The World’s 10 Oldest Cities Still Standing in 2024

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: December 28, 2023
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A crucial part of what gives a city a sense of community and character is its history. As the adage goes, “Old is gold,” and so are the old towns. The rich historic structures, buildings, and customs make these oldest cities in the world fun to learn more about. 

These ancient cities have a particular style of milestones and architecture and represent an incredible era. 

Every city on the planet has a story to tell. More so, ancient cities around the world have a rich cultural heritage. They have beautiful architecture, intriguing history, and showcase human civilization imprints. Moreover, most of them have withstood geographical calamities and human invasions—they have truly stood the test of time.

Today, we discover ten ancient cities in the world that have survived through the centuries. 

#1: Gaziantep, Turkey

Gaziantep Turkey

With its extensive vineyards, olive groves, and hub of pistachio nut farming, Gaziantep is a critical center for industrialization in Turkey.

©Resul Muslu/Shutterstock.com

The first city on our list of the oldest cities in the world is Gaziantep in Turkey. Brimming with Ottoman architecture and a heap of tourist attractions, Gaziantep is a historic old town in Turkey’s southeastern region. The city’s golden age is believed to date back to 3650 BC. But scientists believe the ancient town could be much older. 

With its extensive vineyards, olive groves, and hub of pistachio nut farming, Gaziantep is a critical center for industrialization in Turkey. Romans, Abbasid, Persians, and Assyrians dominated the area.

The Armenian community played a significant role in the city’s culture, prosperity, history, and welfare. Armenians were active in agriculture, trade, and manufacturing. 

Today, the ancient city is home to the world’s famous mosaics and other little museums. It is also an ideal location for foodie travelers and shoppers. The local handcrafts have prehistoric designs, and the prices are affordable compared to other places such as Antalya and Istanbul.  

#2: Varanasi, India

Varanasi

Varanasi, India is one of the oldest cities in the world.

©Roop_Dey/Shutterstock.com

Varanasi, also known as Benaras or Kashi, is the prominent center of Hindu mythology. It is one of the oldest functioning cities in the world, which has been the pilgrimage spot for Hindus. According to mythology, Shiva founded the town along with Vishnu and Brahma in the 11th century.

The city remained an active center for educational, artistic, and educational activities, as attested by Xuanzang, a celebrated Chinese Buddhist. It is adorned by the finest river frontage with an array of temples, shrines, and Ghats. The inner streets are narrow and winding, but the outer suburbs are spacious and systematic. 

Tourism-related activities remain an essential component, attracting both domestic and foreign tourists. It has the most venerated temples, including Vishvanatha, Durga, and Sankat Mochan. The old city in India has several Brahman pandits and innumerable schools. It is also a hub of three universities and dozens of high schools and colleges. 

#3: Plovdiv, Bulgaria 

Plovdiv ,Bulgaria

Many civilizations, including Visconti, Romans, and Thracians, inhabited the city of Plovdiv.

©Sergej Razvodovskij/Shutterstock.com

Plovdiv is an ancient city in Bulgaria that is 8,000 years old. It will leave you breathless with its captivating beauty and culture. It is located on seven hills, hence the name “The City of the Seven Hills.”

As a trade center, Plovdiv is essential in the National Revival. The locals could trade with the empire to finance the construction of schools, homes, and churches. 

Many civilizations, including Visconti, Romans, and Thracians, inhabited the city of Plovdiv. As a result, public buildings, Roman aqueducts, and fortresses have been beautifully preserved. The hilly town is photogenic, with Ottoman-era structures and winding cobbled streets. 

Plovdiv sits on a dusty plain with a perfect climate for grape cultivation. Locals and tourists often have fun during wine-tasting trips organized by Bulgaria wine tours. For the foodie who likes old dishes, Plovdiv is the place to be. 

#4: Sidon, Lebanon

Sidon, Lebanon

The ancient city of Sidon was cleverly designed to shield its fleet from severe storms.

