Have you ever visited an ancient civilization? It’s like time traveling to a similar, yet otherworldly, place. As you walk among the ruins, you can imagine what life was like hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
The oldest cities from around the world still offer a lot of knowledge despite some losses of archaeological evidence. Understanding the way people used to inhabit settlements can truly give us a broader picture of our own history.
In this article, you will go on a journey through some of the earliest human habitations and uncover ancient artifacts. You will also discover how some of the oldest cities either grew to power or fell to ruin.
These fascinating stories from the past can provide a glimpse into how human history developed and how the world has been shaped.
The holy city of Varanasi is located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Its winding cobbled streets are home to more than 2,000 temples.
Scholars believe it was founded between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago by Lord Shiva. People from all over the world consider Varanasi to be the spiritual capital of India.
Hindu pilgrims travel from all over to bathe in the sacred Ganges River.
Ancient historians aren’t exactly sure when settlers began to inhabit the city of Aleppo.
One of the main reasons the date of origin is unknown is because most of the original city has been devastated by civil war. However, when archeologists discovered an ancient temple, they were able to date it as far back as far as 3,000 B.C.
The modern-day city is located in the northwestern part of Syria. It currently serves as the capital of the Aleppo Governorate. It has a population of 4.6 million.
The Spanish navy has called Cádiz, Spain, home since the early 18th century.
It was originally founded by Phoenicians back in 1,100 B.C. Its geographical location made it an ideal location for exploration and trade.
In 219 B.C., a great Carthaginian commander by the name of Hannibal Barca made the trading post his base for the conquest of Iberia. Many centuries later, the port city is still known for its breathtaking architecture and large number of watchtowers.
Historians uncovered the true origins of the city of Beirut during an excavation in the early 1990s.
They discovered that Lebanon’s capital dates back at least 5,000 years. Beirut, Lebanon, is also believed to have been home to one of the most prestigious law schools in the Roman Empire.
Unfortunately, much of the historic city was destroyed in an earthquake around 551 A.D.
Thebes is located in central Greece. Over the past few thousand years, the city has played a key role in many different Greek myths and legends.
Thebes was once a bustling city that even rivaled Athens. Archeologists uncovered grinding stones and terracotta, which led them to believe that the city was known for its wool production and trade.
Modern Thebes is now one of the largest towns in the region of Boeotia.
The Phoenicians most likely founded Larnaca, Cyprus, in 1,400 B.C.
The ancient city is rich in history. It is home to the 9th-century Church of Sanit Lazarus, which holds the tomb of a saint who is believed to have risen from the dead.
People from all over the world now flock to Larnaca for its beautiful beaches, great weather, and trendy waterfront bar scene.
Jericho, West Bank
Jericho is one of the oldest known settlements in the world, dating back to around 9,000 B.C. It is located in the Jordan Valley west of Jerusalem.
The ancient city has been made famous by the Biblical story that tells of the Israelite leader Joshua’s victory over its Canaanite citizens.
Many people travel to Jericho just to see the 8,000-year-old protective wall that once stood 12 feet high.
Athens is currently the capital of Greece, which was once a powerful civilization and empire. Athens was also home to some of the greatest minds of a bygone era, including Socrates and Hippocrates.
While some of the ancient landmarks no longer exist, quite a few buildings are still intact, such as the colonnaded Parthenon temple. The Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum showcase historic vases, jewelry from ancient Greece, and other impressive artifacts.
Modern Plovdiv is a beautiful mixture between a modern city and an ancient settlement. The city center is nestled between seven hills in southern Bulgaria.
After finding mosaic panels, clay lamps, and early coins, historians deduced that inhabitants settled in Plovdiv around 1,400 B.C.
One of their ancient landmarks is still used to this day. The Philippopolis theatre once held around 6,000 people. It is now utilized to host operas and concerts.
Jerusalem is located between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea in the Middle East. Historians believe settlers began to inhabit the city around 2,800 B.C.
Over the thousands of years of its history, the city has been attacked over 52 times and has had to be completely rebuilt twice. Fortunately, scared religious sites like the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have survived.
Currently, the city is claimed by both Israel and Palestine.
Historians believe people began to inhabit Faiyum, Egypt, around 7,000 B.C.
Over the last few thousand years, the city has had a couple of different names. To many Egyptians, the city was originally known as Shedet. However, the Greeks would also call it Koine.
Modern-day Faiyum boasts a population of over 349,800 residents. Its close proximity to a branch of the Nile River has made it a strategic location for millennia.
Argos is an ancient city located in the heart of Argolis, in the Peloponnese Region of Greece. It is famously known for being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the whole world.
During its golden era, people would travel to Argos from all over the world to compete in different types of musical competitions. Fast forward a few thousands of years and people are still traveling to the bustling city to enjoy music, theater, and art.
