Top 25 Medieval Cities in Europe:
The Middle Ages may have been a time of change and turmoil in Europe, but it is also where we got some our modern day folklore. Everything from knights in shinning armor, grand castles, royal courts, and even Braveheart have been used to create amazing fairy tales. Stories of Robin Hood, witches, wizards, dragon slayers and more spread like wild fire. These stories were fantasies to escape the troubles of the day, but their cultural influence were as significant as any Medieval event. Since this amazing era of history ended, countless cities in Europe have managed to retain their Medieval elements, architecture, charm, and flair. From walled cities, to small villages with castles, and Gothic meccas, there are tons of well preserved places to visit. It was with the spirit of the folklore combined with the preserved old world elements that helped us forge our list of the best Medieval cities in Europe. After long consideration, here are the top 25 Medieval Cities in Europe; plus a few extras.
About Prague: With a city center largely untouched by WW2 bombings that crushed other European capitals, Prague is the best preserved large Medieval city in the World. Some of the other best Medieval cities in Europe may be more compact or have intact city walls, but Prague just has so many other wonderful elements to offer. We love Prague as it is big enough to be impressive, yet cozy enough to feel warm and inviting. With rich architecture, thriving culture, top-notch drinking, and even a huge urban castle, Prague is our favorite Medieval city in Europe. If you travel to feel like you’ve gone to another World with an entirely different culture, then you’ll love this historic getaway.
As a tourist you’ll feel like you are stepping back in time from the architecture of Prague’s bridges, towers, castle, cathedrals, and town squares. Over the centuries, Prague’s ancient city wall was largely removed and facades on some of the buildings got Barqoe-style makeovers, but the eerie Medieval feeling here is still too strong to ignore. To best experience the Medieval vibe of the city, wonder through the sprawling Prague Castle, stroll the famous Saint Charles Bridge at dusk, climb a defensive tower, and explore Old Town Square. Dominating the Old Town Square, our favorite Medieval element in Prague is the Church of Our Lady Before Týn. The twin tower peer down at colorful buildings with playful names like the Storch House and House of Gold Ring, as well as the oldest operational astronomical clock in the world. Capping everything off is one of the best Medieval torture device museums in the world!
Other Medieval Alternatives Nearby: Near Prague you can also get the Medieval experience at colorful village of Karlovy Vary with its natural moat, the picturesque Karlštejn Castleor, or the Bone Chapel made out of 40,000 human skeletons in Kutná Hora.
Read Our Prague Travel Guide: (HERE).
About Rothenburg: The quaint German village of Rothenburg seems frozen in time, Medieval times that is. There probably isn’t a more authentic feeling Medieval city in Europe from top to bottom than the largely untouched Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The old city wall still stands circling the city, while trying with all of its might to encapsulate Rothenberg’s Medieval magic. The city gates, colorful half-timber homes, cobblestone streets, and narrow passageways will make you feel like you left the real World and stepped onto a movie set. From the famous Christmas Market to the postcard-perfect views of Plönlein Corner, you’ll be snapping photos left and right!
Once you wrap your head around Rothenberg’s beauty, you’ll find there is actually a lot to do here as well. We love touring the ruins of the Imperial Castle from 1142, visiting the Imperial City Museum, exploring the famous Medieval Criminal Museum and walking on top of the old city wall. The covered wall circles the entire town and is absolutely breathtaking to stroll around at sunset when most the tourist hoards are long gone. Throw in an old Blacksmith shop, a lively market square, plus great mom-n-pop pubs, and you’ll feel like you have traveled hundreds of years into the past in no time. Our two favorite experiences are taking a 90 minute hot air balloon ride at dawn to see the city below and the joining the unbelievably entertaining 1 hour Night Watchman’s Tour at night. We would make the trip for the witty Night Watchman alone as he walks you through the duties of the Watchmen and history of Rothenberg in a mixture of humor and education. Rothenberg is the perfect Medieval village to visit if you are looking for authenticity, fun, and adventure!