©OSTILL is Franck Camhi/Shutterstock.com

Sidon is strategically located in the south of Beirut and is among the world’s oldest cities. It is a mysterious city due to its plundered and scattered past. The town was inhabited from 4000 B.C, probably during Neolithic times. In this century, ancient components from Sidon are among the world’s antiquities on the market. 

The ancient city was cleverly designed to shield its fleet from severe storms. But in its commercial initiative, religious implications, and wealth, the city of Sidon surpassed the Phoenician cities. The town gave Persia land with seamen and ships to fight the Greeks and Egyptians. 

Currently, various small shops, including patisseries, dominate Sidon. The sea castle is a modern fortress consisting of two towers. Old prints on the structure display great beauty, making it a tourist attraction. 

#5: Jericho, Palestine

Jericho, Israel

According to the Bible, the ancient city of Jericho was attacked by the Israelites after crossing River Jordan to Canaan. 

©DyziO/Shutterstock.com

The ancient city of Jericho is famously known in the Bible, particularly in the book of Joshua. But excavations and exploration by archeologists reveal that Jericho was an early settlement, probably founded around 9000 BCE. The springs found near and in the city led to its earliest settlements. 

Jericho has a protective wall and older stone towers. Archeological excavation shows that by 8000 BC, the wall of Jericho grew to about 430,000 square feet. According to the Bible, the Israelites attacked the ancient city of Jericho after crossing River Jordan to Canaan. 

The modern Jericho is a tranquil tourist destination due to its historical sites, religious significance, and pleasant climate. In addition, Jericho is located near River Jordan and near the West Bank and carries significant archeological importance. 

#6: Erbil, Iraq

Erbil, Iraq

The modern Erbil lies beautifully at the base of Mount Safeen, with several restaurants, hotels, fruit orchards, and a food market.

©Beyond the Road Prod/Shutterstock.com

Erbil is among the ancient, continuously inhabited cities of the world. The city dates back to 6000 BC, and it is the capital of Kurdistan in Iraq. At the heart of Erbil is the old Citadel of Erbil, estimated to be about 7000 years old. 

In Citadel, there are beautiful traditional textiles and rugs depicting perseveres textile techniques. Erbil’s museum is a hub of a huge collection of archeological projects and pre-Islamic artifacts. It is the most central and significant home of several parks, stretching over many hectares. 

The modern Erbil lies beautifully at the base of Mount Safeen, with several restaurants, hotels, fruit orchards, and a food market. Deeper into the gorges and mountains lie Bekhal and Gali Ali Beg waterfalls. 

As of 2022, Erbil has a population of 877,888, and it is the fourth largest town in Iraq after Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad. The primary industry in the city is building and road construction. Although there was no manufacturing in the ancient city, merchants and the construction industry were dominant. 

#7: Faiyum, Egypt

City in Egypt

The city of Faiyum is the distribution and market center for the Egypt governorate. 

©Novie Charleen Mange/Shutterstock.com

Faiyum, or Al-Fayyūm, is an old city in Egypt. It is located in the center of Shedet, an ancient region. The ruins of the city date back to 1938 to 1756 BC. Faiyum is the distribution and market center for the Egypt governorate. 

The region has evidence of farming with a narrow-gauge railway serving the agricultural communities. The people of Faiyum and Roman Egypt were known for embalming their dead, and the practice continued despite the cremation recommendation by the Romans. 

Faiyum portraits provide us with a hint of a remarkable society with mixed origins living harmoniously. Initially, the lifeless basin was transformed into fertile land by the Nile, which diverted a branch of freshwater into the garden. 

The whale valley was once a tremendous sea with marine life, but today it is a desert valley. It is a UNESCO World Heritage spot that is a representation of ocean evolution. 

#8: Athens, Greece

Athens Greece

Archeological explorations estimate Athens to be about 6,000 years old, with its earliest settlement beginning in the 11

th

millennium.

©Sven Hansche/Shutterstock.com

Athens is among the oldest cities in the world. Many artistic ideas and intellectual civilizations originate from the city. With its tall buildings and great weather, the town is surrounded by mountains. 

Archeological explorations estimate the city to be about 6,000 years old, with its earliest settlement beginning in the 11th millennium. Athens houses historical landmarks and is the birthplace of democracy as we know it today. 

