The recorded human history dates back to 9000 BC. Archaeological remains of the oldest cities in the world depict the creativity, sophistication, and power of various civilizations over history – through its magnificent historical sites, creative arts, and elegant buildings. Here today we take a look at the 37 oldest inhabited cities in the world:
37. Xi’an, China
With more than 3115 years of rich history, human settlements started in Xi’an in 1100 BC. It is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China and hosted some really important dynasties including Han, Tang, Sui, Qin, and Zhou.
The Terracotta Army buried with the emperor Qin Shi Huang in 210-209 BC, with the purpose to protect the emperor in his afterlife, is the most popular aspect of this city. Other well-known historical places in the city include the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Drum Tower, Bell Tower, and the City Wall of Xi’an (shown above).
36. Cadiz, Spain
Originally named Phoenician, Gadir and founded in 1100 BC by Phoenicians Cadiz, the city has a long history of 3115 years and is considered to be the oldest city in Spain. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and is situated on the Bay of Cadiz.
Having been occupied by Muslims, Visigoths, Romans, and Carthaginians over history this city has significant historical importance due to the reason that it was one of the important ports that were used during the discovery of America.
35. Chios, Greece
Much as Chios, Greece is known for its magical beauty however the other more important aspect of this city includes its 3115 years old history which dates back to 1100 BC.
The medieval villages of Chios include the village of Mesta, Anavatos, and Pyrgi, which have well-preserved distinctive architecture and unique houses with unique graffito that decorates their exteriors.
A lot of people even like to try island hopping if they’re keen to enjoy as much Greek culture as possible.
34. Patras, Greece
Founded by the unification of Mycenaean villages, the first traces of settlements in Patras Greece date back to 1100 BC (some 3115 years ago).
During the early days of Christianity, this city has been a Christian epicenter and is distinguished as the place where St. Andrew was crucified. Patras is also the regional capital of Western Greece.
33. Varanasi, India
Having been inhabited for roughly 3015-3215 years, human settlements started in Varanasi, India around 1000 BC-1200 BC. Also known as Benares, this ancient city has religious importance for both Buddhists and Hindus as it is thought to be founded by Lord Shiva (the Hindu deity).
According to well-known historians, this city is older than tradition, older than history, and even older than legend.
32. Lisbon, Portugal
Having a history of 3215 years (debated) this second-oldest capital (Athens being the first) was once the home of famous explorers like Prince Henry, Magellan, and Vasco da Gama.
This city is famous for its classical concerts which are held in its best-known churches, Carmo, the Se, and Sao Roque. Known to have its first human settlements during 1200 BC, Lisbon has more cultural offerings than any other city in Portugal.
31. Trikala, Greece
Located at a distance of 330 km from Athens, Trikala is known for its charm and beauty. Human settlements started in Trikala 3215 years back.
Founded in 1200 BC it has been known for its historical sites including Platanos village, the grove of Prophet Elias, the Varousi District, and the Municipal Gallery.
30. Chalcis, Greece
Having passed under Roman, Venetian, and Ottoman rule, Chalcis has a rich history of around 3215 years. It’s one of the most significant historical places is St Paraskeve Church which used to be the Chief Church of Venetians.
Chalcis was also known as Euripus during the early days of the Christian era. The earliest settlement of inhabitants started in Chalcis in 1200 BC.
29. Larnaca, Cyprus
Having a rich history that dates back to 3415 years, Larnaca has incredible cultural, religious, and historical sites along with beautiful landmarks and beaches including Kamares Aqueduct, Finikoudes Beach, Ayios Lazarus, and Hala Sultan Teke.
Founded in 1400 BC by Phoenicians as Citium, Larnaca is a popular tourist destination due to its medieval castles and ancient ruins.
28. Thebes, Greece
Once a powerful city-state Thebes was first inhabited in 1400 BC. It is distinguished as the birthplace of the Greek hero Hercules, and the most famous Greek poet Pindar.
Thebes was also famous for its rich literature over its 3415 years of history. The archaeological remains found here have revealed the existence of Mycenaean settlements.
27. Athens, Greece
First inhabited in 1400 BC, Athens is the largest city and the capital of Greece. Over the 3415 years of its history, it has been a center of learning, philosophy, and art. The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist which is a popular tourist attraction.
Home to Aristotle’s Lyceum and Plato’s Academy is referred to as the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western civilization.
26. Chania, Greece
With a tumultuous and rich history of 3415 years, this city houses several historical museums including the Archeological Museum of Chania in Saint Francis Monastery, the Museum of Typography, and the Nautical Museum of Crete.
First inhabited in 1400 BC, this beautiful city of Chania also hosts various cultural events. It has preserved traditional architecture and most of the monuments from Turkish and Venetian times.
