Largest Cities in North Carolina | 🏆 Top NC Cities by Population {data, stats, info}

Are you looking for fun and picturesque cities to visit in North Carolina, or are you thinking about moving to the state? One of the best places to start is a look at the major cities in North Carolina by region and population.

This guide covers the largest North Carolina cities with a look at attractions, demographics, and what makes each city unique. Note that population and demographic data comes from the most recent 2020 U.S. Census data. We will only cover villages, towns, and cities in North Carolina. These terms are a matter of preference in the municipal charter and have no legal difference in NC. We will not cover census-designated places (CDPs).

North Carolina Population & Demographics

  • Population: 10,439,388
  • Density: 196 people/square mile
  • Area: 48,618 square miles
  • Median age: 39
  • Median household income: $54,602
  • Median home price: $366,000

Whether you’re visiting or moving to NC, you may also find it helpful to know the state’s overall population and other demographics before looking at NC cities by population.

As you explore these top cities in North Carolina, it’s useful to understand the state’s regions which have wildly different political and geographic landscapes.

There are three main regions of North Carolina:

  • Coastal Plain (eastern NC) includes Cape Fear, Cape Lookout, Wilmington, and several coastal cities in North Carolina and beach towns.
  • Mountains (western NC) is home to Asheville, the regional center and 11th among the most populated cities in North Carolina.
  • Piedmont (central NC) is the most populous region. It’s home to Charlotte, the Research Triangle (Durham, Raleigh & Chapel Hill), and the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem & High Point).

#1. Charlotte

  • Charlotte population: 874,579
  • Population density: 2,457 people/square mile
  • Area: 298 square miles
  • Median age: 34
  • Median household income: $62,817
  • Median home price: $360,000
  • Charlotte, NC map

Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina. A major university town, Charlotte is the epicenter for NASCAR and one of the country’s largest financial hubs. It’s one of the best cities in North Carolina for sports, education, and entertainment with a great quality of life, diversity, and strong economy.

Charlotte isn’t just first among North Carolina cities by population, it’s also one of the fastest growing. The city population increased 20% between 2010 to 2020. The Charlotte metro population grew to 2.66 million people in 2020 – and the Charlotte area is expected to increase by 50% by 2050, reaching a population of 4.5 million!

Why is Charlotte growing so fast? It’s one of the biggest cities in North Carolina and the entire region with an incredible job market in the energy and financial sectors. This is attracting highly educated people, especially from New York City, in search of good career opportunities, a lower cost of living, and a pleasant climate.

Learn more about living in Charlotte, NC here!

#2. Raleigh

  • Raleigh population: 467,665
  • Population density: 2,826 people/square mile
  • Area: 143 square miles
  • Median age: 34.5
  • Median household income: $67,266
  • Median home price: $385,000
  • Raleigh, NC map

Raleigh is one of the major cities in North Carolina and the state capital. It’s one of several North Carolina cities known for its universities and highly educated population with more than 50% of residents holding at least a bachelor’s degree.

Raleigh is one of the three North Carolina main cities of the Research Triangle along with Durham and Chapel Hill. These cities in the Piedmont region of North Carolina are known for their research universities including Duke University and North Carolina State University.

Jobs and education aren’t all that Raleigh has to offer. As one of the best cities to live in North Carolina, it offers world-class parks like Pullen Park, cultural attractions like the North Carolina Museum of Art, and family-friendly attractions like Adventure Landing amusement park.

#3. Greensboro

  • Greensboro population: 299,035
  • Population density: 2,132 people/square mile
  • Area: 127 square miles
  • Median age: 35
  • Median household income: $48,964
  • Median home price: $219,000
  • Greensboro, NC map

Third among North Carolina cities by population, Greensboro is in the Piedmont region between the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge NC mountains. One of the most picturesque mountain cities in North Carolina, it’s also one of the state’s most diverse cities with gorgeous outdoor attractions, family-friendly amenities, and two of the largest universities in North Carolina: North Carolina AT&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

A major NC city for college sports, Greensboro is also popular with families and nature lovers thanks to its beautiful forests and parks. Residents love LeBauer Park with its stage and fun play area, the unique architecture at Center City Park, and the peaceful Tanger Family Bicentennial Garden. The top Greensboro attraction is the Greensboro Science Center with a museum, zoo, and aquarium!

 

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#4. Durham

  • Durham population: 283,506
  • Population density: 2,127 people/square mile
  • Area: 107 square miles
  • Median age: 34.5
  • Median household income: $58,905
  • Median home price: $370,000
  • Durham, NC map

One of several liberal cities in North Carolina in the Triangle, Durham is the second largest of three anchor cities in the Research Triangle. Durham is known as the City of Medicine thanks to its 300+ medical companies and healthcare facilities and it’s home to the prestigious Duke University and North Carolina Central University.

Durham is close to becoming one of the three biggest cities in North Carolina and may soon pass Greensboro thanks to significant population growth of 24% between 2010 and 2020 alone. Within the next 25 years, the Durham, NC population is expected to nearly double with much of the growth in downtown Durham which has been the focus of revitalization efforts.

In addition to its universities, Durham is home to several major attractions like the stunning Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a 55-acre public garden, and the interactive Museum of Life and Science. There are also 68 municipal parks managed by Durham Parks and Recreation plus eight state parks in the Triangle like Durham’s Eno River State Park.

#5. Winston-Salem

  • Winston-Salem population: 249,545
  • Population density: 1,734 people/square mile
  • Area: 132 square miles
  • Median age: 35
  • Median household income: $45,750
  • Median home price: $230,000
  • Winston-Salem, NC map

Winston-Salem is one of five major cities in North Carolina with at least 250,000 people and it’s the second largest city in the Piedmont Triad area with a metro population of 680,000. Informally called Winston by locals, the city is home to six major colleges including the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. It’s frequently ranked as one of the best places to live in the United States and known as the Twin City (after the merger of Winston and Salem).

