Despite what the song “It’s a Small World” tells us, the world is pretty big. We’ve managed to fit eight billion people on it, and that’s impressive — bordering on unsettling. There’s a lot to know about that population as well, in terms of where they’re all located, how they’re spread out, and where else you could fit them if you wanted to get creative. If you’ve never looked into the fun you can have with population density facts, get ready for it!
10. Loch Ness Could Hold the Entire World’s Population Several Times
Scotland is famous for kilts, haggis, and a lake monster. Loch Ness is not just the potential home to a prehistoric monster that only appears in blurry photos, however. In fact, it could be home to everyone.
One of the supposed problems with finding the monster is the fact the loch is just so big. To put that in more appreciable terms, the loch contains 268 billion cubic feet of water. It’s about 800 feet deep and 22 square miles in area. That means, in the space taken up by the loch, you could fit every single person in the world. And then you could do it nine more times. Back when the population was a modest 7.3 billion you could have fit them in 15 times over.
Now, if you’re ever unsure about whether or not there’s a monster in the lake, just remember how much room you’re dealing with.
9. Kowloon Walled City Had the Densest Population in the World
We’ll get into densely populated cities shortly, but we don’t want to overlook the most densely populated city in history that existed all the way up until 1994, when it was finally destroyed. You have to assume people were annoyed.
Kowloon Walled City existed inside of Hong Kong and, as the name suggests, it was a city within a wall. Buildings were stacked on buildings until a bizarre sci-fi-level dystopian society was created. There were 33,000 people in the space of one city block in Kowloon. The density was 1.2 million per square kilometer or 3.2 million per square mile. Compare that to New York City’s density of just over 25,000 per square mile.
Kowloon, once a fortress, never came under British rule in Hong Kong. The result was a sort of lawless land where residents could build whatever they wanted, however, they wanted. With no regulations, people attached houses to their neighbor’s houses, removed walls as necessary and continued up and out. People inevitably ended up cut off from the outside world and trapped in the middle of a patchwork of structures with a maze of ramshackle halls and stairs to get out into the open air.
When Britain and China finally agreed on what to do with the place, some residents had to be removed by force before everything was destroyed and replaced with public spaces, such as gardens and parks to help beautify the area.
8. Switzerland Has Nuclear Shelters for its Entire Population
It’s a safe bet no one wants to endure a nuclear war, but if one does happen, you hope there’s a way to survive it. Back in the day people sometimes built their own fallout shelters, and governments have some of these on standby in case the world goes to hell. But what about the rest of us?
If you live in Switzerland, worry not. The entire population can fit into the country’s fallout shelters because the Swiss are very prepared. By Swiss law, building owners are required to have a fallout shelter available to house all residents. That’s for private homes and apartment buildings, so no one gets left out.
By 2006 there were 300,000 shelters in Swiss homes, plus an additional 5,100 public shelters. That’s enough to allow 8.6 million people, or 114% of the population, to safely duck and cover. Their next closest competitors, Sweden, only have room for 81% of the population.
Since everyone has them and no one has needed to use them yet, a lot of fallout shelters are now wine cellars. But they can still be used for their intended purpose if the time comes and the entire population can be safely stored away to endure a nuclear winter.
7. The Population of Whittier, Alaska Live in the Same Building
Alaska is a beautiful part of the world, but it’s also not the most hospitable place at certain times of year. Go far enough north and you can be stuck in freezing temperatures where the sun doesn’t shine for days at a time. People still find a way to get by though, like in Whittier.
The tiny town of Whittier only has one access road, which is often inaccessible in winter thanks to its 22 feet of annual snow. The tunnel is only one lane and they close it at night, leaving the sea the only way in. Weather can also make that impossible. The townspeople manage by living almost exclusively in the same building.
Nearly 200 people all live in the same 14-story building that was once a military barracks. In addition to homes, it features the town post office, a bed and breakfast, a grocery store, and a police station. Kids can access the local school through an underground tunnel.
6. Everyone in Finland Could Pair Up and Take a Sauna at the Same Time
Finland is full of saunas. They love saunas there. Fins have saunas like Canadians have donut shops. Can’t get enough of them. The entire country has a population of about 5.5 million and there are three million saunas to go around.
