Top 25 Medieval Towns of Europe
What’s up guys, my name is Ryan and I spent the last few years exploring Europe and I want to show you my favourite locations from medieval Europe time periods. So here are my medieval towns of Europe top 25.
Medieval Europe is one of the most fascinating periods in all of history some of the world’s most iconic cities and architecture were born during this time from the fortress of Mont Saint-Michel to the walled city of Avila, Europe’s medieval cities and history remain unmatched to the rest of the world.
Let’s start this video off in the magical medieval town of Dubrovnik. Located in southern Croatia on the Adriatic coast, Dubrovnik is one of the most stunning medieval cities in all of Europe. The history of Dubrovnik dates back to the 7th century when it was founded by refugees. The city rose to prosperity during medieval times thanks to its maritime trade. Now, one of the most notable features of Dubrovnik is the walls that surround the city. They’re almost two kilometres in length and anywhere from four to six meters thick it just makes you wonder what it must have felt like to live here during medieval times.
After Croatia, we head up north to the Czech Republic to visit the capital city of Prague. Prague was the capital of the kingdom of Bohemia and was the main residence of many roman emperors such as Charles IV. One of my favourite attractions is the Charles Bridge. Its construction began in 1357 and it wasn’t finished until the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge is decorated with an alley of over 30 statues and which is so scenic and such a great feature in Prague. The old town square is also a great place to explore and the Prague castle is another beautiful sight to see. It’s considered to be the largest ancient castle in the world and it was built more than a thousand years ago in the ninth century- I mean that’s a freaking long time. Prague has such a historic vibe and I hope you all can visit it.
While we’re still in the Czech Republic we’re going to visit the magical city of Cesky Krumlov. Located about a two-hour drive from Prague, Cesky Krumlov is a medieval fantasy and also one of the cheapest European places to visit. As I was doing research I was just blown away by the beauty of this place, it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The town arose around the year 1240 when the Cesky Krumlov castle was built, and a settlement emerged beneath it in 1302. The town and castle were given to the Rosenberg family who owned it for the next 300 years. Cesky Krumlov thankfully escaped the bombings of World War II, which is the main reason the city is so well preserved today. It stands as one of the Czech Republic’s most beautiful towns. One of the main attractions of the town is the castle. It’s the second most visited in the country and it’s surrounded by a moat that’s not full of water but bears instead (that’s pretty crazy). You can also visit the castle tower to get an incredible view of the town. I mean it’s just such a magical place and I can’t believe it exists.
After the Czech Republic, we’re going to head over to Italy to visit the charming town of San Gimignano. Now, located in Tuscany, San Gimignano is a stunning medieval city perched upon a hill. One of the most iconic features of the city is the medieval watchtowers. Currently, there are 14 watchtowers still standing but during its prime, there were over 72 towers with the highest being over 70 meters tall. The towers were built as a result of competing families who wanted to build the tallest and most grand tower. I can’t imagine how it must have looked like back then I guess you could say that was the Manhattan of the middle ages. I went there a few years ago and I was just baffled by those towers San Gimignano flourished as a city until 1348 when the plague of black death struck the town which resulted in killing over half the population. San Gimignano’s medieval vibe has remained untouched throughout time and has become one of the most popular medieval locations in all of Italy.
While we’re still in Italy we’re going to head over to nearby San Marino. The Republic of San Marino is a microstate completely enclosed by Italy. The history of this small country is absolutely fascinating- it was founded by a stonemason from Croatia named Saint Marines. After facing persecution for his Christian sermons, he fled to the mountain of Monte Titano where he built a church and founded the small country in the year 301 AD. San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and the oldest constitutional republic. The capital of the country is the city of San Marino and it’s situated on the slopes of Monte Titano. It’s hard to beat the location of the city: one of the most iconic spots in San Marino is the fortress of Guaita. It was built in the 11th century and served as a prison. San Marino is just such a beautiful yet interesting city and country and I hope you all can visit.
After San Marino were to head over to Greece to visit the medieval monasteries of Meteora. Located in central Greece, Meteora is home to six monasteries built upon nearly inaccessible rock pillars. During the 14th century, monks were facing attacks from Turkish raiders so they needed a place where they could worship in safety. They decided to start building the monasteries upon the rocks. These places of worship were perfect for their bunks because the only way to reach them was by climbing long ladders. The monasteries became a place of refuge and over 20 monasteries were built during the 14th century. I was lucky enough to go here a few years ago. When I got there, I was just amazed by the architecture of these monasteries they are perched perfectly on the cliff edge and you wonder how people could have built these in medieval times. Monks and nuns currently live in the six surviving monasteries. The largest one is the monastery of Great Meteoron. If you’re ever in Greece make sure you visit this magical place.
