The Oldest Cities In The World To Add To Your Travel Bucket List

The world is full of wonders and ancient cities that deserve to be on any avid traveler's itinerary. Whether you are interested in historical ruins, places with significant cultural value, or areas inhabited for as long as anyone can remember, there is no shortage of destinations that can accommodate you. With countless cities dating back hundreds if not thousands of years across the globe, serious wanderers should have no trouble compiling quite the travel roster.

In fact, more than a few distant towns have stood the test of time and witnessed the rise and fall of empires. From breathtaking architecture, incredible structures, and fascinating artifacts to folklore, art, and the remnants of powerful civilizations, metropolises with so much history undoubtedly deserve a visit, even if you are not big on culturally rich vacations. That said, if you are a history buff, a lover of all things from long ago, or simply a curious traveler, then you will want to add these old cities in the world to your bucket list.

Beirut, Lebanon

Situated on the Mediterranean Coast is the bustling capital city of Lebanon, Beirut. Once called the "Paris of the East," Beirut has been around for more than 5,000 years — making this metropolis one of the oldest in the world. Though this ancient city had rather humble beginnings, this Canaanite town was a pivotal port city that influenced the region and attracted the attention of the Roman and Ottoman Empires, and various other key players throughout history.

Anyone visiting Beirut can delve deep into the mix of cultures that have shaped this area over millennia, plus marvel at historical sites, city ruins, unique architecture, gorgeous mosques, and so much more. The city is also the perfect place to go for Lebanese cuisine, cosmopolitan-style fashion, art, wine, and, of course, riveting history. In addition to all of this, the capital city of Lebanon is comfortable straddling the line between modern and traditional, which means there is truly something for everyone here.

Faiyum, Egypt

Located west of the River Nile, the Egyptian city of Faiyum is considered by many to be the oldest city in Africa. The city was founded in 4,000 BC and is brimming with archaeological sites, prehistoric findings, remnants from the time of Pharaohs, marvelous ruins, and beautifully preserved history. But that's not all these ancient lands have to offer — the incredible pottery of Tunis Village, the stunning rock formations of Gabal El Medawara, and the shimmering wildlife-friendly Lake Qarun are all must-visits.

Faiyum visitors should also make it a point to stop by the Wadi Hitan National Park to catch a glimpse of 40-million-year-old marine animal fossils, and travel bucket listers cannot come all the way to this culture-rich city without checking out the Magic Lake (a world-famous body of water that changes colors frequently and is surrounded by a vast desert). These wonders are just a few reasons to add Faiyum to your once-in-a-lifetime travel itinerary., whether you are looking for history, nature, or the city's thrilling combination of the two.

Argos, Greece

A stronghold of Mycenaean Greece, Argos is a 7,000-year-old city that is a must for history lovers and world travelers. Situated in the Peloponnese region of Greece, Argos is easy to fall in love with, thanks to its wealth of history, culture, and Greek mythology. Considered by many to be the most ancient city of Greece, Argos is a literal treasure trove with so many wonders to explore.

While vacationing, Argos visitors can marvel at all sorts of splendors, including the Theater of Argos, built in the third century B.C., the ancient marketplace Agora, which was developed in the sixth century B.C., and countless ancient ruins. This Greek city doesn't stop there, as there is also the Domaine Skouras Winery, Larissa Castle, and the Byzantine Museum of Argolis. In addition to all this, travelers can simply enjoy all the beauty, entertainment, and attractions of modern-day Argos, with its splendid restaurants and relaxed atmosphere.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Known as one of the most culturally significant cities in the Balkans, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, has more than 8,000 years of history to appreciate and is as equally stunning as it is well-preserved. This metropolis was well populated before the sixth century B.C. and under Roman rule from as early as the first century A.D. — making Plovdiv undoubtedly worth a look-see. Like other ancient settlements throughout Europe, Plovdiv has fascinating ruins, a charming old town, gorgeous cathedrals, historic piazzas, beautiful villas from long ago, and then some.

Plovdiv visitors can also cross the iconic Roman Amphitheatre of Philippopolis, the Hindliyan's House, the Regional Ethnographic Museum, and one of Europe's longest pedestrian streets off their to-do list. And besides being a culturally rich destination, this ancient city in Bulgaria has a wonderful air of romance about it as well. Therefore, couples that love to travel together can enjoy all that Plovdiv has to offer and see some of Europe's most phenomenal attractions, all while keeping the spark alive.

