Germany is known for its lively cities, half-timber towns, and romantic castles. And, many of those are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany.
There are 51 UNESCO sites in Germany, which places them fourth overall for the top number of sites around the world.
Many of these Germany UNESCO World Heritage sites are sought-after destinations. And, as travellers, we love to visit those places that are held in such high regard. So, with help from some expert travel bloggers here are 12 of the best Germany UNESCO sites worth visiting!
Table of Contents
1. Aachen Cathedral
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 Sites Germany list, it’s still worth seeing and adding to your itinerary 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 Germany 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.
Discover the World Heritage town of Bamberg on this 2-hour walking tour. Explore the winding streets, picturesque churches, and half-timbered houses. Feel the magic of the past with a local’s guided tour, book your dates here.
3. Cologne Cathedral
The incredible Cologne Cathedral in the beautiful city of Cologne has been on the Germany 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 a 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.
Join a guided tour through the World Heritage town of Cologne. Visit many of Cologne’s highlights, including the Cologne Cathedral, Hohenzollern Bridge, and the Old Historic Town Hall, check prices here.
4. Historic Town of Goslar
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 Germany 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.
5. Museum Island in Berlin
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 Germany 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.
Explore Berlin on a comprehensive walking tour to see all the major sights, from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island, book your dates here.
6. Old Town of Lübeck
The Old Town of Lubeck is one of the best and most complete heritage cities in Germany. This waterfront city on the 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.
The UNESCO World Heritage inscription honours both the nautical history of this maritime city and also the incredible Hanseatic architecture. Throughout the city, 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.
Discover the Old Town of Lubeck Germany UNESCO city center on a self-guided walking tour with your smartphone. Visit the backyards, corridors, and alleys of the city’s seafaring quarter check prices here.
7. Old Town of Regensburg
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 the 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 the 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. The Old Town of Regensburg is unique because it is the only intact medieval city in Germany and because of this was inscribed as a Germany 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 itinerary.
Learn about the rich history of Regensburg as you cruise along the Danube. Admire the views of the Old Town and hear interesting facts about the city and region, book your dates.
8. Palaces of Potsdam
The palaces of Potsdam, located just outside the city of Berlin, make for an easy day trip. All within walking distance of the town’s centre, you will find 2,064 hectares of parks, gardens, street promenades and palaces. This includes Sanssouci, the Neues Palais, Babelsberg Palace and Charlottenhof Villa. The UNESCO World Heritage status was designated in 1992 and 1999 for this area.
Evident in each of the palaces is that Prussian kings of Germany loved to flaunt their wealth and power. The interiors feature elaborate details of the finest materials in marble, gold and silver, as well as, intricately carved wood. Artisans were brought in from across the country to create a wow effect. Its architectural style, popular at the time, was mainly Baroque and Rococo.
Along with that, you can see the impressive paintings, sculptures and other over-the-top collections preserved at the palaces for you to see some of the amazing details, craftwork and excessive design and influence the kings showcased to their wealth and power.
In addition to the palaces, are the expansive and elaborate gardens. Everything from annual gardens to wild gardens to vineyards to an oriental tea house along with the impressive orangeries.
See Potsdam and its Germany UNESCO World Heritage sites on a guided walking tour of the city’s spectacular history and many attractions, check prices here.
9. Rhine Valley
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 Sites Germany 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 of Boppard and Bacharach.
Discover the Middle Rhine Valley and its romantic castles on this 1.5-hour boat trip from Rüdesheim. See the Germany UNESCO sites which inspired Victor Hugo, Goethe and Heinrich Heine. Check prices and book your dates.
10. Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus District in Hamburg
Speicherstadt and Kontorhaus in Hamburg are two separate districts but are right next to each other. To understand the importance and the beauty of these two historical areas, one needs to be aware of the fact that Hamburg was, and still is, one of Europe’s biggest ports. It’s the city where massive ships arrive from all over the world and as a result, require a big warehouse.
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 has large-sized official buildings. One of the most famous and earliest buildings here is the Chilehaus, which was finished in 1924. Another interesting building in Kontorhaus is Montanhof. Both were designated as World Heritage Germany status in 2015.
Admire famous sights along Hamburg’s iconic harbour, glide through the picturesque Speicherstadt, and see impressive container ships up close on a 1.5-hour cruise, check prices here.
11. Town Hall and Roland Statue in Bremen
In the beautiful city of Bremen, you’ll find two sites that have been designated as World Heritage Sites in Germany status – 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.
Discover the highlights of Bremen’s World Heritage historical city center on this small group tour, check prices and book your dates
12. Würzburg Residence
Despite being located in a city that was 85% decimated during World War II, Würzburg Residence survived. And, in 1981, was granted Germany World Heritage Sites status, thanks to its cultural and historical significance.
Construction of this stately building began in 1720 when Prince Bishop Phillip Franz von Schönborn commissioned architect Balthasar Neumann to design him a new home. The result was nothing short of magnificent. Inspiration was drawn from across Europe with elements of design from palaces from Vienna to Paris and from Genoa and Venice incorporated into the building.
In total there are 40 rooms including the White Hall and Imperial Hall as well as apartments and a chapel. The curved staircase, with its vaulted ceiling adorned with frescoes by renowned artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, is one of the Residence’s many highlights. Throughout the palace, a mix of French château architecture and Viennese baroque styling can be seen, thanks to the work of some of Europe’s most accomplished craftsmen who worked on the construction.
Entry to the Court Chapel and garden is free. One-hour guided tours of Würzburg Residence are available to visit the Palace and are amongst the best things to do in Würzburg.
Discover Würzburg World Heritage old town with a guide on a walking tour. Stroll past the iconic Falkenhaus, enjoy a view of the Marienberg Fortress, and leave with a small bottle of traditional Franconian wine, check prices here.
FAQ: UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany
How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany are there?
There are 51 UNESCO sites in Germany, which places them fourth overall for the top number of sites around the world.
How many churches are on the Germany UNESCO World Heritage list?
There are eight churches in Germany that are UNESCO World Heritage sites, some include Aachen Cathedral, Cologne Cathedral, Naumberg Cathedral, and Pilgrimage Church of Wies.
Is the Berlin Wall a World Heritage site in Germany?
No, the Berlin Wall is not a designated World Heritage site in Germany.
How many tentative sites are there in Germany?
There are 12 tentative sites that have been nominated but not yet declared World Heritage Status in Germany. Sites like the castles of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (including Neuschwanstein Castle).
Germany Travel Resources
If you are planning a trip to Germany and looking for more inspiration or trip planning resources, check out these articles.
- Plan your trip to Munich with this guide
- Take a road trip on the Alpine Road through the German Alps
- Visit Berchtesgaden National Park in southern Bavaria
- Holiday in Lake Constance near the Austria and Switzerland border
- Discover the fairy tale town of Monschau
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As a holidaymaker
Visiting Germany with so much variety can be overwhelming as to what to see and do. Perhaps looking at the designated Germany UNESCO sites might be a way to help plan your next itinerary. As these places are carefully selected for their historic and cultural significance, and always are worth visiting.