Other Medieval Alternatives Nearby: Just to the South of Rothenburg along the Romantic Road are two other well preserved Medieval villages, Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl. Nördlingen is particularly interesting as it is almost perfectly circle from the air because it was built in the crater of an ancient meteorite. A fragment of the meteorite is on display at the town museum.
Read Our Rothenburg Travel Guide: (HERE).
3. Mont Saint Michel, France:
About Mont Saint Michel: Mont Saint Michel is frickin awesome! The unbelievably small town only has 44 residents but they get to live one of the most magical experiences in Europe on a daily basis. The city itself basically sits on top of a large rock formation sticking out of the ocean just off France’s Northern coast. The top of the rock it capped by a large cathedral which almost looks like it is being support by the homes and shops below that hug the sides of the formation. Among the homes are many mom and pop hotels which is convenient at the Mont is almost 4 hours from Paris, but even better since at night the lighting of the city makes it even more dreamy. (List of Hotels).
The tiny Mont St Michel is probably the most unspoiled Medieval city in Europe as it has remained virtually the same over the centuries. This is partly to do with the Mont’s small size, but also because for centuries you could only reach the town during low tide by crossing the tidal basin before the tide came back in. This could be somewhat dangerous as it is a good 30 minute walk from the coast. In 2013 a elevated road was completed making Mont St Michel accessible 24 hours a day, replacing an older basic road, and took the guess work out of visiting with the tides. If you are in Northern France or Paris you really need to visit or stay over night in the gem of a true Medieval city.
Nearby Medieval Alternatives: The walled village of Saint Malo, France.
4. Carcassonne, France:
About Carcassone: As you approach Carcassonne it looks like you are coming up on a giant fairy tale castle until you realize it is actually the large city wall. The impressive medieval wall easily makes this one of the best walled cities in the World and you’ll fall in love with Carcassonne as you start to explore. Walking along the Medieval wall and its towers is so much fun that you actually have to force in time to check out the city itself. Visiting Carcassonne is by far the best experience in Southern France’s Provence region.
5. Edinburgh, Scotland:
About Edinburgh: With yet its own urban castle and unbeatable charm, the Scottish city of Edinburgh give Prague a run for its money as Europe’s best Medieval city. As you stroll the worn streets your trips gets down right magical as you hear beautiful music from kilt-clad bagpipers, stories of the Loch Ness Monster from the North, and tales of Braveheart himself, William Wallace. There have been Royal Castles in Edinburgh since the 1100’s, but it is less about sights and more about the history and folklore whey we love the Medieval city.
6. Siena, Italy:
About Siena: Siena’s old world charm rivals any European city and it needs to been toward the top of any itinerary for Italy. This Tuscan paradise has a vibe that is a mash up of Medieval and early Renaissance elements which is perfectly accented by its amazing food and wine. There may not be a more authentic feeling town on this list so it’s no wonder restaurant chains like the Olive Garden have tried to copy Siena’s magic. Our favorite festival in town is the Palio di Siena horse race where twice a year riders compete in the city’s half-circle main square, Piazza del Campo. This focal point of the city was laid out during the peak of Siena power in the 1200-1300s and is consider the greatest Medieval square in Italy.
In addition to the amazing city of Siena itself, there are also a ton of great Medieval castles nearby including Castello di Montalto, Castle of Monteriggioni, Vincigliata, the popular hilltop hotel Castello Di Gargonza (website), and the hotel Castello Di Casole (website) which is now an estate resort. Our favorite one to tour is the astounding Castello di Barone Ricasoli (website). This estate was established in 1141 and both the castle and its family have been one of the most famous producers of Chianti wine since for centuries. The coolest nearby castle hotel is the Castelletto di Montebenichi.
Nearby Medieval Alternatives: In addition to the nearby castles we mentioned above and the city of San Gimignano, which also made our top 25, there are a couple larger medieval cities in Tuscany that are quite stunning. The compact city of Lucca still has a lot of its Medieval wall while the dutiful village of Arezzo makes for an amazing day trip from Siena.
