A big part of Europe’s appeal are the stories that are tied to many-a-historic site, so it is a huge honour and privilege for a city, town or village to have one of its landmarks designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To be chosen, the site must have incredible cultural, historical, scientific or other type of significance. It might showcase an accomplishment of humanity, a place of incredible natural beauty, or be proof of our intellectual history on Earth. Whatever the reasoning, there are over 1,121 UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world (as of November 2020) with several of them found along the Rhine!
The Town of Bamburg
Located in southern Germany, Bamberg is an incredible representation of an early medieval town in central Europe with its layout and architecture still holding strong since the 12th century. This, in turn, influenced both northern Germany and Hungary’s architecture; and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Bamberg’s Old Town has three historic core areas with buildings that are still authentic, having undergone continuous restorations since the 1950s. Don’t miss its famous Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) that sits above the Regnitz River.
Known as one of the most important and largest Romanesque churches in Europe, Speyer Cathedral was the burial place of German emperors for almost 300 years! It is an awe-inspiring architectural masterpiece – its four towers have been placed to symmetrical perfection, alongside the equilibrium of the eastern and western blocks. Despite a serious fire in 1689, the reconstruction of the cathedral is an almost exact replica of the original structure. It’s both the initial and the re-build that has played a big part in the history of Romanesque architecture.
Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout
In a true feat of human ingenuity, the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout is a group of buildings with a hydraulic system that drains and protects the surrounding land for agricultural and settlement purposes. With their iconic structure often seen in pictures set against the sky and canals, the Mill Network is well-known worldwide and often symbolises the Netherlands. Amazingly, construction began in the Middle Ages and the 19 mills continue to operate today!
A fairly ‘new’ addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the imposing Rhine Valley was officially included in 2002 for its unique combination of cultural, geological, industrial and historical reasons. The 65-kilometre stretch is filled with vineyards, towns, fortresses and castles; so sailing through it means there is something to see at each turn! Throughout the centuries, the Rhine Valley (and the entirety of the Rhine river itself) has been one of the busiest transport routes as it links the southern and northern halves of Europe.
Similar to Bamburg and its prominent architecture status, the Renaissance-influenced buildings found throughout Strasbourg’s Grande-Île (centre) and Neustadt (New Town) are how it came about its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Cleverly built around the legendary cathedral, the city has evolved over time into a unique urban space influenced by French and German nuances. No doubt you’ll fall in love with this gorgeous city as you wander its cobblestone streets.
Thinking of cruising? Now’s the time to book! Take a look at our full range of Rhine river cruises and offers for your Avalon Waterways dream holiday today.