For anyone who loves getting their history fix on their holiday, visiting some of the world’s most important UNESCO heritage sites is a good place to start.
These are the places that remind us not only about our planet’s rich history, but also how old we are in comparison!
Some of the best travel stories are made by visiting such places, mainly because we leave with a sense of having learned something new about our ancestors.
While the majority of the places featured here are mainly about locations in Europe, the UNESCO list contains far more countries on its list. Check the website for more information.
The smallest country in the world, and the first to feature is Vatican City. The city-state surrounded by the Italian capital is the home of the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, along with its iconic art and architecture.
With more UNESCO listings than anywhere in the world, the city’s highlights include St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the spellbinding Sistine Chapel. These buildings are home to some of the most popular sculptures and paintings in the world, including frescoes by Perugino, Botticelli and Michelangelo.
This picturesque Austrian city became a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997, and for good reason too.
A city rich in art and culture, its architectural buildings were shaped by the Baroque style, many of which were created by Italian architects, Vincenzo Scamozzi and Santino Solari.
Heritage must-see highlights in the city include DomQuartier Salzburg, Salzburg City, as well as the streets and squares, like Getreidegasse and Mozartplatz, named after the city’s most famous native.
The largest city, and capital of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish region of Belgium, is another UNESCO treasure.
With its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings, Bruges place was a shoo-in to joining the list.
Notable buildings include the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches a height of 122.3m, making it one of the tallest in the world.
The church is also renowned for being the home of Michelangelo’s only sculpture to leave Italy during his lifetime: the utterly beautiful white marble, Madonna and Child.
Famed for its medieval Arab, Christian and Jewish monuments within its city walls, Toledo is the home of more than 2,000 years of history.
The ‘City of Three Cultures’ has among its impressive sights, the Castillo de San Servando, the Gothic Cathedral, the El Greco museum (a recreation of the artist’s home) and the Synagogue of El Transito.
Take the time to visit the many ‘puertas’ in Toledo, which were the entrances to the walled city. These include Puerta de Bisagra Nueva, (the main entrance) and Puerta de Bab-al-Mardum (the oldest city gate of Toledo).
The southern Italian city of Naples is a popular destination for many reasons, yes, the pizza (!), but its historic heritage also attracts thousands of visitors each year.
One of the most ancient cities in Europe, Naples started life as a Greek colony in the 9th century BC. Naples prospered under the Greeks, and then the Romans after.
Along with the many temples, villas, aqueducts and colosseum, Naples has many monuments of historic importance. These include Castel Nuovo, Piazza del Plebiscito, and the Church of Santa Chiara.
The historical capital city of Peru was founded by Spanish conqueror, Francisco Pizarro in January 1535.
Lima was once one of the most important cities of the Spanish dominions in South America, and the political, administrative, religious and economic capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
The city became a UNESCO member in 1988 for its high concentration of historic monuments built during Spanish rule.
Notable buildings to see include the Cathedral of Lima, which dates back to the 14th century, the Archbishop Palace, House of Aliaga, the Museum of Italian Art and Goyeneche House.
The historic centre of Krakow is one of the most famous old districts in Poland, and was the former capital from 1038, until King Sigismund III Vasa moved his court to Warsaw in 1596.
The main square of Krakow Old Town is one of the largest medieval squares in Europe, surrounded by historic town houses and churches. At the centre is the impressive Cloth Hall, a hub of international trade back in the 15th century.
Krakow Old Town is also home to around 6,000 historic sites and more than 2 million works of art. Iconic buildings, such as Wawel Castle, features architectural styles of Renaissance, Gothic, Romanesque, and Early Baroque period.