With the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, UNESCO gives the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site for areas located in various countries of the world and having cultural, historical, scientific, or other importance. It is desired to protect these areas, which have extraordinary value for humanity.
Europe is a rich continent in this sense because it is an ancient settlement. The countries with the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the country are, in order, Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. In this article, we will introduce the most famous places found in these four countries.
The Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France
One of France's most famous UNESCO sites is Fontainebleau Castle. Due to its proximity to Paris, it is the most visited in the country. Fontainebleau was one of the places preferred by aristocrats to hold hunting parties. For this reason, a castle was built here in the 12th century. Those who came after Louis VII also developed and enlarged this castle and brought it into its present form. The original architecture, tasteful interior decoration, and beautifully landscaped gardens of Fontainebleau Castle make it definitely worth a visit.
2. La Roque Saint-Christophe
Located in the Dordogne city, La Roque Saint-Christophe is a shelter-city from thousands of years ago. Built by the Cliffs People and home to about 1,000 people in prehistoric times, the settlement is about a kilometer long and 80 meters high.
We recommend taking a guided tour so that you can better imagine the life of our ancestors inside a high rock. We are sure that you will be surprised to see the most primitive version of everything that should be in a city (slaughterhouse, kitchen, chapel, etc.).
3. Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD, is located near the Vers-Pont-du-Gard in southern France and is known as the tallest and best-preserved Roman aqueduct bridge.
The view of the bridge rising over the Gardon River is magnificent. Of course, seeing this breathtaking view is not the only reason to visit the region. Taking a walk in nature surrounded by vineyards and olive groves or even jumping into the ice-cold water of the river are among the options.
4. The Pope’s Palace
Although the Pope's current address is the Vatican, this was not always the case. They lived in the Avignon, France, in the 14th century, and this period was even called the Avignon Papacy. Built in nearly 17 years, the Pope's Palace has the "the largest Gothic structure in Western Europe" title. And is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are stunning decorations and frescoes all over the palace. This uniqueness has made it the tenth most visited UNESCO site in France.
The Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in England
1. Tower of London
The Tower of London is not only a UNESCO site but also Britain's best-known landmark. It has served many different purposes since the day it was built. It was used as a royal palace, prison, armory, mint, castle, even zoo.
Take guided tours to learn the colorful history of the Tower of London. Wander around the Bloody Tower, the White Tower, and the Green Tower. See all the brilliance of the Crown Jewels up close. The Tower of London is an invaluable place for culture and history nerds.
2. Westminister Abbey
Westminster Abbey has a long history. William the Conqueror was crowned here in 1066, and coronations are still held here. Built by Henry VII and referred to as the Lady's Chapel, it is one of the most impressive parts of the monastery. It is characteristic of English medieval architecture. There is also a mausoleum for members of the royal family.
Officially called the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, this Gothic building is just west of the Palace of Westminster.
Located in Wiltshire, Stonehenge is a popular day trip from London. These prehistoric rock fragments date back to roughly 3,000 BC. It's one of the UK's best-known UNESCO sites, and millions of visitors come to see it annually.
Historians and archaeologists still do not have a clear understanding of the purpose of this structure. Some claim it may be used for religious ceremonies, others to study the movements of the sun and moon. Another interesting point is that the bluestones here were moved here from a distance of about 300 km. Stonehenge, with all its mystery and unanswered questions, is a must-see.
4. Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, which is open to worship for 15 centuries, creates an impressive atmosphere both inside and outside with its Gothic features and colorful stained glass windows. Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt in the 11th century. It was enlarged in the 12th century and, after a great fire, took its current Gothic form. The building, which is located in Kent County, has importance in terms of history. Archbishop Thomas Becket was killed here on Henry II's orders. The tomb of Becket, who was later canonized, is here, making the cathedral a place of pilgrimage.
The Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy
Destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, Pompeii was a big city of about 25,000 people. Located in the Campania region of Italy and near Naples, this ancient city emerged in the 16th century from under 5 meters of volcanic ash and pumice.
It is thanks to the ash that the remains in Pompeii were largely preserved. Demonstrating a wonderful panorama of Roman everyday life, this UNESCO site is home to ornate houses, beautiful public buildings, and works of art.
The history of the city of Verona dates back to the 1st century BC. But its principal development takes place in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Scaliger family, who came to power, rebuilds the walls, and the city becomes a military fortress. Many monuments from the ancient, medieval, and Renaissance periods are preserved in Verona. Porta Borsari, Porta Leoni, Arco dei Gavi, Ponte Pietra, Roman Theater, and Amphitheater Arena are just a few.
3. Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast has a wonderful natural and cultural beauty. The houses built on the rocks right next to a deep blue sea are enough to make you fall in love at first sight. Amalfi, which has been among the favorite settlements of people since the Middle Ages, has been included in the UNESCO list for its architectural, historical, and topographical significance.
Amalfi's countryside is just as impressive as its coast. It has vineyards, orchards, and plateaus stretching as far as possible. You will feel that time flows differently in this unique Mediterranean town.
4. Historic Center of Rome
The historical center of Rome within the city walls and the Basilica of St Paul outside the city walls have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are protected. The city of Rome, whose foundation dates back to the 8th century, is seen as the cradle of European civilization and therefore has great importance for the whole world. In the historical city, there are must-see works such as great ancient monuments, forums, the Mausoleums of Augustus and Hadrian, the Pantheon, Trajan's Column, and Marcus Aurelius Column.
The Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain
The historic center of Cordoba, located in the Andalusia region, goes back to the 8th century. Since it has been under the influence of Islam for many years, it hosts both ancient mosques and cathedrals. With the perfect blend of the different religions and cultures, Istanbul is at a level to compete with Damascus and Baghdad. It is possible to find traces of the cultures that came here throughout history in every corner of Cordoba.
Its 300 mosques, including the famous Great Mosque of Cordoba, unique palaces, architectural monuments such as the Alcazar Castle and the Calahorra Tower make this a must-see UNESCO World Heritage site.
2. Mont Perdu
Rising in all its glory on the France – Spain border of the Pyrenees Mountains, Mont Perdu is home to Europe's deepest canyons. High meadows, caves, lakes, and magnificent landscapes contribute to the ecological structure of the region. This pure nature makes it a place on the UNESCO list.
The importance of Mont Perdu is not only due to its natural beauty and diversity. The people of the region are also culturally significant as they are the maintainers of authentic mountain life. Villagers still use traditional farming methods.
3. Works of Gaudi
All around Barcelona is filled with magnificent architectural works of Gaudi. All of these unique buildings are on the UNESCO list. Park Güell with its mosaics, detailed facades, and natural curves, La Sagrada Familia with its Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms, Casa Mila, which is considered one of the significant works of modernism despite its rough appearance, and Casa Vicens, the first house designed by Gaudi, are some of them. As the world's most exciting works of public art, these architectural masterpieces are must-see.
The historic center of Toledo has been there for over 2,000 years. It hosted many cultures from Roman to the Visigoths and contained examples of significant works of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Ancient ruins, synagogues, mosques, and cathedrals display an eclectic harmony. The city is like an open-air museum.
In Toledo, which also shows the effects of the Renaissance period, the Alcazar Palace, which has preserved its splendor for thousands of years, takes the lead. It is possible to see the effects of different architectural periods in several parts of the palace.
When you take a walk in the city for a few hours, you can feel like you are making leaps in time.
The Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany
1. Sanssouci Park
The Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam is known as the "Versailles of Berlin." Indeed, the history of this building, which attracts tourists at least as much as its counterpart in France, dates back to the 18th century. The palace, which was built for Frederick, the king of Prussia, is as much the center of attention with the gardens around it as it is itself. The magnificence and beauty of the Baroque period can be seen all over the palace. It deserves to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site with gorgeous statues, fountains, and much more.
2. Rhine Gorge
Also known as the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the region stretches for approximately 65 km between Koblenz and Bingen. It is one of the most known UNESCO sites with the uniqueness of both its geological, historical, and cultural elements. Old towns, castles, vineyards watered with the sweat of the locals, and, of course, magnificent landscapes. It's obvious why it is one of Germany's top tourist destinations.
3. Wartburg Castle
Wartburg Castle located in Thüringen. The castle, which was built on the highest hill of the city in the Middle Ages, has survived to the present day as very well preserved. While the exterior shows the old times much the same, the interior has been extensively renovated and given a more modern look. Visitors touring the castle feel as if they have entered a time capsule adorned with many works of art.
4. Roman Relics
Trier, Germany's oldest city, is home to many ancient Roman ruins. The city, which dates back to the 1st century AD, was known as the "second Rome" at that time. St. Peter's Cathedral, Virgin Mary's Church, Amphitheater, Roman Baths, Porta Nigra Gate, and Constantine's Basilica are some of the dozens of well-preserved historical monuments in Trier. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is like a magical gateway to the cultural world of ancient civilizations.
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