While we’re still in Greece we’re going to head to the medieval island of Rhodes. Now, special thanks to my friend @alldaydrone for helping me out with footage. He has some of the best content in Rhodes and I’ll link his channel in the description below. Now, Rhodes is an island full of intriguing history. One of my favourite places in Rhodes is its old town. During the 14th century, the Knights of Hospitaller occupied Rhodes and converted a former Byzantine fortress into the palace of the grandmaster. It’s one of the few examples of gothic architecture in all of Greece which is such an impressive medieval building.
Now, after Greece, we’re going to head to the United Kingdom to visit Conwy Castle. Located in Northern Wales, Conwy Castle is an extraordinary piece of history. It was built by Edward the first at the end of the 13th century. The castle along with the walls surrounding the city cost 15,000 pounds to build, which was an enormous amount of money back then. Over the next few centuries, it proved as a strong fortress that was stood many wars and sieges. I just really love the round watchtowers and just the pure medieval look that this place has.
While we’re still in the UK we’re going to head over to Edinburgh. Now, when I started travelling, this was one of the first cities I visited. It’s a medieval old town with intricate neoclassical buildings, cobblestone streets and beautiful gardens. The crowning feature of the city is the Edinburgh castle. The castle is one of the oldest fortified places in all Europe and it’s had one heck of a history. In its 1100 years of existence, it’s believed to have faced 26 sieges making it the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in all the world. Today, Edinburgh castle is Scotland’s most visited attraction and it’s a piece of history you got to witness if you’re ever in Scotland.
After, we’re going to head over to Germany to visit the town of Rothenburg. Now when you go to Rothenburg, you’ll feel like you’re walking in a fantasy movie. It’s one of the most preserved medieval old towns in all of Europe. During the middle ages, Rotenberg thrived as it was located at the crossroads of European trade routes. At the beginning of the 15th century, it rose to become the second-largest city in all of Germany but during the 17th century, Rotenberg faced adversities such as the 30-year war and the bubonic plague. Without much resources, Rotenberg’s growth was halted, which aided in keeping the town preserved in its medieval state. Today, Rotenberg maintains its medieval charm and it’s been the inspiration for sets of Disney movies such as Pinocchio. If you go, you can check out the famous Plonlein corner or witness the beautiful Christmas markets and it is hard to beat the allure of this German village.
Another fairy tale location in Germany is Cochem Castle. The original castle was built back at the beginning of the 12th century and it made its money by collecting shipping tools on passing ships. Sadly, it was destroyed in 1689 by the French but in the 19th century, a wealthy businessman from Berlin decided to rebuild the castle. Today, it stands perched on a hill overlooking the beautiful town of Cochem and it’s easy to fall in love with Germany and its medieval castles.
Afterwards, we’re going to Belgium to visit the medieval city of Bruges. Due to its tidal inlet and canals, Bruges is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the north. Bruges tidal inlet helped to become one of the most prosperous cities during the middle ages as it quickly became a strategic location for maritime trade routes. Bruges continued to flourish until the year 1500 when the tidal inlet became silted up. Today, most of Bruges’s medieval structures have remained intact. One of my favourite features in the city is the market square. It’s towered over by the 277-foot-tall medieval bell tower of Belfry. I mean just such an impressive and unique medieval city.
After Belgium, we’re going to head over to France, to the fairy tale city of Colmar. Located in France’s Alsace region Colmar looks like something straight out of a Disney movie. The city’s old town is lined with timber medieval buildings. I love the canal that runs throughout the city. It just adds to the magic of the place. Now, just 20 minutes outside of Colmar is the quaint village of Riquewihr. It’s believed to be the village that inspired the town from Beauty and the Beast. I mean eastern France is just such a beautiful region.
