Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US. Photo: Knowinsiders.
Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US. Photo:

America has seen more than its share of fascinating history for such a young country. It has been molded and remolded by a turbulent and remarkably diverse history that includes everything from early indigenous settlements and European colonial conquests to the American Civil War and subsequent fight for independence and the effects of waves of immigration and cultural influences from all over the world.

Furthermore, this country's rich history is displayed in all its splendor at every turn, especially in the many historic cities spread across the country. Take in the splendor of these colonial buildings that date back hundreds of years. Discover the history of the United States as you explore its streets, homes, and monuments, and learn about its inspiring museum collections.

For those who love nothing more than discovering a new place through it’s past, dont' forget to check out top 10 best historic cities in the US:

1. Washington D.C., District of Columbia

Washington D.C., District of Columbia. Photo: Americansky.
Washington D.C., District of Columbia. Photo: Americansky.

One need not look any further than Washington, D.C. to find a blending of historical past and contemporary history. Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, is full of opulent, historic structures where important debates and decisions are still made and laws are still made. The neoclassical United States Capitol Building, for instance, was finished in 1800 and has since expanded to accommodate the increasing number of lawmakers. The various wings of the Capitol Building are where the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are located. Visit Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C., where President Abraham Lincoln resided during the Civil War's height.

The capital city of the United States provides a unique window into the glory and complexity of American history, drawing millions of tourists from all over the world to its enviable collection of monuments, landmarks, and museums. The Washington Monument, Capitol Building, White House, Lincoln Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial are just a few of the famous landmarks in Washington, D.C. that are concentrated along The Mall.

Many of the city's well-known Smithsonian museums are also brimming with history and offer a free, tantalizing look into everything from colonial era agriculture and African American culture to the history of popular entertainment and food. History buffs shouldn't miss The National Museum of American History, which offers an extensive and detailed look at the history of the nation through a collection of more than 3,000 artifacts, including the famous Star Spangled Banner.

Washington is a city with unique neighborhoods, many of which have fascinating histories of their own, in addition to the well-known attractions. Self-guided Neighbourhood Heritage Trails are located all over the city and are the ideal way to explore some of the lesser-known but still incredibly rewarding museums, historic homes, and storied pasts that these areas have to offer.

Suggested holidays: Self-Drive America & Canada Historic Highways is a fantastic route that includes all the "must-see" locations in eastern USA & Canada from Quebec City to Niagara Falls, as well as the stunning New England coastline and a two-night stay in Washington, D.C. We can arrange for you to take a short city break to take it all in, or you can twin it with a different city like New York. On an escorted tour like Great Eastern Cities, you can also benefit from a Tour Director who will make sure you get the most out of your vacation.

2. Williamsburg, Virginia

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Williamsburg, Virginia. Photo: americansky.

Williamsburg, which was established in 1632 between the James and York rivers, served as the colony's and the Commonwealth of Virginia's capital from 1699 to 1780. Historic sites abound in Colonial Williamsburg, the city's restored historic district, as well as Yorktown and Jamestown, which are close by. The former accurately portrays 1700s life. The biggest living history museum in the world, it has garnered recognition for its meticulous recreation and immersive experiences. Additionally, it looks directly at the histories of indigenous peoples and African-Americans who were both enslaved and free.

Watch for the well-known Wren structure, the Capitol Residence, the Governor's Palace, the Bruton Parish Church, and other prominent structures. In addition, there are many quaint shops, craft, cooking, and farming demonstrations in the area, as well as taverns and coffee shops where you can sample delectable dishes from the eighteenth century. Beyond the theatrical recreation, Williamsburg itself is a town that deserves to be explored. The College of William and Mary, the second-oldest college in America, is a noteworthy attraction. Its impressive alumni list includes three US presidents.

Suggested holidays:

Self-Drive Colonial America is a journey of discovery through the most fascinating historical sites in the eastern United States, and the Historic Highlights escorted tour includes two nights in Williamsburg, giving visitors plenty of time to learn about colonial life there and to enjoy a pleasant evening in a quaint neighborhood tavern.

Summers can be extremely humid, so make sure to only engage in outdoor activities in the morning or late in the day. Visit museums and other indoor attractions in the middle of the day.

3. Savannah, Georgia

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Savannah, Georgia . Photo: americansky.

