Old Town, Historic Center, Altstadt, Vanhakaupunki, Gammelstaden, Citta Vecchia, Centro Storico, Casco Antiguo or whatever you may call it, is the area of a city where its history, its values and its identity are kept alive and where are usually located the medieval remains of that city and some of the main tourist attractions.
Imagine Prague without the Old Town Square or Florence deprived of its historic center and you’ll almost run out of reasons to visit these beautiful cities.
It comes somehow natural for Europe- the old continent, to host most of those privileged cities but there are moreover some others around the world that proudly worth to be mentioned.
When I am visiting a city I usually start with its oldest part, that way I manage to capture the essence from the very beginning in order to let it enfold me and to lead me along the entire journey.
When I feel like traveling in time, the following old centers are my favorite doorways:
Marbella Old Town
White houses with flowers on balconies, narrow streets adorned with stylish boutiques, tiny churches, beautiful fountains, ladies wearing flamenco dresses, the rustic Plaza de Naranjas (Orange Square) with its lovely traditional restaurants where you can taste the best of Andalusian cuisine are all part of Marbella Old Town, one of the most colorful and full of life old centers I’ve ever seen.
The main attractions of Marbella Casco Antiguo are the Moorish Walls, Church of Saint Mary, Chapel of Saint John and of course, the beautiful craft shops.
Prague Old Town
The Old Town of Prague filled with legends and a tumultuous history is the most imposing and valuable side of the city. With the famous Old Town Square located in the middle, with several museums and churches around, connected by old-fashioned cobblestone streets, this old town dominated by the gothic Church of Our Lady of Tyn and the Town Hall is an authentic demonstration of history and one of the best preserved old centers of Europe.
Sibiu Old Town
The Old Town of Sibiu surrounded by citadel’s walls is one of the most important touristic and cultural attractions of Romania. Consisting of three lovely medieval squares-Big Square, Little Square and Huet Square, the old center of the city hosts many iconic monuments (seven towers-one for each traditional profession), a great range of cozy cafés, terraces and restaurants and one of its ten museums-the Brukental Museum. Many festivals and events are taking place every year on this medieval display with a German flavor.
The Historic Center of Rome
With outstanding roman ruins, remarkable basilicas and palaces, fountains for wishes, sumptuous testimonials of one of the greatest civilizations in the world, the Historic Center of Rome is undoubtedly the definition of what an “Old Center” means. The vibrant life, the cosmopolitan appearance, the extravagance, the remains of an astonishing past are all thoroughly mixed in order to create one of the most visited, romantic, famous and beautiful places on Earth.
Vienna’s Old Town
The Innere Stadt is the soul of the city and the perfect picture of the Viennese sophistication. The State Opera House, St. Stephens Cathedral, the Albertina Museum, the Hofburg Palace and the Austrian National Library are the supporting pillars of this ocean of culture situated in Vienna’s Old Town. A slow walk on Karntnerstrasse –Vienna’s main shopping street will introduce you in a genuine atmosphere where you can linger over a torte and a cup of coffee for hours, feeling the lovely fragrance of fresh baked pastry and living as if you were part of the society that they invented.
The Old Town of Amsterdam
Whether you’re in search of culture, history, architecture, shopping, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, whether you fancy a quiet stroll or a fun ride, the Old Town of Amsterdam will put all these on your tray, inviting you in a cosmopolitan and unconventional jaunt between canals, curled bridges, narrow gobbled houses, bicycles, tulips and De Wallen (Red Light District). The historical center of Amsterdam is a charming mediaeval area boasting 4 neighborhoods – De Wallen, Dam, Spui and Nieuwmarket. The main attractions of Amsterdam Old Centre are: Oude Kerk – the oldest building in the city, dating back in 1300, a beautiful church and an authentic monument filled with a rich history, the marvelous Royal Palace, the Amsterdam Historical Museum and the famous Madame Tussauds’s.
Warsaw Old Town
You will be surprised by the beauty and the individuality of Warsaw Old Town. The place where sadness meets fairy-tale, the Historical Center of Warsaw also called Stare Miastro, was largely destroyed during the Second World War when more than a half of the city’s population was killed. The buildings were perfectly reconstructed at the end of the war but there is a shade of sorrow still floating over the beautiful Polish city. Some of the things you should not miss when you’re here are: The Old Town Market Square- a charming space filled with cafes, bars, shops and restaurants located right in the middle; the churches- St John’s Cathedral, the Jesus Church, and St Martin’s Church; The Barbican- a remain of the fortification that once surrounded Warsaw and practically, the gate between The Old Town and The New Town.
Historic Centre of Brugge
A medieval urban landscape with beautiful Gothic architecture, history, channels, lovely atmosphere and chocolate. The Historic Centre of Brugge looks so beautiful than it’s actually hard to believe that there are people living in a place like that. There are plenty of things to do in this romantic area: you can pop up into one of the lovely restaurants and try the delicious local cuisine or the great range of beers, you can enjoy a carriage ride or you can just travel back in time to the city’s glorious period. If you want to see The Historic Center of Brugges at its best, you should definitely visit it during the Christmas period when the city hosts one of the most beautiful idyllic Christmas Markets.
Ibiza Old Town
Called Dalt Vila (Upper Town), the medieval old town of Ibiza is located on a little mountain overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Probably the most fascinating part of the island, Ibiza Old Town consists of three focal areas: Dalt Vila itself, Sa Penya and La Marina.
Dalt Vila is the center of Ibizian experience, so different from the rest of the island, so magical and full of history. The Roman ruins, Ibiza Castle and the famous city walls are beyond doubt, the main attractions of Dalt Vila.
La Marina is an extension of the historic center and the district where are located some of the best restaurants, bars and shops on the island. La Marina is also the place where ships from all over the world are tied up and where Eivissa traditions are beautifully assorted with a cosmopolitan vibe.
Sa Penya or “the gay town” of Ibiza is one of the most popular areas to enjoy the amazing nightlife during your trip on “the island that never sleeps”.
Tallinn Old Town
Tallin Old Town is a compact medieval city center sprinkled with winding cobblestone alleys, guard towers, gothic spires, beautiful shops and markets, colored houses, churches, museums, cozy cafes and restaurants, the charming King’s Garden, all enclosed within walls and olden times.
Tallin Old Town looks great in any time of the year but if you’re looking for something special or if you really want to experience the authentic Estonian feeling, organize your trip in order to be there for Christmas! There is so much to see and do…; you will be spoiled with an unforgettable display, a very friendly atmosphere, impressive snow, great food and good prices.
Which city center has impressed you the most?