The Largest Cities in South America Ranked by Population

View of Santiago with Andes in background
Henry Lederer / Getty Images

More than 50% of the population in South America live in the five largest cities. Below are the ten largest cities by population on the continent, as surveyed within the city limits, as of 2015.

It's not surprising that five of these cities are in Brazil, South America's most populous country by far, home to more than 200 million people.

Not all cities are tourist destinations, but each has its own attractions, history, and opportunities for sightseeing.

Big cities aren't for everyone, but if you like the bright lights and buzz of a thriving metropolis, the following should not disappoint.

  • 01 of 10
    Sao Paulo
    joelfotos / Pixabay

    Sao Paulo is the largest city in South America by population. This is not surprising as Sao Paulo is Brazil's center of commerce and a huge sprawling metropolis.

    Although Sao Paulo may not be at the top of your list of vacation hot-spots, it is a thriving city worth checking out. It's a bit of a concrete jungle, but when the day's work is done, the visitors and residents of this city of trade and industry like to play as hard as they work.

  • 02 of 10
    View down Calle Camana towards Iglesia La Recoleta church in Lima, Peru
    Jason Langley / Getty Images

    While you're in Cuzco visiting Machu Picchu, don't forget about the historical capital city of Peru the second most populous city in South America. Visit for the Pacific Coast views (and scenic cliff walkway El Malecon), the architecture, ancient ruins, Peruvian cuisine, and the eclectic art museums

  • 03 of 10
    Bogota Colombia
    Julianza / Pixabay

    Bogota is the third largest city in South America by population, which is not surprising as it is Colombia's capital city.

    It is also one of the highest cities by elevation at 2620 m. (8646 ft) in the Andes. It is a modern city that respects its history so you will see new high-rise buildings alongside colonial churches.

    You'll see a bit of everything, from fantastic art galleries and museums to universities and gorgeous theaters. But you'll also find shanty towns and neighborhoods full of graffiti. 

    Bogota is a complicated but interesting city that should not be missed.

  • 04 of 10
    Rio de Janeiro
    tpsdave / Pixabay

    Rio, a cidade maravilhosa, is spectacularly located, and to live up to the scenery, cariocas and visitors enjoy a vivid lifestyle nestled between fabulous beaches and rainforested hills.

    Rio is most known for its fabulous parties during Carnavale and for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    View of Santiago with Andes in background
    Henry Lederer / Getty Images

    Santiago, the capital of Chile, provides everything you'd want in a modern cosmopolitan city (restaurants, bars, shopping, museums, theaters, parks, and more) along with the one-of-a-kind dramatic backdrop of the Andes Mountains.

  • 06 of 10
    Caracas, Venezuela
    skeeze / Pixabay

    Venezuela's capital and largest city is the center of commerce, culture, and economics and is the base for touring the country's attractions, including Angel Falls and Los Llanos, a tropical grassland.

    Please note, Caracas is not currently considered a safe place to visit due to its economic inequality and political instability, both potentially also contributing to the highest murder rate of all the large cities in the world.

  • 07 of 10
    Buenos Aires
    Michele Falzone / Getty Images

    Big. sprawling Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is cosmopolitan and yet retains a neighborhood feel in the barrios. 

    Buenos Aires is known for its dining scene and nightlife. After steak and a bottle of Malbec from Mendoza, head out to one of the city's dance clubs and learn to tango.

    Don't forget to take in a game of one of the world's most popular soccer teams, Boca Juniors. It's not a cheap experience but it's worth the ticket price to be alongside passionate locals.

  • 08 of 10
    Salvador Brazil
    gustavoboulhosa / Pixabay

    Salvador is an exotic tropical city in a vast country that encompasses everything from deserts to rain forests. Near the equator and the South Atlantic Ocean, Salvador is what most Americans are imagining when they think of the place where "The Girl from Ipanema" strolled.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Brasilia
    Yuri Alexandre / Getty Images

    Brazil's capital, Brasilia, is a monument to what Brazilians can do and have done. It's a city pointing like an arrow into the future, built on a massive scale with large, innovative buildings, and a freedom of spirit and imagination.

  • 10 of 10
    Skyscrapers at Meireles Beach seafront, with a rusty hull and rocks and rocks in first plane. Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil
    Sergio Viana / Getty Images

    While the beaches of Fortaleza are among Brazil's most beautiful and the town is well-known for its party environment (though it hosts an underwhelming Carnival celebration in comparison to other Brazilian cities), the city is not currently considered one of the area's safest to visit as the crime and murder rates are quite high.