The best preserved medieval towns in Europe
The middle ages were a time of brutal warfare, plagues, and social upheaval. Yet for many, it is also a time of mystery and wonder when knights and kings were a part of everyday life. It is also an image linked inextricably with Europe in the minds of many people from the rest of the world, and many who visit the old continent are looking for a chance to taste just a tiny bit of that era. Unfortunately, and this is something you won’t appreciate until you start visiting several cities in Europe, the World War era was absolutely devastating for the medieval architecture of the continent. Buildings that had stood for centuries were leveled by tanks and bombers, permanently severing that link through time.
But there were a few medieval towns that emerged relatively unscathed. So if you are looking for a chance to step back in time as it were, you really can’t do much better than these places, which have the best preserved medieval towns in Europe.
Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel is an incredibly unique place by any definition. It sits on top of a rock in a bay in Northern France and was only reachable by foot at certain times during the day when the tide recedes and the primitive road revealed itself. Today, however, infrastructure is a little bit better, and you can visit at any time of day, or even better at night, when the ancient town, untouched by time lights up, as does the cathedral at the top.
Prague is the gateway to Eastern Europe, and the first time you visit, stepping out to look on the city from the surrounding hills, you feel like you are in a totally different place. The ancient spires and red roofs look like what you imagine medieval Europe looking like. As an added bonus, despite being one of the most well preserved major cities in Europe, it has tons of modern amenities and nightlife, all of which make Prague well worth a visit.
Toledo was well known during the middle-ages for the quality of its steel, as well as for being one of the centers of the vast Muslim empire that controlled southern Spain. The following few centuries were sadly not too kind to Toledo, which gradually declined in importance, eventually becoming a shadow of its former self as other cities in the region gained prominence.
But today much of the buildings from that era remain in the old city of Toledo, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the best places to get a feel for Moorish Spain.
York is an incredibly old city, dating back all the way to Roman times. Conquered by the Romans, and the Vikings and just about everyone else in Britain who had an army at one point or another, York is a veritable layer cake of history. Today you can see buildings from each of those eras in York, or at least their remains, and most impressively, the original medieval wall which still rings the town, making it one of the oldest of its kind that’s still intact.
Known in the region as “Le Petit Venice”, or the little Venice in French, Colmar sits on a series of canals that give the city its moniker. It is also full of winding, cobble-stoned streets and a huge number of well preserved medieval buildings. The old world French charm makes this city a place you don’t want to miss.