9 Oldest Cities in North America

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One of the two continents named after famed traveler Amerigo Vespucci, North America is one of the world’s seven continents, consisting of Greenland, Canada, Mexico, the United States of America, and 19 other countries. Before North America became the “New World”, the region was mainly inhabited by the indigenous North American Indians from as early as 11,000 BC. And though these nomadic people left little behind in terms of evidence when it came to their towns and cities, several towns and cities in North America are known to have existed far longer in human history than even commodities such as paper! The surprising part, however, is that some of these cities are still inhabited!

Today, we take a look at a few of North America’s oldest cities, ranked from youngest to oldest!

9. Detroit

Year: 1701 AD
Country:  The United States of America
State: Michigan
Population: 713,777
Founded by: Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac


The most populous city in Michigan, Detroit is one of the oldest surviving (or rather, flourishing!) cities of North America. Founded in 1701 by the Frenchman with the very long name mentioned earlier, regions close to Detroit are believed to actually have been inhabited way earlier, and by that we mean as early as 11,000 years ago! Named after the Detroit River, Detroit is home to America’s second oldest Catholic church, and even better, to a lot of musical styles such as jazz, hip-hop, rock, and punk.

8. Albany

Year: 1614 AD
Country:  The United States of America
State: New York
Population: 97,856
Founded by: Henry Hudson


Only slightly younger than Quebec City, Albany, New York’s capital, is one of the oldest surviving European settlements from the original thirteen colonies that were set up here (Yes, you read that right. Given its all-American nature, who’d have guessed it’s European, right?).

Initially inhabited by the Mohicans, Europe claimed the city when Henry Hudson landed in the city in 1609 and claimed it for the United Netherlands. Today, Albany is the third-most populous metropolitan region in New York and is the center for many “Fortune 500” companies and entrepreneurs.

7. Quebec City

Year: 1608 AD
Country:  Canada
State: Quebec province
Population: 531,902
Founded by: Samuel de Champlain

Quebec City

This Canadian city deserves a mention for being America’s oldest French-speaking city and the country’s second oldest city. Though it was founded in 1608 AD by navigator, soldier, geographer, explorer, chronicler, diplomat, and ethnologist de Champlain (yes, he could give Khaleesi some stiff competition), it is believed that the area was already inhabited by 1535 AD, led by Jacques Cartier. Established on the ruins of an old abandoned site known as Stacadona, Quebec City is known for its history, beautiful tourist spots, and tranquil lifestyle.

6. Santo Domingo

Year: 1496 AD
Country:  Dominican Republic
State: National District province
Population: 965,040
Founded by: Bartholomew Columbus

Santo Domingo

Officially “Santo Domingo de Guzman”, this Carribean city dates back to 1496, when Bartholomew Columbus established the first settlements on river Ozama’s east banks (which were then moved to the west bank of Nicolas de Ovando in 1502). The oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in America, the city served as the Spanish colonial rule’s first seat of power in the New World.

Thus, it became the site for the first university, castle, monastery, cathedral and fortress in the New World. Today, the city is the cultural, political, commercial, financial and industrial hub of the Dominican Republic, making it a tourist hotspot.

5. Mexico City

Year: 1325 AD
Country:  Mexico
State: State of Mexico
Population: 20.4 million (urban)
Founded by: Initially the Mexica, and later, Hernan Cortes

Mexico City

This popular city with its spicy chili, sassy women and crazy lifestyle, is one of North America’s oldest cities, dating back to 1325. Established initially as the twin cities of Tenochtitlan and Tlaltelolco by the Mexica people on an island in lake Texcoco, the city grew in size, strength, and popularity, leading to it naturally becoming another object of desire for the Spanish conquerors.

Almost being destroyed during a siege in 1521, the city was rebuilt and christened by the man of the hour, Hernan Cortes, as Mexico City. Today, Mexico City is one of the world’s most inarguably popular cities, renown for its beaches, parties, music, cuisine and tourism.

