Are you considering moving to Tennessee or just visiting? Known as the birthplace of bluegrass, country, blues, and soul music and famous for the Great Smoky Mountains of the Appalachian Mountains, Tennessee offers affordable living surrounded by natural beauty with plenty to see and do. Here’s a guide to the largest cities in Tennessee with demographics from US Census plus history and fun facts.
- Population: 6,829,000
- Population density: 166 people per square mile
- Area: 41,238 square miles
- Median age: 39
- Median household income: $56,071
- Median home price: $329,900
Tennessee is officially divided into three Grand Divisions or geographic regions, each about one-third the size of the state. The East, Middle, and West divisions are occasionally called the “three states of Tennessee.” Here are the largest cities in Tennessee by area:
- West Tennessee (pop. 1.55 million) anchored by Memphis
- Middle Tennessee (pop. 2.88 million) anchored by Nashville
- East Tennessee (pop: 2.47 million) anchored by Knoxville
Each division is defined by its own culture and geography. East and Middle Tennessee are separated by the Cumberland Plateau. The Appalachian Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains dominate the landscape in the East while the Middle division is mostly comprised of stream valleys and hills. The West division is the lowest and mostly flat.
Here’s a look at the Tennessee population by city with info on the 10 main cities in Tennessee. You may find it interesting that Gatlinburg, one of the most well-known destinations in the state, isn’t on the list with a population of only 3,000 people!
- Nashville population: 716,000
- Population density: 1,368 people per square mile
- Area: 525.94 square miles
- Median age: 35.8
- Median household income: $70,275
- Median home price: $400,000
- Nashville, TN Map
Nashville is the most populous city in Tennessee and the state capital with a metro population of nearly 2 million. Nashville isn’t just one of the main cities in Tennessee; it’s the 21st largest city in the country. The city is located on the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee or the Upper Cumberland region. Known as “Music City,” Nashville is the capital of country music and home to the Music Row district, Grand Ole Opry House, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nashville also has several universities and colleges which contribute to the city’s famous entertainment scene. You’ll find everything from major music venues, honky-tonk bars, and clubs to the opera and the ballet.
Nashville boasts a thriving and diverse economy that’s made it one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S. in recent years. It’s recently been named one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. and one of the top cities for economic growth. Music may be what it’s known for, but health care is Nashville’s largest industry as well as finance, publishing, automotive, and technology.
Note that the demographics for Nashville include six other consolidated municipalities.
What to love about living in Nashville: Fun nightlife, great live music & a thriving economy with plentiful job opportunities
- Population: 651,000
- Population density: 2,052 people per square mile
- Area: 317.4 square miles
- Median age: 34.6
- Median household income: $43,794
- Median home price: $185,000
- Memphis, TN Map
Memphis is located on the Mississippi River in West Tennessee and part of the Mid-South region with a metro population of 1.3 million. While Nashville is known for country music, Memphis is known for blues with its distinctive Memphis blues and Memphis soul sounds. It was here that Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, and Otis Redding got their start. The city’s historic Beale Street is one of the top tourist destinations and home to frequent concerts and festivals while Graceland attracts half a million visitors every year.
Memphis is one of the most important cities in Tennessee not only for its size but its history and rich culture. It was one of the biggest cities of the Antebellum South and a large market for the slave trade. However, it then became central to the civil rights movement, and it was here that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Today, Memphis has the highest percentage of black residents than any other metro area in the U.S. and may become the first majority black metropolitan area with more than one million people!
What to love about living in Memphis: Low cost of living, great arts and music scene & a good work/life balance
- Population: 187,600
- Population density: 1,901 people per square mile
- Area: 98.7 square miles
- Median age: 34.2
- Median household income: $41,388
- Median home price: $310,000
- Knoxville, TN Map
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Knoxville is one of the biggest cities in Tennessee and the largest in East Tennessee with a metro population of 869,000. It’s also one of the largest Appalachian cities and a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Knoxville experienced decades of decline after the collapse of its manufacturing industry, but it’s made a dramatic comeback. Its renovated downtown on the Tennessee River is always bustling with dozens of boutiques, restaurants, cocktail lounges, the World’s Fair Park, and the Knoxville Museum of Art within walking distance.
