My 5 Favorite UNESCO World Heritage Sites

18 July 2013

As I've mentioned before, a lot of my travel planning is actually based around World Heritage sites. They're a great way to learn about a country's history and sometimes take you off the typical tourist path and bring on new adventures. Inspired by Kirsten's post over on Travel Togruta, I've decided to put together my own list of my favorite UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the ones I've traveled to so far.

1. Mont Saint Michel

I feel like this might be one of the most cliche sites in France other than the Eiffel Tower but so what? Even though the internet is flooded with pictures of this beautiful monastery, there actually aren't that many tourists if you ever make stop by Mont Saint Michel. Perhaps it is because it is out of the way from the usual attractions of France. For me personally it was an adventure of trams, trains, and car pooling that brought me to this site that I had loved ever since seeing it in my French 1 textbook and the effort was worth it.

This picturesque monastery and tiny medieval village are located on a small island surrounded by water and only reachable during low tide. The church is beautiful on its own but a walk around the beach is equally stunning.

2. Hadrian's Villa

I don't know how such an amazing place wasn't crawling in tourists but somehow my friend and I had the whole place to ourselves when we visited this villa- which is surprising considering that it's only an hour outside of Rome. For a couple euros you can take a train to the mountain town of Tivoli (which is beautiful in its own right) and then take a bus to this 2,000 year old villa from which emperor Hadrian ruled. This site was particularly fun because there are no security guards scrutinizing your every move. You're free to climb among the ruins as you like a a explore the miniature city that was built to cater to Hadrian's every desire.

3. The Summer Palace

I've already mentioned the Summer Palace in my Beijing Itinerary but it bears repeating- this place is amazing. Despite being bombed in the 1800's, all of the buildings are beautifully restored. I loved visiting the living quarters but there are also several temples throughout the grounds which are truly stunning. You could easily spend a day here exploring all the nooks and crannies of the complex.

4. The Historical Center of Prague

When people ask me what Prague is like, I often say "Imagine Disneyland, expect for real." Pastel colors, rococo facades, and gold make this city glow like a fairy tale. The fact that I visited during Easter and was able to enjoy all the beautiful markets didn't hurt my impression of this city either. True, once you get out of the tourist center things get a bit more gritty but I found a beauty in the graffiti covered, urban streets as well. Between the city center, palace, and green spaces there's so much to take in. I think I snapped about 1,000 pictures in my 4 days in Prague!

5. The Works of Antoni Gaudí

Oh, Barcelona! I had so little time in this city and a good portion of my trip was spent at the US consulate so that my friend could get a new passport after being robbed but other than that, I really loved you, Barcelona! I think one of the most amazing things about this city was the stark contrast between its architecture and that of the rest of Europe. I mean, where else will you see a church with fruits perched a top its steeples? The imaginative designs of Gaudí, sprinkled throughout the city, were a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed being transported to the artist's world of fantasy. I'd love to go back one day and explore you more!

Have you ever visited a UNESCO World Heritage Site? What are your favorites?

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  1. Hadrian's Villa has been on my lists of must sees for a while now - had the chance to go there last time I was in Rome but I went to Pompeii instead. Next time! And Prague. Everyone I know lately has been going there and loving it! Great list!

    1. Hadrian's Villa was awesome but I'd love to go to Pompeii too! Maybe one day! And yes, go to Prague for sure! So beautiful and so cheap!

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  3. I sure regret taking that afternoon to Hadrian's Villa. I guess that just means I must return! :) I'm going to Prague next year so nice to hear you liked it so much. It'll be February so not the best time of year but maybe not a lot of tourists around. I love going a bit off-season if I can.

    1. True, I don't mind a bit of cold if it means not standing in lines all day!