While today's modern cities certainly are graced by large

fortifications, since the first days of civilization walls have been built

around cities to protect citizens from outside invaders and attacks. In fact,

as early as the 8th century BCE, the city of Jericho

in what is now the West Bank was protected by

a wall. For thousands of years following this time, when cities were often

ruled as city states and needed protection from their neighbors, walls and

fortifications were built to defend from potential aggressors.

In the Caribbean, walls

were built to fend off pirates. In Medieval Europe, they were used to protect

the city from Visigoths, Gauls, Franks or Huns. In China, walls were built to protect settlements

from Mongols and other warring factions.

While these walled cities served to protect the communities

they guarded from various threats, beyond their defensive utility, many walls

also had important symbolic functions - representing the status and

independence of the communities they embraced.

According to UNESCO, today there are more than 50 cities

around the world that have city walls which are still or almost complete. While

many city walls that once stood around cities have long been demolished in the

name of modernization, changing defense strategies and city growth, the walls

still stand in many old cities around the world.



Fairy tale-esque Carcassonne

Perched up on a hill, the walled old portion of this French medieval

walled city looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. You half expect

a giant, fire breathing dragon to appear from behind the ramparts that separate

the walled portion of the city from rest of modern day Carcassonne. Perched atop a hill and located

at a strategic location in southwestern France

on trade and migratory routes, Carcassonne

was fortified over centuries by Gauls, Romans, Visigoths Moors and Franks, who continued to build up

the walls of this city and which earned it a reputation of being an

impenetrable fortress.

One of the most popular attractions in France, this

unique walled city, which was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in

1997, draws more than 3 million visitors annually. Carcassonne is encircled by a huge double row

of fortified walls that run almost 2 miles long and which are punctuated by 56

imposing towers.


Xi'an, China

Xi'an, China


A country known for a famous wall spanning a great length of

the country, the Chinese did not only build walls to keep out their Mongol

neighbors to the North. While Xi'an is probably

best known for the famous terra cotta army that can be found just outside of

the city, Xi'an

is also surrounded by a large and impressive wall.

One of the oldest cities in China

and an important cultural and sometimes political capital, Xi'an

(which was historically known as Chang'an) is considered one of the four great

ancient capitals of China

and has served as the capital city for some of the most important Chinese


Located at the terminus of the Silk Road, Xi'an has long been situated in an important

strategic location over the course of its more than 3,000 years of history as a

city. While the traditional name of this city meant perpetual peace in

Chinese, the city was fortified and protected from outside attacks during the

Han dynasty when the original wall (measuring 25 km in length and is 12-16

meters thick) was built, enclosing a large part of the city. Following several

years of unrest across China,

the Sui Dynasty took control, placing their capital at Xi'an-building the palace, imperial city and

civilian area all within the 84 square kilometers inside the walls-making it

the largest city in the world at the time.

Campeche, Mexico

Walls to keep out pirates in Campeche, Mexico
Located on the Yucatan

peninsula, Campeche was the first natural port

discovered by the Spaniards in Mexico.

The colonial settlement establish in the mid 16th century was built

atop old Mayan ruins. One of the richest port cities in the America during the 16th and 17th

centuries, Campeche was a main target for

pirates that once trolled the Caribbean waters

in large numbers.

Because of frequent raids by pirates like the famous Francis

Drake and Henry Morgan, the walls surrounding Campeche were built the late 17th

century in an effort to protect the city from pirates and buccaneers (though

not always successfully). A wall surrounding the city was built that measured

2,560 meters in length and formed an irregular hexagon with 8 defensive

bastions around the main parts of the city.

Today the city retains many of the old colonial Spanish city

walls and fortifications and the city was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage

site in 1999 for the preservation and quality of the architecture.

