While world cities or global cities research has become an established interdisciplinary field over a few short decades, criticisms have been levelled at its narrow focus on selected leading cities and specific economic activities of corporate headquarters, finance and advanced producer services. This article identifies four recent strands of research from geographers and urban scholars seeking more nuanced and critical approaches to processes of globalisation and urban development. First, there has been a shift away from examining urban hierarchies to exploring networks and flows between global cities and the adoption of a relational perspective. Second, there has been a re-scaling of analysis to examine global city-regions and global city-states. Third, researchers have turned to ‘alternative’ global cities to reveal new nodes and networks that were often written off conventional accounts of the global cities map. Fourth, there has been greater emphasis on social inequality and urban politics within global cities and challenges for positive social change. The concluding section draws together some common themes than run through these research trajectories and highlights some future research agendas that capitalise on geographers’ sensitivity to place in studying global cities. This place-based perspective appreciates the very differences that enable global cities to perform particular roles in the global urban network. It also recognises global cities as inhabited by real people and communities and the impetus for positive social change in the face of intraurban and interurban inequalities.