Spain has many walled cities, including Segovia and Toledo, but the walled city of Ávila Spain is unique. It is considered to be one of the best-preserved walled cities in Europe. Located in western Spain, and surrounded by mountains, the medieval city is built on the flat summit of a rocky hill, which rises abruptly in the midst of a veritable wilderness. The magnificent city wall is over 8,200 feet (2,500 m) long; even more impressive is the fact that the walls are almost completely intact.

Once part of the Roman Empire, the city fell to Arab and Berber invaders in 714 CE. It later returned to the Christian Iberian Kingdom under King Alfonso VI of León and Castile in the late 11th century. At that time, the much-needed wall was erected to prevent further attacks.

The stone and granite walls are stacked up to 40 feet (12 m) high and 10 feet (3 m) thick. They are capped with a battlement rampart walk which has 88 defensive towers, and surrounded by a moat. No doubt, the wall proved to be an effective deterrent against invaders.

Unlike most other walled cities, the walls of Ávila encircle the heart of the modern city, not just the vestiges of a city of the past. Visitors can walk along a good proportion of the sentry path on top of the ramparts.

The walled city’s Old Town area was designated as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The city walls are lit at night, creating what has been described as the “largest fully illuminated monument in the world.”

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