10 World’s Oldest Cities

Oct 24, 2022

Cities with millennial history can offer you much more than just a beautiful architecture and unique artifacts. They bear the signs of previous epochs and civilizations. They display the development of mankind with both positive and negative sides. These cities are full of amazing stories and legends and they are the biggest lure for seasoned explorers. Read on to learn about the cities that as old as the hills.

1 Damascus, Syria

Being the capital of Syria, Damascus is also the largest city of the country, with the population of over 4.5 million people. The history of the city goes back to the 10,000-8,000 BC, though the exact time is still debated; consequently Damascus is recognized as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Situated between Africa and Asia, the city has an advantageous geographical location at the crossroads of the orient and the occident.

From time immemorial, Damascus was a significant cultural, commercial and administrative center. It was a destination of local and overseas traders and craftsmen. The city is marked by several civilizations that had created it: Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic. The old-walled city amazes with ancient architecture, narrow alleys, green courtyards and white houses. However, the age-old architecture somewhat contrasts with the flood of tourists who come from all over the world to see this breathtaking place.

2 Athens, Greece

The cradle of Western civilization, Athens is the capital of Greece with the population of about 3 million people. By now it has been inhabited for more than 7,000 years and the design of the city is marked by Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman civilizations. It’s a birthplace of outstanding philosophers, writers, dramatists, artists and the classical style that they gave rise to.

Modern Athens is a cosmopolitan city, the cultural, media, educational, political and industrial center of Greece. The historical center of the city is composed of Acropolis (“high city”), a huge hill with the remnants of ancient buildings and Parthenon. Set only 280 meters, away from the Parthenon, and a mere 400 meters walking distance from it, the museum is the largest modern building erected so close to the ancient site. The hill has a marvelous view down the city. Since Athens is acknowledged to be the archeological research center, it is full of historical museums, including the National Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine and Christian Museum and the New Acropolis Museum.

When visiting Athens, you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit the Port of Piraeus, which has been the most important port of the Mediterranean for centuries due to its geo-strategic location.

3 Byblos, Lebanon

Byblos is another cradle of many ancient civilizations. It is one of the oldest cities of Phoenicia and it has been continually inhabited for about 5,000 years, even though the first signs of settlement go back to the earlier period. Byblos is directly related to the development of Phoenician alphabet, which is in use even now. An interesting thing is that the English word Bible is derived from the name of the town, since Byblos was an important port, through which the papyrus was imported.

Byblos is a lovely tourist destination these days and it has a lot to offer: ancient citadels and temples, picturesque views overlooking the Mediterranean, antique ruins and the port. Nowadays it’s quite modern city with glass buildings and full-chock streets, but you can easily see the touch of antiquity. I like reasonable combination of tradition and sophistication about this city and I‘m in love with its ancient heart.

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4 Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is one of the most-visited cities of Israel and it is also the most important religious destination in the world. Jerusalem is known to be a holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims. According to the Bible, Jerusalem was founded as the capital city of the united kingdom of Israel by David. Nowadays Jerusalem is inhabited by 800,000 residents with Jewish comprise more than 60 percent of population.

Over the years Jerusalem has experienced multiple tragic events: it was exposed to numerous attacks, sieges and destructions. The Old City was established 4 thousand years ago, which are divided into four quadrants, today known as the Christian Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Armenian Quarter and the Jewish Quarter.

In 1981 the Old Town was added to the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. Modern city has spread far beyond the boundaries of the ancient center. Jerusalem bears an incredibly symbolic meaning for Jewish people from all over the world, as it signifies their desire to come back home.

5 Varanasi, India

India is a world-famous birthplace of ancient civilizations, religions and spirituality and it is also a cradle of the oldest world cities. The holy city of India, Varanasi is located on the banks of the river Ganges and it is considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world. The Hindus believe that the city was established by God Shiva and the history of the city goes back to the 12th century BC.

Varanasi, also known as Benares, has been a cult destination for pilgrims and wanderers. Mark Twain once said the beautiful words about this city, “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Varanasi is an outstanding cultural and religious center with many celebrated poets, writers and musicians concentrated in the city.

Varanasi had a great industrial potential due to its high-end fabrics, perfumes, sculpture and ivory. Nowadays Varanasi is the center of arts and crafts. It can offer everything that one could imagine: brocade silk, carpet weaving, toys, glass and ivory works, perfumes and various accessories and jewelry. Since I am a lover of ethnic handicraft, Varanasi seems to be a true Eden for me!

