The 12 Most Beautiful Medieval Cities to Visit in the World

 The ramparts of medieval cities were once used to protect themselves from the enemy. From the distant past to the present day, fortified walls have been of great necessity to the cities that held them. The compound could only be entered through the gates, and these closed after a curfew each night. Today the best preserved cities attract tourists from all over the world! Here are 12 that are worth discovering…


York is an ancient city in the north of England . The city was founded by the Romans, taken by the Angles (people), captured by the Vikings and finally incorporated into the Kingdom of England in 954. It features the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. Since Roman times, the city has been defended by its walls on numerous occasions. The majority of the remaining walls, which surround the entire medieval town, date from the 12-14th century.


Harar is an ancient fortified city in eastern Ethiopia. For centuries, Harar was an important trading center, connected by 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 in 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 surrounded by a wall comprising five gates. This wall, called Jugol, is still intact, and has become the symbol of the city.


Taroudant is a fascinating and authentic Berber town in the heart of the Souss Valley, boasting the best preserved ramparts in Morocco . It is often called the "Grandmother of Marrakech" because it resembles Marrakech (on a small scale) with its walls encircling the city. The walls were built in the 16th century under the Saadians. Today, the city is a trading town and has a souk not far from its two main squares.


An often overlooked gem, Toledo is one of the ancient capitals of the Spanish Empire. The history of Toledo dates back to Roman times. Roman occupation was followed by that of the Visigoths, then Muslim domination and finally the Reconquista of Toledo in 1085. It was the capital of the Spanish Empire until the mid-1500s when the royal court moved to Madrid . The city is surrounded by the Tagus River on three sides and by two medieval walls on the fourth side.


Pingyao is a small Chinese town famous for its well-preserved fortified wall. This comprises six large gates and 72 watchtowers, and encircles this ancient city which has changed little over the past 300 years. In 2004, part of the southern rampart collapsed, but was rebuilt. However, the rest of the city walls are still largely intact and Pingyao is considered one of the best preserved walled cities in the world.


The medieval city of Óbidos is truly magnificent and I invite you to read our article on this subject to discover its history and photos.


Xi'an one of the oldest cities in China, with a history dating back over 3100 years. For 1000 years, the city was the capital of 13 dynasties, and a total of 73 emperors ruled here. Xi'an at the end of the Silk Road (east side) and is notably home to the Mausoleum of Emperor Qin. The well-preserved fortified wall surrounds the city, and was re-built in the 14th century at the start of the Ming dynasty. It is one of the widest ramparts in the world, wide enough for 5 people to cycle side by side.

Itchan Kala

Itchan Kala is the medieval inner city of the city of Khiva in Uzbekistan. The old town has preserved many historical monuments and old houses, mainly dating from the 17th to 19th centuries. The most spectacular features of Itchan Kala are its sun-dried brick walls and four gates on each side of the rectangular fortress. The city walls have been destroyed several times, but they have always been rebuilt.


Located in western Spain, the medieval city of Ávila is built on the flat top of a rocky hill, which rises in the middle of a true natural region. Ávila has beautifully preserved city walls that surround the entire old town. They include nine gates and 88 towers, many of which are home to stork nests. The city walls were mainly built in the 11th and 12th centuries.


Carcassonne is one of the most perfectly preserved fortified cities in the world and is the largest medieval city in Europe . The fortification consists of two outer walls, towers and barbicans built over a long period of time. Part of it is Roman and is significantly different from the medieval enclosure with layers of red bricks and terracotta tile roofs. One of these towers housed the Catholic Inquisition in the 13th century and is still known as the “Tower of the Inquisition”. Scenes from the film “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” (1991) were filmed in and around Carcassonne.


Jerusalem is a holy city for all three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as being the modern capital of the State of Israel and the largest city in the country. It's a fascinating place where the first century meets the 21st century, and quaint old neighborhoods nestle against gleaming tall office and apartment towers.

The walled city of Jerusalem, which until the end of the 19th century made up the entire city, is now called the Old City. It is divided into four districts: Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Jerusalem has been surrounded by walls for its defense since ancient times. In the 16th century, during the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the region, it was decided to completely rebuild the city walls on the remains of the old ramparts. Construction lasted from 1535 to 1538 and these walls are the walls that can still be seen today.


Dubrovnik is a fortified city found on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in the far south of Croatia . Nicknamed "the pearl of the Adriatic", it is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. The city was founded thanks to maritime trade. During the Middle Ages, it became the only city-state in the Adriatic to rival Venice and reached a remarkable level of development during the 15th and 16th centuries. The world famous ramparts surround the Old Town. Built mainly between the 12-17th centuries, they have been well preserved until now.

Cleph Gist

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