The image of the walled old historical centre is the product of centuries, from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to modern times. Dalt Vila is the high part of the old historical centre of Ibiza, located inside the 16th-century Renaissance city walls.
Dalt Vila is the name given to the high part of the historical centre of Ibiza. The meshwork of streets and squares making up this area in the heart of Ibiza lies within the city walls.
Historically, the old city was a major enclave until the late 18th century due to its strategic geographic position in the network of maritime communications along the Mediterranean. The defensive and protective nature of Dalt Vila thus comes as no surprise.
The ensemble features 16th-century Renaissance bastions, the City Hall (an old Dominican convent), the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Snows and the gates in the walls, especially the gate of ses taules, beside the old marketplace ('mercat Vell'). The streets are laid out haphazardly, adapting themselves in different ways to changes in level.
The renovation and fortification of Ibiza city formed part of Charles I and Philip II's plan to modernise the coastal defences along the Mediterranean Sea. Two Crown engineers took part: Giovanni Battista Calvi, who did the first phase (started in 1555) with the first bastions, and Jacobo Paleazzi Fratín (from 1575 on), who began a new bastion, enlarged another and changed the main entrance. According to specialists, the idea was to apply the advances in military architecture that were being introduced on the Iberian Peninsula mainland. Construction went on until the late 16th century, and involved the participation of local workers, master craftsmen and engineers.
The main entrance, known as la Puerta del Mar or the Portal de ses Taules (The Gate of the Sea, or Door of Boards) is a monumental structure shaped like a great triumphant arch, flanked by two Roman statues (copies, the originals are in the museum), a large coat of arms bearing the emblems of Philip II and a stone with the names of the king and the governor at the time, and the date of 1585. The entrance conserves part of the works from the drawbridge over a moat dug in front of it.
This area of the city was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1999.