Exploring a walled city

January 8, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Jan. 8, 2010/ Bon Voyage/ — City walls add an extra dimension to any city. You’ll find them in cities with history . . . usually lots of it.

There are many cities around the world where the old city inside the walls has been preserved. It’s fun to see what lurks inside those walls.

If you’re looking for a reason to travel, something like finding cities with walls is another lure to get you going.

There are many other great cities with walls, or at least parts of their walls.

We just got back from exploring Jerusalem. We were told before we left that we probably wouldn’t want to be inside the old city after dark, but those walls called to us. We just couldn’t stay away, so we dove right in and found a friendly, welcoming, little restaurant the very first night. The warning was unfounded. We loved walking the walls and exploring old Jerusalem in daylight and in the dark.

Dubrovnik, Croatia is a real jewel of a walled city. There was a lot of damage caused by hostilities a decade ago, but those famous red roofs were repaired and walking the city walls is a great introduction to that charming little city. We just couldn’t stay at a hotel on the outside: we had to find a B&B inside the walls.

Lucca, Italy has great walls too. We stopped there one time just because it was getting late, and we needed a place to stay. Little did we know the treat awaiting us. You can walk the walls, and inside the city you will find a ring of shops and restaurants around an oval plaza, the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, where the old Roman amphitheater was. It is a delightful place for an outdoor dinner.

Avila Spain is surrounded by tall, formidable walls, amazing for a city of its size. Things are pretty austere inside the walls, but there’s a lively area for tapas and dinner right outside the walls.

There are plenty of cities where you can walk sections of the walls. The city of York has had walls since Roman times. York has more miles of intact wall than any other city in England, though most of the walls have been rebuilt since the Romans started them.

The Romantic Road towns of Germany have well preserved city walls. You can walk the walls of Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Norlingen and Dinkelsbuhl.

Carcassonne in France is famous for its walls. They almost look like a double ring around the city. The fortifications have been completely restored. Aigues-Mortes, further south in France, also has well preserved walls.

You see bits and pieces of the old city wall in Krakow, Poland. Lots of cities have preserved parts of their old walls. More cities have bits and pieces of their walls preserved than have the whole wall.

You can visit ancient city sites, like Mycenae in Greece. The city is in ruins, but the Cyclopean Walls are still there to see. (The are called the Cyclopean Walls because of the size of the stones.)

Circling the globe, there are walls around the old city of Cartagena, Colombia and the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri in India. We had a great time bicycling the city walls in Xi’an China. It was fun to peer over the walls and watch groups of people exercising and playing music.

The list of cities with walls goes on and on. And of course, the ultimate wall, though it isn’t a wall around a city. is the Great Wall of China.

If city walls intrigue you, go and find a city that has them. It’s one more great reason to travel and explore.

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