Afterwards, we’re going to head over to Portugal to visit the medieval town of Obidos. Located about an hour’s drive from Lisbon in central Portugal, Obidos is a romantic medieval town protected by an impressive stone wall. Around the year 713, the Moors established a fortification here and in 1148 the king of Portugal reclaimed the land after the successful storming of the Moors castle. In the 13th century, the king gifted Obidos to his queen and for the following centuries, the village received special treatment from the queens of Portugal who remodelled and enriched the village throughout the middle ages. Today, Obidos is one of Portugal’s most well-preserved medieval cities and I hope you all could witness it one day.
After, we’re going to head over to Spain to visit Avila. I have to say that Avila is one of the most impressive medieval walled cities in all of Europe. The construction of the walls took place between the 11th and 14th centuries. The walls perimeter is nearly 2.5 kilometres and consists of 88 semi-circular towers. I mean, if I lived here during medieval times I would have felt pretty safe. Now, about an hour’s drive from Avila is the Alcazar de Secovia and this is probably Spain’s most dramatic castle, has a very distinct shape that resembles the bow of a ship. The castle was built in the 12th century as a fortress but served as a royal palace prison and military academy throughout the years. Today it’s a museum and one of Spain’s most unique castles.
Another beautiful medieval Spanish city is Toledo. Located about 70 kilometres south of Madrid, Toledo was a stunning ancient city perfectly placed on a hill. It’s known as the city of three cultures due to its influences from Christians, Muslims and Jews. The history of Toledo is fascinating and complex it was taken over by the Moors for several centuries until it was conquered in the 11th century by the Castilians. Today the city has a population of around 80,000. One of the most impressive is the Alcazar de Toledo. It was once used as a Rome palace and then it was eventually restored in the 16th century.
After, we’re going to head to southern Spain to visit Granada. Now located at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is an elegant Spanish city. The crowning feature of Granada is the Alhambra. It’s a fortified Moorish palace that was completed in 1354. The interior of this palace is stunning; there’s a reflection pool and a pillared courtyard. I mean I totally understand why it’s one of the most renowned Islamic buildings in Europe.
Another cool medieval spot in Spain is the islet of Gaztelugatxe. Now, the first church was built on the island all the way back in the 10th century. If you visit, you’ll have to walk up a narrow path of more than 200 stairs. I mean it’s just such an epic location hope you all can check out.
After Spain we’re going to visit Luxembourg city, built among deep gorges cut out by its surrounding rivers, the city is home to one of the most impressive medieval towns. The history of the city is fascinating- in the year 963 AD Count Siegfried needed a place where he could defend his properties so, he acquired the land which is now the capital and became the first ruler of Luxembourg. Now, what made this landscape so appealing is that it’s surrounded by sheer cliffs that serve as a natural fortification against invading armies. Luxembourg’s fortifications grew gradually and became one of Europe’s strongest fortresses. Sadly, in 1867 the treaty of London required Luxembourg’s fortress to be torn down so it could be a place of neutrality. Today the fortress’s ruins still remain. The best place to see them is the Bock Promontory where you’ll find the city’s famed cliffs, underground tunnels and fascinating history.
After we’re going to head over to the Orava Castle located in Slovakia. Orava Castle is perched perfectly on a skinny rock cliff. This may be one of the eeriest castles in all of Europe. It was used in many scenes of the famous 1922 horror film Nosferatu so you definitely get some Dracula vibes there. Now, it was built upon a former fortress in the 13th century after the Mongol invasions to defend what was then the kingdom of Hungary. Like many castles, Orava was added on and destroyed by fire and then it was ultimately restored. I just think it’s so crazy how they’re able to integrate the castle onto the stone peaks of the hill and it doesn’t even look real. If you want spooky vibes you’ve got to check this place out.
Afterwards, we’re going to head over to Poland to visit the charming city of Gdansk. Now, located in northern Poland on the Baltic coast earliest mention of Gdansk was in 997 and during the middle ages, Gdansk grew as an important seaport and shipbuilding town. It rose to the wealthiest and largest city in Poland until Warsaw’s rapid growth in the 18th century. Sadly, a majority of Gdansk was destroyed during world war II but today Gdansk is one of Poland’s most beautiful cities. I just can’t believe how stunning the old town is. It’s full of perfectly placed houses next to the river.
Just an hour’s drive from Gdansk is the Malbork Castle. It’s the largest castle in the world. It was built in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights who were German Catholic crusaders. Now as the number of the knights grew, so did the castle which encloses an area of 52 acres. It’s just crazy to think that people were able to build such buildings back then. Now, like Gdansk, more than half of Malbork Castle was destroyed during world war II but thankfully it has been rebuilt to its former glory.