Referred to as “The Hostess City of the South,” Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and has a long and colorful history that attracts millions of visitors each year. From cobblestone streets and public parks to some of the most unique Antebellum architecture of the South, Savannah is an old beauty that has aged with grace.

The thirteenth and final American colony, Georgia, was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe and 120 other passengers from the ship Anne. Oglethorpe gave the colony his name in honor of England's King George II. This new land's first city was Savannah.

Oglethorpe's foresight resulted in the grid-like layout of Savannah, allowing for wide streets and public squares. Savannah, which is regarded as America's first planned city, had 24 original squares, 22 of which are still in use. Savannah gained not long after its founding a reputation as a key port city both in the American Revolution and the American Civil War. The British captured Savannah in 1778 and held it there until 1782. A land-sea force made up of French and American troops eventually won the city's independence back. Savannah experienced a protracted period of agricultural prosperity after this turbulent time.

Savannah and its surroundings became home to cotton and rice fields as plantations and slavery became highly profitable systems due to the area's rich soil and favorable climate. The city also competed with Charleston as a commercial port thanks to the development of the cotton gin on a nearby plantation.

Savannah is currently the third-largest metropolitan area and the fifth-largest city in Georgia. It is a major Atlantic seaport, an industrial hub, and one of the Southeast's busiest travel hubs. Savannah has maintained its status as the South's cultural and historical center despite wars, fires, widespread disease, and the threat of demolition.

Top 10 Most Ancient Beautiful Castles in the United States Top 10 Most Ancient Beautiful Castles in the United States

4. Charleston, South Carolina

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Photo: historyfangirl.

The history of Charleston is as extensive and rich as a plate of homemade perlou. The flavors of the city also get more intriguing with each bite, just like the well-known Lowcountry rice dish.

The warm climate of Charleston, which is located along the mid-Atlantic coast, has long attracted tourists. In fact, English colonists who founded "Charles Town" in 1670 were some of the first people to travel across the Atlantic Ocean as a result. Their roots are still present, as are the customs of African Americans, whose Gullah culture is unique to the area and permeates the local cuisine, farming, crafts, and music.

The British held Charleston from 1780 to 1782 during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War's opening salvo was fired at Fort Sumter, and a devastating earthquake of magnitude 7.6 struck the city in 1886. Fort Sumter, the location of the start of the Civil War, and the Old Exchange, a building that has served as a customs house, post office, city hall, military headquarters, and is now a museum, are three historical sites that each visitor should see.

Nowadays, cravings for South Carolina staples like biscuits, barbecue, and coastal seafood lead many people to Charleston for weekend getaways. But while you're waiting for your food, explore Charleston's long and complicated history, its modern art scene, its parks and beaches, and its historic buildings and hidden lanes.


Atlanta to downtown Charleston travel time is just under five hours, with half of that time spent on I-20 and the other half on I-26. The smaller highways Route 52, Route 78, and Route 17 (also known as the Savannah Highway) all lead into the city. Driving through Columbia, the state capital of South Carolina, takes just over three hours to reach Charlotte, North Carolina. The majority of major U.S. airports, as well as London Heathrow and Punta Gorda (seasonally), offer direct flights that make it simple to fly into Charleston International Airport (CHS).

5. St Augustine, Florida

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Photo: floridaforboomers.

St. Augustine, known for being the nation's oldest city, is unquestionably the ideal location for anyone who enjoys history. The city is situated along Florida's east coast, just over an hour north of Daytona Beach and about 45 minutes south of Jacksonville.

The oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the US was founded by the Spanish in 1565 and is known as the "Old City"; it predates both the establishment of Jamestown, Virginia, and the landing of the pilgrims on Plymouth Rock by several decades. This city is therefore historically rich, which is evident from the abundance of renowned museums, motivational monuments, and genuine colonial architecture available to visitors.

Everywhere you look, you can see evidence of the city's lengthy history and diverse cultural influences, and the 144-block National Historical Landmark District is the best place to take it all in. Castillo de San Marcos, a fort built in the seventeenth century, and the Mission de Nombre de Dios, where the city was first founded, stand as imposing reminders of the Spanish colonial period. Many historical sites also date back to the 1800s, when Henry Flagler led the city through a renaissance that produced the impressive Flager College and the exquisitely renovated Casa Monica hotel.

