February 23, 2018

6 Walled Cities of Europe

Walled European cities have a romantic allure to them but if you think about it, there is nothing romantic about the reason the walls were needed in the first place.

These beautiful walls were erected as a defense from invaders.  They were used to squash and kill anyone trying to take over the town.  Literally, thousands have been killed at the base of the fortified walls, which were also used to regulate people and goods going in and out of the city.

Despite all of this, I am drawn to medieval walled cities.  Below are 6 walled cities in Europe that I would love spending time in wandering through their streets listening as the wind tells their story.

Medieval Carcassone France

Fortified cité of Carcassonne by thierry, on Flickr

Carcassonne France

Europe’s largest medieval fortress is Carcassonne.  Located in southwestern France, near the foot of the Pyrenees, Carcassonne rises above the lovely vineyards in the valley below.  The mighty walls were first erected by the Romans during the 1st century but the elements have taken their toll making it necessary to restore these walls to their magnificent beginnings.  Make sure you spend some time strolling through the impressive gates and cobblestoned streets stopping by the pleasing shops and restaurants.

Dubrovnik Croatia a medieval village

Dubrovnik Croatia by Rambling Traveler, on Flickr

Dubrovnik Croatia

To say that Dubrovnik is a beautiful city is truly an understatement.  This walled city at the southern end of Croatia sits like the beautiful star it is overlooking the Adriatic.  Heralded as the most beautiful spot in the Mediterranean, Croatia is filled with streets that are lined with Baroque buildings and is steeped in architectural wonders.  The Old Town of this stunning city is home to many churches, monasteries and fountains.  Make sure to leave time to enjoy views of the Adriatic by walking along the city’s intact walls.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Bavaria Germany

Rothenburg Panorama courtesy of Bayern Tourismus

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany

Rothenburg holds a very special place in my heart.  During my first ever trip to Germany I visited Rothenburg and fell in love with this amazingly quaint village.  Yes it is touristy but it is worth every minute you will spend here.  Walking down cobblestoned streets you will be greeted by old houses, towers and gateways that have all withstood the test of time. At every corner you come face to face with the history this town has seen.  Be sure to enjoy walking the city walls, which almost circle the town, and from which you can get amazing views of the Tauber valley below.

Medieval York England

York Minster from the Roman walls by James Preston, on Flickr

York England

York welcomes those that love history.  This magical city hold much English history as it was the 2nd most important city in all of England at one point in history.  This historic town is surrounded by a 700 year old wall.  The grand cathedral of York, The Minster, looms above the city.    This gothic structure took over 250 years to complete and contains many stained glass windows along with the flying buttresses.  There is much to do in York but don’t forget to spend time wandering her narrow cobblestoned streets gazing at the timbered buildings.

Medieval Bruges Belgium

Bridge over Bruges Canal, Belguim by kevgibbo, on Flickr

Bruges Belgium

Two thousand year old Bruges is known as the Venice of the north due to the many canals gracing the city.  At one point in history, Bruges was the most important commercial city in Europe.  Walking the streets of Bruges is a great way to soak up the history that greets you at every turn.  Explore inside the city walls to see the churches, castle, romantic canals, chocolate shops, colorful homes and museums.  You can even visit the Diamond museum or the French fry museum!

Medieval Avila Spain

Ávila by valakirka, on Flickr

Avila Spain

As you approach Avila you will be treated to a very stimulating sight.  From a distance, you can see the 11th century fortress standing as it must have yesterday.  This is the oldest fortification in all of Spain and home to a gothic cathedral and striking 15th century houses.  The most fun is spending time strolling the old town with its cobblestone streets and abundance of plazas.  Don’t forget to look for the storks that make their home under the rooftops of the city.


Have you been to any of these medieval cities?

What other walled cities would you add to the list and why?

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    where’s londonderry? A complete walled city with five gate entrances to allow traffic. Built in 1625, and used against an invasion force of King James 2 in 1688. It holds the record as the longest siege in Irish or British history. So, why not include it?

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  9. Sabine Spiteri says:

    Mdina in Malta should definitely be added. Its a walled city and goes back up to the neolithic times. The punic name was malet and in roman times it was called malita or melita.

  10. Mardenom says:

    Croatia is near where I live but never been there. Which is a shame after watching so many nice reviews of the country.
    Mardenom recently posted..What to do in Tianjin

  11. Escapist says:

    I would go for Avila and Dubrovnik! 🙂
    It’s easy to reach Avila from Madrid, but getting in to Dubrovnik is a heck-of-a lot more complicated!

