10 Oldest Cities Of The World Then Now

We’re taking a trip through the oldest cities of the world. So grab your snacks and hop in the time machine.

Earth is very old. Earth is very old. You could call it ancient. Humans? Not quite as old, but still pretty old. It’s been inhabited by humans for a long time. And it wasn’t all about urban charmers and bustling metropolises. Humans took a while to settle, but once they did we created some amazing magic. It is hard to imagine today’s world without cities.

There are many cities that are older than the hills. The list below contains the oldest cities in the world, but a quick glance will reveal that there are some caveats. We’ve included all continents to be fair. Antarctica has been omitted, but completers can rest easier knowing that Base Orcadas was the oldest settlement in Antarctica. We’ve also tried to limit this list to safe places to visit. Let’s take a look at the oldest cities around the world.

Jericho, West Bank

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Jericho always comes up when the oldest cities in the world are being discussed. Jericho, located in the West Bank, not far from the Jordan River has been continuously inhabited since over 11,000 BC. It has also been an important trading post during its long history and even mentioned in Old Testament. Jericho is a city that continues to make history. It was the first Palestinian city to receive the Oslo Accords in 1994.

Highlight of history: Go and see the place where Jesus ate his fast after being baptized John the Baptist. You can take a cable car up to the Mount of Temptation, which is a popular destination.

Xi’an (China)

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Photograph: Anton Kudelin/Shutterstock

Xi’an is one of China’s oldest cities, and it’s a city that has a long history. Xi’an was formerly known as Chang’an and has been inhabited since more than 3,000 BC. It also served as the capitol for 13 dynasties, or 73 emperors if you’re keeping track. It’s not without reason that it is called the birthplace for Chinese civilization.

Highlight of history: Any other army of Terracotta Warriors would feel wrong. There aren’t many archaeological finds that are more famous.

Luxor in Egypt

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Archaeologists found the remains of an ancient Roman city in Luxor, which dates back 1,800 years. In 2021, Luxor was in the news after archaeologists discovered them. Luxor has a long history of significant historical discoveries. This is the site where the Ancient Egyptian Capital Thebes was located. Don’t be surprised if more are found in the future. Luxor is a treasure trove for archaeologists, but it also has plenty to offer casual tourists.

Highlights of history: Luxor has been described as the most impressive open air museum in the world. So, put on your walking shoes and explore the temples, tombs, and more.

Cholula, Mexico

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Cholula’s a dizzying mix of old and new. It is like a Russian doll, a mixture of both the very new and very old. Cholula began as two villages in the eastern part of the city around 500 BC. It has since grown to the modern wonder of 150,000 people (plus or minus) that we love and know today. Cholula’s churches, busy markets and colonial architecture are famous. Oh, and there’s the ‘world’s biggest pyramid’. Mexico’s most famous volcanoes Popocatepetl & Iztaccihuatl provide dramatic background to the entire thing.

Highlight of history: World’s largest Pyramid (by Volume) was built over nine centuries in four phases. After all, it is huge. It is a beautiful church.

Argos, Greece

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Since people have been flocking anywhere, it’s no surprise that Europe’s oldest town is in Greece. Argos, in Peloponnese, is the winner. It was once the largest city of Greece. Argos is today a charming regional centre that has plenty to offer all visitors. History is the king.

History Highlight: Built partially into the rock, the ancient Argos theatre was the site of an old market before the showcase centre. Even today, over 2,300 years later, the theatre is still used for performances and events.

Multan, Pakistan

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Multan’s archaeological wonders give it an edge over other cities in Central and South Asia. Multan is steeped in history, with a timeline that includes empires from Alexander the Great, to the British, via the Mongols, Mughals and more. The City of Saints in Pakistan is a beautiful place with many stories to share.

Highlights of history: Multan has many tombs but the historical Multan Fort stands out. The original fort here was built between 800 BC and 1000 BC. It has been rebuilt and destroyed several times. This is an impressive piece of historical architecture.

Beijing, China

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Beijing is often near the top of many lists of oldest cities in the world. China’s chaotic city is one of the world’s largest cities (at the time this article was written, its population was just shy of 22 million). It also has a history of more than 3,000-years. The sprawling city, which is home to a number of historical monuments including the Great Wall, may be familiar or not.