25. Balkh, Afghanistan
Also known as the “Mother of Cities,” the first human settlements in Balkh date back to 1500 BC. With a rich history of 5315 years, it is located in northern Afghanistan it was named Bactra under the Greeks and was the center of Zoroastrianism.
Before it was destroyed by Genghis Khan it enlarged too much under the Samanids and Abbasids during which it also emerged as a center of learning.
24. Hebron, Palestine
Dating back to 1500 BC, this site of the oldest Jewish community is located in the south of Jerusalem which is home to 700 Jews and 250,000 Palestinians today. Due to its association with biblical patriarchs, it is one of the four sacred cities of Judaism, in addition to that, it is revered as one of the four Holy Cities by Muslims (Jerusalem, Medina, and Mecca being the other three).
This holy city has a rich history of 3515 years and is built on hills. It has suitable weather for agriculture and it is popular for its grapes and plums.
23. Kutaisi, Georgia
Located in the rarely beautiful region of Imereti, Kutaisi is the largest city in Georgia with its history dating back to 2000 BC (according to Greek mythology). Having a rich history of 4015 years, this oldest city of Georgia served as a capital to successive kingdoms for over 124 years.
In 1994, Kutaisi together with the 12th century Gelati Cathedral and Monastery was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
22. Jaffa, Israel
Interestingly Jaffa has a harbor that has been used since the Bronze Age. Having been ruled by famous conquerors including Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, and the ancient people, its history dates back to 2000 BC.
During Maccabean times Jaffa was destroyed by the Romans and thousands of people were slaughtered. Today with over 4015 years of interesting history, Jaffa has a diverse population of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
21. Luoyang, China
Having been inhabited for over 4085 years, the first human settlements were found in Neolithic times in 2070 BC. Located in the central plain of China, historically this oldest city of Asia has been the geographical center of China and is one of the Seven Great Ancient Capitals of China today.
It hosts several historical sites including The Longmen Grottoes (included in the World Heritage Sites in 2000), and various Buddhist Temples.
20. Kirkuk, Iraq
With archaeological remains that date back to 2200 BC, this oil-rich province of Iraq has a long history of 4215 years and has been the center of the petroleum industry in recent times. It is distinguished for being the battleground for three famous empires including Babylonia, Assyria, and Media.
Some of the famous historical places in the city include Yorgan Tepe, Qal’at Jarmo, and the tomb of Prophet Daniel.
19. Giza, Egypt
Having one of the Seven Wonders of the World on its soil, Giza is the central attraction and a historically rich city that was founded around 2250-2568 BC.
With the Sphinx at the base of the Giza plateau coupled with the Pyramids of Giza, this city holds the most significant attractions in the entire of Egypt. The archeological remains present in this city are thought to be 4265-4583 years old at least.
18. Jenin, West Bank
Located in the northern West Bank, Jenin was founded in 2450 BC. Throughout its brief history of 4465 years, it has been an agricultural center for the inhabitants of Palestine.
This culturally rich city has many historical sites including St George Church, Belameh (which dates back to the Bronze Age), and the Freedom Theatre. It is also distinguished due to its dense forest named “Umm Al Rihan forest” which is located in its extreme northwest.
17. Tyre, Lebanon
Located on the east side of the Mediterranean, the first human settlements started in this Phoenician city around 4765 years ago.
According to Herodotus, Tyre is the birthplace of the legendary historian Dido and Europa and was founded in 2750 BC. Due to many Roman historical sites, Tyre’s Hippodrome has recently been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
16. Jerusalem, Middle East
Home to the religious places of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, Jerusalem is revered by all three religions equally. Also called Al-Qudus, it has a rich history of 4815 years during which it has been conquered, ruined, and rebuilt several times.
Founded in 2800 BC, it has many prominent historical places including the Dome of the Rock, St. James Church, Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
15. Rey, Iran
Having been inhabited around 3000-4000 BC, it has a rich history of 5000-6000 years. Referred to as a sacred Zoroastrian City, it was once under the rule of the Zoroastrian dynasty.
Rey has a wealth of historical places among which Cheshmeh Ali Hill and Gebri Castle are quite famous. However, today it has been absorbed into the metropolitan area of Greater Tehran.
14. Luxor, Egypt
With its historical sites that date back to 3200 BC, Luxor is known as the world’s greatest open-air museum. Previously known as the ancient city of Thebes, it has numerous historical places including monuments of Luxor, Ramses III, Karnak, and Hatshepsut – which has been a center of attraction since the Roman and Greek periods.
This 5215-year-old glorious city of the god Amon Ra is still one of the hottest tourist destinations around the world today.
13. Beirut, Lebanon
The first human settlements started in Beirut in 3000 BC. This culturally rich city is the capital of Lebanon and its history goes back some 5015 years. Archaeologists have found traces of Ottoman, Arab, Roman, Hellenistic, and Phoenician remains in the city to date.
