Top 20 Oldest Continuously Inhabited City In The World

These cities, contenders for the 20 oldest continually-inhabited places on Earth, are about as close as you can get to time travel on holiday. Not all are safe to visit, however. Check the latest Foreign Office advice before planning a trip.

Top 20 Oldest Continuously Inhabited City In The World: Ever since man learned to grow their own food and rear cattle, they have been living in permanent to semi-permanent settlements with certain degree of planning. Although opinions vary on whether any particular ancient settlement can be considered to be a city, there is no doubt that towns and cities have a long history.

The earliest civilizations in history were established in the region known as Mesopotamia, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran. Archaeological remains unearthed in Mesopotamia provides proof of settlements dating back to 10,000 BC. After Mesopotamia, the city culture arose in Syria and Anatolia, as shown by the city of Çatalhöyük (7500-5700BC). Mohenjodaro of the Indus Valley Civilization in present-day Pakistan existed from about 2600 BC and was one of the largest ancient cites with a population of 50,000 or more.

While it might not be too difficult to determine which is the oldest city in the world, there is fierce contention for the title of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Often the age claims are disputed and historical evidences are difficult to prove. Then there are differences in opinion as to the definitions of “city” as well as “continuously inhabited”. In any case, the following cities besides being some of the ancient in the world, they continue to grow and thrive until the present day.

Top 20 Oldest Continuously Inhabited City In The World

1. Jericho, Palestinian Territories 

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 9000 BC.

Jericho, Palestinian Territories
Jericho, Palestinian Territories

The world’s oldest continually-inhabited city, according to our sources, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of 20 successive settlements in Jericho, dating back 11,000 years. The city is found near the Jordan River in the West Bank and is today home to around 20,000 people.

2. Byblos, Lebanon

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 5000 BC

Byblos, Lebanon
Byblos, Lebanon

Founded as Gebal by the Phoenicians, Byblos was given its name by the Greeks, who imported papyrus from the city. Hence the English word Bible is derived from Byblos. The city’s key tourist sites include ancient Phoenician temples, Byblos Castle and St John the Baptist Church – built by crusaders in the 12th century – and the old Medieval City Wall. The Byblos International Festival is a more modern attraction, and has featured bands such as Keane and Jethro Tull.

3. Aleppo, Syria

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4300 BC

Aleppo, Syria
Aleppo, Syria

Syria’s most populated city with around 4.4 million citizens Aleppo was founded as Halab in around 4300 BC. As the ancient site is occupied by the modern city it is barely touched by archaeologists. The city was under Hittite control until around 800 BC, before passing through Assyrian, Greek and Persian hands. It was later occupied by the Romans, Byzantines and Arabs, besieged by the Crusaders and then taken by the Mongols and Ottomans.

4. Damascus, Syria

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4300 BC

Damascus, Syria
Damascus, Syria

Cited by some sources as the world’s oldest inhabited city, Damascus may have been inhabited as early as 10,000 BC, also this is debated. It became an important settlement after the arrival of the Aramaeans, who established a network of canals, which still form the basis of its modern water networks. Another of Alexander the Great’s conquests, Damascus has since been in Roman, Arab and Ottoman possession. Its wealth of historical attractions made it a popular tourist destination, until recent unrest struck.

5. Susa, Iran

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4200 BC

Susa, Iran
Susa, Iran

Susa was the capital of the Elamite Empire before being captured by the Assyrians. It was then taken by the Achaemenid Persian under Cyrus the Great and is the setting of The Persians, an Athenian tragedy by Aeschylus and the oldest surviving play in the history of theatre. The modern city, Shush, has a population of around 65,000.

6. Faiyum, Egypt

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4000 BC

Faiyum, Egypt
Faiyum, Egypt

Southwest of Cairo, Faiyum occupies part of Crocodilopolis – an ancient Egyptian city which worshipped Petsuchos, a sacred crocodile. Modern Faiyum consists of several large bazaars, mosques and baths, while the Lehin and Hawara pyramids are found nearby.

7. Sidon, Lebanon

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4000 BC

Sidon, Lebanon
Sidon, Lebanon

Around 25 miles (40km) south of Beirut lies Sidon, one of the most important – and perhaps the oldest – Phoenician cities. It was the base from which the Phoenician’s great Mediterranean empire grew. Both Jesus and St Paul are said to have visited Sidon, as did Alexander the Great, who captured the city in 333 BC.

8. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 4000 BC

Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Plovdiv, Bulgaria

The second-largest city in Bulgaria, Plovdiv was originally a Tracian settlement before becoming a major Roman city. It later fell into Byzantine and Ottoman hands, before becoming part of Bulgaria. The city is a major cultural centre and boasts many ancient remains, including a Roman amphitheatre and aqueduct, and Ottoman baths.

