Top 10 Oldest Cities in the World
Updated: Feb 14
During the Neolithic period, the earliest cities in the world emerged in ancient Mesopotamia. While many of these ancient cities no longer exist, a few remain and have evolved into modern cities. These early cities were once the centers of powerful civilizations, and some continue to hold that distinction today. These cities have a wealth of history, and many ruins and monuments remain and attract thousands of visitors each year.
1. Jericho, West Bank (9600 - 9000 BCE)
Jericho is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back to 9600 BCE. Throughout history, it has been ruled by various peoples and is known for its strategic location and water source. Today, it is a small agricultural city and a popular tourist destination known for its historical and religious significance and scenic views, including the Tell es-Sultan archaeological site, the Monastery of Temptation, and the Tree of Zacchaeus.
2. Byblos, Lebanon (8800 - 7000 BCE)
Byblos, also known as Jbeil, is an ancient coastal city in Lebanon with a rich history dating back to at least the 8th millennium BCE and considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It was an important Phoenician city, known for its seafaring and trade, and was a major center for the export of papyrus, a writing material used extensively in the ancient world. The city has many historical sites and monuments to visit, including the Roman Theater and Crusader Castle. It is also a popular tourist destination today known for its beaches and seafood, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. Byblos is also considered a major economic center in Lebanon, attracting tourists and businesses.
3. Plovdiv, Bulgaria (6000 - 5000 BCE)
Plovdiv is a city located in southern Bulgaria, it is the second-largest city in the country and has a rich and diverse history dating back to ancient times. The city was founded by the Thracians in the 4th millennium BCE and was later conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BCE, during the Roman period it was an important economic and cultural center. During the Middle Ages, it was ruled by the Byzantines, the Bulgarians, and the Ottomans. Plovdiv has a rich cultural heritage reflected in the different architectural styles of the Old Town, which includes well-preserved Roman ruins and medieval fortifications. In recent years, Plovdiv has undergone a resurgence and has become a popular tourist destination known for its well-preserved historical sites, cultural festivals, and vibrant nightlife. It was designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2019. Plovdiv is also an important economic center in Bulgaria with many universities, museums, and cultural centers. Visitors can enjoy the charming Old Town, lively Main Street, and vibrant cultural scene with several festivals throughout the year.
4. Aleppo, Syria (5000 BCE)
Aleppo is an ancient city located in northern Syria and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a history dating back to the 4th millennium BCE. The city is known for its rich cultural heritage and has been an important center of trade and industry throughout its history. It has been under the rule of various empires such as the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Byzantines, and during the Islamic Golden Age, it was an important center of learning and culture. The city has a rich legacy of Islamic architecture, including the Great Mosque of Aleppo, one of the oldest and largest mosques in the world. It was a major center of the textile industry and one of the most important commercial centers in Syria, with a UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town, known for its traditional architecture, including the famous covered market (souq). Unfortunately, the city has been heavily damaged during the Syrian Civil War since 2011, and many of the historical sites and buildings in the city were destroyed or damaged. The city is under the control of Syrian Government since late 2016 and has been undergoing a rebuilding process, but still many areas of the city are in ruins. Efforts are being made to restore the city's heritage and attract tourists once again.
5. Argos, Greece (5000 BCE)
Argos is a city located in northeastern Peloponnese, Greece. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, with a history dating back to the Bronze Age. In ancient times, it was an important city-state and one of the major centers of Mycenaean civilization. In mythology, Argos is associated with the hero Perseus and the famous seer and prophet Melampus. During the classical period, it was a powerful city-state, known for its army and its strategic location, rival of neighboring Sparta. The city was the birthplace of many famous figures such as the playwright Aeschylus and the philosopher Diogenes. Today, Argos is a small city with a population of around 30,000 and a popular tourist destination known for its rich history and well-preserved ancient sites such as the ancient theater, the Heraion, Larisa fortress and the archaeological museum. It is also an important agricultural center known for its olive groves and vineyards. Visitors can also enjoy the charming traditional village of Mycenae, which is a nearby UNESCO World Heritage site considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.
