Cidade Velha (Portuguese for "old city"), or simply Cidadi in Cape Verdean Creole, is a city located 15 km from Praia (Cape Verde's capital) on the island of Santiago. It is the oldest settlement in Cape Verde and used to serve as the capital of Cape Verde. Once called Ribeira Grande, its name was changed to Cidade Velha so to avoid confusion with another Ribeira Grande on another island. It is the seat of the Ribeira Grande de Santiago municipality. Located off of Africa's northwest coast, this city center was the first European colonial settlement in the tropics. Some of the meticulously planned original design of the site is still intact, from a royal fortress to two towering churches to a 16th-century town square. Today, Cidade Velha is an Atlantic shipping stop and center for Creole culture.
After the island was discovered, the city was named Ribeira Grande (Portuguese for large river) by António da Noli, in 1462. In 1466, the settlement became an important port for trading slaves from Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone to Brazil and the Caribbean. Transcontinental slavery made Cidade Velha the second richest city in the Portuguese realm.
Cidade Velha's port was a stopping place for two great navigators: Vasco of Gamma, in 1497, on his way to India, and Christopher Columbus, in 1498, while on his third voyage to the Americas.
Cidade Velha has the oldest colonial church in the world, constructed in 1495. The fort Real de São Filipe overlooks the town. It was constructed in 1590 to defend the Portuguese colony from the attacks of the Frenchmen and English. However, it was sacked by French pirates in 1712. The capital was moved to Praia in 1770.
The city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.