Iran owes a lot of its rich history to the ancient city of Susa, previously known as Shush. What started as a small settlement in 7,000 B.C. has grown into a festive urban community.
Interestingly, Susa was the location of more than 10,000 weddings around 324 B.C. Alexander the Great was responsible for arranging the thousands of marriages as a way to unite Macedonians and Persians.
Around 4,000 years ago, Luoyang was considered to be the heart of China. People began to inhabit the city for its sacred geographical location at the intersection of two of China’s large rivers.
It was home to one of the first Buddhist temples. Modern archaeologists have discovered thousands of Buddhist rock carvings that they believe date back to the 5th century A.D.
Luoyang is still considered a major industrial city with a population of over six million people.
Chalcis, Greece, is so ancient that it was featured in Homer’s Iliad, a Greek epic poem written in the eighth century. Historians believe it was founded sometime around 1,300 B.C.
Over the years, more and more people began to move to the city for its bustling atmosphere and historic importance.
Chalcis is considered one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. People also travel here for the beautiful tropical weather and gorgeous Dominican architecture.
The charming historic city of Lisbon sits on top of Portugal’s rolling hills. Historians believe the first settlement in this location was established around 1,200 BC and was called Ulissipo.
Lisbon is now one of the ninth most populated cities in the European Union.
Thousands of tourists visit Lisbon every year for its ancient architecture, culture, and cuisine. One of the most popular tourist attractions is the Sao Jorge Castle, which also offers a breathtaking view of the city.
Jaffa is one of the southernmost oldest parts of Israel. The ancient city is famously known for being sited in the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon, and Saint Peter.
Researchers believe the city was founded and inhabited sometime around 2,000 B.C. Almost eight thousand years later, Jaffa is still filled with old historic buildings, churches, and towers.
The city also boasts tropical weather and gorgeous beaches.
St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine, Florida, sits on the northeast coast of Florida and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It was founded in 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés.
The quaint city attracts millions of visitors every year. People travel from all over the world for the warm weather, beaches, and rich history. Some of the popular tourist attractions include Flager College, the 17th century Spanish stone fortress, and the Anastasia State Park.
Cholula is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Mexico. Historians believe it was founded sometime between 800 and 200 B.C. The centrally located city continued to grow throughout the centuries.
It now boasts a population of around 25,000 residents. The city’s tourism circuit also brings in thousands of visitors annually. Cholula’s great pyramid, hundreds of ancient churches, and rich history are just some of the many things that attract people from all over the world.
The city of Flores, Guatemala, is believed to have been founded between 1441 and 1446. Historic buildings and temples grace the ancient city. Ancient Itza Mayans fled to the ancient region to seek safety and new beginnings.
Flores is now home to more than 13,000 residents. The town is situated on an island on Lake Petén Itza and is just a few miles away from ancient Mayan ruins.
St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Historians believe Italian navigator John Cabot discovered St. Johns on the eastern tip of the Canadian peninsula when he was sailing near Canada’s Atlantic coast on an exhibition in 1497.
The town officially existed on maps as early as 1519. It is now considered to be one of the oldest cities in North America.
St. John’s is known for being one of the first places to have transatlantic wireless communication. Every year, visitors travel to enjoy the city’s rich and colorful architecture.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Hiram Bingham, an American archeologist, discovered the ancient Inca settlement in Peru on July 24, 1911. After years of research, historians came to the conclusion that Machu Picchu was built sometime around 1450.
After hundreds of years of abandonment, new life has been breathed into the ancient city. More than four million tourists visit the majestic ruins every year to see the sophisticated dry-stone walls, stunning buildings, and panoramic views.
The city now known as Gaziantep was once called Antep (likely meaning “king’s land”) and its history dates back to as early as the Neolithic Period.
Throughout the centuries, rich history flowed through the settlement. Luxurious Roman baths, temples, and mosques were created during the ascent of the Ottoman Empire in the 1200s.
The south-central province of Turkey now boasts a population of approximately 1,931,856. Some of the city’s most popular attractions include the Gaziantep Castle, Zeugma Mosaic Museum, and the Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology.
Modern-day Damascus is the capital of Syria. Historians believe the city was founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., making it the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
Its location between Africa and Asia made it easily assessable to ancient travelers.
Damascus currently has a population of around 1.7 million. The city is filled with historically rich landmarks like the Umayyad Mosque, Al Azem Palace, and the Saladin Mausoleum.
Erbil, Iraq, is one of the oldest continually inhabited areas in the world, as humans resided in the area as far back as the 5th millennium B.C. The city was at one time part of the Ottoman empire.
Later, it was within the province of Bagdad but is now part of the autonomous Kurdistan region. It currently has a population of 879,000.
Many different ancient buildings can be found throughout the modern city. Ancient structures like the Erbil Citadel, Jalil Khayat Mosque, and the Kurdish Textile Museum offer a glimpse into the city’s historic past.