After exploring the old streets, you can learn more about St. Augustine's fascinating past at a number of educational museums. The Lincolnville Center, The Lightner Museum, and The Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum all house evocative collections that help bring the past to life while being housed in lovely historical structures.

In addition to being a great location for history buffs, St. Augustine is also filled with tons of culture, great shopping, unique places to eat, and two really wonderful retirement communities. If you are passionate about any combination of those things, the Nation’s Oldest City could be a great option for your retirement!

6. Boston, Massachusetts

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Acorn Street, Beacon Hill, Boston MA. Photo: flickr.

A trip to Boston would be the most historically significant thing you could do in all of America. When the New World was truly new, around 1620, John Winthrop, the former governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, referred to this New England city as a "city on a hill" for other cities to imitate. Along with the Freedom Trail, which is rich in history, Boston is also home to the graves of notable patriots like Paul Revere and Faneuil Hall, where speakers like Samuel Adams advocated for independence from Great Britain.

There is simply no better place to learn about the fascinating tales surrounding the founding of the country and its struggle for independence than Boston, which is a veritable gold mine of American history. There are numerous symbols that recall the city's illustrious past. When exploring the city, be sure to look out for the first public park, first public school, oldest public library, first subway system, and first college in the country (Harvard University).

The Freedom Trail is a sightseeing route that seamlessly connects sixteen of the city's most important historical sites, including Copp's Hill Burial Ground, Bunker Hill Monument, and USS Constitution. First-time visitors should start at the Freedom Trail. Admire the striking fusion of old and new architecture in the city's downtown as you meander through the eerie cobblestone streets, pay respect to one dramatic landmark after another, and take in the atmosphere. You'll pass through the North End neighborhood along the way, a tiny piece of Italy, where authentic cafes offer the ideal justification for stopping for coffee and pastries.

Suggested holidays: There are many direct flights that allow us to spend a few days in this charming city with a wonderful selection of hotels. You could also stay in both Boston and New York, or you could rent a car and use one of our self-drive itineraries to explore the stunning New England countryside. Or Boston is included on a number of our escorted tours, like this lovely one to Boston, Cape Cod, & the Islands.

7. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Photo: Getty.

The Spanish first settled Santa Fe in the fifteenth century, making it one of the oldest locations in what is now the United States. Parts of the old city's appearance haven't changed much either; the region is home to Pueblo adobe architecture from the time the Spanish and Navajo Native Americans coexisted there. The San Miguel Mission church, also referred to as the San Miguel Chapel, is another important historical site worth visiting. It was built in the 1600s.

The picturesque city of Santa Fe, which had been inhabited by Pueblo peoples between 1050 and 1150, was conquered by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta between 1609 and 1610. The San Miguel Mission and the Palace of the Governors, both of which date back to 1610 and are currently closed for renovations, are located in this oldest capital city in North America. To learn more about the extensive history of the region, visit the nearby New Mexico History Museum. Another notable structure in Santa Fe is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, which was built in the 19th century.

For the majority of tourists, Canyon Road—the center of Santa Fe's artistic culture—is their first and last stop. However, despite the fact that the commercial galleries and free museums there frequently eclipse the significance of the historic monuments, you should still visit places like the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi and the Palace of the Governors in the Plaza. Visit the Santa Fe Farmers Market for a taste of local commerce and living culture. Additionally, the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains are great for biking, horseback riding, skiing, and hiking if you arrive wanting some fresh air.

8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Photo: historyfangirl.

Due to its location roughly halfway between the Southern and Northern states, it served as the first capital of the United States, and it is the city where the Constitution, Articles of Confederation, and Declaration of Independence were all drafted.

In American history, Philadelphia has a significant impact. The city was established by William Penn in 1682, and the first Assembly meeting to discuss colonist rights was held there about 50 years later. Due to the Declaration of Independence's signing in Philadelphia in 1776, the city was dubbed the "Birthplace of America."

The city's shipbuilding industries supported the Allies during World War I, but Philadelphia was also the epicenter of the deadly Spanish flu pandemic that struck in 1918–1919, infecting over 500,000 residents.

