Dalt Vila - History and Facts | History Hit

Dalt Vila

Amy Irvine

26 Jul 2023
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Xaviduran / CC BY-SA 3.0

About Dalt Vila

With over 2,500 years of history, Dalt Vila (Ibiza’s historic Old Town) is among the oldest towns in Europe, and the entire Old Town was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999. The fortified area has an array of cultural and historic treasures, including a castle, old walls, a cathedral, monastery and numerous high quality museums, not to mention its labyrinth of narrow passageways, cobbled streets, and its many restaurants and shops.

Perched on a hilltop known as Puig de Vila, Dalt Vila offers impressive views of the harbour and the neighbouring island of Formentera.

History of Dalt Vila

Dalt Vila, originally known as Ibosim, was first populated in the Phoenician era in 654 BC. Its elevated location led to its new name of Dalt Vila, meaning ‘High Town’, and over the centuries, the town was occupied by various civilizations, including the Romans.

Walls were first constructed around the town in the 5th century to defend it against pirate attacks. These underwent several modifications and were reinforced in the 16th century under King Philip II. The new heptagon-shaped Renaissance-era wall, equipped with cannons, took 40 years to build and played a crucial role in safeguarding the city from pirate and Ottoman invasions.

Restored in the 20th century, the walls of Dalt Vila now stand 25 metres high, and are up to 5 metres thick. The town’s historical significance and cultural heritage led to its designation as a UNESCO heritage site in 1999.

Dalt Vila today

Today Dalt Vila seamlessly blends old and new, with a mix of quaint spots scattered with pretty restaurants, cafes, boutiques and shops. Much of the architecture and layout of the area has remained untouched since the town’s construction, and blue information plaques provide historical insights at key sites.

Dalt Vila has 4 entrances, the most impressive (and dramatic) of which is the Portal de ses Taules, where visitors walk up a stone slope across a drawbridge and through a large arched gate flanked by two Roman statues, leading to the Plaza de Vila – the main square. Roads from all directions lead to the 13th century Cathedral, which also offers spectacular Mediterranean views. Adjacent is the Castell d’Eivissa, an imposing medieval hilltop castle with high ramparts. 

The cathedral is free to enter, and also houses the Museu Diocesa which is well worth a visit. Opposite is the Madina Yabisa Interpretive Centre charting the city’s Arab history and containing a section of the original defensive walls. The Archaeological Museum is also situated in the same square, and houses a small collection of prehistoric and Phoenician artefacts. For something more modern, visitors can head to the Museum of Contemporary Art, just past Portal Nou, the town’s second entrance.

Whilst the Dalt Vila is full of history, it’s also worth walking around simply for its stunning views out over the port, the sea and inland over Ibiza town. The Placa D’Espanya’s steep tunnel takes visitors through and outside the walls – an exhibition of which can be found at the Baluard de Sant Pere.

Walking the entire way around the city ramparts takes less than an hour, but it’s also worth wandering through the towns steep maze of white streets, narrow passageways and residential cobblestoned UNESCO-listed streets with their picture-postcard houses. In early May, a medieval festival adds to the town’s allure.

Dalt Vila also hosts significant events including the grand finale of the International Music Summit, which takes place on the battlements of Santa Lucía in early summer and features an open-air concert with some top names in techno, pop and electronic music. Additionally, the Bastion of Sant Pere ramparts serve as a scenic location for a fantastic open-air cinema, Cinema Paradiso.

Getting to Dalt Vila

Dalt Vila is easily accessed from Ibiza town and is free to enter. The best way to explore is on foot, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes to tackle its steep maze of cobbled streets, alleyways and paths. There are 3 official sightseeing loops, and 2-hour guided tours run daily throughout the Old Town.

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Historic sites in Ibiza

A guide to some of the top historic sites in Ibiza, from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old Town of Dalt Vila to the islands rich archaeological sites and multiple Pirate Towers.