Do you enjoy learning more about a country’s history on your travels? Include some UNESCO sites on your itinerary. It’s a foolproof way to enjoy a rich dose of authentic heritage.
What is UNESCO?
UNESCO is the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture. It was founded in 1945 to make sure that all nations have access to quality education. This includes safeguarding each country’s heritage and diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage site is a place or region that has special cultural or physical importance. It is kept safe and promoted as cultural destination.
Here are a few of our favourite UNESCO sites in Europe:
The whole of Venice (Italy)
Venice was founded in the 5th century and is spread out over 118 tiny islands. It became a notable maritime powerhouse in the 10th century. The entire city is an architectural marvel! Not to mention that there are countless masterpieces by some of the world’s finest artists on show!
Fun Fact! Italy has the most UNESCO sites in Europe. Up to date they have 51. Read more here.
Palace of Versailles (France)
The Palace of Versailles was home to the French Royal court at different times during the 18th and 19th centuries. These days the beautiful buildings and its astonishing gardens is almost a suburb of Paris. Here you can enjoy opulence at its best!
Historic Centre of Prague (Czech Republic)
The historic centre of the Czech capital is not just beautiful in terms of architecture. There are buildings over nine centuries old! Prague also played a big role in the intellectual awakening of Europe. It was home to great minds like Mozart and Kafka.
Old City of Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Dubrovnik is known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic. It was a major sea power on the Mediterranean from 1200s onwards. Many buildings were damaged in an earthquake in 1667 and armed conflict in the 1990s, but there are still many wonders to explore. This includes buildings in the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles.
Pont du Gard (France)
The Pont du Gard is an ancient structure that was built to bring the Roman aqueduct of Nîmes over the Gard River. It is almost 50 meters high and spans three levels. Research suggests it was built between 40 and 60 AD. The architecture and engineering it took to create this marvel was way ahead of its time.
Acropolis, Athens (Greece)
The Acropolis and its monuments celebrate classic arts and critical thought. Construction of this vast icon began in the 5th century BC. This was after Athens overpowered the Persians and established a democracy. Athenian statesman Pericles proposed the project and sculptor Phidias provided inspired guidance. Today it is a reminder of the Greeks’ big contribution to modern culture.
Historic Centre of Oporto (Portugal)
Oporto is the second largest city in Portugal. Built on the hillsides next to Douro river, its history spans 2000 years. There are many ancient monuments to visit, including the Church of Santa Clara. Other iconic sites include the neoclassical Stock Exchange and Romanesque cathedral.
Historic Centre Brugge (Belgium)
Brugge is an example of a medieval city that didn’t lose its Gothic character. It is a vibrant, modern destination with lots to see and do. However, many of the original structures still form part of its identity. Visitors get to enjoy the best of both the old and new worlds.
Upper Middle Rhine Valley (Germany)
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is incredibly beautiful. This 65 km-long area of the famous Rhine Valley has lots of castles and historic villages. Not to mention the scenic vineyards against the slopes! Many legends and fairy tales originated here. This area and its dramatic beauty also inspired many artists and composers.
The old wharf of Bergen is known as Bryggen. It played a very important part in the region’s trade between the 14th and 16th centuries. Its iconic wooden structures have burned down many times, but were rebuilt traditionally. Today, 62 buildings remain of the original landscape. It is a monument to human resilience.
Historic Centre of Riga (Latvia)
Riga is famous for having the finest collection of art nouveau buildings in Europe. Between the 13th and 15th century it flourished as a trade haven. Its historic buildings reflect this wealth. In the 19th century neoclassical buildings were added. The result is a very interesting mix of architectural styles.
Related: Read more about the Baltic States of Europe.
Kremlin & Red Square, Moscow (Russia)
The Kremlin was the residence of the Great Prince since the 14th century. It was built by the best Russian architects of the time. It is also an important religious centre. The Red Square lies at the foot of its rampants. It is home to a very beautiful Russian Orthodox church, St Basil’s Basilica.
Plitvice Lakes National Park (Croatia)
Plitvice Lakes National Park has great geological and ecological importance. Over thousands of years water flowed over limestone and chalk. The deposits created natural dams and lakes. This in turn created caves and waterfalls. The unique ecosystem is home to bears, wolves and rare birds.
17th Century Canal Ring of Amsterdam, Singelgracht (Netherlands)
The canal ring area of Amsterdam is a prime example of successful town planning. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch extended their port city by draining the swampland. This required a complex system of canals around the historic old town. It remains an engineering marvel to this day.
The Loire Valley (France)
The beautiful Loire Valley is home to many historic villages and châteaux. But it’s not just noteworthy because of towns like Blois and Chinon. The cultural landscape is an example of how man adapts to his environment. The people of this region made a living from the river and treated it with care. Its monuments also pay testament to the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment.
These are just 15 of the wonderful UNESCO sites you can visit in Europe. Use it to tailor your own cultural adventure, or join us on a coach tour along these routes. Learning more about a country’s history and heritage truly enriches your travel experience.