history city walls were made as protection from the enemy. They were
usually massive structures, punctuated with guard towers. Some were
built on hills, making invasions more difficult, while others fronted
seas and oceans to protect the towns from invaders in ships or, in some
cases, pirates. Today well preserved walls bring tourist from the whole
world to wonder around these medieval walled cities.
a small natural hillock, this completely walled medieval town was built
in the 13th century by the overlords of Siena to command the Cassia Road
running through the Val d’Elsa and Val Staggia just to the west of
Monteriggioni. Very little work has been done to Monteriggioni’s walls
or buildings since they were first erected. Subsequently,
Monteriggioni’s walls and the buildings that make up the town are the
best preserved example of their kind in all of Italy, so it is not
surprising that this little town attracts buses full of tourists.
one of the most historic cities in the Czech Republic, with the city
wall one of the key elements to see. This medieval wall is actually
several walls with ditches or moats in between. Once known as a
fortified royal city, Znojmo’s wall served as part of the line of
defense on the border with Austria. Znojmo visitors recommend walking
around the wall, using a map obtained from the city tourist office.
city wall surrounding Diyarbakir, Turkey, was constructed by the Romans
in the late third century, though the present wall dates back to the
Byzantines. The black basalt walls are second only to the Great Wall of
China in length and how well it’s been preserved. The four-mile-long
wall has five gates, 16 keeps and 82 watchtowers. The fortifications,
which are up to 11 meters (36 feet) high and 3 to 5 meters (9 to 15 feet)
wide, are considered a good example of Middle Ages military architecture.
is a small town in the Hautes-Alpes that is the highest altitude city in
France. The old town is heavily fortified with a wall built in the 17th
century to protect the region from Austrian invaders and to guard the
road to Italy, less than 16 km (10 miles) away. Located on the Durance
River, Briançon is built on a peak, with the wall surrounding it. The
Fort des Tetes is the most important part of the wall.
the Adriatic coast in Montenegro, dates back to 500BC. Its city wall,
however, is only a few hundred years old, built by the Venetians in the
Middle Ages to protect the city from Ottoman invaders. Only one side of
the wall faces the sea today; the other sides have been incorporated
into the old and new towns. Within the walls, travelers can find narrow
cobblestone streets and stone buildings. Great sea and Old Town views
can be seen from atop the wall.
Cartagena Walled City
Spanish conquered parts of South America in the 16th century, they sent
the riches back to Spain from Cartagena. The Caribbean Sea port became a
favorite target for pirates, who attacked it one after another. The
Spanish fought back by erecting a sea wall that is up to 18 meters (60
feet) wide in some places. Fortifications began in the late 16th century,
with the initial walls enclosing what is now San Diego and El Centro.
at Lugo, Spain, stands out from other walls, which are rectangular;
Lugo’s wall is shaped like a quadrangle. Much of the original wall,
built in the late 3rd century by the Romans, is still intact, though the
moat is missing. The 2.5-km (1.5-mile) long wall still has two towers
and 82 of its original 85 turrets. The wall originally had five gates;
today it has 10 to accommodate the increased need to get from the old
town to the new.
Malta, stands out among ancient walled cities because, just like when it
was built, the entire city remains inside the walls. In Mdina’s case,
this is easy since it has only about 250 residents left. Sitting in the
center of the island, Mdina’s thick, stone fortifications were first
built by the Phoenicians, with the Normans adding the bulk of the wall
and a moat. After the Knights Hospitaller arrived in the mid 1500’s the
importance of Mdina as the seat of power faded steadily. Today Mdina is
known as the “silent city” since few motor vehicles are allowed inside
of the Baltic coast town of Visby, Sweden, began building their city
wall in the 12th century, a time when walled cities were being built
throughout Europe. The original city wall was about 6 meters (18 feet)
high and did not have towers. The oldest part is a citadel where gun
powder was kept. A 13th century war provided the impetus for Visby
citizens to continue working on the wall, when extra height and towers
were added; 27 of the 29 towers remain today.
original wall surrounding Tallinn in Estonia was called Margaret Wall
because Margaret Sambiria ordered it built in 1265. Only 5 feet wide
then, the wall was widened and enlarged over the years. In the 14th
century, Tallinn residents were required to do guard duty on the wall,
most of which, along with its gates, is still intact today. Key parts of
the wall to visit include the Long Leg Gate Tower, and the Nun’s Gate
and Tower, and Fat Margaret Tower.
