Discover the Rich History and Charm of the World's Oldest Cities
Greece’s Athens is a little over 3,000 years old, but people have lived there since at least 3000 BCE. People think of it as the place where Western civilization began because it made so many important contributions to philosophy, politics, architecture, art, and writing. There are still a lot of old buildings, like the 2,500-year-old “high city” Acropolis, which is a World Heritage Site and is home to the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Athenian temples, and the Propylaea gatehouse.
The Egyptian city of Luxor is in a part of the ancient city of Thebes, or Waset, which is now a World Heritage Site. Thebes was founded around 2100 BCE, but there is evidence that people have lived on the site for a crazy 250,000 years. In its heyday, the city was called one of the most beautiful in Egypt, and it was home to two of the largest religious buildings ever built, one of which, the Luxor Temple, is still partly standing.
Beirut, Lebanon, was founded about 3000 BCE. The city’s rich groundwater is reflected in its name. Phoenician maritime trade and intellectualism flourished in early Beirut. Beirut (renamed Berytus) became famous for its law school after joining the Roman Empire in the first millennium, but a series of earthquakes destroyed the city in 551 CE, plunging it into oblivion for decades.
Plovdiv, one of Europe’s oldest cities, has Neolithic human settlements from 6000 BCE (although urbanization by Thracian tribes likely began just 3,000 to 4,000 years ago). The town’s important location along the Balkans’ transit route led to multiple conquests by Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Ottoman masters, leaving a rich history in the city today.