If there’s one thing Europe in general is world-famous for, it’s its ancient cities and well-filled history. A huge number of gorgeous old cities dot the continent, from Scandinavia to the Balkans, from the United Kingdom to the Alps. In this post, we’ll explore five of the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe.
5 Most Beautiful Medieval Towns in Europe
We won’t focus on famous old cities such as Venice or Paris here, but instead highlight some smaller yet equally beautiful towns.
5. Rothenburg, Germany
More a large village than a town, Rothenburg lies in the southern German region of Bavaria and is one of the absolute most beautiful medieval towns anywhere in Europe. It’s so well-preserved that simply walking around can make you feel as if you were transported centuries back in time. The old city walls still encircle the town, while its core consists of cobbled streets, narrow alleys and wood-beamed houses.
4. Carcassonne, France
One of France’s greatest old cities, Carcassonne is also easily among the most beautiful medieval towns in Europe. Exceptionally well-preserved, this fortified town still has both of its city walls. It looks a bit like a huge fairy-tale castle, boasting turrets and towers—more than 50 of them! You can walk those massive walls for awesome views of the surrounding countryside and the old town itself. Set in the heart of Provence, this UNESCO-listed historic town is one of the greatest medieval attractions in all of France.
3. San Gimignano, Italy
Sometimes overshadowed by the many other iconic cities in Tuscany—Florence, Siena, Pisa,…—San Gimignano is a wonderful, charming and romantic town. Perched atop a hill in the gloriously rolling Tuscan countryside, the medieval center features more than a dozen towers, an always busy town square and a wealth of gorgeous architecture.
2. Toledo, Spain
Once the capital of Spain, Toledo lies a quick train ride outside of the modern-day capital of Madrid. This ancient city’s roots go back almost 2,000 years to Roman times. Nicknamed “the Imperial City”, it has been the capital of the Visigoth Kingdom and the court of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Toledo is also known as “the City of Three Cultures” because of its long history of coexistence between Christians, Jews and Muslims. The entire historic town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with religious monuments and buildings and numerous hidden plazas.
1. Bruges, Belgium
In terms of sheer picturesqueness, very few medieval towns in Europe can beat Bruges. With its amazingly well-preserved town center filled with scenic canals, cobbled streets, step-gabled merchant houses, swan-filled ponds and imposing towers, this is truly one of Western Europe’s hidden gems. “Hidden” should be taken with a grain of salt, though. For thousands of tourists wander the UNESCO-protected old town each year.