Athens, Greece

A little over 3,400 years old, Athens needs no introduction. From its beginnings as a Neolithic hill fort to becoming Europe's first capital city and the world's first known democracy, Athens has long held a significant place in the history of the world. But that's not all — since the start, this ancient city has heavily influenced just about every aspect of life, covering education, philosophy, art, architecture, and even the modern Olympic Games.

In fact, Athens should rank high on any traveler's list, just in general. A truly fascinating city with a wealth of history and the famed Acropolis, Athens is also a wonderful place to visit, overflowing with entertainment, an amazing nightlife scene, delicious Greek cuisine, fantastic shopping, and more. Athens has convenient access to the Mediterranean Sea, and many of Greece's most magnificent islands are just a short trip away. Once you have had your fill of all things history-related, make sure you experience modern-day Athens and venture out to as many other areas of Greece as possible.

Teotihuacán, Mexico

Since roughly 100 B.C., the city of Teotihuacán has stood tall. Teotihuacán deserves a spot on any bucket list if nothing more than to check out what remains, like the larger-than-life pyramids (the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon), intricate temples, ancient palaces, multi-level dwellings, and the Avenue of the Dead. Referred to as the "Birthplace of the Gods," Teotihuacán is a sight to behold and a must-visit on any Mexico getaway.

Less than 30 miles from Mexico City, Teotihuacán is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the world's largest pre-Hispanic settlements, it is undoubtedly a culmination of cultures, with the most predominant being Mixtec, Maya, and Zapotec. With several structures still very much intact, travelers can see firsthand the skill and capabilities of these specific Mesoamerican civilizations when visiting. Teotihuacán's fantastic architecture and fascinating infrastructure are just the tip of the iceberg, as there is still so much that remains a mystery, including what happened to the more than 150,000 inhabitants who once called this place home.

Pompeii, Italy

Situated near Naples, Pompeii is one ancient settlement that, in many ways, is frozen in time. With roots dating back to around the eighth century, Pompeii is one of the world's many places that will change your perspective on natural disasters throughout history. The city flourished through its Greek, Samnite, and Roman periods, but on August 24, 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted, a violent disaster that lasted two days. Centuries of prosperity ended, leaving a wake of destruction many people never saw coming.

Today, curious travelers can explore these city streets and ruins cemented in volcanic ash, as this destination is now one of history's most iconic excavations. Since 1874, Pompeii has been a fascinating open-air museum and a must if you are in the area. Pompeii is the definition of bucket list material, a true preservation of the past with more than a few fully intact Roman structures, albeit under tragic circumstances.

Ephesus, Turkey

Constructed in the 10th century B.C., Ephesus is yet another present-day open-air museum showcasing Greek, Roman, and Ottoman history from long ago. Located in modern Turkey, visitors can appreciate the intricacies of ancient bathhouses, basilicas, and much more. Points of interest like the Basilica of St. John, the Temple of Hadrian, the Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates, the Ephesus Bouleuterion, the Ephesus Prytaneion, and the Temple of Domitian are just a few of the wonders that stand in Ephesus.

In addition to being one of the most important age-old cities in the Mediterranean, Ephesus has significant ties to Christianity and the Bible and was mentioned in the New Testament, adding an extra level of interest for those on a spiritual journey. That said, no matter the reason Ephesus piques your interest, this city is just as gorgeous as it is captivating and, thus, is a bucket-list-worthy destination for all wanderers. The modern city of Selçuk is located a mile or so northeast of the ancient city.

Delphi, Greece

Greece is packed with ancient towns and places to visit, and the city of Delphi is just one more phenomenal option to add to your bucket list. Established around the eighth century B.C., Delphi is a beyond-picturesque metropolis steeped in Greek mythology. Once a sacred place to worship the God Apollo, this city, known as the "Navel of the Earth," is now a famed UNESCO World Heritage site. Moreover, this destination is full of incredible ruins, sights, museums, one-of-a-kind beaches, stunning scenic vistas, and more.

A trip to Delphi offers the best of both worlds for adventurers and vacationers alike, one brimming with Greek mythology, lore, history, and culture. If you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime getaway that you will never forget that just so happens to have something for everybody, then the historic city of Delphi should be on your list. If you can double it up with a hike into the influential Mount Parnassus, even better.

Petra, Jordan

Founded in 312 B.C., the city of Petra in Jordan is a world-famous old town that is essential to your bucket list. Known for its rock-cut architecture, Petra is visually stunning and is home to the Petra Archaeological Park, which has been known to grace more than a few social media feeds. Popular spots you should check out while in this city include the Siq, the Treasury, the Royal Tombs, the Street of Facades, and the Monastery — to name just a few.

