Welcome to Germany! A country known for its lively cities, half-timber towns, and romantic castles. Its diverse landscape of the coastline in the north through the river valley in the middle to the dense forest and mountains in the south. There’s a lot to offer any traveller.
With its rich history, culture and architecture, Germany has a total of 46 designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. That places them fourth overall for the top number of sites. All of these places are recognized for their natural, historic and cultural significance, selected by representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a way to preserve and protect for future generations. So, let’s learn more about some of the best ones to visit while in Germany.
Contributed by Eric from Penguin and Pia
Located in the historic old town of Aachen, the Aachen Cathedral – called Aachener Dom in German – is definitely a sight to be explored. Due to its cultural importance, the cathedral was actually one of the first places added to the World Heritage List back in 1978!
This beautifully designed cathedral – which survived heavy bombing during World War II – was completed back around the year 805. It was originally commissioned by Emperor Charlemagne – who is buried there – and has since been added to over the centuries, incorporating various architectural styles along the way.
The cathedral’s original uniqueness was influenced by the elaborate Eastern churches in the Holy Roman Empire. The grandeur of the early building – along with the fact that Aachen was a popular spa town – helped to solidify the city as an important centre of Western Europe at that time.
The cathedral is one of the top attractions in Aachen. Visitors can venture inside for free to gaze at the iconic octagonal dome, detailed stained glass, and numerous other stone features like statues.
Less than an hour from Aachen is the charming town of Monschau. Time has stood still in Monschau. Just as if it was torn from the pages of a fairy tale book. Although it is not on the UNESCO World Heritage list, it is still worth seeing and adding it to your intinery when visiting Aachen.
Bamberg, located in Bavaria in southern Germany, is a beautiful medieval town designed and built in the 10th century. It was Henry II, the King of Bavaria, who started building Bamberg and he even made it the centre of the Holy Roman Empire for a short period of time.
Bamberg is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993 for three main reasons. First, Bamberg is one of the most unique medieval towns featuring outstanding not only secular but ecclesiastical buildings in central Europe that survived.
Second, its medieval and baroque style town layout had a huge influence on urban planning and architecture generally in Central Europe. It exerted the strongest influence on the architecture of northern Germany and Hungary.
Third, Bamberg being a major center of the period of Enlightenment in Germany in the 18th century, boasts renowned German writers, philosophers and composers such as E.T.A. Hoffmann and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich who created some of the most important masterpieces of German musical and literary history.
The incredible Cologne Cathedral in the beautiful city of Cologne has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1996. Its dual spires are the second tallest in Europe and tower over the surrounding city and the cathedral itself is a perfect example of Gothic architecture.
The cathedral is Germany’s most visited landmark and is a significant monument to German Catholicism, which is why it has been designated an UNESCO site. Visitors can wander through this largest church in Northern Europe and admire the expansive interior and they can also choose to climb up to a viewing platform which provides picturesque views over Cologne and the Rhine.
The Cologne Cathedral has been a fixture in the city since construction commenced in 1248, however the church was not finished until much later in 1880. It is situated next to the iconic archways of the Hohenzollern Bridge and is easily walkable from Cologne Station which is serviced by high-speed rail, keeping the city easily accessible on a European rail journey.
Historic Town of Golsar
Contributed by Vicki of Vicki Viaja
Goslar is a beautiful small town in northern Germany and one of the most beautiful towns to visit in the Harz Mountains. Even though international visitors usually haven’t heard of this small town in the Harz Mountains, it is already very popular with local tourists.
Goslar’s old town resembles one of those towns out of an old German fairytale book. And you’ll have a hard time walking through the city’s narrow streets without being enchanted by its half-timbered houses and medieval charm.
The old town, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, is imposing. Particularly popular is the Imperial Palace, where important German emperors once lived during the summer. A visit here is mandatory when visiting Goslar. Conveniently, however, the palace is located very close to the city centre.
But also the Rammelsberg mine is considered a UNESCO attraction. Even today, you can visit the mine that once brought so much wealth to the small town. On a tour, you can descend underground and explore the narrow tunnels of the mountain.
Museum Island in Berlin
Contributed by Sydney of A World in Reach
Museum Island in Berlin is a 21-acre island jam-packed with culture, unique architecture, and of course, incredible works of art. There are five museums on the island: the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum, and the Pergamonmuseum. The island is also home to the beautiful Berlin Cathedral.
Museum Island is one of the top visited sites in Berlin for a good reason. You could easily spend days wandering through the five museums, admiring the artwork and antiquities on display.
Museum Island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The complex received the designation not only for its collections, but also for the architectural design of the museum buildings. The museums were built between 1824 and 1930, thus showing an evolution of architectural and museum design over more than 100 years.