Highlights of history: The Tanzhe Temple, the oldest temple in Beijing, is widely considered to be the catalyst that sparked the initial development of the city. First comes Tanzhe and then the city, as the saying goes.

Djenne, Mali

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Photograph: Claudiovidri/Shutterstock

You are not fooled by your eyes. Djenne may look like a scene from a movie, but it is an ancient clay city on the banks the Bani River and the Niger River. Djenne, which was first settled around 2000 BC has had a turbulent history. Tourists are also few, but the lack of them makes for a peaceful visit. Djenne can be reached by car in eight hours from Bamako. However, most tourists arrive from Mopti to the north.

Highlights of history: Although it is not the oldest building in Djenne – how often can you see the largest mud brick building in the entire world? Djenne’s Great Mosque, as it is today, was built in 1907 but there have been mosques on the site since the 13th Century.

Quito, Ecuador

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Photograph: Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

Ecuador’s capital, widely believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited town in South America was the first (alongside Krakow) city to receive UNESCO World Heritage Status on the original 1978 list. Quito’s historic center is so well preserved that it is enough to tell you just how old the city really is. A trip to Quito is like a journey back to the Spanish conquests in the mid-16th century. Quito is the oldest city in South America. There are other older archaeological sites, but none of them can compare to Quito.

Highlights of history: The historic centre is the place to go, right? Quito, the nerve centre of churches and monastery in Quito, was founded on the ruins an Inca-built city from the 16th century.

Varanasi, India

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Photograph: Shutterstock

It’s a pretty big city, huh? Varanasi has been the spiritual capital of India for more than 3,000 years. Both believers and cynics alike have explored it for centuries. Varanasi may be older than that (it’s said to have been founded by Shiva), yet it is still a beautiful city full of temples.

Highlights of history: Varanasi has many temples but the oldest is the Shri Tilbhandeshwar Mahdev Mandir. It’s not that old, but considering the age of the city (it was built in the 18th Century), it’s still a beautiful structure.

Byblos, Lebanon

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Byblos is a great day trip from Beirut. But those who only visit the city for a few hours are missing out. The Old Souq and Citadel, which were first occupied in 8800 BC, are a hive of energy. Byblos has been the home of many civilisations. Each left a mark in their own way. Since the Neolithic era, people have lived in Byblos.

Highlights of History: Take a look at the markets. Think about the different cultures that have traded here over the years.

Plovdiv (Bulgaria)

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Plovdiv, considered by many to be Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited town, continues to grow and evolve. Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, has been inhabited for over 8,000 years. However, the city’s thriving restaurant and café scene demonstrates its thirst for adventure. History buffs can still find plenty to do, including amphitheatres, old towns, and more.

Highlights of history: Nebet Tepe should be visited. The hill surrounding the city is where human settlement began in this area, with ruins dating as far back as 4000 BC.

Hanoi, Vietnam

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Hanoi’s history is filled with many interesting events. An Duong Vuong, the ruler of the Au Lac Kingdom (if you’re wondering), founded the Vietnamese capital in 257 BC. However, humans have lived here since Paleolithic time. Hanoi is known for its bustling streets, cultural attractions, and delicious food. History plays a big role in exploring this fascinating city.

Highlights of history: One Pillar Pagoda, dating back to 1049, is one the most iconic landmarks in a nation full of them.

Sydney, Australia

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Photograph: Sarawut Konganantdech/Shutterstock

It may seem strange that a city founded in 1788 is included on this list. This continent has been inhabited for at least 65,000-years. But the world can be a strange and strange place. Sydney was established as the first modern city in Australia after a ship of soldiers and prisoners led by Arthur Phillip made a harrowing journey from the opposite side of the globe. Australia Day is celebrated on January 26th, the city’s founding day. This further highlights the significance of Harbour City to Australia’s past.

Highlights of history: Don’t miss the Old Government House. This is the oldest building in Australia, built at the start of the 19th Century.

Athens, Greece

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Photograph: Shutterstock

Athens is the most important city in history. It’s where Western Civilisation began. The Greek capital, which has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years, has always been at the forefront of innovation, bringing us everything from Western philosophy to democracy. Athens may be a city that is focused on the present, but it has thousands of years worth of history to inform its every corner.

History Highlight: Athens’ historical highlights are well documented, and a visit to the capital will take you on a rollercoaster through the world’s most renowned historical attractions. Why not visit Psarras Tavern which is thought to be the oldest in the city.

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