Of course, after snapping your photos, you can delve deeper into Petra's vast history. Once the capital of the Nabataean Empire, Petra has quite the story to tell. The good news is that there are numerous ways visitors can experience this ancient metropolis, in addition to the various private and group tours. Another bonus is that the Dead Sea is around 100 miles away, so if you have always wanted to float in this famous body of water, you can double it up with a visit to the magnificent old city of Petra.

Mtskheta, Georgia

Mtskheta in Georgia is known for its lengthy history, one-of-a-kind charm, and undeniable religious importance as a sacred city. This ancient settlement, sometimes referred to as "Little Jerusalem," was founded sometime between the first millennium B.C. and the fourth century B.C. Mtskheta is a picturesque sight to behold, surrounded by lush mountain ranges and adorned with largely intact religious spaces like Jvari Monastery and other old-world structures from centuries ago.

While visiting one of the oldest cities in Georgia, you will quickly see that this historic town definitely meets the criteria for being a living museum. With the stunning ruins of Bebris Tsikhe, the Armaztsikhe Fortress, and the Church of Saint John the Baptist, there is so much to keep history lovers interested, and the city is something of a treasure hunt. This holy land has even more fantastic remnants of history and well-maintained points of interest that rival anything found in the Caucasus.

Varanasi, India

Touted as the oldest city in India, Varanasi is quite breathtaking. Situated in northern India, Varanasi is roughly 5,000 years old and has pretty much seen it all. With incredible history, marvelous architecture, stunning shrines, inspiring temples, significant ties to Buddha, a must-see riverfront, and a non-stop lively atmosphere, this city is perfect for all travelers, whether they have a keen interest in ancient cities or not.

Varanasi is also the place to be if you want to partake in a religious festival or two. Known for its countless spiritual events, this city has the ability to enlighten anyone who visits. Besides this, Varanasi is one of India's epicenters for the arts — everything from music and dance to crafts and carpentry dazzles in this old-age city. Varanasi visitors can enjoy a wealth of activities, including temple tours, boat rides, indulging in delicious local dishes, and even taking a holy bath in the Ganges.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal, is one ancient destination that does not disappoint. This capital city is actually older than Rome and was founded as a settlement by the Phoenicians after the Celts first discovered this towering seascape. In fact, Lisbon is considered to be one of the oldest cities in Europe, and it has ample archaeological evidence that proves it. The Romans conquered it in 205 B.C., but people had been calling this place home for a long time before the arrival of that famous empire.

If a truly ancient, awe-inspiring, and all-around affordable metropolis is what you seek, then put Lisbon on your once-in-a-lifetime travel list. The Portuguese capital is undeniably enchanting, from its old-world charm to its unique and plentiful historical sites, including the Castelo de São Jorge and Museu do Teatro Romano (which dates back to 57 A.D.). Lisbon explorers can easily spend days marveling at all the history and culture that lines these cobblestone streets. With its pulsating nightlife, divine Portuguese cuisine, pristine coastal views, and amicable weather, Lisbon is pretty much the dictionary definition of a well-balanced European getaway.

Cádiz, Spain

The Spanish city of Cádiz is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that was founded more than 3,000 years ago, also by the Phoenicians. Continuously inhabited over thousands of years, this ancient city has a serious claim to the title of oldest European city. Situated on the very edge of the Atlantic, Cádiz was also home to the Carthaginians, the Romans, and the Byzantines, and this long-standing city by the sea even has ties to Hercules and Greek Mythology.

As expected, Cádiz is a melting pot of cultures with a phenomenal past. A simple stroll through the old town will have visitors daydreaming of long ago. And thanks to the abundant historical landmarks (such as the Torre Tavira and the Castillo de Santa Catalina), Cádiz is an easy choice for lovers of all things old. That said, Cádiz is also bursting with excitement, gorgeous scenery, sandy beaches, beautiful artwork, a rich cultural scene, and life-altering cuisine, with some of the best flamenco nights in Andalusia.

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Abu Simbel in Egypt is a revered ancient settlement or place of worship that once sat on the banks of the Nile River. With roots dating back to 1264 B.C., Abu Simbel is actually two temples carved into the side of a mountain rather than a city destination in its own right — making it more ideal as a day trip. Still, for over 3,000 years, Abu Simbel stood tall along the banks of the Nile and was a place where people could celebrate births, coronations, and Pharaohs.

In the 1960s, Abu Simbel was relocated to allow for the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Now situated at an elevated vantage point, Abu Simbel is absolutely bucket-list material. Ultimately, whether you want to cross some of the world's most magnificent curiosities off your to-do list or simply enjoy incredible destinations with far-reaching history, a trip to Abu Simbel or any of these ancient cities will fit the bill.