Europe’s oldest cities (part 1)

While many of the world’s oldest cities, settled around the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, are off-limits to travellers at present, Europe’s most ancient settlements are very much open to visitors. These are the continent’s 16 oldest continually inhabited.

Zadar, Croatia
When did the earliest inhabitants settle? 900 BC
Zadar, CroatiaThe Illyrian Liburnian tribe – hailing from the Balkan peninsula – inhabited Zadar from as early as the 9th century BC, and the city then fell under Roman rule, until the Empire’s split saw it become part of Byzantium. The 17th and 18th centuries saw the city fought over by Venetians, Turks and French, and its inhabitants suffered more in the 1990s, during the Croatian War of Independence. Today, things are brighter and the city, still with its Roman layout, can boast attractive churches such as the 9th century St. Donatus’, and St Mary’s. And you can get there on a cheap Ryanair flight.
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Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan, ArmeniaWhen did the earliest inhabitants settle? 782 BC
Some 30 years before Rome was founded, the city that is now Armenia’s capital was serving as an important stop along the caravan routes from Asia to Europe. It was invaded by Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Seljuks, Mongols and Turks, and later by the Soviet Red Army in 1920. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the capital of the Republic of Armenia has seen the growth of cultural institutions (it is home to a bewildering number of museums). Tourism is also developing slowly – a handful operators currently offer guided trips to the country.
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Mtskheta, Georgia
Mtskheta, GeorgiaWhen did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,000 BC
The placement of Georgia in Europe is perhaps contentious, but given the widely-accepted definition of the continent’s border beyond the whole Caucasus region, it is fair to consider the country as European. Mtskheta, north of the capital Tbilisi, is thought to have been founded around 3,000 years ago, and is notable as the place Georgians accepted Christianity – the country’s main religion today – in 317. Collectively, its historical monuments, including the Holy Cross Monastery of Jvari, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Samtavro Monastery, are a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. They are described as “outstanding examples of medieval religious architecture in the Caucasus”, and archaeological findings inside them prove a high level of skill in masonry and pottery.
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Cádiz, Spain
Cadiz SpainWhen did the earliest inhabitants settle? 1,100 BC
Phoenicians from Tyre in Lebanon founded Cádiz in 1,100 BC, and was known to them as “Gadir”. They used it as a base for amber trading, and later the Romans took it as a naval outpost. Obscurity followed for a period, before the city found fame when a man named Columbus used it as his depature port for his second and fourth voyages to the Americas. Annie Bennett, one of Telegraph Travel’s Spain experts, describes how the sea is “always discernible in the golden light shimmering at the end of the long, straight streets, flanked by stone mansions painted in pastel tones of pink, green and blue.” The elegant city is also good for food and drink – try manzanilla sherry and tortillitas de camarones (shrimp tortilla).

To be continued..

Story by Telegraph

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