finest walled towns and cities in Spain
Spain's remarkable fortified
towns and cities
There is something special about a walled city; a
connection with the past, that remains only in a few of the towns and
cities of the modern-day world.
The roman walls
of Lugo, Galicia - Photo J.M.Lage
Yet there was a
time when all major towns and cities were surrounded by city walls or
ramparts. From pre-Roman times until the Renaissance, city walls were
often a vital barrier for townsfolk against attack from marauding
invaders. Urban historian Lewis Mumford saw walls as the vital
expression of urban unity and superiority; yet from the sixteenth
century onwards, with growing wealth and populations, most towns and
cities in Europe began to expand beyond their old walls, to the point
at which they became redundant and in most cases - sooner or later -
Yet in places off the beaten track, towns
and cities that grew little between the 16th and 20th centuries, or
places that continued to need fortifications, or that lost an
importance they once had, city walls remained in place. There are
walled cities all over Europe and the old world; there are even three
walled cities in north America; but of the walled cities that remain to
this day, some of the finest and most intact are to be found in Spain.
Some are well known; others are small, off the tourist track, and
pretty well unknown except to locals..
best preserved and most impressive walled cities and towns in Spain.
walled and almost fully walled cities
walled and largely walled small towns - mostly off the
(Castile & Leon) : Generally
regarded, along with Carcassonne
in France, as one of the finest walled cities in Europe - Avila
is the largest
city to have conserved its mediaeval town walls completely
intact. And unlike Carcassonne, at Avila the walls encircle the heart
of the modern city, not just the vestiges of a city of the past.
Visitors can walk along a good proportion of the sentry path on top of
the ramparts - a unique experience. The walls of Avila are 2500 metres
in length, and boast no less than 87 towers.
southern ramparts of Avila
Rodrigo (Castile & Leon) :
another city that has a full set of walls; though these are seventeenth
and century military fortifications. Visitors can walk round the walls
(Castile & Leon)
: the city of Segovia is surrounded by city walls - a fact that is
often overlooked since they are less impressive than some of the city's
other monuments, notably the Roman aqueduct, the churches and the
The only city in the world with an almost complete set of Roman city
walls. These massive military fortifications were broad enough to drive
a chariot along the top, Today the walls are popular walkways.
walls and city gates of Plasencia are still almost complete, and can be
admired in many parts; however in other parts they have been
incorporated at a later stage into buildings on either side, and are no
longer visible. Nearby are Galisteo and Caceres (see below).
other Spanish towns and cities with interesting walls or city
(Huelva, Andalucia) .
*** With over 2 km of walls, 50 towers and five gateways, Niebla is one
the most completely walled towns in Spain. Built in Moorish times, the
walls are made with reddish clay from the local valley, giving them a
particularly Moroccan look
(Valencian Community) . *** Almost complete 14th
fortifications - built on top of
earlier Arab ramparts, surround this small and attractive hilltop town,
some 50 km.
inland from Peñiscola. Fine walls and city gates. Castle.
Visits. It's a good climb to the top of the castle - but views from the
top and near the top are fantastic
Far off the tourist trail, and in sparsely-populated western Spain, few
visitors reach the little town of Galisteo, still fully enclosed within
its mediaeval ramparts, originally built by the Moors. Three narrow
gateways are the only ways into the town. Free access to the ramparts.
(Teruel, Aragon) *** A hill town, clinging onto steep
slopes, and almost fully surrounded
either by ancient ramparts or by the river below. A very attractive
small town, located 30 km west of Teruel
(Guadalajara, Castile la Mancha). **
Not much more than a fortified village, and well off the
tourist trail; but Palazuelos, near Siguenza, 120 km northeast of
Madrid, is a gem
: the old town stands on a rocky outcrop jutting into the Mediterranean
sea, but the landward side of its isthmus is protected by defensive
del Lozoya (Madrid community) *
Located 80 km north of Madrid, right beside the (free) A1 motorway from
Burgos, the old part of this small town, encircled by mediaeval walls,
is in a loop of the river Lozoya. There is a small Picasso museum here.
(Extremadura) - The old city - a UNESCO world heritage
site - is largely encircled by substantial walls dating in part from
the Moorish period.
(east of Seville, Andalucia) - Part of the old city is
still protected by the remains of impressive Moorish walls, and a fine
Moorish horseshoe arch city gate.
(Castile - la Mancha)
Largely protected by the cliffs on which it stands, and
for the houses that hang over them, Cuenca also has sections of town
wall and gates.
from the ramparts of old Caceres