York is an
ancient city in the north of England. The city was founded by the Romans,
taken over by the Angles, captured by the Vikings and finally
incorporated in the Kingdom of England in 954. It boasts the largest
Gothic cathedral in northern Europe. Since Roman times, the city has
been defended by walls of one form or another. The majority of the
remaining walls, which encircle the whole of the medieval city, date
from the 12th – 14th century.
an ancient walled city in eastern Ethiopia. For centuries, Harar has
been a major commercial center, linked by the trade routes with Africa
and Arabia. With 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century,
and 102 shrines it is one of the most important cities of Islam. Harar
was part of the Adal Sultanate, a medieval muslim state located in the
Horn of Africa. In the 16th century the city was encircled with a wall
including five gates. This wall, called Jugol, is still intact, and has
become the symbol of the city.
is a fascinating and authentic Berber town in the heart of the Souss
Valley, with the best preserved city walls in Morocco. It is often
called the “Grandmother of Marrakech” because it is a scaled down,
slowed down town that resembles Marrakech with its surrounding city
walls. The walls were constructed in the 16th century under the Saadi
Dynasty. Today the town is a market town andhas a souk near each of its
two main squares.
overlooked gem, Toledo is one of the former capitals of the Spanish
Empire. The history of Toledo dates back to Roman times. Roman
occupation was followed by Visigothic rule, Muslim rule and finally the
Reconquista of Toledo in 1085 AD. It was the capital of the Spanish
empire until the mid 1500’s when the royal court moved to Madrid. The
city is surrounded by the River Tajo on three sides and two medieval
walls on the fourth side.
a small Chinese city renowned for its well-preserved ancient city wall.
The majestic wall, which includes six major gates and 72 watchtowers,
encircles an old city which has little changed architecturally over the
past 300 years. In 2004, part of the southern walls collapsed but were
reconstructed. However, the rest of the city walls are still largely
intact and Pingyao is considered to be one of best-preserved walled
cities in the world.
of Óbidos is located on a hill and is encircled by a fortified wall. In
the 8th century the Moors established a fortification on top of the hill.
It was taken from the Moors by the first King of Portugal, Afonso
Henriques, in 1148. The castle of Óbidos and the walls of the village
were remodeled in the 14th century. The walls are made out of local
limestone and marble. The village was also enlarged around this time,
with settlements created outside the city walls. The well-preserved
mediaeval look of its streets, squares, walls and its massive castle
have turned the picturesque village into a popular tourist attraction in
of the oldest cities in China, with a history of more than 3,100 years.
For 1,000 years, the city was the capital for 13 dynasties, and a total
of 73 emperors ruled here. Xi’an is the eastern terminus of the Silk
Road and home to the Terracotta Army. A well-preserved city wall, which
was reconstructed in the 14th century during the early Ming Dynasty,
surrounds the city. One of the world’s largest city walls, it is wide
enough to easily ride 5 bikes across.
Kala is the walled inner town of the city of Khiva in Uzbekistan. The
old town retains many historic monuments and old houses, dating
primarily from the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The most
spectacular features of Itchan Kala are its sun-dried brick walls and
four gates at each side of the rectangular fortress. The city walls were
destroyed several times, but they were always rebuilt.
western Spain, the medieval city of Ávila is built on the flat summit of
a rocky hill, which rises abruptly in the midst of a veritable
wilderness. Ávila has a magnificently well-preserved city wall which
encircles the entire old town. The ramparts have nine gates and 88
towers many topped with stork nests. The city walls were primarily
constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries.
city of Carcassonne is one of the most perfectly preserved walled cities
of the world and the largest walled city in Europe. The fortification
consists of two outer walls, towers and barbicans built over a long
period of time. One section is Roman and is notably different from the
medieval walls with the red brick layers and the terracotta tile roofs.
One of these towers housed the Catholic Inquisition in the 13th Century
and is still known as ‘The Inquisition Tower’. Portions of the 1991 film
‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ were shot in and around Carcassonne.
is a holy city to three religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,
whilst being the modern capital of the State of Israel and the country’s
largest city. It is a fascinatingly unique place where the first century
rubs shoulders with the twenty-first century, and where picturesque old
neighborhoods nestle against glistening office towers and high-rise
apartments. The walled city of Jerusalem, which until the late
nineteenth century formed the entire city, is now called the Old City.
It is divided into four quarters: The Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and
Muslim Quarters. Jerusalem has been surrounded by walls for its defense
since ancient times. In the 16th century, during the reign of the
Ottoman empire in the region, it was decided to fully rebuild the city
walls on the remains of the ancient walls. The construction lasted from
1535-1538 and these walls are the walls that exist today.
is a walled city on the Adriatic Sea coast in the extreme south of
Croatia. Nicknamed “Pearl of the Adriatic”, it is one of the most
prominent tourist destinations of the Mediterranean. The walled city was
built on maritime trade. In the Middle Ages it became the only
city-state in the Adriatic to rival Venice and achieved a remarkable
level of development during the 15th and 16th centuries. The world
famous walls surround the old city. Constructed mainly during the
12th–17th centuries, they have been well preserved to the present day.