A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having special cultural or physical significance. There are numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the world, almost all of them worth a visit for one reason or another – but sometimes you’re not after a temple, a ruin or a historical wonder in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes, all you want is to dive into another city and experience life somewhere totally different. The good news is that you can totally do that and still get to experience a city that’s made the World Heritage Site list – and it’s guaranteed to be ultra-special.
If you’re getting wanderlust for a beautiful city, here are our top contenders for UNESCO World Heritage Site cities that you should definitely visit before you die.
Definitely one of the best destinations in the world for honeymoons and romance, Venice is famed for its gondolas and intricate network of waterways - and for good reason. It’s not to be taken in by the magic of Venice when you’re standing on the famous Rialto bridge overlooking the Grand Canal or walking the famous Piazza San Marco or Saint Mark’s Square. The entire city is a marvel of architecture and is filled to the brim with works of the world’s greatest artists. One thing is for certain: culture, art and history lovers will find themselves falling in love with this particular UNESCO World Heritage site city.
Game of Thrones fans will feel right at home in Dubrovnik, thanks to many a scene featuring the distinctive sea-facing Old Town encircled by a huge stone wall. Croatia is on the rise as a tourist destination at the moment thanks to its relatively affordable cost of living, the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic sea and the undeniable charm of Croatian hospitality. Once a bustling trading hub Dubrovnik, nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, has managed to preserve a huge amount of its Gothic architecture despite a serious earthquake in the 1600s. Currently, it’s undergoing major restoration coordinated by UNESCO after being damaged in the siege of 1991-92.
Hoi An, Vietnam
The old trading port town of Hoi An is a beautiful way to ease yourself into Vietnamese culture and South East Asian travel in general. The Ancient Town features a thriving open market next to the riverside, and a stroll down the narrow, tightly-packed alleyways will see you stumble across plenty of quaint houses and pagodas – look out for wooden beams and accents, often carved with delicate traditional designs. Cross the Japanese bridge during the lantern festival for a real treat. On top of the fact that Hoi An is quiet, quaint and one of the best-preserved examples of an ancient town, Hoi An also offers phenomenal food, glorious beaches and clothes shopping galore. What more could you want?
With iconic offerings like the sphinx and the pyramids, it’s not hard to see why Cairo would be a prominent feature on any list of heritage site cities to add to the bucket list. Of course no trip to Cairo would ever be complete without going full-on tourist and visiting Giza and the Egyptian museum, but you could also take a Nile cruise, visit the bazaar district to soak up the market atmosphere or revel in the manicured lawns and sheer greenery of Al-Azhar Park.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico has more heritage sites than any other country in the world – who would have thought?! More than just tacos and tequila (though there’s plenty of that to go around too!), Mexico City is a strange beast. Built on water (it’s actually sinking gradually), the city has five Aztec temples, Built in the 16th century by the Spanish on the ruins of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Mexico City has has five Aztec temples, dozens of architecturally-beautiful colonial buildings and the famous area of Xochimilco, which is a bit like a mini-Venice of waterways, “floating” gardens and amazing agricultural prowess. Go for the history, go to be surprised by another ‘third world’ country that exceeds your expectations, go for the vibrant nightlife or, hey, just go for the tacos.