The neighborhood, which now has more than 1.5 million residents, has been revitalized by new constructions like the Philadelphia Navy Yard and Center City. When the Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl, the city was jubilant. The Rocky Balboa statue, which is located at the top of the stairs leading to the Philadelphia Art Museum and shows the fictional boxer with his arms extended, is a frequently visited location for tourists. Rocky, played by Sylvester Stallone, is depicted in the 1976 film "Rocky" (and its sequels) running up the 72 steps to prepare for a fight. Today, the museum's stairs are simply referred to as the "Rocky Steps."

The city grew in size and prestige during the Gilded Age, as wealthy suburbs sprouted along the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. During the 1870s, the first U.S. zoo and the Centennial Exhibition fair opened in Philadelphia.

9. New Orleans, Louisiana

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
Photo: jenonajetplane.

New Orleans has experienced some fascinating historical events since it was founded as a French colony in 1718, changing hands numerous times as a result of Spanish conquests and the Louisiana Purchase. Due to this, the United States now has what is arguably the most intriguing and eclectic collection of historic buildings. History enthusiasts should start by discovering the French quarter's charming colonial past. The St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest church building in America, and a stroll through the Garden District, which is home to an incredible collection of opulent antebellum mansions, should be visited after this.

Everywhere you look, including many of the city's restaurants and bars, you can see remnants of the past. Visit Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, one of the country's oldest bars, or indulge in French-Creole cuisine at Antoine's, a fine dining establishment that has been around for almost two centuries. When you've had your fill of sightseeing, New Orleans has no shortage of other things to do, including some of the country's liveliest nightlife, authentic live jazz venues, and mouthwatering soul food.

The swinging city has a rich musical history as well as a ton of European-inspired architecture and Southern charm—after all, jazz was invented there. An iconic New Orleans experience is listening to live music at the original jazz bar on Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, east of the French Quarter. Check where is open and make reservations in advance, though. Feast on classic Creole and Cajun dishes in one of the century-old establishments in the French Quarter (most are reopening); food is an integral part of the city's culture.

Suggested holidays: There are many hotels to choose from in New Orleans, and the city offers so much to do that you could stay for a week or longer. We can choose a different city to be the twin of New Orleans, like Nashville, Chicago, or New York. On the Jazzy Jambalaya Adventure, you could take a road trip through the historical south. Or sign up for Tastes and Sounds of the South, one of our most well-liked escorted tours, which includes 3 nights in New Orleans, time spent in the region's stunning plantation mansions, as well as excursions to Memphis and Nashville, two major music hubs.

10. San Antonio, Texas

Top 10 Best Historic Cities In The US
San Antonio, Texas. Photo: Shutterstock.

The first settlement in Texas, San Antonio, was established as a Spanish mission in 1718 and turned civilized in 1731.

Famously, the Alamo is located in San Antonio. A key event in the Texas Revolution, which saw American settlers in Texas rebel against Mexico, was the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. The Mexican army prevailed in the conflict, but the siege saw the establishment of the Republic of Texas, which the US eventually annexed. When in San Antonio, you must see the Alamo.

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park also has four additional missions that are accessible to tourists. Mission Concepción, Mission San Jose, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada are all preserved at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Starting at the Alamo, visitors can travel a trail through all five missions.

San Antonio is the best place to go to learn about the fascinating history of Texas, from the Native American occupation to the conquests of the Spanish and the struggle for independence. Locals take great pride in the history of their city, and the phrase "Remember the Alamo" is still frequently used and can be seen engraved on memorabilia. In addition to the Alamo, the city is home to a number of other inspiring colonial Spanish missions that are well worth visiting. These together make up the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, which received official recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 due to the exquisite preservation of its structures.

The opulent San Fernando Cathedral, the Spanish Governor's Palace, a few thought-provoking museums, and the highly coveted River Walk, which is brimming with historical artifacts and authentic architecture, are some additional historically significant sites to explore. The riverside has undergone extensive renovation in recent years. And right now, there is unquestionably no better way to take in the history of this city than by strolling along the waterway, or by relaxing at one of the many alluring sidewalk cafes that have been cleverly shaded by colorful umbrellas after a day of sightseeing.

Holiday suggestions: Take the historic Route 66 through San Antonio, the magnificent national parks of Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, and Las Vegas via Big Bend & the Grand Canyon by motorhome. Alternatively, this flydrive vacation includes the best of Texas - Self-Drive Talkin' Texas - for those who value the convenience of a hotel.
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