The ground beneath these cities and perhaps some of the walls have vibrated to the tune of continuous human habitation not just for centuries, but millenia. Explore some of the best known places in the world and plan your next trip with Culture Trip for more cultural adventures.
Did you know Culture Trip now let’s you travel and explore incredible places like the ones featured on this list? Take a look at our Epic Trips if you want to go on an unforgettable cultural journey with a Local Insider who can show you all the best spots.
One of the oldest cities in the Middle East, Damascus was founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., and through excavation sites, archeologists have been able to prove that the area was first inhabited sometime between 8,000 and 10,000 B.C. Located in present-day Syria, the city is a unique place as so many cultures have made it what it is today, including elements of Roman and Greek city urban planning. Islam has also had a great influence, which is evident in the Umayyad Mosque. Also known as the Great Mosque, it is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world, built sometime between A.D. 705 and 715.
The capital and largest city in Greece, Athens is also, of course, one the oldest cities in the world with continuous inhabitation since 5,000 B.C., or approximately 7,000 years. Once a powerful city-state and the birthplace of democracy, history buffs will love strolling around this city as it is brimming with historical gems, representing various empires such as the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. While Greece has suffered in recent years due to the economic downturn, it remains a popular destination with tourists seeking to experience the incredible history, art, cuisine, and people that Athens has to offer.
Sidon, Lebanon is another city with a long, rich history. Indeed, it is believed that the area was inhabited sometime around 4,000 B.C. or possibly even earlier around 6,000 B.C., and it’s also widely held that historical figures such as Jesus, St. Paul, and Alexander the Great all visited (the latter actually capturing the city). Located south of Beirut, this Phoenician city is now one of the largest cities in Lebanon and is home to Sayhad, a busy port. Much of Sidon’s history lies beneath the modern buildings, making it difficult for archeologists to conduct excavations; however, there are incredible sites that can be explored, including the Sidon Sea Castle.
Part of the Greater Tehran metropolitan area in Iran, Rayy, also spelled Rey or Ray, is the oldest city in the province and one of the oldest cities in the world with evidence supporting the fact the inhabitants go back as far as 6,000 B.C. Steeped in history, the city was mentioned as being a sacred place in the Avesta, which are the ancient scriptures of Zoroastrianism. Arabs captured the city in A.D. 641, and it was almost destroyed by the Mongols in 1220. Historical monuments that survive include the 12th century Tughrul Tower and the 5,000-year-old Cheshmeh Ali Hill, ‘a hill with a spring’ and an excavation site where 7,000-year-old artifacts were discovered.
An important religious center for the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths, Jerusalem is steeped in history. Some of the earliest inhabitants can be traced to 2,800 B.C., and with a history that long, it’s safe to say that the city (like any city on this list) as been through a lot, including being besieged, attacked, and captured numerous times throughout its existence. Jerusalem is home to many wonderful sites, including the Western Wall (c. 19 B.C.) — a retaining wall of the holiest site, the Temple Mount, for the Jewish people — The Old City, built by King David in 1004 B.C., and the Mount of Olives.
Explore one of the oldest cities in the world yourself. The Holy Land: See Jerusalem Through the Eyes of Locals tour with Culture Trip offers a chance to make your own mind up about a place we often only hear about in the news.
The oldest city in Egypt and one of the oldest in Africa, Faiyum was founded around 4,000 B.C. Located approximately 62 miles southwest of Cairo, Faiyum is partly located in an area that was once the ancient city of Crocodilopolis, whose inhabitants worshipped a sacred crocodile named Petsuchos who had its own temple pond. Today, there are mounds marking the site of ‘The Crocodile City,’ plus Faiyum is home to bazaars, markets, mosques, and baths.
Pyramids, Temples and the Nile: the Ultimate Egypt Experience is waiting for you…
Another city located in present-day Lebanon, Byblos, originally known as Gebal, is one of the oldest Phoenician cities, founded around 5,000 B.C. Situated along the coast of the Mediterranean about 25 miles north of Beirut, Byblos — the name the Greeks gave the city — is the location from where the Phoenician alphabet spread. Today, there are many sites that will interest history lovers, including the Crusader Castle, built in the 12th century, and the Phoenician Royal Necropolis, which is found near the castle.
A small city with a population of 20,000 people, Jericho, which is located in Palestine, is believed to be the oldest city in the world. Indeed, some of the earliest archeological evidence from the area dates back 11,000 years. Having gone through its fair share of turmoil, including being destroyed and rebuilt more than once, Jericho is still standing today, offering visitors various historical, religious sites to see such as the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus was tempted by the devil, and Nabi Musa, the area believed to be where Moses’ tomb is located.
One of Europe’s oldest inhabited cities, Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria. Inhabited since 4,000 B.C., beginning with a Neolithic settlement, Plovdiv has been conquered by many people throughout its history, including the Greeks and the Romans, which is evident in the ancient ruins found across the city. Some of the highlights include the Ancient Stadium of Philippopolis (an old name for Plovdiv); the Roman Amphitheatre, which still hosts major events; and the Ruins of Eumolpias, a Thracian settlement from 5,000 B.C.
Located in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, Gaziantep’s earliest inhabitants were settled in 3,650 B.C. Also known as Antep, this city offers visitors many historical sites to explore, such as the Gaziantep Fortress and Ravanda citadel, both of which were restored in the 6th century by the Byzantines, and the ruins of Rumkale. Other highlights include the Zeugma Mosaic Museum, the largest of its kind in the world. Also, the city is known for its pistachio baklava and features over 150 pastry shops.
Turkey remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. If you want to take a short trip to Istanbul then don’t miss our ultimate introduction to the city and if you have more time and want to take a truly Epic Trip, then this 12 day odyssey is tailormade for you.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.