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Dubrovnik and other beautiful walled cities around the world

Photos logoPhotos 11/01/2019

From Malta to Italy and from China to Israel, these are some of the most beautiful walled cities in the world.

Dubrovnik, Croatia © senorcampesino/Getty Images Located in the southern part of the country and overlooking the Adriatic Sea, this walled city is a popular tourist destination. The wall, built between the 12th century and the 17th century, is still well-preserved; it underwent extensive repairs after being shelled in 1991-’92 during the Croatian War of Independence. Fans of the popular HBO TV series “Game of Thrones” (2011-) may recognize Dubrovnik as the location where scenes from the fantasy drama show – those featuring the fictional city of King’s Landing – are shot.

Toledo, Spain © Sergdid/Getty Images Originally constructed by the Romans, the walls around this Spanish city have served to protect many civilizations (and deter would-be conquerors). The city was once the imperial capital of the Spanish Empire of the early 16th century, before Charles I’s son, Philip II, moved it to Madrid. Toledo was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. 

Monteriggioni, Italy © Emmedici/Getty Images Built in the early 13th century by Sienese lords, this picturesque medieval town is located on a small hill and was an important outpost in their battles against rivals Florence. The walls, which form a rough circle, run for 1,870 feet (570 meters) and are distinguished by 14 watch towers. A popular tourist destination, the city also features in the "Assassin's Creed" series of video games.

Ávila, Spain © David Santiago Garcia/Getty Images This rustic walled city, built on the banks of the Adaja River, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. It has, at various points in its history, been controlled by the Romans, the Moors and the Christians. Its walls run in the shape of a polygon and are over 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) long. The city also claims to have the most numbers of Romanesque and Gothic churches in the country.

Óbidos, Portugal © Simon Dannhauer/Getty Images Originally a Roman settlement, this beautiful town grew from a later fortification – set up by the Moors – before it was seized in 1148 by Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese king. Ownership of the town (then a village) was transferred to Queen Urraca in 1210 and, over the years, has come to be called “Vila das Rainhas” (“town of the Queens).

Taroudant, Morocco © Walter Bibikow/Getty Images Also called “Grandmother of Marrakesh,” the imposing walls of this town were built in the 16th century, under orders from Mohammed ash-Sheikh of the Saadi dynasty. The town also has a few tragic tales to tell – such as a massacre of its population in 1675 when Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif, the Sultan of Morocco, attempted its capture.

Mdina, Malta © DEA / W. BUSS/De Agostini/Getty Images Described by Lonely Planet as a “mysterious golden-stone Arabic walled city,” Mdina does not allow motorized vehicles inside its walls; this has led to it being called “the silent city.” According to a 2014 census, fewer than 300 people call Mdina home.

Pingyao, China © Ryan Pyle/Corbis via Getty Images The ancient city of Ping Yao has been hailed by UNESCO as “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city.” Listed as a World Heritage Site in 1997, it was founded in the 14th century and, during the 19th century (and the early part of the 20th) was the center of banking for China.

Itchan Kala, Uzbekistan © ajlber/iStock/Getty Images An important way point for travelers crossing the desert on their way to Iran (ancient Persia), this historic city has a history that is spread across 2,000 years. There are at least 50 ancient monuments, like the Djuma and Oq mosques, several mausoleums, markets and madrasahs.

Tallinn, Estonia © Gunter Gollnick/Imagebroker/Shutterstock In 1265 Margaret Sambiria, the wife of Danish King Christopher I, ordered the building of protective walls around the city of Tallinn. Consequently, the imposing (but beautiful) structure became known as the Margaret Wall. Marked by conical red-roofed watchtowers, residents were required to serve guard duty on the wall in its early years.

Jerusalem, Israel © DEA/W. Buss/De Agostini/Getty Images The ancient walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt from 1537 to 1542, during the reign of Ottoman ruler Sultan Suleiman I, to protect the city against external threats. In 1981, the walls and the Old City surrounding it were marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Carcassonne, France © Gerard SIOEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images/Getty Images Located in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon, Carcassonne is the largest walled city in Europe. Built during the Gallo-Roman period, it was restored by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853.

York, UK © joe daniel price/Moment/Getty Images Situated in North Yorkshire, the city was founded by the Romans in 71 A.D. The York Minster and other cultural events make the city, the walls of which were built between the 12th-14th centuries, a popular destination.

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