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The 21 most influential cities in the world

Hong Kong is among the most influential cities in the world.
Hong Kong is among the most influential cities in the world. Bobby Yip/Reuters

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 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, although Europe dominates the list.

Check out the world's most influential cities below:

21. Vienna, Austria

21. Vienna, Austria

Austria may be a relatively small nation globally speaking, but it's capital city punches well above its weight. Vienna is home to the headquarters of OPEC, the cartel of oil producing nations that controls global oil supplies.

20. San Francisco, USA

20. San Francisco, USA
Andrey Bayda/Shutterstock

Technology lives in San Francisco, which is just a stones throw from the headquarters of Facebook, Google, and many other tech giants.

19. Shanghai, China

19. Shanghai, China
People perform Tai Chi on the Bund in front of the financial district of Pudong in Shanghai, China, March 25, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song

Home to the main financial centre on the Chinese mainland, Shanghai is also the world's busiest container port, making it a global hub for all kinds of trade.

18. Toronto, Canada

18. Toronto, Canada
Inga Locmele/Shutterstock

It may not be as well known as it's American neighbours, but Toronto is a globally important city, and has the world's seventh-largest stock exchange by market capitalisation.

17. Melbourne, Australia

17. Melbourne, Australia
Zephyr_p/Shutterstock

The lower ranked of two Australian cities to make this list, Melbourne was ranked as the top place for international students.

16. Berlin, Germany

17. Berlin, Germany
VanderWolf Images/Shutterstock

Germany is Europe's biggest power, so it makes sense that it's capital is among the world's most influential cities. Berlin's best performance in the Global Cities Index is from the business activity sector.

15. Sydney, Australia

10. Australia
PomInOz / Shutterstock

Perhaps the most important city in the southern hemisphere, Sydney is Australia's main city for commerce and finance, and links the English speaking world to Asia.

14. Moscow, Russia

Russia

Capital of the largest country in the world and a major hub for Russia's huge commodity industry. According to Global Cities Index, it is also the best place in the world to visit museums.

13. Madrid, Spain

13. Madrid, Spain

A major hub for commerce in the Spanish speaking world, Madrid scored highly in the business activity category.

12. Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, South Korea Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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 D.C, USA

1. District of Columbia

There is an argument to say that Washington is the world's most influential city, given it is home to all of America's important political institutions. Home to the president, Congress, and international institutions including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Washington is a city of huge influence.

10. Brussels, Belgium

10. Brussels, Belgium
Greg Sandoval/Business Insider

Politics and bureaucracy dominate the agenda in Belgium's capital, the home of the European Union. Relatively small compared to many major cities, it punches well above its weight thanks to the EU.

9. Beijing, China

9. Beijing, China
Raj Eiamworakul / Unsplash

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.

8. Chicago, USA

8. Chicago, USA

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.

7. Singapore, Singapore

T-37. Singapore
A general view of the Singapore Central Business District skyline on November 2, 2016 in Singapore. Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

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, USA

6. Los Angeles, USA
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Home to Hollywood, LA means showbiz, with movie studios, TV stations and more based in the California mega city. It's location on the USA's west coast also makes it a key hub for trade with Asia.

5. Hong Kong

5. Hong Kong
Apple

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.

4. Tokyo, Japan

9. Tokyo, Japan — 12.12 million international visitors.
I took a few trips to Japan, where I truly cannot read or say anything. I got by with pointing at menu items, which is okay for a short trip but gets uncomfortable if you're trying to settle in somewhere. Rachel Premack/Business Insider

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.

3. Paris, France

3. Paris, France
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Art and fashion make their home in France's capital, which is also the best city in the world for the exchange of information, according to the Global Cities Index.

2. London, United Kingdom

2. London, United Kingdom

Brexit may be likely to marginally diminish London's role as a global centre, 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, USA

1. New York, USA
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It's no surprise that New York, home of President Donald Trump, Wall Street, and the United Nations, is the world's most important city.

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