9. Gaziantep, Turkey

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 3650 BC

Gaziantep, Turkey
Gaziantep, Turkey

Found in southern Turkey, close to the border with Syria, Gaziantep’s history extends as far back as the Hittites. The Ravanda citadel – restored by the Byzantines in the sixth century – is found in the city centre, while Roman mosaics have also been discovered.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (English poet and philosopher): “They have no past; they are not an historical people; they exist only in the present.”

10. Beirut, Lebanon

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 3000 BC

Beirut, Lebanon
Beirut, Lebanon

Lebanon’s capital, as well as its cultural, administrative and economic centre, Beirut’s history stretches back around 5000 years. Excavations in the city have unearthed Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman remains, while it is mentioned in letters to the pharaoh of Egypt as early as the 14th century BC. Since the end of the Lebanese civil war, it has become a lively, modern tourist attraction.

11. Jerusalem, Middle East

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2800 BC

Jerusalem, Middle East
Jerusalem, Middle East

The spiritual centre of the Jewish people and Islam’s third-holiest city, Jerusalem is home to several key religious sites, including the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the al-Aqsa Mosque. During its history, the city has been besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured 44 times and destroyed twice.

12. Tyre, Lebanon

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2750 BC

Tyre, Lebanon
Tyre, Lebanon

The legendary birthplace of Europa and Dido, Tyre was founded around 2750 BC, according to Herodotus. It was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC following a seven-month seige and became a Roman province in 64 BC. Today, tourism is a major industry: the city’s Roman Hippodrome is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

13. Erbil, Iraq

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2300 BC.

Erbil, Iraq
Erbil, Iraq

North of Kirkuk lies erbil, ruled at various times by the Assyrians, Persians, Sasanians, Arabs and Ottomans. It was a major stop on the Silk Road while its ancient citadel – which rises 26 metres from the ground – still dominates the skyline.

14. Kirkuk, Iraq

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 2200 BC

Kirkuk, Iraq
Kirkuk, Iraq

Located around 150 miles (241 km) north of Baghdad, Kirkuk stands on the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Arrapha. Its strategic importance was recognised by the Babylonians and the Media, who have also controlled the city. The ruins of a 5000-year-old citadel are still visible, while the city is now the headquarters of Iraq’s petroleum industry.

15. Balkh, Afghanistan

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1500 BC

Balkh, Afghanistan
Balkh, Afghanistan

Known as Bactra to the ancient Greeks, Balkh is found in northern Afghanistan and is descibed as the ‘Mother of Cities’ by Arabs. It reached its peak between 2500 BC and 1900 BC prior to the rise of the Persian and Median empires. Modern Balkh is home to the region’s cotton industry.

16. Athens, Greece 

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1400 BC

Athens, Greece 
Athens, Greece

The cradle of Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Athens’s heritage is still very evident. It is filled with Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman monuments and remains a hugely popular tourist destination.

17. Larnaca, Cyprus

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1400 BC

Larnaca, Cyprus
Larnaca, Cyprus

Founded as ‘Citium’ by the Phoenicians, Larnaca is well-known for its pretty seafront lined with palm trees. Archaeological sites and numerous beaches attract modern visitors.

18. Thebes, Greece

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1400 BC 

Thebes, Greece
Thebes, Greece

A major rival of ancient Athens, Thebes ruled the Boeotian confederacy and even lent assistance to Xerxes during the Persian invasion of 480 BC. Archaeological excavation has revealed a Mycenaean settlement dating back even further. Today, Thebes is little more than a market town.

19. Cádiz, Spain

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1100 BC

Cádiz, Spain
Cádiz, Spain

Found on a narrow spit of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cádiz has been the home of the Spanish navy since the 18th century. It was founded by the Phoenicians as a small trading post and fell to the Carthaginians around 500BC, becoming a base for Hannibal’s conquest of Iberia. It then came under Roman and Moorish rule, before experiencing a renaissance during the Age of Exploration.

20. Varanasi, India

When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1000 BC

Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India

Situated on the west bank of the Ganges, Varanasi – also known as Benares – is an important holy city for both Hindus and Buddhists. According to legend, it was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva 5000 years ago, though modern scholars believe it to be around 3000 years old.

20 Oldest Continuously Inhabited City In The World

  • Jericho, Palestinian Territories
  • Byblos, Lebanon
  • Aleppo, Syria
  • Damascus, Syria
  • Susa, Iran
  • Faiyum, Egypt
  • Sidon, Lebanon
  • Plovdiv, Bulgaria
  • Gaziantep, Turkey
  • Beirut, Lebanon
  • Jerusalem, Middle East
  • Tyre, Lebanon
  • Erbil, Iraq
  • Kirkuk, Iraq
  • Balkh, Afghanistan
  • Athens, Greece
  • Larnaca, Cyprus
  • Thebes, Greece
  • Cádiz, Spain
  •  Varanasi, India

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