Medieval Walled Cities - The Best European Walled Cities to Visit
The Best Walled Cities in Europe
Ancient walls and their dunce-cap towers conjure up a romantic notion that is as compelling as it is completely baseless. I mean, we're talking defensive structures meant to keep the invading hordes of sniveling, stinky, garbage-launching barbarians at bay--hardly a romantic notion, you have to admit. Still, I'll admit to a rather intense attraction to walled cities myself. I'll go even further and say that medieval walled cities are quite nice to see and a real pleasure to walk on or around.
So, below I've selected the best preserved walled cities in Europe to visit--and even to have romantic notions about if you wish.
Avila's 11th century walls are the most important and best preserved of the Spanish medieval walls, circling (trapazoidally) the medieval Avila.
Avila is perhaps best done as a day trip from Madrid, as Avila isn't a major destination in itself.
If you're looking for a walled city in Spain, Girona might be a better destination, despite the fact that most of its walls have been systematically destroyed and then rebuilt in the 19th century. The wall walk, or passeig de la Muralla is open 8am-10pm daily. Another walk outside the town walls is the Passeig Arqueologic, which takes you outside the walls to view the old city on a cypress and flower lined path. Girona began as a Roman settlement, then became a medieval hub where Christians, Jews and Arabs converged, making it an architecturally interesting city, and one of the true little-visited gems of Spain.
Nowhere outside Carcassonne will you find such a complete example of 6th, 7th, and 8th century walls in Europe. Carcassonne, a town of 46,500 people located 808 km south of Paris is on the edge of Cathar Country, a landscape littered with romantic castle ruins. Stay in Carcassonne or along the river below the old town, which will give you a romantic view of La Cite lit up at night.
Carcassonne Travel Information - Be sure to check out the page by Philippe Cuq and Bruno Berniere, who have put together an interesting site about the architecture of the walls over time and the defenses at the gates. Very interesting for walled town aficionados.
Ah, Lucca. Lucca is surrounded entirely by 16th century walls. In the 19th century, trees were planted and now the ramparts can be walked or cycled. It's approximately three miles around the oval; you can walk it or rent a bike and pedal around.
The Medieval walled City of Rhodes (pop. 6000) is surrounded by medieval walls with seven gates, a moat and castle. The Knights of Saint John found safe haven inside the Rhodes walls in 1309 when they were booted from the Holy Land.
York has the longest and best-preserved town walls in England, estimated as weighing 100,000 metric tons. The walls are 3.4 kilometers long and there are five main "bars" or gateways and 45 towers. There are also the famous York ginnels--fifty or so little thoroughfares within the city walls--medieval short-cuts you can use to explore the city as if you were running from (or towards) trouble in the big, mean streets.
Ok, the walls aren't medieval, romantic, or even still
standing. But they're important in the scheme of history
we remember, so Berlin has to be included.