It is so hard nowadays to find a place that hasn`t been overtaken by tourists… In the age of Instagram and Facebook, no place is outside limits and all it takes to turn a hidden treasure into the next mainstream destination is one viral image. But it is still possible to find special places, the ones that still keep the original and local atmosphere, where you can still find local shops instead of souvenir shops, and the people walking on the streets actually live there. Here I bring you the most beautiful medieval towns that neither you nor the rest of the tourists know of!
- Éze, France
The city of Éze looks like something out of a romantic movie…
Located on top of a cliff almost 500 meters above sea level, Éze is also known as “Eagle`s Nest”. And really, the views from this beautiful French medieval town are unique: You can see the Mediterranean sea and the french riviera beaches, with its turquoise waters and beautiful houses.
One of the best places to appreciate the view, along with a glass of champagne, is from the terrace of La Chevre D`Or hotel.
Éze may be a small city, but you won’t get bored walking around its medieval streets. There`s a lot of great restaurants, wine bars and interesting shops and art galleries. I had a great time wandering the little stone streets and discovering the secrets of this medieval village.
Initially a roman city, Éze had a turbulent history of wars until finally set as French territory in 1860. Now Éze is one of the sixteen villages part of the Route des Villages Perchés (Route of Perched Villages).
You can get to Éze by car or by train, from Nice. If you’re catching the train, you have to get out at Èze-sur-Mer station and then get a bus nearby that will leave you in the top of the mountain, where Èze Village is.
The church of Èze has been built over the remains of a twelfth-century church, and its yellow tower can be seen from the distance. The insides of the church are small and decorated in baroque style. Worth a quick visit!
What to see: The Botanical Gardens with its cactus and succulent collection; the cobblestone streets and little alleys with flowers on the windows; the panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Insider`s tip: Be in Èze in time for the sunset. The city gets a beautiful golden light and the views of the sea at the golden hour are priceless!
- Girona, Spain
The door of Girona`s Cathedral
Hurry up if you still would like to see this city in the north of Spain with its empty streets and calm atmosphere. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will probably recognize some of the spots of Girona: It was used as a location for the famous tv series. This is where the real Braavos is, but the cathedral of Girona with its many stairs was also the scenery of Kings Landing`s Great Sept and that impressive scene with Cercei…
Famous characters apart, Girona is still a peaceful, beautiful city. You can stroll some of the cobblestone streets of the old Jewish quarters without even meeting anyone! Except when they have the flowers festival – Temps de Flors – and the city receives a lot of visitors, this is still a quiet medieval town where you can feel like you are living in another time…
Forget about a map when exploring Girona and just let yourself get lost in the streets of the old Jewish quarter. This Spanish medieval village has a lot of interesting places to visit as the Jewish museum, the Arabian Baths and the main square. If you get tired of walking, Girona has a great gastronomic scene with many good local restaurants and bars. Try the ice-creams at Rocambolesc, a place owned by the culinary stars Roca brothers.
Another amazing thing to do in Girona is to walk the top of the old city walls that date from the IX century, from where you can have a panoramic view of the whole city. There are four different accesses to the wall and the entrance is free.
Girona can be as peaceful as it looks in this picture, especially around the gardens of the old city wall…
What to see: The cathedral, the Arabian baths, the streets of the Jewish quarter, the wall and the river with its iconic red metal bridge.
Insider`s tip: You can visit Girona from Barcelona on a day-trip, it`s only a 40 min train ride!
- Assisi, Italy
In the winery region of Umbria you can find more than wine: The medieval town of Assisi is not only a beautiful village, it is also an important religious site, even if you`re not Catholic: San Francisco de Assis was born and raised here and visiting its gigantic and stunning basilica is a thing that should be part of every traveler`s bucket list.I visited Assisi while on my last holidays in Umbria – you can read about it here – and since the city is not big, you can see it all in one day, or even one afternoon.If the city is not that big, the Basilica of Assisi makes up for it. I’ve traveled quite a lot and I always visit the churches, cathedrals, and basilicas of a new city (more because of the architectural features than anything else) but I have to say: The basilica of Assisi is not only huge, it is unique and one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen. Sadly they don’t allow pictures inside so I can’t show you, but it has two floors, completely separated from each other, with really high ceilings and the interior is all… hand painted with the most beautiful, intricated geometric patterns. Something like I`ve never seen before…
Assisi also has some charming restaurants, where you can have a fresh glass of wine while enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of this beautiful medieval town…
For a more authentic medieval feeling, you can climb up the hill where the castle is. Honestly, there’s not much to see inside the walls of this fortress, but the view from up there is nice and it’s an easy walk from the city. I didn`t think it was worth paying for the entrance, though.
What to see: The basilica, for sure. Walk up to the castle to have a panoramic view of the city and then just let yourself get lost in this charming medieval town.
Insider`s tip: If you go in the summer, as for a mint granita (a frozen non-alcoholic drink) to refresh because it can get really hot!
4. Besalú, Spain
The bridge that gives access to the medieval town of Besalú, in Spain.
For the ultimate medieval experience, you might want to travel to Besalú, in Spain. A city that looked like it came out of a fairy tale book, the village of Besalú not only has kept its old style, it also hosts one of the most authentic medieval fairs: The Feira Medieval de Besalú, every September.
I am kind of obsessed with medieval times, I love history, architecture, archeology… Getting to a city that not only has kept its original archeological features but also recreate the customs and culture of the medieval times through the coolest Medieval Market I`ve ever seen was… Magic. This only happens once a year so it was even more special. You can check the exact dates here.
Some pictures I took of the battles that happen during the Medieval Fair of Besalú. And yes, I felt like I was in a movie!
You don`t need to worry if you`re not in time for the Medieval Market, though – the beautiful medieval town of Besalú is enchanting during the whole year. Starting from the bridge that gives access to the city and crossing the river, exploring the cobblestone streets of Besalú is a memorable experience on itself…
You can get to Besalú from Barcelona by bus (about 2:30h) or from the other medieval town of Girona, which is only 35 min away by bus – even closer if you`re driving!
What to see: The stone bridge, walk by the river to get some photos of the reflexions in the water.
Insider`s tip: Go in September and enjoy the most amazing and authentic Medieval Fair, with everybody in the village dressed like they would centuries ago, and live battles happening while you are there!
Have you been to any of these cities? Do you know any other who could be on this list? Let me know in the comments!
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