A visit to Museum Island is a must for any Berlin itinerary. Make sure to explore at least one of the museums, as well as admire the museums’ architecture. For a great view of Berlin, head to the dome of Berlin Cathedral, which offers panoramic views of the city.
Old Town of Lübeck
Contributed by Lance and Laura Longwell of Travel Addicts
The Old Town of Lübeck is one of the best and most complete heritage cities in Germany. This waterfront city on Trave River near the Baltic Sea has been one of the most important maritime centers for centuries. Lübeck was a member of the Hanseatic League and one of the most important trading cities in the north of Europe.
In honoring the city, the UNESCO World Heritage inscription honors both the nautical history of this maritime city and also the incredible Hanseatic architecture. Throughout the city, the beautiful roof gables can be found everywhere, but the best examples of this distinctive style are the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, the salt storehouses and the Holsten Gate.
While 20% of the city of Lübeck was destroyed during World War II, UNESCO has omitted entirely reconstructed areas of the city, while embracing the authentic reconstruction of many of the city’s monuments.
Old Town of Regensburg
Contributed by Soumya from Stories by Soumya
One of the best places to visit in Bavaria, the city of Regensburg is a picturesque river town with a well-preserved medieval city center.
The historic centre, also known as Old Town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof, is filled with medieval old buildings displaying Roman, Romanesque, and Gothic architectural styles.
The old town hall, a historic corn market, and the impressive St. Peter’s Cathedral, all constructed between 11th – 13th centuries are some of the most notable buildings. Medieval patrician houses and numerous other churches also dot the city skyline.
However, the most iconic attraction of Regensburg is its 12th-century Old Stone Bridge which has become a symbol of the city over time. For several long years, it was the city’s only passageway over River Danube and still serves the same purpose.
Old Town of Regensburg is unique because it is the only intact medieval city in Germany and because of this was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July, 2006.
An hour away from Regensburg is Germany’s third largest city – Munich (after Berlin and Hamburg). This modern cosmopolitan city has everything one might expect. But all within the beautiful backdrop of the Alps and the Isar river winding through it. Although it is not on the UNESCO World Heritage site, you will want to add this to your intinery.
Palaces of Potsdam
Contributed by Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery
Contributed by James Ian from Travel Collecting
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley – also called the Rhine Gorge – is a 65-kilometre section of the Rhine River between Koblenz and Bingen. Forty medieval castles are perched on the hilltops, historic villages with half-timbered walls line the river banks, and ancient terraced vineyards form picturesque stripes on the steep slopes.
The entire area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002 due to its historic importance as a transportation route between the northern Nordic and the southern Mediterranean regions. In addition, its cultural significance with its castles, villages and agriculture; and the special way it epitomizes the evolving traditional way of life along the river valley.
Today, it is possible to see the entire valley in a day on a river cruise between Koblenz and Bingen (the island Pfalzgrafsenstein Castle is a highlight). However, to truly appreciate its incredible beauty and cultural and historic value, it is worth exploring the area in more depth. You can visit several of the castles, even stay overnight in some of them, such as, Reichenstein Castle. Be sure to sample the wine at the vineyards, and wander the streets of the tiny riverside villages Boppard and Bacharach.
Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District in Hamburg
Contributed by Sonal of Drifter Planet
Out of the two, Speicherstadt, is more famous and is often the cover photo for numerous travel articles about Hamburg. It is the world’s biggest warehouse district. Because of its old building, Speicherstadt has somewhat of an old-world charm. The buildings here were mostly built between 1880 and 1920 as a group of narrow islands on the Elbe River.
Right next to Speicherstadt is Kontorhaus, where the buildings date back to the 1920s to the 1940s. In contrast to Speicherstadt, Kontorhaus, it has large-sized official buildings. One of the most famous and the earliest buildings here is the Chilehaus, which was finished in 1924. Another interesting building in Kontorhaus is Montanhof. Both were designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2015.
Town Hall and Roland Statue in Bremen
Contributed by Arzo of Arzo Travels
In the beautiful city of Bremen, you’ll find two sites that have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage – the town hall and the Roland statue.
The Bremen town hall (or Rathaus) consists of two adjacent buildings. The old town hall was built in the early 15th century and the new building was erected in the early 20th century. For the past 600 years, and still to this day, it is where the seat of the President of the Senate and Mayor meet.
The stunning architecture is an example of Brick Gothic and Weser Renaissance. The figure of Roland is a global symbol of freedom and trading rights. Bremen’s Roland statue is over 600 years old and it is widely regarded as one of the oldest and most impressive examples.
Contributed by Carolyn of Holidays to Europe
As a holidaymaker…
Visiting Germany with so much variety can be overwhelming as to what to see and do. Perhaps looking at the designated UNESCO sites might be a way to help plan your next intinery. As these places are carefully selected for their historic and cultural significance, and always are worth visiting.
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