4. Acoma Pueblo

Year: 1200 AD
Country:  The United States of America
State: New Mexico
Population: 4989
Founded by: The Acoma Pueblo tribe

Acoma Pueblo

Believed to be continuously occupied for more than 800 years (though the native traditions present an estimate of 2,000 years), Acoma Pueblo is made of three separate villages that are all inhabited by the Acoma Pueblo tribe, a federally recognized tribal entity. A “National Historic Landmark”, the Pueblo people are believed to have descended from various older and more powerful tribes due to the visible influence of the latter in the architecture, agriculture, and artistry of the Acoma people.

Climate change is believed to have driven these tribes from their earlier settlements to Acoma Pueblo and to this day, the tribe maintains its isolation from modern America.

3. Oraibi

Year: 1100 AD
Country:  The United States of America
State: Arizona
Population: Unknown
Founded by: The Hopi tribe


Belonging to the northeastern region of Arizona (specifically Navajo County), Oraibi is a small village belonging to the Hopi tribe. Popularly known as “Orayvi”, the indigenous inhabitants of the village still stick to their traditional way of living, shying away from the civilized world. One of the oldest settlements to be continuously inhabited in the continent, the Oraibi is believed to have become a full-fledged village only in the 13th century, despite prior inhabitation, due to severe droughts that forced the Hopi to vacate their other villages and seek refuge in this one, leading to an increase in its population as well as popularity.

Maintaining its mystery and detachment from the outside world, Oraibi remained undiscovered till 1540, when Spanish explorer Pedro de Tovar encountered the villagers. What followed is the common story of trying to “convert” the indigenous people but the practice failed, with ruins of various missions still visible in the city.

2. Flores

Year: Inhabited since 1st millennium BC
Country:  Guatemala
State: Peten
Population: 13,700
Founded by: Unknown


The capital of the state of Peten, Guatemala, Flores is the landlocked, northernmost province of the country. Inhabited by a mere 13,700 inhabitants, Flores has a rich history dating back to the time of the Mayans, known as Nojpeten before it became Flores. The city is believed to have risen from the ruins of Nojpeten, when the Spanish conquerors managed to take over the island and destroy it, driving out its last Mayan inhabitants. Despite its violent history, Flores is a beautiful city and quite the tourist hotspot, drawing in crowds for its history.

1. Cholula

Year: Inhabited since 2nd century BC
Country:  Mexico
State: Puebla
Population: 193,554
Founded by: Unknown


Considered to be North America’s oldest city (and with good reason!), Cholula is believed to have been founded by the arrival of Toltec refugees to the area following the fall of Tula in 1000 CE. Some other myths state that the first inhabitants of Cholula were, in fact, descendants of one of the main seven Aztec tribes that migrated to the are from their homeland of Aztlan.

A great tourist spot with ancient monuments (the city even has its very own Great Pyramid!), the city became a flourishing center for trade around the 7th century BC and is still inhabited today.

So There You Have It!

Given how these cities look today, it can be quite mind-blowing to realize that the city you’re staying in has been in existence for centuries, having seen all the various changes, evolution and world events that have happened in that span of time. In fact, the age of these cities has also influenced their present-day culture, traditions and lifestyles. Well, for these cities, age definitely isn’t just a number; it’s a part of their identity!

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There are 4 comments

  1. This article is good… but is missing several cities from both the US & Canada.
    -St. Johns, Labrador (Canada) was founded in 1497.
    -San Juan, Puerto Rico (USA) was founded in 1501.
    -Pensacola, Florida (USA) was founded in 1559.
    -St Augustine, Florida (USA) was founded in 1565.
    -Jamestown, Virginia (USA) was founded in 1607.
    -Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA) was founded in 1610.
    -Manhattan, New York (USA) was founded in 1620.
    -Boston, Massachusetts (USA) was founded in 1630.
    -Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) was founded in 1682.

  2. Christiane Rousseau |

    Jacques Cartier was the first European to arrive at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in 1534 and returned to establish permanent settlement in Quebec and Montreal in 1535.


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