7. York, England:
About York: York is one of the rare places in England where you can still walk the along an originally Medieval city wall. The wall was originally built in 300AD by Roman Emperor Constantius Chlorus who died in York 6 years later and was reinforced in the Middle Ages. The mighty 2 mile long stone wall is still 95% intact, making it the longest preserved Medieval wall in England. In addition to the wall, there York also has tons of fantastic large city gates, although they have an odd naming system. For some reason in York the streets are called gates, the city gates are called bars which can be confusing. If you are looking to get a drink make sure to look for a pub and not a bar! The coolest thing in town are the 60 of traffic free, alley sized streets that make up York’s city center called Snickelways. These Medieval alleyways are lined with homes from the 1300-1400s and actually follow the paths of the streets laid out during the days when York was filled with thatched roof houses and controlled by the Vikings. You can get a glimpse of the Viking history as the Jorvik History Center.
The most famous of York’s Snickelways is Shambles Street which inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books and movies. In Medieval times this alley was the butcher street and derives its name from the meat shelf butcher tables outside each shop called Fleshammels. During the butchering process blood and guts would drain down the street and led to the phase calling things a bloody shambles. We love the crooked second floors above each shop which dramatically hang over the road. They were built like this so the people living on the upper floors could toss the contents of their chamber pots into the street to be washed away without contaminating the meat hanging below. You can still see the outdoor meat hooks above first floor windows which were still in use until WW2. If you investigate further than most tourists do, you can also weave through the 5 mini side alleys that branch off of Shambles Street.
8. Colmar, France:
About Colmar: If you were to picture the village from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as a real life place in your head Colmar would be it. Colmar’s brightly colored, half-timber houses and weeping willow trees cling to the edges of canals from the Lauch River giving it a postcard perfect feel. The must see attractions of Colmar include the Fishmonger’s District, the Little Venice where you can rent a row boat, tons of iconic buildings from the 15-1600s, and one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. Our favorite Medieval attraction in Colmar is the Oeuvre Notre-Dame Art Museum at the foot of the City’s cathedral which holds the Upper Rhine River Valley’s best sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages.
While it is the old world beauty that has made Colmar the bell of France’s Alsace region (pronounced Alls-Ass), it is the amazing wine history that cements it on our Top Medieval Cities list. Colmar started as rural community of wine producer and it quickly became known as the region’s king of wine. This is pretty impressive as the Alsace region is widely known as the Route du Vin or Wine Road. By the Middle Ages Colmar’s Horbourg-Wihr port was being sent to the far corners of Europe. Today the city specializes mainly in perfect white wines including Riesling, Gewürztraminer; Pinot Gris, and Muscat d’Alsace.
Nearby Medieval Alternatives: If you really want to get off the grid there are 2 tiny wine towns right next to Colmar that even more untouched called Riquewihr and Eguisheim. These little outposts to Colmar may be small, but are beautiful and a great break from the tourists for a couple hours. Both towns are easily accessible by local bus from Colmar.
9. Cochem, Germany:
About Cochem: As a tiny village of 5000 residents clinging to the wine terraced banks of the Mosel River, Cochem is an unreal Medieval town. The rows of colorful houses are dominated by the Gothic tower of the Cochem Imperial Castle perched high above. While the was restored in the 1800s after previously being damaged by the French, large sections from the original castle remain which date all the way back to the 1100s! The Castle gained Imperial status when King Conrad III, Germany’s 1st King, stayed here in 1151. The Cochem Imperial Castle has remained true to its roots and now holds great ghost tours, a knight’s meal, and a Medieval feast. To put your visit over the top, consider staying at the Burghotel which is filled full are knight’s armor and has Medieval themed rooms.
The main draw to the Mosel River Valley and Cochem is nearby Berg Eltz, which is one of Europe’s greatest castles. Berg Eltz is tucked into a lush valley and can be accessed by taxi from nearby Münstermaifeld or by a dream-like hike from the train station. The hike option lets you feel the seclusion of this fairytale castle and helps make your first glance a pure medieval fantasy. As you pass onto the stone bridge into the huge castle you can feel its history which originally dates back to before the 1100s. It was in 1157 that the Eltz family acquired the deed to the property and started expanding. Interestingly, Count and Countess Eltz, who are directly decedents still manage and live in the property today. If you wish to explore the area further a day trip riding down the Rhine river will let you see dozens more castles stilling high above the water.
