Old city walls are full of intrigue and history! Here’s a look at ten fascinating walled cities in Europe that are well worth a visit.
If history-rich places fascinate you and you’re curious about discovering what happened over the centuries within old city walls, then check out this list of ten European walled cities that protect a heritage which, in many cases, can date back to Roman times.
From Carcassonne and Dubrovnik to Tallinn and Siena, walls that stood as barriers of defense protected many European cities. They have since drawn travelers due to their historical and cultural value, so we have compiled a list of ten of the most beautiful walled cities in Europe so you can make sure they’re on your bucket list.
1. Segovia, Spain
A veritable gem within Spain’s Castile-Leon region, the city of Segovia boasts a remarkable Roman legacy. Not only is it home to an iconic aqueduct, but the city is surrounded by a more than two-mile-long wall with some beautiful passageways and little windows. The city also has medieval remains, creating a complete, rich and interesting heritage that makes the city enticing.
2. Dubrovnik, Croatia
The walls of Dubrovnik have seventeen towers and five bastions and date from between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries. They surround one of the most beautiful cities on the Dalmatian Coast, which flaunts an old town with unusual remains. Walking through the city will take you back in time. The Pearl of the Adriatic is perhaps best known as King’s Landing on Game of Thrones.
3. Nördlingen, Germany
The Bavarian city of Nördlingen enjoys an urban model that is unprecedented in its country, being completely surrounded by a medieval wall with five gates and eleven towers for defense. Additionally, its broad repertoire of museums combined with various Renaissance- and Baroque-style churches give Nördlingen an enviable heritage. An interesting fact about the city is that it is situated in a crater that was formed by a meteor that fell 15 million years ago!
4. Toledo, Spain
Just 44 miles from Madrid is a city that is practically an open-air museum. Toledo, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, is characterized by a mix of styles that make the city just as rich as it is special. The Christians, Muslims and Jews passed through Toledo leaving Gothic, Mudejar, Baroque and other remains. If this isn’t enough, the City of Three Cultures has a Roman wall that was reconstructed in the seventh century and then again in the eleventh century.
5. Carcassonne, France
We can’t talk about walled European cities without mentioning Carcassonne. Its impressive crenelated medieval wall, which is just about two miles long, protects a citadel with an unparalleled grouping of historic structures such as the Cathedral of St. Michael, Count’s Castle and the Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus. Also, don’t miss the Aude and Nabronne gates.
6. Rhodes, Greece
The Greek island of Rhodes, situated to the south of the Aegean Sea and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, is mainly known for having one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World—the Colossus of Rhodes. The Pearl of the Dodecanese stands out for its charming medieval wall as well as its long list of historical sites such as the Lindos Acropolis, the Temple of Apollo, the theater and the ancient stadium.
7. York, England
The fortressed city of York, located in the north of the historic county of Yorkshire, is 2,000 years old. York played an important role in England’s defense plan—above all for warding off northern enemies. Evidence of this is the excellent state of preservation of the almost three-mile Roman wall surrounding the city.
8. Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is another example of a walled city that exudes charm. The Estonian capital with its great medieval legacy is the best preserved in the Baltic Sea area. With beautiful backstreets and a good number of historic buildings like the town hall, Tallinn is a destination that often flies under the radar, but is definitely a pleasant surprise. Of the walls original 46 towers, just 20 remain today.
9. Valletta, Malta
Valletta’s defense is one of the most particular in Europe. You can admire it with your own eyes by visiting the capital of the Maltese archipelago. Despite being one of the smallest European countries, Malta enjoys a rich heritage thanks to its strategic location on the Mediterranean. Many different civilizations have passed through over the centuries. Part of its heritage is its land and sea walls, which are fortified by structures like Fort Saint Elmo.
10. Siena, Italy
They say that Siena is Florence’s beautiful sister. They also say that Siena can open one’s heart as is indicated by a sign on one of the city’s entrance gates. In addition, Siena lent its name to an oil paint color used by da Vinci and Michelangelo. This medieval city perched on three hilltops shines bright, knowing it is well-protected by its four-mile wall.