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News / City Life

How does Chicago size up to other cities?

Anyone who's stepped foot in Chicago knows that it's pretty damn huge. Encompassing 234 square miles, the city is one of the most sprawling in the United States. But how does it compare in size to other massive metropolises across the globe? The graphics below show Chicago's borders superimposed on maps of other major cities so you can have a better idea of exactly how big (or small) the city really is.

Milwaukee: 97 square miles

Wisconsin has a lot of great features, but a huge city is not one of them. Milwaukee looks like a suburb when compared to Chicago. 

New York: 469 square miles

New York is way, way bigger than Chicago could ever hope to be, which has historically given Chicagoans an inferiority complex. The population of Brooklyn alone is almost as large as Chicago's, which only adds salt to the wound.

Boston: 89 square miles

Almost half of Boston's area is comprised of water. The city's land area is just 48 square miles, which is about one-fifth the size of Chicago.

Los Angeles: 503 square miles

LA is more than twice the size of Chicago, but its population density is significantly smaller. It's hard to understand how a city so large functions without a reliable public transit network.

San Francisco: 232 square miles

If you count the bay, San Francisco is about the same size as Chicago. Its land area, however, covers just 46.8 square miles. 

London: 671 square miles

Chicago looks like a slice in the pie that is the Greater London urban area. With nearly 10 million residents, the UK's capital makes Chicago feel very small.

Paris: 40 square miles

Paris is pretty tiny, but the French city somehow has a population of more than 2.2 million people.

Beijing: 6,336 square miles

Beijing makes Chicago look like an unincorporated farm town. China has more than 30 municipalities with a larger population than Chicago, which should do a good job of keeping your bloated American ego in check.



Sean K

To be fair you have to incorporate every cities metro area...LA size isnt confusing ...what is, why they call 88 of their suburbs cities.Just ridiculous..should do what New York does just have boroughs

Kevin A

I'm not from anywhere near Chicago or New York but I have visited both cities many times and have been to Beijing twice. Beijing may be over six thousand square miles but most of it is practically unlivable. The pollution is so bad that it can actually kill a human being in just a few days. Beijing is not so much a city as it is neighboring disasters. On the other hand both Chicago and New York are extremely clean in comparison and also very organized. When comparing cities it is important to distinguish what is considered the city proper and what is the metropolitan area. I'm from the south but I would be proud to call either Chicago or New York home. And New York may be bigger but the charm of Chicago makes up for any size difference.

Brett B

This isn't quite a fair comparison. You could have at least defined what the other city propers were, or include the entire Chicago metro area. You're only comparing the Chicago city limits to the entire metro area of all those other cities.

Ray H

I also don't like how they include Chicago proper and overlay it with other cities' suburbs. The city of San Fran is actually 7 miles by 7 miles. The suburbs is what makes up the rest of it. Same with London. You can't include Westminster and the surrounding areas. If you do. Then you have to stretch Chicago all the way up to the Wisconsin state border, as far west as Naperville, as far south as Bolingbrook and as far east as the Indiana state border. Chicago then becomes MUCH bigger. 

Julie H

You said:   "LA is more than twice the size of Chicago, but its population density is significantly smaller. It's hard to understand how a city so large functions without a reliable public transit network."  As a resident of the greater-LA area, I can explain:

Indeed, the reason we don't have reliable public transportation is precisely BECAUSE we are so spread out and large.   Public transportation functions best in a high-density environment where there's a reasonable walking distance from your home to the train/bus station, and from the other station to your work.  

But try to scale that into a larger but less dense environment:  If I try to take pubic transit to work, I have a 35 minute walk to the nearest train, and then I would get off the train at a station and walk 40 more minutes to my office because everything is so spread out.  But I can drive to work in 30 minutes flat.  So I drive.

I suppose public transit would work for some people who work downtown, but that's a small segment of the population, as jobs are just as spread out as the homes are.

Anthony K

@Julie H I've lived in L.A for more than four years and moved from Chicago where I spent seven. I still do not have a car here in Los Angeles and I live in Koreatown and used to work in Manhattan Beach.

The public transit here is extremely reliable, you just have to live near it. Worst case, take an uber, walk or take a bus to your nearest train stop. My commute to MB from Koreatown would be the red line to the silver line to the green line to a bus going down Sepulveda. It sounds like a lot but it was only a 45 minute commute to El Segundo, the last leg (the bus ride) was the longest part taking sometimes 20 minutes, but I would normally just call an Uber from the last leg. So, a public transit commute of 45 minutes to an hour whereas driving from K-Town can take just as long if not longer on most mornings. 

People complain so much about the public transit here in L.A. and I just don't get it. Apparently people don't know how to schedule their day and an appropriate time to leave for where ever correctly.

Matt M

I love this idea. What would make it even greater is if we could see the actual city outlines for each city. Then we would have a true comparison of size.

Rick B

NYC's total land area is actually  304.8 sq. miles, only 77.6 sq miles less than Chicago's 227.2.  The 469 figure cited includes vast swatches of the Atlantic and various rivers and waterways. Chicago and NYC are actually not that far apart in terms of habitable terrain.

Joel C

@Rick B They're pretty far apart in terms of affordable habitable terrain :-D

Pedro R

Not to mention that new York is actually comprised of the five Burroughs, aka five cities Rolled into one, not exactly a fair comparison. When you mail a letter to new York, new York it actually ends up in Manhattan. Not impressed by the size

of new York since it's actually five cities combined.

Pedro R

Not exactly a fair comparison since new York is actually five cities combined. The five Burroughs. The actual new York, new York is considered Manhattan.