10. Saint Paul de Vence, France:
About Saint Paul de Vence: Perched high on a hilltop between Nice and Antibes, Saint Paul de Vence is an untouched Medieval wonderland. Entering through the city walls past protective cannons in the early morning before helps you beat the mid-day tourist rush and you’ll almost have the place to yourself. The solitude is magical as sunbeams mix with shadows on the aged stone walls of the homes and decorative cobblestones in the streets. The village is so beautiful that it is easy to understand why so many famous artists, including the late Marc Chagall, have called it home over the centuries. As the tour groups arrive the boutique shops and dozens of art galleries open creating the opportunities for endless days of shopping. If you want the full old world experience, make sure to take a winery tour into the vine terraced cliffs surrounding the city.
About Hallstatt: There was a Hallstatt before there was a Rome and this dream of a Medieval town will make your heart melt. Hallstatt is compact, full of history, and an absolutely beautiful lakeside village. Just walking around the village streets can be amazing and we’ve put together a Free Hallstatt Walking Tour for you to follow to make sure you see all the top sights. The main highlights include the colorful Market Square, the creepy painted skulls of the Bone Chapel, the unique wooden headstones in the cemetery, and a boat ride on the lake. If you end up with extra time we also suggest visiting the World’s oldest Salt Mine sitting just above the city which over 7,000 years old. If you are more adventurous you can even take the alpine lift far above the village to explore the Giant’s Ice Caves. A guided tour through the cave is fun for the whole family and is nicely paired with the 5 Fingers Lookout. At the Lookout you can walk on a series of elevated platforms jutting out thousands of feet above the valley floor. After just a few hours in Medieval Hallstatt you’ll be leaving a part of yourself behind when you leave.
Read Our Hallstatt Travel Guide: HERE.
12. Sighișoara, Romania:
About Sighișoara: Home to Peles Castle and Bran Castle of Dracula folklore. While Vlad the Impaler isn’t really connected with the Bran Castle, the village is still mystical as he was born here. Vlad Tepes, known as Vlad the Impaler, was born at a home in Sighișoara’s Citadel Square in 1431 where is family lived for 4 years before moving to their castle in Târgoviște.
Between Sighișoara and Bucharest are many more Dracula sights like Vlad’s former Princely Royal Court Royal inside the ruins of Târgoviște Castle where he ruled from in the 1300s and famously impaled people on stakes, his high-perched Poenari Fortress in Valachia, and the Old Princely Court in Bucharest where he kept his prisoners.
Nearby Medieval Alternative: Eastern Europe doesn’t have a ton of villages still in their Medieval state as a lot of the homes in the region had thatched roofs in the Middle Ages and didn’t survive time or war. You can, however, find Medieval solace in Riga Latvia and the walled city Tallinn Estonia mentioned below.
13. Cinque Terre, Italy:
About Cinque Terre: Clinging to wine terraced cliffs, the mulit-colored collection of 5 tiny town making up Cinque Terre are a Medieval delight. These magical fishing villages have been here for 1000s of years, but it was the fortifications added in the Middle Ages that helped them remain untouched. The sections of wall were built to keep pirates from sacking the towns which you can still see elements of today. We love touring the old towers, cobblestone street, lookout towers and of course eating. In addition to fresh sea food and wine the region is also known as the birthplace of pesto. In Cinque Terre it’s all about slowing making your way between the villages, eating, and relaxing. On our first visit we rented an apartment in the harbor of Vernazza, an it has left a lifelong impression. As you walk through the tight, traffic-free streets and look up at the brightly colored clusters of homes you’ll never want to leave.
