Discover the 3 Most Populated Cities in Tanzania

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: December 5, 2022
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Officially the United Republic of Tanzania, Tanzania is an East African country. The country is the 31st largest country in the world and the 13th in Africa. Considering its rich history, it is worth noting that Tanzania is a very interesting country. With 365,756 square miles, the country is home to 65,497,748 people, making it the most populous country located entirely south of the equator. 

With this many people living in the country, it is okay to wonder what the country’s most populated cities are. Also, for intending tourists, knowing the country’s most populated cities would help in navigating this foreign terrain, and for people who enjoy solitude, it would help give insight into what areas to avoid the most. This article lists some of the most populated cities in Tanzania.

1. Dar es Salaam – 7,405,000

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Urban Skyline, Aerial View, Architecture
With a population of over seven million people, Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania.

©iStock.com/Nelson Aloyce

Commonly known as Dar, Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania, with a population of over seven million people. The city started out as a small fishing village and has grown over the past century to become a flourishing tropical metropolis, straddling some of the most important sea ports in the world and emerging as the second-busiest port in East Africa and the commercial center of Tanzania. Despite this, the city has been able to keep its natural, homey feeling. It is the nation’s manufacturing and commercial hub and is situated on the coast of the Indian Ocean, separated from the island of Zanzibar. 

The area that is now Dar es Salaam was once a tiny settlement in the mid-19th century called Mzizima, which means “healthy town” in Kiswahili. The city’s present name translates to “haven of peace” in Arabic. The Sultan of Zanzibar gave this name in 1866 before his death a few years after. Dar es Salaam served as Tanganyika’s first capital when it gained independence in 1961, and it held that role when Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to form Tanzania in 1964. 

The majority of government offices are still located in Dar es Salaam, despite Dodoma in Tanzania’s interior being designated as the country’s new capital in 1973. The architecture of Dar es Salaam is a fusion of African, Arabian, Indian, and German styles, but most of it is now overshadowed by imposing high-rises. The city is perfect for tourists who enjoy the city’s fantastic eateries and craft markets, as well as the islands and sandy beaches.

2. Mwanza – 1,245,000

Africa, Ancient, Architecture, Building Exterior, Built Structure
Mwanza serves as a significant commercial hub in Tanzania.

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The second most populated city in Tanzania is Mwanza, with over a million residents. For the areas surrounding Lake Victoria and the neighboring nations of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, Mwanza serves as a significant commercial hub. Rocky hills strewn with huge granite boulders encircle the city. Farmers in the Mwanza region cultivate a variety of food crops as well as cotton for export markets as their main traditional economic activity. The city has been experiencing major infrastructural development, particularly with new highways connecting the city to Dar es Salaam and other parts of the country and other East African countries.

The region now has new potential for social and economic development, including large-scale gold and diamond mining operations in nearby regions and fishing and industrial fish processing for export markets. Due to Mwanza’s proximity to the western Serengeti, travelers who want to enjoy a less crowded area of the park and experience the magic of the Serengeti without the fleet of safari vehicles and seasonal crowds can stop there. The Sukuma tribe, Tanzania’s largest, which has long lived in the area and farmed it, also has its seat in Mwanza. For tourists who enjoy spending time in the open or away from the noise and crowd of the city, local cultural centers can set up cultural tourism programs in their nearby villages and farms.

3. Zanzibar – 766,000

Zanzibar, Stone Material, Town, Building Exterior, Zanzibar Town
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island province that joined Tanganyika to establish the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964.

©iStock.com/MOIZ HUSEIN

The current population of Zanzibar is almost 800,000, making it the third most populated city in the country. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous island province that joined Tanganyika to establish the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964. One prevalent misconception is that Zanzibar consists simply of one island. Actually, it is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean that form an archipelago. Unguja (often referred to as Zanzibar) and Pemba Island are two of the major islands among many smaller ones.

Zanzibar served as a hub for the slave and spice trades in the region by serving as a base for traders from the African Lakes region, India, and the Arabian peninsula. Despite being formally a part of Tanzania in East Africa, life there is distinct in practically every way—from politics to religion to culture to food. The reason for this is that even after the official merger that birthed Tanzania, Zanzibar has remained an independent region with its own rules, government, and overall way of life. Zanzibar has a long history and is littered with ancient ruins. For many years, the island has been greatly impacted by Arab culture. The shortest war in history took place in Zanzibar in 1896, and it ended with their 38-minute capitulation to the British Army.

One of the parts of Zanzibar that attract tourists the most is Stone Town. Although the historic city, which was designated a UNESCO cultural heritage site in 2000, is attractive, it is essentially a maze. On the plus side, Stone Town is compact and secure, and not knowing where you’re going adds to the adventure. Even if you do get lost, one of the most interesting things about the locals is that they are nice and always willing to help, so you could always stop to ask for directions. Zanzibar contains a few of East Africa’s most opulent luxury resorts, which can be a startling contrast to the island’s generally peaceful, economically struggling population.

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Zanzibar, Tanzania
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Sources
  1. Statista, Available here: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1221854/largest-cities-in-tanzania/
  2. Geonames, Available here: https://www.geonames.org/TZ/largest-cities-in-tanzania.html
  3. Population Hub, Available here: https://population-hub.com/en/tg/list-of-cities-in-tanzania-by-population.html