Ancient monument in Athens, Greece

10 of the oldest cities in the world that you can still visit

Every city has its own story to tell, but there’s no denying that the most fascinating and intricate stories belong to the cities that have stood the test of time. There are cities in the world that have managed to survive multiple wars, empires, and partial destruction – including ancient cities that date back to before the Birth of Christ. Some ancient cities were so influential on civilization that their impact can still be felt across the world today.

And while some ancient cities are under protection or are not easily accessible to visitors, others have embraced their historical importance. Here are 10 of the oldest cities in the world that you can easily visit on holiday.  

Rome

Rome is undoubtedly one of the most historically powerful cities in the world. Founded circa 700 BC, it was the birthplace of facets of Western civilisation: from the Rule by Law to influencing the Founding Fathers of the United States to the creation of the Catholic Church. In fact, the city is so old that its story is based in Roman mythology with twin brothers Romulus and Remus at the centre of the story!  

Cairo

The city of Cairo was founded in 969 AD, but nearby you’ll find the Great Pyramids of Egypt and Great Sphinx which date back to 26th century BC! People are still unsure as to how ancient Egyptians built these structures – and there are chambers that still haven’t been opened!

Kyoto

Kyoto is generally considered the city to visit if you want a taste of old-school Japan – unsurprising when you consider that the city dates back to 794 AD. Shimogamo Shrine is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city and is actually one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan.

Beijing

China is another country in Asia with cities that are older than many people would originally assume. The capital city of Beijing dates back to 1,045 BC, however, historians have found that Palaeolithic homo sapiens lived in the local caves from about 27,000 to 10,000 years ago!

Cusco

Cusco was once the centre of the Inca Empire, however the Incas didn’t arrive until the 13th Century. The Killke occupied the region from 900 to 1200, with Saksaywaman – the walled complex outside Cusco – demonstrating that the Killke culture constructed the city about 1100.

Machu Picchu

And, of course, we can’t write about Peru without mentioning the mountain-top city of Machu Picchu. It’s one of the most recognisable images of Inca civilisation in the world and hasn’t changed much since it was built (in the 15th Century) because the Spanish never found it during colonial times.

Athens

Across Greece you will find striking ancient monuments that showcase how historically rich this country is. But no city is as culturally important as Athens, aka the birthplace of democracy. Recorded history begins in 1400 BC, and you’ll find structures that date back to Greek, Ottoman, Roman, and Byzantine times.  

Jerusalem

One of the most important religious cities in the world, Jerusalem is a focal point of the Bible. The Old Part of Jerusalem is still contained within ancient walls and is home to several famous religious landmarks: the Temple Mount and Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.

Marrakesh

Marrakesh was founded in 1062 (454 in the Hijri calendar) by Abu Bakr ibn Umar. However, numerous stone implements have been unearthed in the area, which has suggested that the area has been inhabited since Neolithic times.

Mexico City

Mexico City has existed in some form since 1325. It was originally made up of two twin cities named Tenōchtitlān and Tlāltelōlco. The name was changed to Ciudad de México after the Spanish conquest in 1521. Since then several other pre-Columbian towns such as Azcapotzalco, Tlatelolco, Xochimilco and Coyoacán are now part of modern Mexico City.

Morag Lee

Morag is the resident blog writer at Barrhead Travel. Can usually be found exploring a cruise ship or on a city break.