14. San Gimignano, Italy:
About San Gimignano: While quite a bit smaller than nearby Siena, San Gimignano manages to capture the same old world charm. It actually looks almost just like Siena except this tiny village it littered with competing Medieval watch towers. The 14 well preserved towers turned San Gimignano into a Medieval Manhattan and our favorite Tuscan town. The cities most powerful families each had their own tower with the height indicating their owner’s influence. Most of the cities in the region, including Florence actually had towers like this, but most were brought down due to wars, catastrophes, and expansions. It is amazing that these original skyscappers still exist today.
Nearby Medieval Alternatives: In addition to the cities we mentioned with Siena, the cities of Lucca and Volterra to the West of San Gimignano are stunning. Lucca and an amazing wall and Volterra was chosen as the the home to the Medici Fortress.
15. Chester England:
About Chester: First established as an ancient Roman outpost, Chester’s prime location in Northwestern England helped it grew into a regional power in Medieval times. Huge sections of Chester were spared from WW2 bombs so the village’s black and white half-timber charm still shines brightly. Typically you have to go to small towns in Germany or France to see this type of architecture well preserved so it is refreshing to see it alive and well in England. Because the Duke of Westminster owns large parts of Chester extra effort has been given to taking care of its Medieval and Roman elements. One of the most enjoyable activities is walking along the old city walls and through the numerous restored gates throughout the city.
Nearby Medieval Alternative: A bit South of Chester is the sleepy city of Warwick, known for its mighty Warwick Castle. The first castle structure was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror and over the following centuries it morphed in the impressive structure you see today.
16. Città di San Marino, San Marino:
About Città di San Marino: Perched high on a mountain peak, San Marino has remained one of the only independent city states inside Italy.
Other Medieval Alternatives: Sitting North of San Marino toward Venice are the Medieval cities of Bologna and Cittadella. Cittadella in particular is one of the best walled cities in the World and led to the name citadel.
17. Vitré, France:
About Vitre: With an unbeatable fairytale wall and towered chateau, Vitre is the coolest city that you’ve never heard of.
Nearby Medieval Alternative: Just to the North, along the English Channel, with the colorful port city of near Honfleur. It has been largely untouched since the 1500-1600s and feels more like a Dutch town than a French one.
18. Nottingham, England:
About Nottingham: Outside of Nottingham Castle the city itself isn’t super Medieval anymore, but it had to make this list just for the Robin Hood folklore alone. Robin Hood is one of the Middle Ages most famous stories and it is in Nottingham that he and his Merry Men fictionally battled the sheriff and Prince John. Robin Hood was a symbol of hope to the peasants and towns people trapped at the bottom of a feudal system of government that keep them down while the landowners got richer and richer. Based out of Sherwood Forest 20 miles to the North of Nottingham, Robin Hood and his Merry Men would take from the rich to help the poor which quickly caught on and inspired the downtrodden. Many famous films have been made romanticizing Robin Hood with the most famous being Disney’s version.
Robin Hood remains extremely popular today and the region has kept the legend alive with numerous activities and festivals year round. Our favorite event is the Robin Hood Festival (Website | City Council Site | Facebook) taking place near Sherwood Forest to the North every August. The event is free and has a fair-like atmosphere complete with archery, jousting, and falconry. The 4 day long Robin Hood Beer Festival in the beginning of October is also a favorite and turns into a Medieval Oktoberfest of sorts with a lot of entertainment and over 1,00 different kinds of beers. Even if you can’t make one of the big festivals there are always great walking tours to join year round in Nottingham with most of them guided by character impersonators. You can go on a ghost walk with some of Nottinghams famous criminals or take a city walk with Robin Hood himself. For more on the current events and guided tours check our their events page here.
To get the full Robin Hood experience we suggest visiting in mid-August during the Robin Hood Festival. There are a few good statues of Robin Hood pulling his bow right in Nottingham and a great one of help battling Little John on a bridge at the edge of Sherwood Forest 20 miles to North which was Robin’s base camp. For more traditional Medieval sights town consider touring the caves under the the ruins of Nottingham Castle, the Major Oak in Nottingham Forest, and Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem which is the oldest inn in England from 1189AD.
