Historical city travel guide: Nineveh, 7th century BC

British museum curator Gareth Brereton takes us through the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh:

The city of Nineveh has recently undergone extensive development to become the new capital of the mighty Assyrian empire. It is now a vast metropolis surrounded by massive walls some 12 kilometres in length that encompass an area of 750 hectares (7.5km2) in size. While official statistics on the population of Nineveh are not available, it reportedly takes three days to cross the city.

This cosmopolitan city is located on the eastern bank of the River Tigris at the intersection of the road which connects the highlands of the north with the prosperous lands of Babylonia and Chaldea in the south.

A veritable paradise on earth, the fertile lands surrounding Nineveh are perfect for growing the huge volumes of staple crops such as wheat and barley needed to feed the population of this colossal city. Benefitting from plentiful rainfall, the city is also situated where the River Khosr meets the River Tigris, which guarantees an abundant supply of water. A monumental aqueduct brings water over a vast distance to feed the city’s network of canals. Upstream from the city you will find orchards planted with vines, fruit trees and olive groves.

When to visit

The summer months in Assyria are ferociously hot and are best avoided. Winters are often very wet and the city is transformed into a quagmire. The best times to visit are autumn and spring, when the city has warm days with cool mornings and evenings. 

Getting there

By river

Travelling from the north, the city can be easily reached via the River Tigris using the quppu ferry service, a local round-boat woven from bundles of reeds and waterproofed with bitumen. If travelling by river from the south expect a longer journey as you sail against the flow of the river. Most quppus dock in the city quay.


Thanks to the Assyria royal road network, travelling to the city on donkey or mule is quick and convenient. Major routes include the north-south road from the foothills of the Taurus Mountains down to Babylonia, and the east-west road from the Zagros Mountains to the Levantine coast. Accommodation and food stalls are plentiful along the major routes.



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