The finest walled cities in Spain 


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The finest walled towns and cities in Spain

Spain's remarkable fortified towns and cities

Roman walls of Lugo
The roman walls of Lugo, Galicia  -  Photo J.M.Lage
    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.
     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 - torn down.
    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..   
The best preserved and most impressive walled cities and towns in Spain.
Fully walled and almost fully walled cities
  • The ramparts of Avila
    The southern ramparts of Avila
    Avila (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.
  • Ciudad 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
  • Segovia (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 castle.
  • Lugo (Galicia) . 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.
  • Plasencia (Extremadura). The 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).
Fully walled  and largely walled small towns - mostly off the tourist trail
  • Niebla (Huelva, Andalucia) . *** With over 2 km of walls, 50 towers and five gateways, Niebla is one of 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
  • Morella (Valencian Community) . ***  Almost complete 14th century 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
  • Galisteo (Extremadura) *** 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.
  • Albarracín, (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
  • Palazuelos (Guadalajara, Castile la Mancha). **  Not much more than a fortified village, and well off the normal tourist trail; but Palazuelos, near Siguenza, 120 km northeast of Madrid, is a gem
  • Peniscola (Valencian community) : the old town stands on a rocky outcrop jutting into the Mediterranean sea, but the landward side of its isthmus is protected by defensive walls.
  • Buitrago 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.
Some other Spanish towns and cities with interesting walls or city gates
  • Caceres (Extremadura) - The old city - a UNESCO world heritage site - is largely encircled by substantial walls dating in part from the Moorish period.
  • Carmona (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.
  • Cuenca (Castile - la Mancha) -  Largely protected by the cliffs on which it stands, and famous for the houses that hang over them, Cuenca also has sections of town wall and gates.

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The ramparts of Caceres
View out from the ramparts of old Caceres

Photo: The small city of Morella
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Ramparts of Galisteo
The small town of Galisteo, Extremadura, completely enclosed by its ramparts

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