19. Eze, France:
About Eze: Eze may be small, but it is one of Europe’s only authentic Medieval cities built in the Alps. The little village is mainly set on the mountainside leading up to Centenaire Palace and has streets so old and narrow that you can only navigate them on foot. While Eze isn’t overly flashy it is the back alley, old world feel that keeps its strong Medieval vibe alive. The city is so proud of its Medieval appeal that it has declared itself “Cite Medievale” on all the local town maps and directories. Around everyone corner and up every stair, it feels like you are entering a secret passageway which is part of the reason Walt Disney permanently rented a hotel room right in the middle of town. We love that tons of the tight quartered hotels use the cobblestone streets as makeshift hallways. Many of the small shops are actually carved into the caves in the mountainside.
While grabbing a drink on the terrace of the Michelin-Starred Chateau Eze (website), you’ll experience once of the best elevated ocean views in the world. Follow up drinks with dinner at the fairytale Mas Provencal Restaurant (website). Filled with hanging fruit and flowers, it takes the workers 6 hours a day to fill with space with fresh decorative produce and is only open for dinner Spring-Fall. The sweet after taste that comes from even a short visit to Eze will make you miss it quickly.
20. Bamberg, Germany:
About Bamberg: Bamberg is known as Little Venice, and for good reason. The Regnitz River literally runs directly through Bamberg and the Old Town Hall sits right in the middle of the flow. As seen in the photo to the left, they actually built the Old Town Hall (Alte Rathaus) in the middle of the river and connected to town with a series of bridges. The build is the most photographed spot in Bamberg, but it is the impressive murals painted on the sides of the Old Town Hall that we really like. Most of the town hugs the River banks making renting a row boat a very popular thing to do. A lot of the island like city center was once a fisherman’s settlement in the Middle Ages an has been turned into a great pedestrian only area today.
Getting beyond the buildings and sights, Bamberg is really a city known for its beer. There are 9 historic breweries, 2 malting companies, 50 local beers, and tons of Medieval taverns inside the city limits alone. If you go out just a couple miles there are 90 more breweries in the small towns around Bamberg. The most famous beer in Bamberg is Smoke Beer, which tastes like bacon. Unlike most beers where the malt is dried industrially by hot air, the malt for the Smoke Beer is kiln-dried over an open fire to add flavor. The BierSchmecker Beer Tour is awesome as you vouchers for drinks at your choice of 5 of the 9 breweries for only 20 euros, plus you keep your mug.
If you are deciding what time to go July hosts the International Magician and Street Performers’ Festival which really brings Old Town to life. In August is our favorite event called the Sandkirchweih Fair. During the Sandkerwa Festival fishermen joust on the river standing on the end of their boats American Gladiator-style.
About Heiligenbrunn: If you want the hidden gem of Austria, the village of Heiligenbrunn is it. There aren’t many travelers that have ever heard of tiny Heiligenbrunn, but when you think of the early-Middle Ages, there may be no better preserved city. With a population of only 862 people, this village serves as a living museum of days gone by. Most of Heiligenbrunn’s houses have thatched roofs, and it almost doesn’t feel like real life while you are visiting.
Heiligenbrunn only has 1,000 residents, 2 hotels, no castles or fortifications, but it has personality to-boot. Historically the village is most well know for its cute, thatched-roofed, hobbit style houses, but don’t underestimate the wine. The wine, made as early as 1225 AD, was once banned for being too strong, but today it’s perfect and you’ll find grape vines growing in all sorts of places. The Basement or Kellerviertel is an awesome straw stellar which has been preserved as a living reminder of Heliligenbrunn’s wine culture. We highly recommend stopping by Ulrich’s Chapel as its bubbling spring is said to have curing powers, especially for the eyes.
Similar Medieval Cities: While there aren’t many authentic thatched roof villages from the Middle Ages remaining in Europe there are a few great open air museum villages you can visit. Among them are the Celtic village in Hallein Austria (website), the Skanzen Village in Hungary (website), Frilandsmuseet in Denmark (website), and the Highland Folk Museum in Scotland (website).