6 Cholula, Mexico

Over 2,500 years ago the city of Cholula developed from numerous scattered villages and it had been a residence of various Latin-American cultures like the Olmecs, Toltecs, and the Aztecs. The name of the town means “place of flight” in Nahuatl and it was former called Acholollan. When the town was conquered by Spaniards, it began flourishing. Cortez once called Cholula “the most beautiful city outside Spain.”

Nowadays it’s a small colonial town with the population of 60,000 residents. The most prominent attraction of the city is the Great Pyramid of Cholula with the sanctuary on the top, which is known to be the largest man-made monument ever. The pyramid of Cholula is highly underestimated. It consists of multiple tunnels and caves with the total length of 8 kilometers. However, only 800 meters of these tunnels are transformed into passages and open to the public.

7 Jericho, Palestine

Archeological digs have attested to the evidence of the human habitation dating back almost 11,000 years ago with at least 20 following settlements. But nowadays Jericho is a small town with the population of 20,000 people. In the Hebrew Bible it is called the City of Palm Trees.

Jericho is located in the center of Palestine, which means it’s an ideal place for routes and trade. Moreover, Jericho’s natural beauty and resources became the cause of numerous invasions to an ancient Palestine. In the first century it was destroyed by the Romans, rebuilt by the Byzantines and destroyed again. Jericho had been deserted for centuries. Over the 20th century the territory of Jericho has been occupied by Jordan and Israel. In 1994 the territory became the part of Palestine. Jericho’s most famous sites include Tell es-Sultan, Hisham’s Palace and Shalom al Yisrael Synagogue Mosaic Floor.

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8 Aleppo, Syria

The city of Aleppo is the largest in Syria as it is inhabited by more than 2 million residents. Aleppo has an incredibly advantageous geographical location; it is situated in the center of the Silk Road that connected Asia and the Mediterranean world. The territory of the city has been inhabited for more than 8,000 years but the archeological digs have found the evidence of habitation that dates back to nearly 13,000 years ago. At various epochs Aleppo was controlled by the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, as a result it has mixed architectural styles.

The old city is overfilled with caravanserais, schools, hammams and churches of 13th and 14th centuries. The old city is also defined by narrow alleys and big estates; while the modern part of Aleppo is characterized by broad roads and large squares. The interesting fact is that the old city of Aleppo consists of cell-like segments, which are socially and economically independent. Aleppo had been subjected to permanent invasions and instability, and the residents were compelled to fortify the city. Aleppo is often called “the soul of Syria”.

9 Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv’s history goes back to the 4,000 BC, which is proved by many Neolithic excavations. Over the centuries Plovdiv has been ruled by many empires, though originally it was a Thracian city. Later it was conquered by the Romans. In the Middle Ages Plovdiv was an alluring territory for the Bulgarian, Byzantine, and the Ottoman Empires. Only in 1885 the city became the part of Bulgaria. Nowadays it’s the second largest city in Bulgaria and it’s a significant economic, educational and cultural center.

I have been obsessed with the city for years. Last summer I was lucky to spend a couple of days in this magnificent city and I just fell in love with its narrow paved streets, neat beautiful houses and marvelous ancient architecture! The Old Town is definitely worth seeing. It is overwhelmed with restaurants, workshops and museums that were previously famous houses. Archeological sites, museums, churches and temples are also must-see places in Plovdiv.

10 Luoyang, China

While most old cities are located in the Mediterranean, Luoyang stands out as the oldest continually inhabited city in Asia. It is included to the Seven Great Ancient Capitals of China. The city is also considered to be geographical center of China and the cradle of Chinese culture and history. There is no other city in China that has lived out so many dynasties and emperors like Luoyang. The city has been inhabited for more than 4,000 years and nowadays it is populated by nearly 7,000,000 people.

With such a long and exciting history, Luoyang has really a lot to offer. The Longmen Grottoes, which was included to the list of World Heritage Sites in 2000, and numerous historic Buddhist temples are real attractions for tourists from all over the world. Luoyang is also famed for the White Horse Temple, the first temple established in China.

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Time and age are not the things we appreciate or look forward to, but when it comes to the cities most of us want to visit the world’s oldest cities. Centuries always add a touch of greatness and majesty to the city; they leave the mark of the epoch and civilization. You can actually read the city when you look at its architecture, layout and sights. These are just a few of the oldest and most fascinating cities in the world that I recommend you to visit. Have you ever visited any of these oldest cities in the world?