Not all major cities are created equal, with some places around the world holding more influence over global business, culture, and politics than others. But what are the world’s most influential cities?
That’s a question that the management consultancy firm A.T. Kearney tries to answer with its annual Global Cities Report. The report looks at which global cities “are improving in their competitiveness and what factors are driving that success.”
It examines dozens of variables, which are then subdivided into five categories: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement. Scores in these categories are then added together to create a holistic ranking.
New York and London top the list, with both cities miles ahead of their nearest rivals. The top 21 are spread around the world, though Europe dominates the list.
Check out the world’s most influential cities below:
Austria may be a relatively small nation globally speaking, but its capital city punches well above its weight. Vienna is home to the headquarters of OPEC, the cartel of oil-producing nations that has a dramatic effect on global oil prices.
20. San Francisco
Technology lives in San Francisco, which is just a stone’s throw from the headquarters of Facebook, Google, and many other tech giants.
Home to the Chinese mainland’s main financial center, Shanghai is also the world’s busiest container port, making it a global hub for all kinds of trade.
It may not be as well known as its American neighbours, but Toronto is a globally important city and has the world’s seventh-largest stock exchange by market capitalisation.
17. Melbourne, Australia
The lower ranked of two Australian cities to make this list, Melbourne was ranked as the top place for international students.
Germany is Europe’s biggest power, so it makes sense that its capital is among the world’s most influential cities. Berlin’s best performance in the Global Cities Index is from the business-activity sector.
The most important city in the Southern Hemisphere, according to these rankings, Sydney is Australia’s main city for commerce and finance, and it links the English-speaking world to Asia.
The capital of the largest country in the world is also a major hub for Russia’s huge commodity industry. The Global Cities Index calls it the best place in the world to visit museums.
A major hub for commerce in the Spanish-speaking world, Madrid scored highly in the business-activity category.
12. Seoul, South Korea
As tensions rose in the Korean Peninsula last year, South Korea’s capital grew significantly in global importance. It is also a major commerce hub and home to major brands including Samsung.
11. Washington DC
There is an argument to say that Washington is the world’s most influential city, given it is home to the US’s most important political institutions. In addition to American institutions like the White House and the Capitol, the city hosts international institutions including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Politics and bureaucracy dominate the agenda in Belgium’s capital, the home of the European Union. Relatively small compared with many major cities, it punches well above its weight thanks to the EU.
The capital and political hub of the world’s second-largest economy is understandably influential. It is also home to more companies in the Global Fortune 500 than any other city.
Trading defines Chicago’s importance as a major international city, with two of the biggest commodity exchanges based there. Agricultural products like wheat, corn, and pork are among the products that are traded on the city’s mercantile exchanges.
Finance and shipping reign supreme in this Asian city-state. Singapore’s container port is one of the world’s largest. It is also a major hub for the oil industry – almost half of all oil consumed in the world passes through Singapore.
6. Los Angeles
Home to Hollywood, Los Angeles means showbiz, with movie studios, TV stations, and more. Its West Coast location also makes it a key hub for trade with Asia.
5. Hong Kong
Formerly controlled by Britain, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 and as such has a unique place in the world. One of Asia’s biggest financial centres, it is also a major port city.
Japan’s sprawling capital, home to nearly 40 million people in its metropolitan area, is one of the best-educated cities on the planet, with a high proportion of people with tertiary degrees.
Art and fashion make their home in France’s capital, which the Global Cities Index says is also the best city in the world for the exchange of information.
Brexit is likely to marginally diminish London’s role as a global center, but for now it remains the world’s second-most-influential city. Home to Europe’s financial hub in the City, London is vital for the world economy.
1. New York City
It’s no surprise that New York, home of President Donald Trump, Wall Street, and the United Nations, is viewed as the world’s most important city.
NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.