22. Ávila, Spain:
About Ávila: One of the best Medieval city walls in the World is by far the almost 2 mile long one surrounding Ávila, Spain! The city was started as a Roman settlement, but hit its peak from 1088-1600 thanks to its unbelievable wall. With 9 massive gates, 100s of drum towers, topped with over 2,500 merlons, the 10 foot thick, 40 foot tall wall is straight out of a story book. The interior of the city is also impressive as it has the countries highest collection of Gothic churches per capita.
Spanish Medieval Alternatives: Toledo is also an old world wonder, but we love Spanish towns with Medieval castles. Segovia has Alcazar castle, Granada has Alhambra, and Navarra has the Castillo de Olite.
23. Rhodes, Greece:
About Rhodes: The island of Rhodes is not only one of the most eclectic towns you’ll find in Greece, but it has one of Europe’s most impressive city walls. Sitting above an expansive beach there is a lot to see and do in Rhodes. Kicking off the eclectic mix of Rhodes is the Roman influence. Rhodes was part of the Roman in 164 B.C. and after Rome fell it remained part of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire for 100s of years into the Middle Ages. We love the vast classical Roman influence on the city from buildings and columns to artistic statues.
From a pure Medieval standpoint, Rhodes was a late bloomer and didn’t start hitting its stride until the island was sold to the Order of the Knights Hospitaliers of Saint John of Jerusalem in 1309. The Knights quickly started molding Rhodes in their own image from adding baths to the houses, archways narrow streets, new cathedrals, and a greatly enhanced city wall. The new fortified wall and fresh mindset helped the city grow in strength and as an international trading partner. The good times didn’t last forever though as just over 200 years later Rhodes fell to the Ottomans in 1522. This Ottoman rule brought a new mix to the city as mosques and Arab culture was injected into Rhodes, but they felt most of the Knights Medieval city center well intact.
24. Nuremberg, Germany:
About Nuremberg: Before being heavily bombed in WW2 for being a Nazi stronghold, Nuremberg was one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. Luckily enough of the city remained that Nuremberg has slowly rebuilt over the decades and is becoming a great tourist destination yet again. We like to start off with the city’s biggest attraction, the Kaiserburg Castle which dates back to 1050 AD (rebuilt 1140). The Castle sits on at the highest point of Nuremberg which offers commanding views of town and provided a natural defense. The historic castle looks more plain that some of Germany’s other over the top castles which were built later in the Middle Ages, but we enjoy the old feel. SinceWW2 bombings, great efforts have been made to restore parts of the castle.
That same old world feel carries into the city wall and watch towers, plus the picture perfect Craftmen’s Courtyard. Just steps from Market Square you can tour the 12 underground cells and large torture chamber of the Medieval dungeons built in 1300s. Our favorite building, called the Wine Store (Weinstadel), is built right into the old city wall. This beautiful building overlooks the river and is connected to town by Hangman’s Bridge. The bridge and tower were constructed in the 1400s as a place for the Nuremberg executioner to live as the common people didn’t want someone of his profession living among them. It was really a strange arrangement, but interesting. You have to make sure to stroll down Weißbergergasse in Old Town and check out St. Elisabeth Church which was once home to the Knights of Germany as well. Not to be overlooked in Old Town is the food and especially the Original Nuremberg Rostbratwursts which have been made here since the 1300’s. The best way to wash down your wursts is with Nuremberg’s best beer on the City Brewery Beer Tour. The 3 hour tour is only 25 Euros and is lead by a Medieval innkeeper who teaches you about the 700 years of beer in the city complete with tastings.
While these sights are the happy go lucky ones it is also important to known about Nuremberg’s Nazi years. One for the most moving sights is in the former Nazi rally grounds where 100,000s would gather for rallies. The grounds were later used by the Nazis as a concentration camp for over 50,000 Socialists and now holds the Fascination and Terror Museum. There is also a monument marking the Nuremberg Trials, where Nazi leaders were put on trail for the horrors of WW2. When you are all done with doom and gloom Nuremberg has plenty more historic sights and mansions to tour on top of having one of the best Medieval Christmas Markets in Europe. If it is not over the Holiday season you can still get your Christmas on in the wonder Toy museum as Nuremberg has been famous for its toys since the middle ages.