The Acropolis is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, which influenced western architecture. The tourist site, the Parthenon temple, was constructed around 447 B.C for the Greek goddess of wisdom. Strolling around the city gives you a glimpse of history buffs and gems honoring different empires. 

It remains at the heart of tourism as travelers seek to experience the unique culture, cuisine, and history. 

#9: Argos, Greece 

Argos, Greece

According to Greek mythology, Argos got its name from Argus, the son of Niobe and Zeus.

©Marianna Ianovska/Shutterstock.com

Argos is another incredible ancient city in Greece believed to be about 7,000 years old. It is located in the stunning Peloponnese and remains an important center in Greece. The ancient Argos lies on the fertile land of the Argolid plain. 

According to Greek mythology, Argos got its name from Argus, the son of Niobe and Zeus. Archeological remains are evident, including Roman, Mycenaean, and Greek structures. The impressive old theatre can accommodate about 20,000 people. 

The old city of Argos is home to essential artifacts, including pottery and terracotta figurines. The charming city is also an attraction site for domestic and foreign tourists. The archeological Museum of Argos is a neoclassical structure constructed in 1830. The Church of Panagia also nestles in the forests, and inside it is a Holy Bible published in 1776. 

In addition, there is Larissa Acropolis, named after Pelasgos, Larissa’s daughter. The site is located west of the city and was built in the 6th century B.C.

#10: Damascus, Syria

Damascus, Syria

Discovered in the 3

rd

millennium, ancient Damascus is more than 7,000 years old.

©Mahmod5cy/Shutterstock.com

Damascus is the oldest habitable city in the world. Islamic tradition maintains that Syria’s national capital city is the 4th holiest city. It has also been named the “Pearl of the East” due to its lushness and beauty. 

Discovered in the 3rd millennium, ancient Damascus is more than 7,000 years old. It was a hub of the craft industry in the Middle Ages, specializing in laces and swords. The city was also a flourishing commercial and cultural heritage center thanks to its strategic location. 

Damascus exhibits incredible evidence of civilizations created by Roman, Islamic, and Hellenistic peoples. Despite the Islamic dominance, the city has traces of Byzantine and Roman cultures. 

In the modern world, Damascus is a tourist attraction site. The opera house is a venue for films, dramas, and performances. In addition, people enjoy monuments, temples, cuisine, and multiple cultural developments. It is also a center for multinational companies, including Huawei Technologies, KPMG, Deloitte, and Syriatel. 

Summary of the 10 Oldest Cities in the World

IndexCityDate Founded/Age
1Gaziantep, Turkey3650 B.C
2Varanasi, IndiaThe 11th century B.C
3Plovdiv, Bulgaria 8,000 years old
4Sidon, Lebanon4000 B.C
5Jericho, Palestine9000 BCE
6Erbil, Iraq6000 B.C
7Faiyum, Egypt1938 to 1756 BC
8Athens, Greece6,000 years old
9Argos, Greece 7,000 years old
10Damascus, SyriaOver 7,000 years old.
Table of the 10 Oldest Cities in the World

What is the Oldest City in North America?

It is interesting to see how many of the oldest cities in the world can be found near the Middle East and surrounding areas. Sometimes historians refer to Iraq as the “Cradle of Civilization”, and they also denote five “Cradles of Civilization”, which are found in Iraq, Egypt, India, China, Peru, and Mexico.

Being one of these cradles, the oldest city in North America can be found in modern-day Mexico. Founded in 1500 BCE, the city was named Tepoztlán. Another point of significance of this city is that is also known as the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, a creator-figure in the Aztec culture.

The oldest continuously habited city in America is actually St. Augustine on Florida’s northeastern coast. It was founded by the Spanish in 1565!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/glowonconcept


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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. World History, Available here: https://www.worldhistory.org/Greek_Mythology/
  2. C News, Available here: https://cnewa.org/magazine/varanasi-hinduisms-sacred-city-30289/
  3. UNESCO, Available here: https://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/gaziantep