10. Antananarivo, Madagascar
Founded in the early 1600s, Antananarivo (natives call it Tana) translates to “the City of a Thousand,” referencing the 1,000 soldiers who originally guarded it. Since Madagascar gained its independence from France in 1960, Antananarivo’s population has exploded to almost 1.5 million. The city is a curious blend of cultures, part Asian, part African, perfectly suited for the exotic island it leads.
9. Manama, Bahrain
The post-modern skyscrapers are unusual for a city of 150,000 people. Like many major cities in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, petrodollars have helped transform the skyline in recent years, but Manama has broadened its economic base to include financial services and other industries. The royal Al Khalifa family has ruled Bahrain since 1783.
8. Yerevan, Armenia
The capital and largest city in Armenia sits under the looming presence of Mount Ararat, the mountain mentioned in Genesis as the possible final destination for Noah’s Ark. This city of some 1.1 million began as a fortress in the 8th century BC. Despite the city’s rapid growth since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, many of Yerevan’s historic structures, notably the ruins of Erebuni Fortress (782 BC) have been preserved.
7. Naypyidaw, Burma
While the other capitals on this list are hundreds of years old, Naypyidaw can trace its history to 2002, when Burma’s military rulers decided the country needed a new capitol. And what was wrong with the old capitol, Yangon? According to one bizarre account that most Burmese apparently believe, an astrologer told Senior General Than Shwe that Yangon would be attacked. So the government built this brand-new city 200 miles to the north in the middle of nowhere; the population has grown from 0 in 2001 to more than 1 million today. The most striking feature in this boomtown is the 325-foot-tall Uppatasanti Pagoda, which roughly translates to “protection against calamity,” a fitting name given the astrologer’s supposed prediction.
6. Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is one of the smallest countries in the world, and Vaduz is so tiny (about 7 square miles) it’s nicknamed Staedtle, or “Little Town.” Although Vaduz has only a few thousand residents, it presides over one of the richest countries, per capita, on Earth. Given its location in the Alps, it’s one of the most scenic capitals — just check out the view enjoyed by Liechtenstein’s current ruler, Prince Hans-Adam II, from his home in Vaduz Castle overlooking the city. Despite limited access — there is no airport — the city is a popular tourist destination.
5. Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava’s origins date back more than 700 years. As a result, this city of almost 500,000 is a blend of medieval and post-modern structures, like the bizarre Slovak Radio Pyramid. The most recognizable landmark in town is the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising that crosses the Danube River. Built in 1972 and better known to most residents as the New Bridge, the bridge’s tower is topped by a flying-saucer-shaped restaurant, known as the UFO.
4. Baku, Azerbaijan
Part of the old Soviet Union, Azerbaijan’s capital far predates that failed nation; the first mention of Baku can be traced back 2,000 years. Most of the structures in Baku’s historic Old City were built around the 12th century, although one structure that remains a particular mystery is the Maiden Tower, a popular landmark that figures prominently in Azerbaijan’s national identity. There is great disagreement about when it was built — sometime between the 4th and 12 centuries — and its original purpose. According to one popular legend, when a king tried to force his teenage daughter into a marriage she opposed, she agreed, but asked him to build her a tower first. When the tower was completed, she leaped to her death.
3. Valletta, Malta
Nicknamed “The Fortress City,” workers built this amazing city in only 15 years, finishing around 1580. Tourists flock to Valletta to take in the historic museums, palaces and other cultural attractions, and as a base to visit the rest of this picturesque island nation. Valletta has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980.
2. Sana’a, Yemen
Sana’a has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest continually occupied capitol cities on Earth. The town’s historic and distinctive architecture, featuring well-preserved brick and stone structures, earth-tone colorings and geometric towers, earned Sana’a status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you have a visit to Sana’a on your bucket list, you'll have to wait — terrorism is rampant in Yemen, and many foreign countries have urged their citizens to leave the country.
1. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
This capital city on the island of Borneo features numerous sites of interest, from mosques and museums to elaborate tombs of former Brunei sultans. Current Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s richest men, has ruled the country since 1967.