6. Jerusalem (4500 – 3500 BCE)
Jerusalem is a city located in the Middle East, in the West Bank region of Israel. It is considered a holy city by the three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It has a rich history and has been conquered and ruled by various peoples throughout history. It is the site of the first and second Jewish Temples, the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Today, it is a major tourist destination known for its historical sites and monuments, museums, and cultural institutions. However, the city has been subject to ongoing conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, and the status of Jerusalem remains a contentious issue.
7. Susa, Iran (4200 BCE)
Susa is an ancient city located in the Khuzestan province of Iran. It has a rich history dating back to the 4th millennium BCE and was an important center of civilization in ancient times. It was a major city of the Elamite empire and later conquered by the Persians, serving as an important center of government, culture, and trade during the Achaemenid Empire, and being the capital of the Persian Empire under Darius the Great. Susa is known for its impressive architectural remains such as the Apadana Palace, the palace of Darius the Great, and the palace of Xerxes. After the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, Susa was ruled by the Seleucids, the Parthians, and the Sassanians, remaining an important center of culture and trade throughout the centuries. Today, it is an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. Visitors can see the remains of the ancient city, including the palace of Darius the Great, the palace of Xerxes, the Ziggurat, and the acropolis. The site also contains several museums displaying artifacts and objects found during excavations. Susa, despite the destruction of many of its monuments over time, remains an important historical and cultural site, offering a glimpse into the past and allowing visitors to explore the rich history of one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
8. Athens, Greece (4000 BCE)
Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece, located in the Attica region. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with a history dating back to the Neolithic period. In ancient times, it was a powerful city-state and one of the major centers of civilization in the Western world. It was the birthplace of ancient Greek democracy and home to famous philosophers, playwrights, and statesmen. The city was known for its great architectural achievements, including the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena. During the Roman period, it remained an important cultural center and many Roman monuments were built. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Athens entered a period of decline, but continued to be an important center of culture and learning during the Byzantine period. In modern times, it has undergone a resurgence and is now a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, known for its rich history, cultural heritage, and monuments such as the Acropolis and the Parthenon, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. It is also a major economic and cultural center in Greece, with a thriving arts scene and a large student population. Visitors can explore the ancient monuments and museums, stroll along the bustling streets, and enjoy the vibrant nightlife and delicious Greek cuisine.
9. Luxor, Egypt (3200 BCE as the ancient city of Thebes)
Luxor, also known as Thebes, is a city located in southern Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile River. It is an important archaeological site, with a history dating back to ancient times. Luxor was a major religious and political center in ancient Egypt and was the capital of the New Kingdom. In ancient times, it was known as the city of the god Amun, and was home to the famous Temple of Amun, a major religious site and place of pilgrimage. Other notable temples and monuments in the city include the Temple of Luxor, the Temple of Mut, and the Temple of Khonsu. The Valley of the Kings, located on the West Bank of the Nile, contains the tombs of many pharaohs of the New Kingdom period, including the tomb of Tutankhamun. Today, Luxor is a major tourist destination known for its rich history and cultural heritage, and visitors can explore the ancient city, including its temples, tombs, monuments, and museums. Luxor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
10. Damascus, Syria (3000 - 2000 BCE)
Damascus is the capital and largest city of Syria, located in the southwestern part of the country. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back to the 3rd millennium BCE. Throughout its history, it has been a center of trade, culture, and politics. In ancient times, it was an important city of the Aramaeans and was conquered by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. During the Islamic Golden Age, it was a center of trade and culture, and was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate from 661 to 750 AD. The city is known for its rich cultural heritage and history, with many historical sites and monuments such as the Great Mosque of Damascus and the Umayyad Mosque. It also has several museums like the National Museum of Damascus. Today, despite the ongoing Syrian Civil War, Damascus remains an important city in Syria, known for its rich history, culture, traditional souks, and delicious local cuisine. Efforts are being made to restore the city's heritage and attract tourists once again.