Visiting sites of historical and cultural influence has always appealed to us whilst on the road and most of them are under the banner of ‘UNESCO World Heritage site’. This means the site is a landmark or area which has been deemed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as having something historical, cultural and scientific about the place and is protected by international treaties. We have traveled quite a lot around Europe and we would like to share with you are favourite ten UNESCO sites which are worth checking out (in no particular order).
1 – Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout, The Netherlands
One of Netherland’s main landmarks are the mills at the Kinderdijk, north of Rotterdam (and is an excellent day trip away when visiting Amsterdam ). The locals here constructed a lot of hydraulic works to drain the land for agriculture back in the Middles Ages. Here a lot of dykes, reservoirs, windmills and pumping stations can be found. Not only its a great place for photography but also for bike rides, walks and runs in the area.
2 – The Belfries of Belgium and France
In Belgium and the northern parts of France, the architecture is very Dutch based with the roofs etc (that’s our opinion). We also love the belfries in this part of Europe which we built between the 11th and 17th centuries. Not going into too much detail about what they are but its basically to do with power and wealth of the people in the town. Whilst in other countries like Germany and England built town halls, in this area they built Belfries. When UNESCO first listed the belfries into the list, only 32 belfries in Belgium were listed but since then another one from Belgium and twenty-three from the north of France are now in the list. In total, there are fifty-six belfries (we haven’t visited them all but we are trying).
We have visited between us: Belgium: Antwerpen (x2), Brugge (Bruges), Diksmuide, Gent, Veurne, Ypres. France: Amiens, Arras, Béthune, Boulogne-sur-mer, Calais, Dunkerque (Dunkirk), Gravelines, Lille.
3 – Historic centre (Old Town) of Tallinn, Estonia
If there was going to be a whole city put in the list then it has to be Tallinn. We have been here numerous times and we love the cobbled streets, quirky shops, great food and drink. Plus it’s even better when this place is buried under inches of snow, then the whole area taken in from Toompea Hill looks like a wintry Christmas Card. The city has stood here since the 13th century and is a major port on the Baltic Sea (and also a good day trip for those living in Helsinki , Finland across the water, just a two hour ferry ride to grab the cheap drink!).
READ ALSO: Top Places to Visit in Tallinn
4 – Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin , Germany
This is one of the first places we visited after we met and as we were exploring the German capital of Berlin, the palaces of Potsdam had to be visited. The area is huge and has about 150 buildings as well as a massive park to walk around.
READ ALSO: The UNESCO Site of Sanssouci Park
5 – Acropolis, Greece
Come on, the Greeks gave us a lot of things like Science and Maths and Greek-Style yoghurt but they also gave us the Acropolis. A lot of visitors head to this ancient citadel located on top of a hill above the city. The site has several building which have lots of historic and architectural significance. The heart of these being the Parthenon. Well, this building is truly impressive despite being damaged in a war many centuries ago by the Venetians, to whom fired a cannonball towards it and with pot luck, hit a lot of gunpowder which was stored here and kaa-boom! The Parthenon we see today is from this explosion. Since then it has became a church, a mosque, some dodgy dealings took place with some Ancient Greek statues and marbles taken to the British Museum in London , UK (sorry guys but I am one of many thousands of Brits who want to see these returned to Athens) and a major restoration project commenced. Walking around the place I did have to keep an eye on where I was walking due to all the marble stones. Even in the dry heat of the sun they still can be slippery. Still, a UNESCO site which is worth checking out.
READ ALSO: Exploring Athens Famous Ruins in One Day
6 – Þingvellir National Park, Iceland
This National Park located east of Reykjavik (isn’t everything located east of the Icelandic capital), hosted the Althing, which was an open-air assembly which acted as the first parliament on the island (and one of the first parliaments in the world) was established in 930AD and last met in 1798 and a lot of laws were made and passed.
7 – Historic Centre of Siena, Italy
Siena is a beautiful city and I preferred the beauty of this place over Florence . I fell in love with it straight away, with its narrow cobbled streets which wind around the hilltop. The heart of the old city is the Piazza del Campo, an amazing shell-shaped town square and in the heart is the Torre del Mangia (The Mangia Tower) which is the second tallest medieval tower in Italy after the Asinelli Tower in Bologna at 112m (367ft). I found the square to be an ideal spot to get a quick snack from nearby (like a slice of pizza), find a step opposite the tower and just admire the building, square, tower and watch people get on with everyday life.
8 – Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland
Not everything in life (or this list) is happy and rosy. We also have to remember the bad things in the past so that history doesn’t repeat itself. So it’s every right to include Auschwitz-Birkenau, the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp which were in use from 1940 to 1945. The camps have been left as they were when the Russians came in and freed the survivors before pushing onto Berlin to end the Second World War in Europe. The fortified walls, barbed wire, barracks, gas chambers, platforms, they are all still here. These camps were the largest in the Third Reich and 1.5 million people (mostly Jews) were starved, tortured and murdered in the camps.
READ ALSO: My Emotional Visit to Auschwitz
9 – City of Bath, UK
Bath (2h30 drive from London or a 2h train journey) is worth visiting because there is only one word to describe the city, ‘stunning’. There are not many places like this in the country and Bath has to be the most beautiful city in the land. It is not just the buildings but it is full of history and the city is known more famously for its Roman Baths. Still in very good condition, the views overlooking the outside pool with the statues of Roman gods overseeing the water with the Abbey in the background is truly a sight worth going for. The baths also has an amazing museum and lots of goodies found in the ground in the surrounding countryside.
READ ALSO: Top 10 Day Trips From London
10 – Palace and Park of Fontainebleau, France
Located one hours train journey south of Paris is the Palace of Fontainebleau, which is located on the outskirts of the town of Fontainebleau and the forest. This palace (or castle) is one of the largest in France and served as a residence for French monarchs up until Napoleon III. Then the French Revolution came along and the castle didn’t suffer any damage (but all the furniture inside did get sold off). Later on Nazi Germany took over France and the castle, again, no damage.
READ ALSO: Top Castles to Check Out Whilst in Paris
Despite being really beautiful inside, taking in the tour of the grand halls, bedrooms of the former monarchs and looking at the mesmerising decor, for us it was the grounds which we were amazed at. The facade of the palace blends in well with all the grass, man-made canals and flowerbeds surrounding it plus the pond with the pavilion is well worth taking in. We spent nearly the whole day here and we were glad we did. A lot of walking is involved so good footwear is a must.
So that’s it, or is it? I am sure we will have another ten UNESCO post up soon as there are so many of them located in Europe and we love checking out the sites. Do you have a favourite in Europe or one you want to see on this list? We would love to see your views.
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