What to love about living in Knoxville: Outdoor recreation, beautiful scenery, and a sense of community with the feel of a small town
- Population: 182,800
- Population density: 1279 people per square mile
- Area: 143 square miles
- Median age: 37.6
- Median household income: $46,533
- Median home price: $270,000
- Chattanooga, TN Map
Chattanooga ranks 4th on the list of Tennessee cities by population. Located in East Tennessee on the Tennessee River across from Georgia, Chattanooga boasts an ideal location and gorgeous scenery that lives up to the nickname Scenic City. It’s one of two main Tennessee cities in the East Grand Division along with Knoxville. When you compare Knoxville vs Chattanooga, you’ll find Chattanooga has a more exciting nightlife and downtown area, more attractions, and it’s overall better for families. By comparison, Knoxville revolves around the Great Smoky Mountains and the University of Tennessee. Chattanooga is within 150 miles of Nashville; Knoxville; Huntington, AL; Birmingham, AL; and Atlanta for easy weekend getaways.
Chattanooga may not be a large city, but it offers endless recreation and entertainment. Families appreciate amenities like the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum downtown. The downtown area is also home to the Tennessee Riverwalk, four bridges across the river, and several parks like the waterfront Coolidge Park with a restored carousel and play fountain.
What to love about living in Chattanooga: Great location within two hours of major cities, family-friendly attractions, and low cost of living. Learn more about living in Chattanooga in our complete guide!
- Population: 158,000
- Population density: 1,601 people per square mile
- Area: 98.8 square miles
- Median age: 29.2
- Median household income: $51,281
- Median home price: $272,000
- Clarksville, TN Map
As you explore cities in Tennessee by population, you’ll find the often-overlooked Clarksville is actually nearly as large as Chattanooga, although it’s not as familiar as other major Tennessee cities. Clarksville is the second largest city in Middle Tennessee after Nashville, about 50 miles south. The city is located right on the border with Kentucky with a metro population of 308,000 over four counties in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Money recently ranked Clarksville as the #1 best place to live in the United States thanks to its high quality of life and affordability. The city has a large and ever-growing millennial population with a median age a decade younger than the state average. The city has become popular with Nashville commuters, and it’s projected to gain another 90,000 residents by 2040!
What to love about living in Clarksville, TN: Close proximity to Nashville and Fort Campbell, KY; lowest cost of living in the state, and good schools
- Population: 147,000
- Population density: 2,381 people per square mile
- Area: 61.7 square miles
- Median age: 31.2
- Median household income: $68,373
- Median home price: $349,000
- Murfreesboro, TN Map
Murfreesboro is located in Middle Tennessee in the geographic center of the state and it’s the largest suburb of Nashville. It ranks 6th among Tennessee cities by population, but that may be changing: it’s been the fastest-growing major city in the state for more than two decades.
Murfreesboro is an affluent community known for its history. The Battle of Murfreesboro was fought here during the Civil War, a major engagement and the war’s bloodiest battle with over 23,500 casualties. It’s home to Middle Tennessee State University, the state’s largest undergraduate university.
Outdoor enthusiasts appreciate the region’s natural resources with camping, hiking, kayaking, Stones River National Battlefield, and 1,200 acres of parks, open spaces, and public facilities. Families love Murfreesboro for its quality schools, low crime, and amenities like Boro Beach, a public outdoor pool and water park.
What to love about living in Murfreesboro: Great public schools, walkable historic downtown, two shopping centers, rich history, and family-friendly attractions
- Population: 83,000
- Population density: 1,998 people per square mile
- Area: 41.6 square miles
- Median age: 37.2
- Median household income: $103,813
- Median home price: $699,000
- Franklin, TN Map
Franklin ranks 7th among the largest cities in Tennessee and it’s the first city on the list with fewer than 100,000 residents. Located in Middle Tennessee on the Harpeth River, Franklin is just 21 miles south of Nashville and the second-largest Nashville suburb.
