Boasting rich history and vibrant contemporary culture, a visit to these UNESCO-protected cities should be on every traveler’s must-see list.
#728 Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
Known for the split architectural personalities of its Old Town and New Town, it’s no wonder that Edinburgh inspired the The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The Scottish capital’s medieval Old Town is characterized by its “fishbone” street pattern, with narrow walkways branching off of the broad High Street. The meticulously planned New Town boasts many neo-classical buildings associated with world-renowned architects.
#959 Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso
Nicknamed La Perla del Pacífico (Pearl of the Pacific), this bohemian city by the sea became Chile’s most important harbor town following the country’s independence. It’s stunning harbor views, colonial-style buildings and colorful manor houses make for a charming and vibrant skyline.
#576 Historic City of Ayutthaya
Boasting a skyline studded by stone towers, sprawling palaces and Buddhist monasteries, Ayutthaya was one of the world’s most cosmopolitan urban centers and a capital of the Siamese Kingdom from 1350 to 1767, when it was destroyed by the Burmese army. Today, its striking ruins harken back to the city’s past splendor and show why it is sometimes called the “Venice of the East.”
#485 Hierapolis, Pamukkale
The ancients attributed the bizarre calcified landscapes of Pamukkale (Turkish for “Cotton Castle”) to the healing powers of the Hierapolis spa’s natural hot springs. Warm, mineral-rich water flows from the earth, creating stunning pools that were used as a thermal spa at the end of the 2nd century B.C. Today, the site features well-preserved ruins of baths, temples and other Greek monuments.
#616 Historic City of Prague
The product of 1,100 years of urban development, the City of a Hundred Spires presents a montage of architectural styles, from Gothic to art nouveau and cubist. The city’s majestic skyline contains the spectacular Castle of Hradcany, the soaring Gothic Vaults of St. Vitus’ Cathedral and the elegant Charles Bridge.
#1033 Historic Centre of Vienna
Once the playground of Hapsburg rulers, Vienna is also the city of composers, having given rise to such talent as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. Empress Maria Theresa chose the city as the site of her summer home, the gorgeous Schönbrunn Palace that features meticulously landscaped gardens and an ornate interior—while the Hapsburgs preferred to visit Vienna in the winter months, staying in the stately Hofburg Palace.
Have you ever visited any of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites? What did you think?