The Berlin Wall is certainly not the most beautiful wall on our list, but it’s the most significant in modern history. Erected starting on Aug. 13, 1961, to separate East and West Berlin, this notorious symbol of the Cold War was made of 95 miles of concrete and barbed wire, and stood almost 12 feet tall. More than 190 people died trying to cross from East to West before the wall was famously torn down by East Germans in 1989.Checkpoint Charlie was demolished in 1990 and rebuilt at the Allied Museum, as was a 140-foot section of the wall.
Only an hour’s drive from Brussels, the charming Flemish city of Bruges has a lot to offer visitors who explore inside its walls, which have been protecting the city in some form since Julius Caesar’s time. The city’s strategic coastal location was controlled over the centuries by Romans, Franks and Vikings, among others. Today the streets and cobblestoned alleys are lined with cafes and chocolate shops, colorful homes and canals. Don’t miss the Diamond Museum, Chocolate Museum or, if you’re a fan of potatoes, the French Fry Museum.
Tuscany is famous for its scenic hill towns, but perhaps none is as impressive and imposing as San Gimignano. Encircled by thick walls punctuated by 14 surviving stone towers, San Gimignano has an instantly recognizable skyline. The town has had a checkered history of fortune, from saffron, and decline, from plague. Today it is rich in tourism: By some counts, more than 3 million tourists visit each year, many of them arriving in large buses that idle just outside the town walls. Despite all that, San Gimignano is definitely worth a visit. Be sure to sample the local specialty, pignolata, made with cream custard and pine nuts (learn how to make it). If you’re lucky enough to be there in June, catch the Ferie delle Messi, a re-enactment of medieval jousting.
Walls have surrounded this charming town, a stone’s throw from Florence, since the Roman times. They were rebuilt frequently over the centuries, but those that visitors see today were built during the Renaissance. You can walk on top of the walls all around the city: Lucca turned it into a pedestrian promenade. Take in the sights, including the two well-preserved gates of Santa Maria dei Borghi and San Gervasio, the clock tower, St. Martin’s Cathedral and the Roman amphitheater. A town with a rich history, Lucca is the birthplace of a famous composer and was once run by the sister of an emperor.
Quebec City, Quebec
The Old Town of Quebec City (Vieux-Quebec) gives North American travelers a rich taste of Europe in terms of its culture, language and cuisine. The city, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, also looks decidedly European with its walls and gate towers, making it the only remaining fortified city north of Mexico. Visitors today can visit the Royal Palace, the Citadelle, Artillery Park and Battlefields Park to get a dose of local history, and should definitely seek out local food and wine, everything from Charlevoix lamb and St. Lawrence seafood to regional ice cider.