This city flourished after the Lebanese Civil War and today has grown into a cosmopolitan city that attracts a large number of tourists from around the world due to its liveliness.
12. Gaziantep, Turkey
Inhabited for around 5665 years, this small city located at the Turkish-Syrian border was previously known as Antep. Founded in 3650 BC, Gaziantep is thought to be occupied by the Hittites and has numerous historical places including the Antep Fortress.
Due to its geographical location, it has been a center of trade over the past and even today it is the fastest-growing economic region in Turkey.
11. Sidon, Lebanon
Located at a distance of 25 miles to the south of Beirut, and having 6015 years old history, Sidon is the oldest Phoenician city. Founded in 4000 BC, it is distinguished as a great Phoenician city from which the Great Mediterranean Empire flourished.
It has remained historically important because it was captured by Alexander the Great in 333 BC and it was also visited by St. Paul and Jesus.
10. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Dating back to 4000 BC, it is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Europe (even older than Athens). First occupied by Thracians, Plovdiv later became a city of Romans and Greeks.
This second-largest city of Bulgaria has been an important educational, cultural, and economic center over its dynamic history of 6015 years. Some of the historical sites of Plovdiv include its Roman Theater and Plovdiv’s Ethnographic Museum.
9. Fayoum, Egypt
Located 90 km from Cairo the city of Fayoum was founded in 4000 BC and is distinguished as the oldest city in Africa which is famous for its arts. According to the famous artist, Euphrosyne:
“The Fayoum portraits have an almost disturbing lifelike quality and intensity.”
Over 1000 Fayoum paintings are saved in Egypt and London today. Its 6015 years old history is filled with famous Islamic, Pharaonic, Coptic, and Greek-Roman monuments.
8. Susa, Iran
During its 6215 years old history, the city of Susa rose to prominence over and over again under various civilizations including Persian, Sasanian, Parthian, Greek, Babylonian, Achaemenian, and Elamite.
It once served as the capital of the mighty Persian Empire and it was founded in 4200 BC. It is known for its historical places including the tomb of Prophet Daniel.
7. Provadia, Bulgaria
Located in eastern Bulgaria the archaeological remains of this city date back to 4700 BC (between the middle and late Chalcolithic age).
With its diverse 6715 years old history, this city hosts numerous Bronze Age, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic settlements along with the remains of Byzantine, Roman, and Hellenistic urban centers.
6. Damascus, Syria
Turned into a metropolitan city today, Damascus has a long history of around 6315-12015 years (4300 BC – 10,000 BC). This oldest city in the Middle East has a total of 125 monuments among which the most spectacular is the Great Mosque of the Umayyads which was built in the 8th century.
Over the past, it has been renowned for its swords and its flourishing craft industry. Today it is occupied in the ongoing bloody Syrian Civil War.
5. Aleppo, Syria
Having its debated history of 6315-13015 years, Aleppo was first inhabited around 4300 BC – 11000 BC. Due to its geographical importance, it has been ruled by Ottomans, Mongols, Arabs, Hittites, Assyrians, and Mamelukes from time to time.
The unique aspects of the city include its great Mosques, citadels, palaces, and madrasas among which the monumental Citadel of Aleppo is distinguished due to its elegance. Today Aleppo is devastated due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War.
4. Erbil, Iraq
Having its human settlements dating back to 2300 BC – 6000 BC, this city has a long history of 4315-8015 years and has been ruled by Islamic, Greek, Ottoman, Sumerian, and Babylonian civilizations.
Arbil is best known for its massive citadel at its heart which has also been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.
3. Argos, Greece
Founded by Phoroneus in 5000 BC and named after his son it is the oldest city in Greece. With its rich history of 7015 years, it has been one of the major strongholds due to its strategic location during the Mycenean era.
It is home to many ancient monuments amongst which Heraion of Argos is the most renowned monument worldwide. It was also a center of attention during the 7th century when Aristotle invented coinage.
2. Byblos, Lebanon
Inhabited since Neolithic times, it is one of the oldest Phoenician cities with indications of human settlements going back to 5000 BC. This 7015-year-old city bears the testimony of the beginning of the Phoenician civilization.
Its historical sites include the spectacular monumental temples of the Bronze Age, the Byzantine churches, the Roman roads, and the Ottoman and Medieval towns.
1. Jericho, Israel
Distinguished as the oldest inhabited city in the world dating back to nearly 11015 years, it is also known as “The City of Palm Trees” or “The Date City”. It is estimated to have been founded in 9000 BC at the time of the beginning of the Holocene epoch.
The discovered archaeological remains in Jericho have proved that it has been home to more than 20 consecutive settlements. Interestingly this city is around 800 feet below sea level and is also considered to be the lowest city on earth.
Do you know of some more ancient cities in the World? Have you ever visited any of these oldest inhabited cities in the world? Share your experience in the comments below!