25. Monsanto, Portugal:
About Monsanto: Hidden in the hills of Northern Portugal, the unique village of Monsanto beats out Obidos to make our list. In 1165 it became one of the first cities in Portugal to be taken from the Moors by a Christian leader, King Denis I. The King later gave Monsanto to Order of Knights Templar who have tons of mysterious folklore themselves. The Templar were one of many orders of knights to serve out of Monsanto over the centuries and occupy its castle. The castle and city wall today is largely in ruins, but it’s really the amazing rock houses from Medieval times that still make the city special. Like in the nearby city of Fafe, many of the house are built between and even underneath huge boulders! Every May they have a festival called Festa das Cruzes, honoring when they were under siege in Medieval times and tricked their attackers into leaving. Running short on food, they tossed their last cow over the city wall to make their attackers believe they had plenty to spare, and it worked! The city was saved and the beautiful rock houses were protected for us to still visit today.
Portuguese Medieval Alternatives: Obidos is the next best medieval city in Lisbon as it has one of Europe’s best city walls, and a great fortress that has been turned into of the best castle hotels you’ll find anywhere. Lisbon also has great elements from the Middle Age from the Castle of Saint George to cathedral ruins. Unfortunately a historic earthquake in 1755 paired with a tsunami, and fires destroyed most of this Medieval giant and has since been rebuilt. Near Lisbon we also love the amazing castles of Sintra including the Morrish Castle and Pena Palace.
26. Honorable Mention Medieval Cities:
London, England is what many imagine when they think of royal power and knights in shinning amour. While the impressive Tower of London still invokes Medieval power, most of the old city was burned down in the great fire of 1666.
Obidos, Portugal as mentioned above, Obidos has one of Europe’s best city walls which was started by the Moors and expanded by King Denis I. There is also a great fortress that has been turned into of the best castle hotels you’ll find anywhere in the World.
Tallinn, Estonia Known as the village of Reval in the Middle Ages, Tallinn is one of the few Eastern European cities to have true Medieval charm. There is a beautiful princess-towered city wall, a small central castle, cobble stone streets, and brightly colored homes along Town Hall Square.
Salzburg, Austria has a great old world feel with its High Fortress and monk breweries but most of the city got a face lift in the same era its most famous resident Mozart lived here.
Troyes, France is most of the most surprising towns in France with its half timber homes, Medieval stain glass, and laid back atmosphere.
Dubrovnik, Croatia which is featured as Kings Landing in the Game of Thrones TV series is a beautiful, walled, seaside village.
Paris, France has very strong Medieval roots from the churches on its central Cite island to the tight streets of the Latin Quarter. If this list was for pure Gothic feel, Paris would rank higher.
Bruges & Ghent, Belgium are both absolutely amazing cities on the water which are often part of Medieval lists. While we would visit either in a heartbeat, the makeover of the building in the 1800s is just too strong to make this list.
Giethoorn, Netherlands outshines Amsterdam with its series of intertwined canals and 180 footbridges as it has no actual roads. The canals were formed in a defensive star pattern as Medieval locals harvesting peat moss needed a way to transport their goods. Largely unchanged since is founding in 1230AD, it is a great place to boat ride in the summer or stake in the Winter.
Costwolds, England the region is usually considered quite Medieval, especially with the stone homes in the villagess of Castle Combe and Bibury. Castle Combe is often considered the most beautiful town in England and was the filming location for the movie War Horse in 2011. Although the region is the home of 1500s playwright William Shakespeare well felt the area was a little too English Manor in style to make the list.
Goreme, Turkey is an amazing early-Medieval town that could have easily made our list, except it is on the Asian side of Turkey instead of the European side. The village is made up of stone homes carved into natural fairy peak stone formations in the 1100-1300s and includes many Byzantine style churches.
Landsberg am Lech, Germany is one of our favorite small towns in Germany with its color homes and Medieval witch tower, but there are just too many German towns on the list already for it to make the cut. The same holds true for the beautiful half-timber village of Quedlinburg, Germany.