oldest cities in the world

Top 10 Oldest Cities Still Inhabited

Cities come and go. This has been a true fact for as long as cities have existed. Most of the ancient cities that belong to the earliest cities in human history are long gone. At most they’re now ruins and/or archaeological sites and sometimes their whereabouts are completely unknown. But conversely, there are some old cities left that are thousands of years old and who are still very much in existence. These cities, which were founded several of thousands of years ago, are still inhabited. People still live in those up to this day. Want to know where you can experience as much ancient history as nowhere else without having to visit a uninhabited archaeological site? The following ranking lists the oldest 10 cities in the world that are still inhabited today.

The 10 Oldest Cities in the World Still Inhabited

oldest cities in the world
The Parthenon temple in Athens, one of the oldest cities in the world that are still inhabited. But not a Top 10 oldest city.

1. Jericho

the oldest city in the world still inhabited
Modern-day Jericho
(licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Jericho is the oldest city in the world that is still inhabited to this day. The first permanent settlement within the city area occurred in around 9,600 BC. Jericho is also known as the oldest walled city anywhere in the world. The famous Wall of Jericho is the oldest city wall every found, dating back to 8,000 BC. While the city had been abandoned a few times throughout history, mostly due to changing climates, Jericho always ended up being re-settled. Today, the oldest city in the world is located in the West Bank region of the Palestinian territories. Around 22,000 call the oldest city in the world their home today.

2. Byblos

byblos - second oldest city in the world
21st Century Byblos,
Credit: Heretiq / CC BY-SA 2.5

Byblos is the world’s second oldest city that is still inhabited. The city is located right on the Mediterranean shore of the Levante. It was originally founded in around 8,800 BC. The port city has been many times abandoned and re-settled for its first 3,800 years of existence, but is now continuously inhabited since around 5,000 BC. This makes Byblos the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. The city was, and still is, known under many different names. It was the ancient Greeks who called the city Byblos. Byblos had great importance for the Greeks, because Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece from the city’s sea port.

The world’s best-selling book and most important religious book in history, the Bible, also got its name from the city of Byblos. Today, Byblos is part of the Mount Lebanon Governorate of Lebanon. Around 40,000 people live in the thousands of years old city.

3. Damascus

damascus - oldest capital in the world
A typical modern-day neighborhood in Damascus,
Credit: Bernard Gagnon / CC BY-SA 3.0

Damascus is the third oldest still inhabited city and also the oldest current capital in the world. The city was founded in around 6,300 BC. Like many settlements in the region, it was constantly abandoned and then re-settled. Since around 2,000 BC, the city is constantly inhabited, however. The name “Damascus” is Syro-Aramaic and can literally be translated to “well-watered land”. Due to its very favorable location, both in terms of geography and politics, the city quickly grew into one of the most important ones in the region. It has also always been known as a highly multicultural metropolis. Since 1946, Damascus is now serving as the capital of the country of Syria. There are now around 1.7 million people living in the city.

4. Ray

Cheshmeh Ali ray fourth of the oldest cities in the world
Modern-day Ray,
Credit: Orijentolog / CC BY-SA 3.0

Ray (or Shahr-e Rey) is the fourth oldest among the still inhabited cities in the world. The city has its origins in around 5,500 BC. The city used to belong to the most important ones in all of ancient Iran (a.k.a. Persia). Originally named Rhages, the city served as a capital of the Parthian Empire. Ray’s importance, however, diminished quite a bit after the nearby Tehran (which is Iran’s capital today) began to dominate the region. Nevertheless, Ray is the oldest city still in existence in Iran. Part of the Tehran Province, it has a population of around 250,000 today.

5. Argos

oldest city in europe still inhabited
Ancient theater of Argos,
Credit: Ploync / CC BY 3.0

Argos is the fifth oldest still inhabited city in the world. At the same time, the city is also the oldest still inhabited city in all of Europe. Argos can track its origins back to around 5,000 BC. The city’s population fluctuated quite a lot over time and with it its importance. Argos reached its absolute height point of importance in 808 BC, however, when it served as the founding city of the Argead dynasty (also known as the “House of Argos“). The most prominent member of the Argeadians, Alexander the Great, would later become known as the world’s greatest military commander having created one of the greatest empires in human history. Argos is not quite as important today, but it is indeed still inhabited after all these over 7,000 of years. About 22,000 people call the city in the Greek Peloponnese Region their home today.

6. Aleppo

Downtown area of Aleppo in 2016,
Credit: imago / Xinhua

7. Erbil

Downtown Erbil,
Source: Tripadvisor

8. Gaziantep

View over Gaziantep,
Credit: Christopher Phillips

9. Luxor

Ruins of ancient Luxor, surrounded by the modern-day city,
Source: Pinterest

10. Beirut

View of modern-day Beirut and the Beirut metropolitan area,
Source: Pexels

The 10 Oldest Cities Still Inhabited
(at a glance)

Top 10 Oldest Cities Still Inhabited:
Founded in ~ 9,600 BC
Founded in ~ 8,800 BC
Founded in ~ 6,300 BC
4. RAY
Founded in ~ 5,500 BC
Founded in ~ 5,000 BC
Founded in ~ 4,300 BC
Founded in ~ 4,000 BC
Founded in ~ 3,600 BC
Founded in ~ 3,200 BC
Founded in ~ 3,000 BC

The 10 oldest cities in the world that are still inhabited today, based on their foundation year.

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