WE’RE USED TO LOOKING AT CITIES from the bottom up. Skyscrapers towering over us, rows of buildings forming gigantic canyons for us to walk and drive through, massive roadways we have to risk our lives crossing – everything about our largest cities from where we normally stand seems impossibly big.

So naturally, our minds are blown when we see our metropolises from far above and realize how tiny they look from afar. Occasionally, we’ll get a glimpse of this out of the window of a plane, but now, in the age of aerial (and even satellite) photography, the best glimpses we get of the tininess of our civilization come through the lens of a camera. Here are some of our civilization’s greatest achievements as seen from above.

This article was originally published on December 7, 2010.


Chicago, USA

With over 9 million inhabitants, "Chicagoland" holds the title of third most populous metropolitan area in the United States. If you're planning a visit, our Focus Page has plenty of info on the Windy City, including -- of course -- What NOT to Do in Chicago. Photo: Premshree Pillai


Moscow, Russia

Russia's capital city - home of billionaires, beautiful churches, and the Kremlin - looks cold and beautiful from above. Photo: Imgur


Tokyo, Japan

Be sure to check out our guide on What NOT to Do in Japan before you plan your trip to the world's most populous city. And just think, somewhere down there are ten incredibly delicious ramen shops. Photo: LuxTonnerre


Vancouver, Canada

British Columbia's most famous city, Vancouver, is set on a peninsula amongst some impressive scenery. Photo: Evan Leeson


Dubai, UAE

The world's most lavishly rich city is known for it's insane skyscrapers and indoor ski-slopes. This image is of Dubai Marina, an artificial canal. Photo: TheGiftsOfLife


Barcelona, Spain

The capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona is so much more than just La Rambla. Photo: Aldas Kirvaitis


Seattle, USA

Judging from the greenery found in any of Seattle's 5 Best Parks, it's no wonder the Pacific Northwest's largest is nicknamed "Emerald City."Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives


Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is probably one of the most naturally beautiful cities in the world, squeezed as it is between the southern Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain. Photo: Airpano


San Francisco, USA

America's second-densest city (behind New York), is beautiful, expensive San Francisco. Photo: PostImg


Los Angeles, USA

Spanning almost 500 square miles, the city of Los Angeles is the second largest in the United States. A city with this many options means you'll probably want to glance at our guide on What NOT to Do in Los Angeles to find out where the best taco trucks and hipster bars reside. Photo: Éamonn O'Brien-Strain


Central Park, New York City, USA

This photo was taken by Russian photographer Sergey Semenov directly over New York's famous Central Park. Photo: Sergey Semenov


Las Vegas, USA

The largest city in Nevada and a magnet for gamblers and partygoers from around the world, Las Vegas is one of the most recognizable cities in the world -- except perhaps from this vantage point. When the money (or luck) runs out, be sure to read Sara Benson's 7 Things to Do in Vegas BESIDES Gambling.Photo: Rob


Detroit, USA

Detroit may not be the most popular city on this list, but seen from outer space, it's certainly one of the most attractive. With a population of almost 4 million, it's also one of the largest. Take a closer look, and you just might find something to love about Detroit.Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Lisbon, Portugal

The largest city in Portugal, Lisbon is also one of the Oldest Still-Inhabited Cities on the Planet.Photo: jamie.silva


Sao Paulo, Brazil

Dig into our Focus Page on Brazil if you're interested in visiting the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere.Photo: Eduardo Zárate


New York City, USA

The biggest city in the United States, New York City is also one of the most visited in the world. Matador's managing editor Julie Schwietert's guide on What NOT to Do in NYC will help you avoid the tourist traps.Photo: Nathan Siemers


Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne may only be the second largest city in Australia, but it is the most livable. For tips on what to do in Melbourne, read What NOT to Do in Melbourne.Photo: Jes


Dublin, Ireland

It's hard to find a reason to leave the city of Dublin -- except, of course, Matador Goods editor Lola Akinmade's colorful photo essay on Western Ireland.Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


London, UK

The largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, London is home to over 250 museums, those awesome red buses, and the infamous Sunday roast.Photo: Ben


Miami, USA

A city that's known for sparkly nightclubs and Cohibas may not seem very budget friendly, but Jared Romey's Budget Guide to South Beach can show you how to pinch your pennies without sacrifice.Photo: Paul Nicholson


Tehran, Iran

One of the largest cities in Western Asia and the world, Tehran isn't at the top of many "must visit" lists, but after reading 7 Reasons to Travel to Iran NOW, it's at the top of mine.Photo: Ensie & Matthias


Seoul, South Korea

With a population of over 10 million residents, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and by far the best place in the world to eat a refreshing bowl of naengmyeon. There's plenty to explore outside the city, as well. Check out our Focus Page on Korea for more.Photo: Jrwooley6


Johannesburg, South Africa

Not only is Johannesburg the largest city in South Africa, it also holds the title of largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline. Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Paris, France

Not only is Paris the largest city in France, but it's also the most touristed city on the planet. Stay away from the herd with our What NOT to Do in Paris guide. Photo: V!CAR!OUS



Home of one of the fastest growing economies in the world, this city-state is incidentally one of the Top 12 Places to Go For Cheap Healthcare. And if you're looking for cheap healthcare, you'll probably be interested in this guide to Singapore on a Shoestring Budget. Photo: William Cho