Throughout history, it was almost a requirement that cities build large fortified walls to keep out enemy invaders. Today such fortresses are no longer needed, and while there may be a few countries wishing to build new walls, most defensive walls around the world have been demolished over the years as cities modernised. There are, however, many incredible historical cities whose walls remain intact to this day and are more than eager to open their gates to the many tourists that wish to visit.
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The oldest of China’s Four Great Ancient Capitals, Xi’an is home to one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. Here you will find a wall which measures 12 metres tall by 12-18 metres thick and extends nearly 14 kilometres. Surrounded by a moat, the wall contains beautifully decorated gates, drawbridges, parapet walls, and watch towers. Visitors can enter through the South Gate to rent a bike to ride along the wall or can opt for an electric vehicle sightseeing tour. There are several entrances for those wanting to simply walk the length of the wall as well. Be sure not to miss seeing the famous Terracotta Warriors and learn about the numerous dynasties that made up the 3,000+ years of the city’s history.
Israel’s most sacred city has always been heavily fortified since ancient times, with early constructed walls possibly dating back to the Bronze Age. The city walls were destroyed by acts of war and earthquakes over the centuries, but each time they would be rebuilt or refurbished. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire had the walls completely rebuilt during the 16th century and these are the walls we see today. The beautiful city has always seemed to be shrouded in controversy with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claiming Jerusalem as their capital. The 4km wall, with its 8 gates, surrounds the Old City which is considered holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Notable sites to see include the sacred site of Jewish prayer and pilgrimage known as the Western Wall as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Temple Mount.
One of Europe’s largest and most well-preserved wall cities, Carcassonne’s walls were once flagged for demolition by the French government when they fell into disrepair. Thankfully a campaign to preserve the fortress was led and the famous architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who restored many prominent medieval landmarks in France, would be assigned to restore the city walls. Today the Old City is home to numerous shops, restaurants, hotels, and even a handful of permanent residents. The city becomes a major tourist attraction during the summer months, but you can still enjoy the beautiful historic streets and alleyways without major crowds early in the morning. Be sure to take a boat trip down the Canal du Midi, check out the 12th century gate Porte d’Aude, and walk on the ramparts by entering through the Château Comtal.
Witness largely undisturbed Moroccan culture in this market town that is often referred to as Little Marrakech. The city’s stunning 6 kilometres of walls completely surround the city and do their best to block out the Atlas Mountains in the background. Within the walls you’ll find local crafts such as jewellery, carpets, and tanned goods. Outside the walls you’ll find beautiful palm groves as well as eucalyptus, olive, and pomegranate trees. The city also provides access to witnessing the comical tree climbing goats of Souss valley.