The city population rose from 382,155 in 2003 to 386,501 in 2004, a growth of 1.87%. The population density as of October 1, 2010, was 1,755.47 persons per km². The total area is 209.20 km².
This population increase has occurred despite Wakayama's beleaguered economy, which has suffered since Sumitomo Steel moved much of its steel producing operations to China. The Wakayama steel mills have since been reduced and restructured, with part of the industry completely shutting in 2004.
Wakayama is cleft in two by the Kinokawa River. The city is bordered at the north by mountains and Osaka Prefecture.
In the city center is Wakayama Castle, built on Mt. Torafusu (the name means "a tiger leaning on his side") in a city central park. During the Edo period, the Kishū Tokugawa daimyō ruled from Wakayama Castle. Tokugawa Yoshimune, the fifth Kishū Tokugawa daimyo, became the eighth Tokugawa shogun. This castle is a concrete replica of the original, which was destroyed in World War II.
Wakayama is home to one of Japan's three Melody Roads, which is made from grooves cut into the pavement, which when driven over causes a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the wheels into the car body.
Wakayama Prefecture is famous across Japan for its umeboshi (salty pickled plums) and mikan (mandarins).