Most medieval cities were less than one square mile in size (640 acres). The community should have 20–30 buildings per acre. Remember that in a genuine medieval city, everything had to be within acceptable walking distance of everything else. There are manors along main transport routes between cities. And then there are monasteries, which are also important because they often had their own farms and trading networks.
These communities were usually composed of three ethnic groups: the rich, the middle class, and the poor. The wealthy were made up of merchants, traders, and landowners; the middle class included artisans, professionals, and soldiers; and the poor consisted of slaves, prisoners, and others who were unable to work against them.
In Europe, towns grew rapidly from the 11th century until about 1350, when they began to stagnate. This is probably because of problems with famine, disease, and war. But even during times of peace, most people lived in villages not in towns. So you can still find evidence of this pattern today in places like England, where almost all of its historic cities were born into violence or unrest.
Cities provided protection from crime and other dangers by creating an environment where everyone could feel safe. They also gave people access to markets, knowledge, and jobs. Most important, cities helped drive economic growth by providing a platform for businesses to grow and thrive.
The size of medieval manors varied, but they were generally minor estates of between 1200 and 1800 acres. Every noble possessed at least one manor; powerful nobles would have multiple manors, frequently distributed over the kingdom; and even the monarch relied on his several manors to support the court's food supply. However, a large proportion of manorial land was used for grazing livestock or growing crops, so the average manor was not particularly large.
Manors were usually located some distance from a town or city because they needed to be self-sufficient. They might have a village near them for trading goods or services, but otherwise they depended on farming or hunting for most of their needs. This is why they often include facilities such as barns, stables, dairy farms, and lodges for hunters who wanted to eat their catch.
Medieval manors were sometimes inherited through marriage, but more commonly purchased by settlers who formed a community with all the rights and obligations of a lord. If the settler died without an heir, then the manor would be lost to that family. However, if the settler had children who survived him/her then they would normally get the manor when they came of age. This system meant that many small families could own large tracts of land due to the death of older siblings who didn't have children.
Medieval cities were often tiny and densely populated. They were narrow and up to four floors tall. The majority of the dwellings were built of wood and tended to tilt with time. Two houses facing each other would occasionally lean so far that they touched across the street! This is because their owners could not afford expensive stone or brick for their buildings.
People lived in towns because there just weren't enough open spaces in Europe at this time to allow for large farms. There were also no cars, so getting out into the country was not possible.
Towns at this time were largely autonomous entities who controlled their own government and laws. In return for this power, they paid taxes to the crown. Sometimes a city would be granted special privileges by the king or queen in order to attract businesses or residents from outside of town. These could include free trade agreements, exemptions from taxation, or even full citizenship.
In medieval times, most people lived beyond the walls of the city. Even within the city limits, only the rich could afford homes with land. The rest made do with small rooms in houses shared with strangers.
The poor of the middle ages had it worse than most people think. They didn't have any safety net protecting them from poverty. If someone couldn't pay their bills, they would be thrown out onto the streets without food or shelter.
The majority of people in Medieval England were village peasants, but religious centers drew people, and many grew into towns or cities. Outside of London, the cathedral cities of Lincoln, Canterbury, Chichester, York, Bath, Hereford, and others were the biggest towns in England. Within the capital's orbit, the office of mayor brought power and prestige to men who ruled their communities from the Cathedral Cloisters.
Medieval London was large enough to have several banks, and there are records of loans being issued by British merchants to farmers in other parts of Europe. But most commerce in the city was local; only a small proportion of it moved across town borders. The main trade routes were inland, while shipping was limited by poor harbors and lack of commercial centers beyond London itself. The old Roman road that is now the highway between London and Brighton was important for transporting goods southwards, but it was not until the 19th century that the first railway came to England.
In conclusion, London was the largest city in England during the Medieval period. It had a population of about 200,000 people in 1270, but this would have been reduced by 30% during epidemics. There are no official numbers for medieval English cities, but they probably accounted for less than 2% of Britain's population.
They were typically one to two miles apart, so you could easily stroll to a neighboring hamlet for a social call or to complete some particular labor. The local lord lived in manor homes in the larger communities. He might have a small castle for security but most of his activities would take place in the town where he had his estate offices and household staff. Medieval villages were pretty stable places; if you worked for the lord of the manor, then you knew you could find employment again if you lost it. There was also an organized police force in many towns that included guards who went by night into the surrounding countryside to protect villagers from violence done by thieves and robbers.
Modern cities are different; they can be several miles apart. This is because they grew up around factories and businesses that required much of the population to travel to them to work. There were no cars in medieval times so people got around on foot or by bicycle. A traveler wanting to visit multiple towns would need to make several trips or stay overnight in hotels.
The closest modern equivalent to a medieval village is probably a small town. They tend to be between one and two miles apart too. You could walk to most houses in an hour or so. Larger cities are usually separated by about 10 miles or more.