San Gimignano, Italy

'San Gimignano dalle belle torri' (San Gimignano with the beautiful towers)

Historically a stopping point for pilgrims on their way to

Rome and the Vatican, San Gimignano sits on the Road Francigena-the ancient road between Rome and Canterbury that

was an important Medieval Road and pilgrimage route. Because of its important

and strategic location along this route, the residents of San Gimignano enjoyed

great wealth and power and in 998 the suburbs were encircled with the first walled enclosure.

In a time when the cities and states of Italy

fought against one another, San Gimignano allied with nearby Florence and in 1207, the new town-walls (which today are

recognizable in the city center) were built incorporating the villages of S.Matteo and San Giovanni.

Three gates of these town-walls

still remain: the Arco Di Goro, Arco de Becci and of San Matteo.

Over the next few decades, the alliance

of San Gimignano with Florence

became stronger and during these years the city skyline of Saint

Gimignano was studded with numerous

towers-symbols and testimonies to the fortune of the families that

possessed them. Today the city is known throughout the world as. In the 13th century there 72 towers, but today only have 14 survived.

Today San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a

major tourist destination in Tuscany.



Walled oasis in the Moroccan desert

Nicknamed the Grandmother of Marrakech, and surrounded by

high, red, earthy walls, Taroudant is a walled city located in the Sous Valley

in southern Morocco.

Situated on the road leading from Ouarzazte and Marrakech, Taroudant has long

been located at a strategic point along the Caravan route leading to and from

the Sahara desert to the Mediterranean coast

and capital city.

Unlike Marrakech, which also has walls enclosing parts of

the old city, almost all of Taroudant is located within the large, fortified

walls that surround the city. While the walls and famous mosque in Taroudant

were built during the city's golden age during the Saadi Dynasty in the 16th

century, Taroudant had flourished since the 11th century thanks to

its producing gold and silver mines and was a major trading post in Africa.

Bruges, Belgium

Walls and canals in Bruges

Long situated at an important strategic location near on the

coastal region of Belgium,

fortifications around Bruges

were first built after Julius Cesar's conquest of nearby Menapii during the

first century BCE . While the city changed hands of power several times

throughout the next centuries (from the Romans to the Franks to the Vikings),

the latest Viking invasions during the 9th century prompted the

Count of Flanders to reinforce the first Roman fortifications protecting the


After Bruges

received its city charter in the 12th century, the city erected new

walls and canals around the city. After merchant fleets from Genoa

arrived in Bruges in 1277, Bruges

became the main link between northern European Flemish countries and the

Mediterranean, which flooded a huge amount of capital into the city-making Bruges an important

center of both trade and banking.

Over the following centuries, Bruges

became a key trading centre in north-west Europe,

exporting Flemish cloth all over the continent. The city expanded rapidly,

which necessitated the construction of a new circuit of walls in the early 14th

century. However, the first artillery defenses in Bruges were not built until the 16th

century when a double line of earthwork bastions were built in place of the old

medieval walls.

While these walls successfully prevented William of Orange

from reclaiming Bruges from the Spanish in the 17th century, Bruges'

walls were penetrated by the French during the War of Spanish Succession in a

surprise attack (French troops pretending to be deserters succeeded in

capturing one of the gates and they let in the rest of the French forces).

Avila, Spain


The impregnable walls at Avila, Spain

The highest provincial capital in Spain

at 3665 feet above sea level, Avila

is built on the flat summit of a rocky hill, which rises abruptly in the midst

of a brown, arid, treeless table-land, which gave the city an important strategic

location with long range vantage points from the top of the hill. Avila sits high on the hill, with mountains creating the

dramatic backdrop for the impregnable stone walls that surround and mark the

city of Avila.


is best known for its medieval city walls, which were first constructed in the

late 11th century over previous Roman and Muslim efforts. The walls

are punctuated with 88 towers and nine gateways, which are still in excellent

repair. In fact, the wall stretching 2.5 km in length is one of the world's

best preserved medieval defense parameters. Between the 12th and 14th

centuries, the Gothic cathedral at Avila

was built into and integrated into the city's defenses and has the appearance

of a fortress.