If you aren’t sure or think it means something else in Finland, a sauna is a very hot, steamy room where you get naked except for a towel or swimsuit and sit down and then that’s it. You can be alone, with friends, and often with strangers. Just sweaty, mostly naked, in a hot, steamy room. Maybe you’ll scrub a stranger’s back if they ask.
Some Fins like to shake it up by leaving a hot sauna and running out into the snow on a winter’s day, or even plunging in ice water, but that’s not really part of the sauna proper.
Apartment buildings come with saunas and even large businesses will have them on site. By the numbers, there are enough available that everyone in the country could grab a friend and have a sauna for two at the same time with plenty of room left over for people from abroad.
5. If Manhattan Had the Same Population Density as Alaska, 29 People Would Live There
To get a better idea of how population densities vary within a country, we can compare two places in a goofy way like we’re about to do. Manhattan, in New York, has a very high population density of around 70,000 per square mile for the 1.6 million people who live there. That means Manhattan covers an area of about 22.83 square miles.
On the other hand, the state of Alaska has a population density of 1.28 residents per square mile. That means if Manhattan had the same density as the state of Alaska, about 29 people in total would live there. And they would each have a lot of really prime real estate.
4. Le Lignon is an Apartment Building with a Population Density Similar to Manhattan
Speaking of Manhattan, there’s a building in Switzerland called La Lignon that shares something in common with New York’s famous borough. They both have about the same population density.
Built in the late 1960s, Le Lignon is not a particularly attractive structure, but it does have a strange, Euro-dystopian flare to what turned out to be one of the biggest housing projects ever constructed. It consists of a kilometer-long behemoth that houses 6,800 tenants in 2,780 apartments.
Built in response to a housing crisis, some residents love the building while outsiders consider the 10 million square foot beast an eyesore. And while it may look ugly from the outside, inside some of the residents are happy with the pleasant views and spacious homes, as well as the feeling of community that comes from living in a building the size of a town.
The immense building is bookended by identical towers and the design allowed for many facilities to be included inside including schools, shops, a medical center, and a rooftop pool. A four-room apartment, if you can find one available, costs about 2000 Swiss francs per month, or around $2,300 US.
3. Canada’s Territory of Nunavut Has the Lowest Population Density of Any State or Province in the World
We already know Alaska has a very low population density but it by no means takes the crown. When it comes to sparse, and for these purposes we the population of any accepted subdivision of a country such as a province or state, then Nunavut in Canada wins that award. It’s even less densely populated than Greenland.
Located in Northern Canada, the territory of Nunavut with its capital city of Iqaluit has a population density of 0.02 people per square kilometer (0.05 per square mile mile) which is often rounded down to 0. Greenland is up at 0.14.
The capital of Nunavut has just 7,740 people. The entire territory clocks in at just under 37,000. That’s despite the fact it covers 808,000 square miles which makes it bigger than Alaska, more than three times bigger than Texas, and almost five times the size of California.
2. Friendship Heights Village in Maryland Is the Most Densely Populated US City
If you had to guess what the most densely populated place in the United States was, you’d probably be inclined to guess one of the big cities like New York or Los Angeles. But those are deceptive because, while the population is large, so is the space. The density, therefore, is not that high overall.
The true winner of the population density crown goes to the unassuming town of Friendship Heights Village in Maryland. In 2020 it had a population of 5,360 residents. Not impressive, right? But the town is so small, geographically speaking, the density is 90,847.5 per square mile thanks to the fact the town covers a mere 0.06 square miles.
The population went down a little in 2021 so the density is getting a little better but, overall, the town still leaves every other place in America in the dust.
1. Dhaka, Bangladesh Slums May Have a Population Density of Over 2 Million Per Square Mile
We saw the incredible density of Kowloon Walled City’s population but there may still be places today that come close to matching it. Not whole cities, but at least parts, like the Dhaka slums in Bangladesh where population density has been estimated to maybe reach as many as 2.7 million per square mile.
Even lower-end estimates have it at 115,000 per square mile which makes it higher than places like Tokyo, Manila, and Mumbai. Others have calculated it at 569,000 per square mile or 220,000 per square kilometer. Part of the problem getting consistent numbers is due to the fact these are slums and not evenly distributed or open to census taking. There’s no real way to calculate how many people live in such a place since many of the dwellings barely qualify as homes and the residents often don’t want to be questioned.