Afterwards, we’re going to head over to the beautiful city of Tallinn. Located in Estonia on the coast of the Baltic sea Tallinn is another stunning medieval capital. So, around the year 1050, the first fortress was built to kick off Tallinn’s old town. As trade grew between Russia and Scandinavia Tallinn rose up as a dominating port city. In 1285 Tallinn became the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League which was a mercantile and military alliance of German-dominated cities in northern Europe. Now in 1346, the king of Denmark sold Tallinn to the Teutonic Knights and over the next few centuries, medieval Tallinn thrived. The city grew to a population of 8000 and Tallinn’s medieval city was well fortified with city walls and over 66 defence towers. Today, Tallinn’s old town is one of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval cities. I just love all the buildings and architecture with its orange and cone domed roofs.
While we’re still in the Baltics we’re going to visit Latvia’s capital of Riga. Now, I have to say that I was very surprised by Riga’s beauty. It’s full of stunning medieval architecture. Riga was founded back in 1201 and today it’s the largest city of all the Baltic countries. One of the most famous buildings is the House of the Black Heads. It’s located in Riga’s old town and was built in the 14th century. Saint Peter’s Church is another dramatic building that towers over Riga skylines. Riga is just such a special and underrated city and hopes all can visit.
Afterwards, we’re going to head back to Croatia to visit the medieval port city of Rovinj. Now, located on the Istrian peninsula on Croatia’s western coast Rovinj is one of the most beautiful medieval fishing towns I’ve ever seen. From 1283 to 1797 Rovinj was governed by the Republic of Venice. From 1918 to 1947 it belonged to the kingdom of Italy. Today is part of Croatia and it’s one of the country’s most beautiful cities. When you walk the street’s you’ll feel like you’re in Italy due to its Italian influence. One of the most beautiful features of the city is the church of Saint Euphemia. It’s perfectly perched on the hill in the historic part of the city. It was completed in 1680 and stands over 60 meters tall. Rovinj is just such a special spot and I hope you all can check it out one day.
After Croatia, we’re going to head over to Romania to see the medieval castles of Transylvania. Now Transylvania is a very intriguing yet spooky region that is the birthplace of the infamous ruler Vlad the Impaler. Transylvania is also where Ram Stoker’s novel Count Dracula takes place. One of the most famous locations in Transylvania is the Bran Castle. Located near the city Bran castle was built around the 14th century and served as a fortification against the ottoman empire. Similar to Orava, Bran has been named Dracula’s castle thanks to its dramatic architecture.
Another impressive medieval place in Transylvania is Corvin Castle. It’s one of the largest castles in Europe and its construction began in 1446 like Bran, it has a creepy vibe to it. needless to say, Transylvania is a fascinating region full of some of the world’s most uncanny castles.
After, let’s head over to the medieval fortress of Carcassonne. Now, when I imagine medieval Europe, I don’t think there’s a better place that exemplifies it better than this fortified city. Located in southern France Carcassonne began as a Roman fortified hilltop and was given to the Visigoths in the 5th century who continued to fortify it and build the city. Throughout the centuries Carcassonne proved to be an impregnable fortress as army after army failed to overtake the protected city. Today, the city consists of 53 towers that are protected by its two outer walls it remains as one of Europe’s greatest medieval gems.
Mont Saint Michel
For our last destination, we’re going to visit the island of Mont Saint Michel. Now, located one kilometre off the coast of France Mont Saint Michel is one of the most magical destinations in all of Europe. The island is full of small shops and homes with a monastery perch on the top of the island’s highest point. The construction of the monastery began in the 10th century and was finished in 1523. Due to its strategic position and dangerous changing tides, the island remained protected throughout history. Today Mont Saint-Michel is one of France’s most popular tourist destinations. If you’re ever in northern France or Paris you really need to visit this magical island
Well, that is it from my medieval top 25. I just love making videos about the middle ages and it’s just so fascinating to research and learn about the history of these places I mean there’s just so many medieval locations throughout Europe so we’re expecting more videos soon. I started a relaxation channel where I post hour-long films of beautiful places around the world to bring some peace and nature into your life. You can find me on TikTok and Instagram @shirley.films. This is Ryan and we will see you later.
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