Top 6 Europe’s World Heritage Sites to visit in 2020

We live in a magnificent world filled with endless wonders. While natural wonders bear testimony to the mysterious magic of Mother Nature, manmade wonders serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet. Thanks to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status, several of these landmarks are now protected so that subsequent generations can also bask in their glory. Europe alone is home to over 400 World Heritage Sites and here is our pick of Europe’s World Heritage Sites to visit in 2020.

Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg, Austria

Filled with medieval and baroque style buildings, and offering the best mountain and river views, the historic centre of Salzburg is all the beauty of Austria rolled into one town centre. As per the UNESCO Committee, the site is of outstanding universal value being an important example of a European ecclesiastical city-state which preserves to a remarkable degree its dramatic townscape, its historically significant urban fabric and a large number of outstanding religious and secular buildings from several centuries. It is also noteworthy for its associations with the arts, and in particular, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

One of Croatia’s first national parks, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a magical wonderland comprised of gently cascading waterfalls dropping into turquoise waters, set amidst a lush forest where wolves and many rare bird species reside. In UNESCO’S words, the waters flowing over the limestone and chalk have, over thousands of years, deposited travertine barriers, creating natural dams which in turn have created a series of beautiful lakes, caves and waterfalls – geological processes that continue till date. 

Cologne Cathedral, Germany 

Begun in 1248, the construction of this Gothic masterpiece took place in several stages and was not completed until 1880. Built over seven centuries, the beautiful gothic structure of the Cologne Cathedral withstood several aerial bombs during World War II and today its twin spires dominate the skyline of Cologne. Drawing about 20,000 visitors each day, it is one of the most stunning of Europe’s World Heritage Sites. The St. Peter’s bell housed in the cathedral is the largest swinging church bell in the world and if you’re willing to climb the 500+ steps of the south tower, you can take a closer look at it. 

Vatican City

The Vatican City is undeniably the most famous of Europe’s World Heritage Sites. It is also one of the most sacred places in Christendom. A unique collection of artistic and architectural masterpieces lie within the boundaries of this small state. At its centre is St Peter's Basilica, with its double colonnade and a circular piazza in front and bordered by palaces and gardens. The basilica, erected over the tomb of St Peter the Apostle, is the largest religious building in the world, and is designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Carlo Maderno.

Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland

If the Vatican City is the most pious of Europe’s World Heritage Sites, Auschwitz Birkenau is the grimmest. UNESCO World Heritage Centre calls it a symbol of humanity's cruelty to its fellow human beings in the 20th century. The fortified walls, barbed wire, barracks, gallows, gas chambers and cremation ovens are a harsh but necessary reminder of the crimes inflicted by the Third Reich on 1.5 million people, among them a great number of Jews, imprisoned at Auschwitz Birkenau. 

Works of Antoni Gaudí, Spain

When Antoni Gaudí received his degree from the School of Architecture in Barcelona in 1878, the Director, declared: “I do not know if we have awarded this degree to a madman or to a genius; only time will tell.” Indeed, time has told of Gaudí’s genius when seven properties designed by him –Parque Güell, Palacio Güell, Casa Mila, Casa Vicens, Gaudí’s work on the Nativity façade and Crypt of La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Crypt in Colonia Güell – were given the UNESCO World Heritage Site status. As per UNESCO, these monuments represent an eclectic, as well as a very personal, style which was given free rein in the design of gardens, sculpture and all decorative arts, as well as architecture. Explore these inimitable, and quirkiest of Europe’s World Heritage Sites and decide for yourself whether Gaudí was a genius or a madman. 
View of Park Güell Carmel hill, Barcelona Scenic Mediterranean tours