  12. Sailor says:

    I was just walking through your blog and you have some beautiful pictures of Europe and cool information.
    Sailor recently posted..Communication Choices on a Cruise Ship

  13. Laurel says:

    I finally made it to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and loved it too. Agree that walking along the city walls is a highlight of this spectacular medieval town.
    Laurel recently posted..Rothenburg ob der Tauber- Germany’s Best Preserved Medieval Town

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Rothenburg is one of my favorites even though it can be very touristy! Glad to hear you enjoyed yourself and will read about your trip.

  14. I’m with everyone else, walled cities are awesome. Dubrovnik looks particularly enticing.
    Rob Bloggeries recently posted..The Walking Bangkok Food Tour

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I can’t disagree with anyone here – walled cities are awesome! There is such a large selection of them, it is hard to choose which to visit first.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  15. I have been to Avila – and am headed to Bruges next week. I had no idea it was walled! Great post 🙂

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Bruges is very interesting to me. It has such a history and then add in the canals. Sounds magical! Enjoy your trip.

  16. Jeremy B says:

    I like Rothenburg and would love to visit Brugges. I know Dubrovnik is extremely popular but I didn’t realize the rest were considered walled cities.
    Jeremy B recently posted..Lake Bled- Slovenia – a photo essay

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Rothenburg is one of my favorites and the canals of Bruges have intrigued me for years. I think I would go to Carcassonne first although Dubrovnik is dramatically beautiful nestled up against the Adriatic.

  17. Lisa says:

    Debbie, I love this one! So far of those on your list I’ve only been to Rothenburg. I loved it, though as you mentioned it’s touristy. I hope to experience Bruges one day soon! I love the photos.

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Thanks, Lisa. I really do like Rothenburg. Bruges is very enticing as are all of the cities on the list.

  18. Lauren says:

    I love walled cities too. Of the list I’ve only been to Bruges which I found to be beautiful! I am however beginning my RTW trip in Dubrovnik so I’m really looking forward to that! 🙂
    Lauren recently posted..Photo Essay- Embracing the Aloha Spirit at a Luau in Hawaii

  19. I visited Dubrovnik for a day, and it is nice I have to say!

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      You are lucky to have visited Dubrovnik. It looks like such a beautiful city!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  20. I’ve only been to one – Carcassonne! But I hope to visit many more.

    Especially Bruges, but that is solely thanks to the Colin Farrell comedy – have you seen that? Pure genius! (And I don’t like Colin particularly)…
    Dalene – Hecktic Travels recently posted..Here We Go Again…

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      HA HA, yes I did see that movie. By that time, Bruges was already on my list but was a big draw for me to see the movie. I haven’t been to Carcassonne but I really want to visit soon.

  21. Andrew says:

    3 of the 6 for me. York, Dubrovnik and Rothenburg. Carcassonne is totally at the top of my list for the rest.

    I’m a little surprised not to see Italy with a city. I haven’t been there, but Lucca is supposed to be walled an very cool.
    Andrew recently posted..Happy To Leave

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Hi Andrew, Yes it was very difficult to pick which locations to discuss. I had just read a post or 2 on Lucca and so decided to spread the wealth so to speak! LOL Hopefully you will get to Carcassonne soon and then tell us all about it. Thanks for stopping by.

  22. Laurel says:

    Wonderful list. Sadly I haven’t visited any of them, but Rothenburg is very high on my list. Interesting observation at how they’re considered “romantic” cities now, but you’re right, I ‘m sure life was not so easy for the people living in them in medieval times.
    Laurel recently posted..Wild Pacific Trail Photo

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Thanks, Laurel. I think you will enjoy Rothenburg. It is a very magical and beautiful place. In fact, I would like to spend some time exploring that area on the Romantic Road! Let me know what you think of Rothenburg after your visit.

  23. Scott says:

    I have only been to Bruges, but look forward to visiting them all. Somehow I have managed to visit Croatia twice and never make it to Dubrovnik … what the heck, right? Well, there is truly something romantic and inviting about a walled city.
    Scott recently posted..Doner Kebab Carver Hall of Fame Opens in Istanbul

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Hi Scott, Yes I have to agree it is pretty crazy that you have not made it to Dubrovnik 🙂 Oh well, I guess that means you definitely need to go back. I have only been to Rothenburg but Bruges and Carcassonne have been on my list for years!

  24. sheril says:

    Ah looks great !! I love your website !!
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    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Aw thank you! It is nice to get positive feedback after working so hard. What is your favorite walled city?

  25. I love walled cities too! This is a great list–I’ve been to all of them except for Carcassonne and York. 🙂
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Photo Essay- Windows of the World


  1. […] of Italy right up against Austria and Switzerland.  This area is known for its dramatic scenery, medieval cities, apples, wines, olive orchards, castles, the Dolomites, extreme sports and many winter activities […]

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