Walls are meant to stand the test of time, and often more precisely: invaders and trespassers. In this case, we’re going to take you on a journey around the world, visiting some of the most impenetrable barriers, as well as a few sacred and even eccentric ones in between.
Famous Walls Around the World
1. Walls of Ávila — Avila, Spain
Ávila’s Romanesque walls still surround the old quarter of the Spanish city just like they have since they were constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries. The picturesque wall wraps up and around the medieval town with its nine gates and 88 towers. Tourists can even ascend and traverse part of the fortification, from which they are able to peer from lookouts and into neighboring gardens. Then, at night, the walls light up, making them a worthwhile sight no matter the time of day.
Photo credit: Erin Ridley
2. Hadrian’s Wall — Brampton, UK
Nearly 2000 years old, Hadrian’s Wall was the first fortification built across Great Britain, and was the most heavily fortified border in the empire. Spanning about 45 miles, the wall also served as a custom’s post, where taxes could be imposed. Now, while much of the barrier no longer exists, travelers can still visit the unguarded UNESCO heritage site, walking or cycling the Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Flickr photo by quisnovus
3. Gum Wall — Seattle, USA
Reinventing what makes a wall attraction-worthy, is Seattle’s gum wall. Originally started in 1993 as a custom among patrons of Unexpected Productions, the wall has turned into a tourist stop in its own right. Now, people create images out of their gum and even spell out words, transforming the tradition into a semi-sick form of street art. If you’re near Post Alley and Pike Place Market, stop by, but perhaps bring some hand sanitizer for good measure.
Flickr photo by plusgood
4. The Berlin Wall — Berlin, Germany
Among the most famous walls in the world, most people inevitably think of the Berlin Wall. From 1961 to 1989, the 96-mile divider claimed to protect against fascist elements, and completely separated East and West Berlin. While intact, the partition represented many things: a death strip due to some 100-200 trespassers who were killed; a canvas for urban art expression (on the western side); and a metaphor for the Iron Curtain. When, in 1989, the wall finally came down, Germans from both sides rejoiced celebrating their unity. Now, most of the structure has been demolished apart from three sections, which now hardly resemble their original appearance.
Flickr photo by hobnob_malevolence
5. The Lennon Wall — Prague, Czech Republic
Like the Gum Wall, Prague’s Lennon Wall didn’t start out as anything particularly special. But beginning in the 1980s, it became a magnet for John Lennon-inspired everything – from artwork to song lyrics. During Communist times, the wall was even a source of conflict, with authorities claiming the free-spirited students (and supporters of the wall) to be crazy and agents of Western Capitalism. Now in constant evolution, the graffiti-ed canvas remains a symbol of the messages that John Lennon’s music espoused.
Flickr photo by Party0
6. The Great Wall of China — Beijing, China
Erected in the 7th century BC, the Great Wall of China stands firmly as arguably the most well known wall in the world. The 5,500-mile partition spans the east-to-west northern border of China, and was originally built to protect the empire from intruders as a first line of defense. Overtime, it has served as a border control, allowing for imposition of duties as goods passed through on the Silk Road. Now, the wall claims fame as one of the world’s most popular must-see destinations.
Flickr photo by JLim02
7. The Walls of Constantinople — Istanbul, Turkey
Originally built by Constantine the Great, Constantinople’s walls consist of a series of defenses that once protected what we know today as Istanbul. The fortification was erected in the 4th and 5th centuries to shield the then Roman Empire’s capital, and held off many attacks — despite the advent of gunpowder-packed canons — until the Ottomans took over the Istanbul in 1453. While many portions of the wall are still visible, much of it has been dismantled during the last couple hundred years as the city grew.
Flickr photo by access.denied
8. The Western Wall — Jerusalem, Israel
The Western Wall – located at the base of Temple Mount – has served as a Jewish prayer site and pilgrimage destination since as far back as the 4th century. Built by King Herod in 19 BCE, it is believed to originally have been constructed as a part of the Jewish Temple’s courtyard. A common — and relatively modern — tradition (the earliest mention of which dates back to the 1700s) is for visitors to place a note into the stone cracks – in fact, more than a million are wedged into the wall each year. In recent times, it is often called the “Wailing Wall” because for centuries Jewish mourners have gathered there to lament the loss of their temple.
Flickr photo by Chadica
9. Aurelian Walls — Rome, Italy
Built sometime during the third century AD, the Aurelian walls surround the Seven Hills of Rome, as well as the Campus Martius and the Trastevere district. Extending 12 miles, the brick-and-mortar barriers were constructed as a defense to the ever-expanding city. Since they served as Rome’s main fortification up until the 19th centuries, visitors can still view the walls as they remain in relatively good condition.
Flickr photo by teldridge+keldridge
10. Sacsayhuamán — Cusco, Peru
Given its location high above the Peru’s Cusco, this thousand-year-old walled complex is often referred to as a fortress. Not only was it the likely site of battles, but some believe it may have even been a location for rituals and ceremonial activities. While parts of the polished-stone block structure remain intact, much of it was removed when the Spaniards sought to build up Spanish Cusco. These days, Sacsayhuamán has received UNESCO heritage status, and is the location for the annual winter solstice festival.
Flickr photo by Frank_am_Main
Which of these walls have you visited? Let us know which ones are your favorite!