UNESCO and the top sites to see in Europe
Updated: Sep 6
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which was founded in 1946, is a branch of the United Nations and its goal is to promote world peace and security through art, science and culture. It has 193 member states with the headquarters situated in Paris, but there are nearly 200 offices across the globe.
UNESCO members meet 5 times per year, and policies and programs are decided biannually. UNESCO also helps fight poverty and improve education in vulnerable countries. The organization also supports international days like Women’s Day and World Teachers Days.
A designated UNESCO site is one that is afforded protection and is internationally important. Most of the funding to maintain the UNESCO sites comes from member states both compulsory and voluntary. Just in Europe there are over 400 UNESCO sites and over 1000 worldwide.
Must see UNESCO sites in Europe:
Originally an Ottoman city in Albania called Berat is a stunning UNESCO site home to a beautiful castle that is over 2500 years old. Some of the houses is this city date back to the 1500s. Don’t forget to visit the mosques and churches which have beautiful designs from the 12th and 13th centuries. Before you are done exploring the city, tuck into the local delicacies such as “Chicken with Rosnica.” This site is completely free to explore. Over 100000 people have visited in the last 4 years alone.
If you like palaces you must check out the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria.
This palace was the summer residence of the Haburgers and has 1400 rooms filled with glorious art. The grounds of this palace have an amazing Japanese Garden hosting both desert and exotic plants. Don’t forget to bring the kids; there is a maze a zoo with a kangaroo and a wonderful aquarium to keep the little ones amused! Such is the popularity of this palace which brought over 5 million visitors to Austria in 2009.
In Belgium you will find the city Bruges. Bruges is located in the West of the Flanders region in Belgium. Some people call this city the Venice of the North. This UNESCO site is for the romantics. It is so colorful you will think you are in a fairytale. Most of the buildings are from the Gothic period. Take a walk at night around the Old Town near the canals and you will be lost in the charm of this place.
Eastern Europe has this UNESCO site just two hours from Sofia, Bulgaria called The Rila Monastery. The art on show here is simply breath taking. Originally established in the 10th Century, spiritualists have been coming here since forever. What you will see here are frescoes depicting the apocalyptic dance. If you need a change of pace from all of your touring, there are the picturesque Seven Rila Lakes in the mountains nearby.
Dubrovnik in Croatia combines Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. There are lots of monasteries, palaces and churches here to explore, as well as the oldest pharmacy in Europe. This medieval city is surrounded by ancient walls over 80 meters high that are not to be missed. After the Croatian War of Independence in 1991, Dubrovnik had to be repaired significantly. Today the city is known as a great filming location and a hotspot on the Mediterranean.
Pont du Gard in France is a magnificent Roman aqueduct that must be seen in person. The aqueduct is built over the Gardon River and is the largest such structure in the world. Take a walk along the road of this site and it’s easy to see how life was back in Roman Times. Nearby to the aqueduct is a magical trail called Memoirs de Garrigue which has vineyards olive groves and huge oak trees.
If you are one for wonderful landscapes, be sure to visit Ushguli in Georgia. This settlement has several lovely villages to wander through. Chazhashi is the loveliest of them all and has over 200 stone towers called murkvam. These are fortified homes built by the villagers. The villagers were such fearsome warriors they were still wearing chainmail until the 1970s.
So, I saved the best for last.
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece. You would struggle to find someone who hasn’t heard of this ancient monument. Don’t visit this place in summer without an umbrella and sunscreen. Built back in the 5th Century; this building is now what Greece is known for as it has become the symbol of Western Civilization. The first place you need to check out is the Parthenon. This temple was built in honor of the Goddess Athena and was nearly destroyed by both the Persians and then the Ottomans. Just one look up at the Parthenon’s white columns will transport you back to the ancient times in Greece. Unfortunately, the historic site is threatened by erosions and tectonic shifts. I highly recommend seeing it while you still can.
Every UNESCO site has something unique to offer, and if I could, I would dedicate my life to traveling to visit each and every one of them, and to understand their history.
Do you have a favorite UNESCO site? Let us know about it and send us your pictures!