Franklin has grown rapidly over the past 40 years, but it has maintained its historic charm with city ordinances protecting its many historic buildings. In 1980, the population was just 12,400. Franklin was one of the top ten fastest-growing cities in the U.S. in 2017.
Franklin is the most affluent city in one of America’s top 10 richest counties, Williamson County. Despite its affluence and high home prices, Franklin otherwise has a low cost of living with a great quality of life and a fairly short commute to Nashville.
What to love about living in Franklin, TN: Easy commute to Nashville, low property taxes, award-winning schools, and great job opportunities
- Population: 67,000
- Population density: 1,152 people per square mile
- Area: 58.3 square miles
- Median age: 34.8
- Median household income: $46,112
- Median home price: $135,000
- Jackson, TN Map
The city of Jackson is about 70 miles east of Memphis is West Tennessee and it’s the second-largest Tennessee city in the division. Jackson offers small-town living with excellent educational opportunities including the University of Memphis at Lambuth, the University of Tennessee at Martin, and four other colleges plus several private schools.
What to love about living in Jackson, TN: Three museums and family-friendly attractions and affordable home prices
#9. Johnson City
- Population: 66,500
- Population density: 1,544 people per square mile
- Area: 43.1 square miles
- Median age: 35.6
- Median household income: $41,682
- Median home price: $831,000
- Johnson City, TN Map
Located in three counties in East Tennessee, Johnson City has a metro population of more than 200,000. It’s also part of the Tri-Cities region that includes Kingsport and Bristol. Johnson City may not be one of the biggest cities, but it’s one of the most important cities in Tennessee for its large metro area. During the daytime, the population swells from 66,000 to over 202,000.
Johnson City is famous for its outdoor recreation. Residents enjoy hiking at Buffalo Mountain Park and boating at Winged Deer Park. The nearby Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park has a replica 18th-century fort and the Gray Fossil Site and Museum features an active excavation site where mastodon fossils have been found. The Wetlands Water Park is a popular water park for families.
Note that the median home price is misleading and based on one home sale. You’ll find homes mostly in the low $100s to high $400s. One of the biggest drawbacks, however, is the very limited job market with few professional and high-paying jobs in the area outside of healthcare.
What to love about living in Johnson City, TN: Amazing outdoor recreation and natural beauty
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- Population: 59,100
- Population density: 1,831 people per square mile
- Area: 32.3 square miles
- Median age: 41.8
- Median household income: $84,688
- Median home price: $308,000
- Bartlett, TN Map
Bartlett is the smallest of the 10 main cities in Tennessee. Located in West Tennessee, Bartlett is the largest suburb of Memphis and just 13 miles outside the city.
Bartlett is popular with families who are looking for a good quality of life close to the city with nearby amenities. Residents enjoy the Bartlett Recreation Center with a swimming pool, fitness center, running track, and game courts.
What to love about living in Bartlett, TN: Very low crime rate, affordable cost of living, great amenities for families, ideal location for Memphis commuters
Largest Cities in Tennessee Map
Largest Tennessee Cities FAQ
How many cities are there in Tennessee?
There are 346 incorporated cities in Tennessee. To incorporate, a community must have 5,000+ residents and cannot be located within 3-5 miles of an existing municipality.
What is the most populous city in Tennessee?
Nashville is the most populous city in Tennessee with 716,000 residents in the city limits and a metro population of 2 million.
How many people live in Tennessee?
The population of Tennessee is 6,829,000 with a population density of 165.6 people per square mile. Over 56% of the population lives in a city, the rest in unincorporated areas.
Which of Tennessee’s Biggest Cities Is Right for You?
Are you ready to make Tennessee your home? With so many options brimming with history, music, and natural beauty, it can be hard to narrow down your options! A good place to start is deciding between West, East, and Middle Tennessee then making your choice from there.
If you’ve settled on moving to the Chattanooga area, All Out Moving & Storage is ready to help. Give us a call to request a free moving quote so we can have you settled into your new Tennessee home in no time.