When planning your next trip to Europe why not consider visiting one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites? There are more than 370 sites for you to choose from. Many of the sites are ones you would expect to see on a person’s list of places to see. Stonehenge, The Versailles, the Acropolis, Pompeii or the Kew Gardens but there is so much more.
What is UNESCO? It is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO was formed immediately following WWII. Their goal is to promote peace and understanding between nations and help reduce poverty while increasing human rights. It was at the 1972 Convention that UNESCO decided that there are unique places in the world that deserve to be protected. These “cultural heritage sites” are important not only to the country they are in, but also to the world as a whole.
Each county nominates sites for inclusion in the list of sites. The site must meet at least one of ten criteria, either cultural or natural. These criteria range from being outstanding examples of human creative genius, being an area of exceptional natural beauty, a site, which represents a civilization that has disappeared, or an example of a type of building that illustrates a stage in human development.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Southern Europe (140 sites over 15 countries)
Atapureca Mountains in Spain contain an archeological site, which contain remains from the oldest hominids ever found in Western Europe. These fossils and tools date back 1.2 million years ago.
The Škocjan Caves in Slovenia are comparable in significance, to many better-known sites, like the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands. Underground waterfalls and rare flora make this an amazing natural site.
Western Europe (131 sites over 9 countries)
Bauhaus School in Germany is an example of how architecture and interchange of ideas influence the world. The Bauhaus School of architecture is considered to be the basis of the Modern Movement.
The City of Bath, in England was founded by the Romans, in the 1st century AD. They enjoyed the natural hot springs and used them as a thermal spa. The Roman remains, including temples and bath complexes, are well worth seeing.
Northern Europe (36 sites over 8 countries)
Skogskyrkogården in Sweden is also known as The Woodland Cemetary. The cemetary was created between 1917 and 1920. The masterful blending of the cemetary to the surrounding nature is what makes this a site to add to your list.
The Urnes Staves Church in Norway is a 12th century example of wooden construction from the middle ages. It combines asthetics from Celts, Vikings and Romans. It is fascinating to see features normally carved in stone, created in wood.
Eastern Europe (77 sites over 9 countries)
Historic Centre of Kraków in Poland is the former capital of the country. The town is anchored by the 14th century Wawel Castle. It is an art museum today but it was the home of kings in time past.
Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape in the Czech Republic is unique in having the two sites the closest together. The Liechtenstein families designed a landscape between the two chateux that harmonizes nature and time.
There are far too many sites to be included in a single article but I hope that this inspires you to check out UNESCO World Heritage Sites for yourself when planning your next amazing trip to Europe.