Winston-Salem is famous for its tobacco history which has earned it another nickname, the Camel City, after the Camel cigarette brand from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. By 1880, Winston was home to 40 tobacco factories with the Reynolds family employing 40% of the town’s residents by 1913. Some of the city’s top attractions are related to its unique history like the Old Salem Museums & Gardens.

#6. Fayetteville

  • Fayetteville population: 208,501
  • Population density: 1,375 people/square mile
  • Area: 146 square miles
  • Median age: 30
  • Median household income: $45,024
  • Median home price: $179,000
  • Fayetteville, NC map

One of the cheapest cities to live in North Carolina thanks to its affordable home prices, Fayetteville is located in the Coastal Plain area of the state in the Sandhills area with a metro population of 526,000. Fayetteville is best known for Fort Bragg, one of the world’s largest military installations with 54,000 active military personnel.

As one of the top cities in North Carolina by population, Fayetteville offers plenty of attractions including the Airborne & Special Operations Museum with U.S. military exhibits and a motion simulator and the gorgeous Cape Fear Botanical Garden.

#7. Cary

  • Cary population: 174,721
  • Population density: 2,488 people/square mile
  • Area: 54 square miles
  • Median age: 39
  • Median household income: $104,669
  • Median home price: $514,000
  • Cary, NC map

Ranked #7 among big cities in North Carolina, Cary is actually the largest town in the state although there is no legal designation between cities and towns. It’s also the third largest of North Carolina cities in the Triangle behind Raleigh and Durham. Cary is one of the fastest growing cities in North Carolina with growth of 29% between 2010 and 2020. Among the 10 largest North Carolina cities, Cary is the richest with a median household income of almost $105,000.

The affluent town of Cary is popular with families and it’s one of the safest cities in North Carolina only 66 violent crimes per 100,000 people compared to 419 violent crimes per 100,000 in North Carolina. The town offers plenty of shopping and entertainment, but it’s most popular attractions include its nature preserves, state parks, and municipal parks. Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve offers scenic views and 140 acres of preserve while the Fred G. Bond Metro Park and Lake Johnson Park offer lake recreation, fishing, and more.

 

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#8. Wilmington

  • Wilmington population: 115,451
  • Population density: 2,068 people/square mile
  • Area: 51.5 square miles
  • Median age: 36
  • Median household income: $47,580
  • Median home price: $360,000
  • Wilmington, NC map

One of the biggest cities in NC, Wilmington is a port city known as a gateway to the top North Carolina beach towns like Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach on the Cape Fear Coast. Along with attractions such as Wrightsville Beach Park and the Carolina Beach Boardwalk, Wilmington is known for its historic downtown district, Battleship North Carolina, and family-friendly amenities like the Children’s Museum of Wilmington and the Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park.

#9. High Point

  • High Point population: 114,059
  • Population density: 1,940 people/square mile
  • Area: 54 square miles
  • Median age: 36
  • Median household income: $47,234
  • Median home price: $189,000
  • High Point, NC map

One of the largest cities in NC and the only North Carolina city in four counties, High Point is located in the Piedmont region mostly in Guilford County.

High Point is famously the furniture capital of the world. It hosts the High Point Furniture Market, a semi-annual event that draws in 100,000 furniture buyers and exhibitors. The center of the South’s furniture industry since the 19th century, the city boasts unique attractions like the High Point Museum exploring the local furniture industry and the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers.

 

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#10. Concord

  • Concord population: 105,240
  • Population density: 1,312 people/square mile
  • Area: 60 square miles
  • Median age: 35.6
  • Median household income: $67,984
  • Median home price: $343,000
  • Concord, NC map

Concord rounds out the list of the top 10 largest cities in North Carolina and the last of NC cities with at least 100,000 people. It’s one of the best suburbs of Charlotte, NC just 20 miles outside Uptown Charlotte and the largest city in Cabarrus County. It’s also the second largest of cities near Charlotte, NC within the metro area.

Concord is known for its parks, golf courses, and attractions including the iconic Charlotte Motor Speedway and the major Concord Mills mall with indoor skydiving, Great Wolf Lodge Charlotte, and SEA LIFE aquarium.

Concord is one of the fastest growing cities in NC with a population that grew a massive 33% between 2010 and 2020. While the fastest growing among then ten largest cities in North Carolina, several other cities among the 50 largest grew even more including Waxhaw (up 108%), Knightdale (up 71%), Holly Springs (up 67%), and Fuquay-Varina (up 90%).

List of Cities in North Carolina

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Map of North Carolina Cities

North Carolina Cities FAQ

How many cities are in North Carolina?

There are 100 NC counties and 552 NC cities. This list of municipalities includes cities, towns, and villages, three designations with no legal difference.

What is the largest city in North Carolina?

Charlotte is the largest North Carolina city with a population of almost 875,000.

How many people live in North Carolina?

The population of Charlotte is 10,439,388. It’s the 9th largest state by population.

What cities make up the triangle in North Carolina?

The NC Triangle is made up of Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham. There are several smaller North Carolina cities in the Triangle area like Cary and Apex.

Which of North Carolina’s Biggest Cities Is Right for You?

Is moving to North Carolina in your future? Whether you’re focused on cities near Charlotte, NC, relocating to the NC Triangle, or interested in one of the best beach towns in North Carolina, Make a Move is ready to help. Call our Charlotte movers today to discuss your upcoming transition and get started with a free, affordable moving estimate!

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