The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has been protecting culturally and historically important sites since 1954. Following a successful campaign to move four Egyptian temples in order to stop them being destroyed during the building of the Aswan Dam, the movement was created by twenty-one member states. Since then, over one thousand lakes, mountains, cities, monuments and buildings have been granted World Heritage status all over the world, with Italy being home to the largest concentration of sites. As of today, there are 195 member states with the most recent additions (South Sudan and Palestine) being inducted in 2011.
Europe has many places which are protected by UNESCO, some of which you may never have heard of. Here are just a few which a well worth a visit.
The Historic Centre Of Évora, Portugal
Situated to the east of Lisbon, Évora is one of the oldest towns in Europe. It was chosen by UNESCO because of its links with the past which go all the way back to Roman times. The intriguing history of this small town is also shown in the medieval ruins that still remain and the fact that it was once the seat of the King of Portugal.
Particular sites of interest include the Prata Aqueduct and the Henriquina fountain which has eight jets of water symbolising the eight streets that lead to the historic Praça do Geraldo; the square in which it stands. At the moment, Évora is best reached via a two-hour train journey from the Portuguese capital, but a high-speed rail network is planned to link the two cities with Madrid.
Margravial Opera House, Bayreuth, Germany
This Baroque opera house in Bavarian Germany is the only place in the world in which you can fully enjoy an opera of this period as it was supposed to be received. The original materials of wood and canvass are still intact and therefore, the acoustics and general ambience of the theatre are exactly how they would have been when it was completed in 1748.
Sadly there are currently extensive restoration works being carried out but anyone heading to Bayreuth can learn all about the Opera House at the visitors centre on site.
Stevns Klint, Denmark
From somewhere with links that go back two millennia to a coastal spot in Denmark which offers a glimpse into what happened on earth 65 million years ago. Not only is this part of Zealand (the Danish island on which the town of Stevns is located) a hotspot for impressive fossils, the cliff also has clear markings which determine the change from the Mesozoic era to the Cenozoic.
Remarkably Stevns Klint displays evidence of the colossal meteorite which crashed to Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs. Today the area of Stevns attracts people looking to enjoy fishing, museums and beaches but it is also possible to hike along the infamous cliff.
Bryggen Wharf, Bergen, Norway
The Bryggen Wharf is one of the principle attractions of the Norwegian town of Bergen. It features around 60 remaining wooden buildings that are painted in bright colours and showcase what the whole town may have looked like when this part of Norway was at the forefront of the Hanseatic League trade activities throughout the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Although there have been many fires that have caused damage to the wharf over the years, restoration has been carried out in the traditional way that the buildings would have been built to preserve their historic look.
Whilst a walk along this area of the harbour is a must during your time in Bergen, the city also has other great attractions in the form of a cathedral and the Fløibanen funicular railway. It's also just a short boat ride to some of Norway's most magnificent fjords.
The Trulli Of Alberobello, Italy
Whilst Venice, Pompeii, Naples and Rome are all some of Italy's most famous World Heritage sites, the small town of Alberobello is one of which fewer people will have heard. Found in the Puglia region, it earned recognition from UNESCO due to the numerous examples of an ancient building technique which are excellently preserved.
Trulli (the plural of Trullo) are conical dwellings which don't involve the use of mortar in the construction. Instead, the stones are stacked on top of each other in a technique that dates back to prehistoric times and is still used today. Visitors to this quaint part of Italy can even stay in these buildings during their time in the town and a stroll through the streets will uncover churches and shops made in this style.
Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Germany
This landscaped park is situated almost at right angles to Hanover and Dortmund, in the centre of Germany. Its extensive water features and impressive statue of Hercules attract people from far and wind who revel in exploring the expansive grounds of this beautiful place. The Bergpark was constructed during the Baroque period, taking around 150 years to complete, and showcases the architectural brilliance during this time.
Amongst the waterworks across the 590-acre grounds, there are various waterfalls, lakes and ponds. However, the crowning glory has to be the Grand Fountain which shoots a jet of water 50 metres in the air (be sure to arrive at 3.30pm on Wednesdays and Sundays to see this in action). The park is accessible all year round but the period between May and September is when it is at its most awe-inspiring.
If you would like to visit any of the World Heritage sites mentioned or any others in Europe, Fred.\Holidays can tailor-make a trip specifically for you. Just call us with your requirements and we'll put together your perfect holiday.