Not till very long ago, massive walls were constructed around towns not only as the line of defense from enemies but also to front oceans and seas. In some cases, the walls were built to keep pirates at bay. Whatever might be the reason, today these walls have become a part of history lending a distinct look to a city or town, in turn attracting millions of visitors to gape at the massive constructions with awe and marvel at the architectural brilliance of our predecessors. Here are top 10 most beautiful walled cities you must visit to witness the grandeur of a bygone era.
1. Toledo, Spain
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Toledo is also known as the Imperial City and as the “City of the Three Cultures” due to the historical co-existence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. However, this gorgeous and one of the most visited cities of Spain also owes its fame to the beautiful city wall with keyhole styled city gate. The Spanish city located 70 km south of Madrid is surrounded by the River Tajo on three sides and two magnificent medieval walls on the fourth side. Built in a classic Moorish style of architecture, the gate leads to a twisting pathways which were meant to make it easy for the defending soldiers to target invaders.
2. Jerusalem, Israel
Now known as the Old City, the walled town of Jerusalem is an ancient beauty which has been divided into four quarters: American, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. The famous defensive walls of the city and its gates were constructed by the Turkish Sultan-Suleiman the Magnificent between 1535-1542. There are a number of gates through the wall and each opened at different timings during different historical period. Most recently in the year 2010, Jerusalem’s oldest piece of inscription was discovered outside the Old City’s walls. Until 1887, each gate was opened at sunrise and closed before sunset. Today, the Old City of Jerusalem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most loved ancient walled cities in the world.
3. York, England
Located at the confluence of Ouse and Foss rivers, York is a beautiful walled city in North Yorkshire, England. The medieval defense walls from 12th and 13th century forming a circuit of approximately 2.5 miles enclosing an area of 263 acres have more miles of intact wall than any other city in England. With a compelling history and rich heritage, this lovely city is also a tourists’ favorite due to a number of museums, cheery cafes, vintage pubs and cozy restaurants.
4. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Remember the King’s Landing in “Game of Thrones”? Wondering where on the earth is this place? You don’t have to go far. It’s Dubrovnik in Croatia. Sitting pretty at the beautiful Dalmatian Coast, Dubrovnik is a Mediterranean walled city founded in the 7th century by refugees from an ancient Greek colony called Epidaurum. These historical walls are about 2km long and date back to the 16th Century. The beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site has survived two major earthquakes and heavy shelling during the Yugoslavia war in the early 1990s.
5. Carcassonne, France
A UNESCO World Heritage walled city, Carcassonne is perched beautifully on a rocky hilltop in South-west of France. With zigzag battlements, pointy turrets, and sturdy walls, Carcassonne like a place straight from a storybook. The city is now divided into two parts: The Cité de Carcassonne which is the older part of the town with about two and a half thousand years of history and the Ville Basse or the town center which is the commercial part with hotels and other attractions. The famous wall of the old town runs over 3 km with 52 towers. If you are a movie buff, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was partly shot here.
6. Xi’an, China
One of the oldest cities in China, Xi’an was once known as Chang’an. The famous terminus of Silk Route-Xian has a rich cultural heritage along with about 3000 years of compelling history. One of the most popular tourist destinations and walled cities in the world, Xi’an is most famous for its terracotta warriors. However, the eight and a half miles long city wall also attracts a huge number of tourists to this ancient city every year. The city wall which dates back to the 14th century is also the most complete city wall still surviving in China.
7. Quebec City, Canada
Picturesque and one of North America’s oldest, Quebec City was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain. Known for its tapered cobblestone alleys, medieval edifices, and beautiful churches, Quebec City has also been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Old Town is surrounded by the ramparts which are the only fortified city walls remaining in the Americas, particularly north of Mexico.
8. Brielle, Netherlands
Located in the west of Netherlands, Brielle is an old fortified town with an impressive history to look back at. The town played a significant role in the Eighty Years’ War, and even today is packed with the relics of the past, most of which is situated within its historical walls.
9. Taroudant, Morocco
Also known as ‘Little Marrakesh’, Taroudant is a market town located in the southern part of Morocco. A beautiful walled city with alluring bazaars and squares, Taroudant is a small laid-back destination with its own Maghrebi mystique. The famous fortified-walls of this lovely Moroccan city were built by the Saadi Dynasty in the 16th century and are about 3.7 miles long.
10. Binche, Belgium
A picturesque walled city in the Belgian province of Hainaut, Binche was once home to Queen Mary, the sister of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Today, it is more famous for the Carnival of Binche which has been declared by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The town still has some sections of historical city walls intact which is a major tourist attraction along with the main square, and a 17th-century church.
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