Lahore, Pakistan


The gates into the old city of Lahore

Located near the Indian border and the Ravi

River, Lahore

is often called the cultural heart of Pakistan and is well known as


at the center of Pakistani arts, film and academia. However, long

before Lahore became the cultural center of Pakistan, it was important


longstanding trade city.


has had many names over its long history-including kacha kot, which means mud

fort and implies that the city was almost always surrounded by a wall of some

sort. Because of the often changing name, it is unsure when the fortifications

around the old city were first built, but it Lahore did experience several period in which

the mud fortifications were greatly expanded over the past several thousand


Although many of the walls were destroyed and replaced by

gardens shortly after the British annexed the Punjab region in 1849, access to

the old walled city of Lahore is still gained by way of the 13 ancient gates (7

of which are still standing today).

While ancient walled cities like Avila

and Carcassonne have been restored and protected

over the years, the Punjab government is just

now trying to restore the Royal Trail, which stretches from the Akbari gate to

the Lahore Fort in an effort to gain status as a world heritage site.

York, England


Roman walls in York, England

Situated at the confluence of two major rivers in northern England

and historically known as England's second city and Capital of the

North, the city of York

has long been an important and strategic city since the Roman times. In


the entire Roman Empire was governed from York

for two years and influential historical leaders like Constantine the

Great and

others have been associated with the city over its long and tumultuous


The first stone fortifications at York were built under what is now the York

Minister and covered an area of 50 acres and housed more than 6,000 soldiers.

After the city was captured by the Vikings during the 9th century

and used as a major river port and trade capital in northern Europe, William

the Conqueror immediately set to work at re-fortifying and protecting the

strategically located trade city.

William the Conqueror built two fortresses on mottes in the

city on either side of the river, which are still visible today. These walls

played an important role during the civil war in England

in 1644, when Parliamentarians besieged York

and many of the homes outside of the city's protective walls were destroyed.

Baku, Azerbaijan


Cars now cross the gates into old walled Baku

The capital and largest city in Azerbaijan

on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, Baku

has a long history of conquests, take overs by outsiders and major destruction

caused by wars. Baku first became important

strategically in the 12th century when an earthquake destroyed the

former capital of Azerbaijan,

Shamakhy, and Baku

was named the new capital.

The historical core of Baku,

which is a fortress marked by the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Maiden Tower,

is thought to have been first constructed as early as the 7th

century. During the medieval ages in Baku,

the fortress walls and towers were built larger and stronger.

After 1806, when Baku

was conquered by the Russian Empire, the city wall were repaired and the

fortifications around the city were strengthened. Two gates gave access to the

city, whose walls had dozens of cannons protecting the citizens and the port

was reopened for trade with the reinforced fortifications in place.

While the inner city of Baku

was deemed the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Azerbaijan in 2000, three years

later, UNESCO placed the old city on its list of World Heritage in Danger

citing damage from a November 2000 earthquake, poor conservation as well as

dubious restoration efforts.

  Rhodes, Greece


Medeival Europe on a Greek isle

Although the colossus of Rhodes (a giant bronze statue that

graced the city and is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) is no

longer standing on this Greek island, the old medieval city in Rhodes is still classified as a UNESCO World Heritage and

remains a major draw fro millions of tourists every year. While Rhodes was important strategically as a trade port and

stop along Mediterranean sailing routes, it was not until later in the ancient

city's history that the walls protecting the city were built and fortified.

In 1309 at the end of the Byzantine era, Rhodes became

occupied by the Knights of Hospitalier (who promptly renamed themselves the

Knights of Rhodes) and the city was rebuilt into a model of a European medieval


The walls built during this era were successful in

protecting the city from attacks for hundreds of years, keeping the Egyptians

and others from taking over the city. However, despite the walls, Rhodes was

conquered by the growing Ottoman Empire in 1522 and the Knights of Rhodes and

their fellow Christians were forced to retreat to Sicily. For the next 4 centuries, the wall city

of Rhodes was

ruled by the Ottomans.