm Trees near San Jose California downtown district

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City Population: 1,030,119

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 14
Metro Area Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180

Located just south of the San Francisco metro area, San Jose has long been a dream destination for technology startups looking to make it big. The city itself has a population of more than 1 million residents, and the surrounding metro area adds slightly more than 900,000 more to the mix. Of course, with the strongest job market in the U.S., the San Jose metro area naturally attracts residents and keeps them there, with a median annual salary of $77,180 and unemployment rate of just 2.6%.

Learn more about the San Jose metro area.

9. Dallas

9. Dallas

beautiful scenic of urban cityscape on sunset with twilight skyline background

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City Population: 1,345,047

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 21
Metro Area Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250

While the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has already earned a mention on this list, the city of Dallas takes the No. 9 spot, with a population of 1,345,047. While Dallas has a large downtown that provides that often-desired urban feel, there’s no mistaking that Texas vibe many people enjoy in the area. With more than 7 million residents, Dallas-Fort Worth is the most populous metro area in Texas, but there are still Texas cities larger than Dallas on the list.

Learn more about the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

8. San Diego

8. San Diego

Sunset at the Oceanside Harbor.

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City Population: 1,425,976

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 36
Metro Area Population: 3,283,665
Median Home Price: $555,325
Median Annual Salary: $56,410

With a population of 1,425,976, San Diego is a major draw for new residents and tourists. Sunny weather, ample attractions and beautiful beaches located within the city limits keep people happy year-round. The San Diego metro area comprises 3,283,665 residents and reaches down to California’s border with Mexico, including the cities National City and Chula Vista slightly south of San Diego. San Ysidro, which meets the Mexican border, is a district of the city of San Diego.

Learn more about the San Diego metro area.

7. San Antonio

7. San Antonio

This is a sunset landscape image of San Jose Mission in San Antonio, Texas. Mission San Jose was established in 1720 by Spanish colonists along the San Antonio River. This Texas landmark is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

(Getty Images)

City Population: 1,532,233

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 34
Metro Area Population: 2,377,507
Median Home Price: $211,800
Median Annual Salary: $46,200

With a population of 1,532,233, this city is part of the San Antonio metro area, which has a total population of 2,377,507. The metro area reaches into eight counties, and the second-largest city is New Braunfels, which has fewer than 80,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While San Antonio has a downtown with a smattering of high-rise buildings, the best-known areas are historic parts of the city, including the San Antonio River Walk, the ruins of the Alamo and the surrounding museums and parks.

Learn more about the San Antonio metro area.

6. Philadelphia

6. Philadelphia

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City Population: 1,584,138

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 102
Metro Area Population: 6,065,644
Median Home Price: $200,142
Median Annual Salary: $54,940

Philadelphia is a major city with a storied history that has built up a dense surrounding metro area. The city has a population of 1,584,138, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 estimate, while the metro area population is made up of more than 6 million residents. Philadelphia’s proximity to other states means the metro area includes not only nearby areas in Pennsylvania, but also New Jersey, Delaware and small portions of Maryland.

Learn more about the Philadelphia metro area.

5. Phoenix

5. Phoenix

Nearing sunset flying over downtown Phoenix, Arizona from an altitude of about 1000 feet.

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City Population: 1,660,272

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 26
Metro Area Population: 4,561,038
Median Home Price: $234,183
Median Annual Salary: $49,500

In the Arizona desert, Phoenix attracts residents with its year-round warm, dry weather and undeniable Southwestern feel. The city of Phoenix has a population of 1,660,272, although the metro area reaches far and wide and is made up of more than 4.5 million residents. On the overall Best Places to Live list, where Phoenix ranks No. 26, the metro area scores highest for its desirability and growth due to net migration. The Phoenix metro area grew by 6.3% due to net migration between 2013 and 2017.

Learn more about the Phoenix metro area.

4. Houston

4. Houston

Houston, Texas, USA downtown park and skyline at twilight.

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City Population: 2,325,502

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 30
Metro Area Population: 6,636,208
Median Home Price: $223,875
Median Annual Salary: $53,820

With a population of 2,325,502, Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S. Many parts of the larger Houston metro area, home to more than 6.6 million people, are unincorporated, making it relatively easy to develop new properties and improve existing ones to better house the ever-growing population. Easier property development means the Houston area is able to maintain a relatively low cost of living: Residents of the metro area spend 22.6% of the median annual household income on housing expenses.

Learn more about the Houston metro area.

3. Chicago

3. Chicago

Scene of Chicago street bridge with traffic among modern buildings of Downtown Chicago at Michigan avenue in Chicago, Illinois, United States, Business and Modern Transportation concept

(Getty Images)

City Population: 2,705,994

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 104
Metro Area Population: 9,549,229
Median Home Price: $221,983
Median Annual Salary: $54,160

It may carry the nickname "Second City," but Chicago is in fact the third-largest city by population in the U.S. More than 2.7 million people live in the city, and an additional 6.8 million people live in the surrounding suburbs, which include Evanston, Naperville and Aurora in Illinois, as well as a couple of municipalities in Wisconsin and Indiana. While Chicago remains one of the largest cities in the U.S., it may not stay near the top for too long: Between 2013 and 2017, the Chicago metro area’s population shrank by 2.44% due to net migration, making it the sixth-fastest shrinking metro area out of the 125 most populous in the U.S.

Learn more about the Chicago metro area.

2. Los Angeles

2. Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers at smoggy sunrise

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City Population: 3,990,456

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 107
Metro Area Population: 18,585,594
Median Home Price: $526,214
Median Annual Salary: $53,803

Nearly 4 million people call Los Angeles proper home, although you’ll find more than 18.5 million residents in the metro area. While Los Angeles has a downtown, the metro area spreads far and wide, with plenty of areas that offer a more suburban feel than other major cities. Outside the downtown area, you’re less likely to see many high-rise office or apartment buildings.

Learn more about the Los Angeles metro area.

1. New York City

1. New York City

An overhead view of Central Park and Manhattan

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City Population: 8,398,748

Metro Best Places 2019 Rank: 90
Metro Area Population: 21,139,370
Median Home Price: $386,862
Median Annual Salary: $63,079

The biggest city in the U.S. is an obvious one: the Big Apple. New York City is home to more than 8 million people, but the metro area that includes boroughs like Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, plus suburban areas like Westchester, New York, and parts of New Jersey, has a population of over 21 million. For people looking for urban options within the larger metro area, New York offers many choices not just in the city itself, but in parts of Long Island and New Jersey.

Learn more about the New York City metro area.

The biggest cities in the U.S. by population are:

The biggest cities in the U.S. by population are:

Yellow cabs iare rushing trough the city in the sunset time. Manhattan, New York City, US.

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  • New York City.
  • Los Angeles.
  • Chicago.
  • Houston.
  • Phoenix.
  • Philadelphia.
  • San Antonio.
  • San Diego.
  • Dallas.
  • San Jose, California.
  • Austin, Texas.
  • Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Fort Worth, Texas.
  • Columbus, Ohio.
  • San Francisco.
  • Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Indianapolis.
  • Seattle.
  • Denver.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Boston.
  • El Paso, Texas.
  • Detroit.
  • Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Portland Oregon.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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