April 18th is World Heritage Day for 2018, and we’re celebrating with our top five favourite World Heritage sites from the last 12 months. This was an extremely tough post to write, as we’ve visited nearly 200 sites in the past year! But we’ve tried to pick out some of the more hidden secrets of Europe’s World Heritage sites. And so, in no particular order…
1. Jungfraujoch & Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland
This glacier and mountain combination in Switzerland was easily the coolest site we’ve visited – pun intended! To access the site, you catch a long underground railway that climbs up the inside of the mountain, one of the tallest in the world. And you arrive at the top, 3466 metres above sea level, and with epic views across Switzerland. We arrived super early in the morning and were the first ones on the observation deck which was just magical, and we had time for a hike across the glacier as well. Highly recommended!
2. City of Verona, Italy
Verona isn’t as visited as its more famous cousin to the south, Venice, and that’s definitely a good thing. Not knowing much about the city before arriving, we discovered that there’s much more to this northern Italian gem than just Romeo and Juliet’s setting. Roman ruins, a medieval castle, Renaissance palaces, Venetian artworks, and of course fantastic food and wine. We had a fantastic day discovering how each era has left its mark on the city.
3. Vizcaya Bridge, Spain
This is probably one of the most unusual bridges we’ve ever encountered. Built near the northern Spanish city of Bilbao in the early 20th century, this is a “gondola” or “transporter” bridge. Rather than a deck, this bridge instead has a gondola which loads up with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. It then winds across the river just like a cable car, except going across a river instead of a mountain! It’s such an innovative solution: a low bridge wasn’t possible due to heavy ship traffic to the port downstream, and a high bridge wasn’t possible as there’s just no space on either side to build road approaches!
4. Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout, Netherlands
This area near Rotterdam, is a classic Dutch landscape. Large green fields surrounded by canals, with classic windmills gracefully towering over the scene. Many of the windmills are original, dating from the mid-18th century and still function (although mostly for the benefit of tourists). There’s a beautiful hiking path alongside the canal where you can enjoy the sunshine and take in the sights. You can also go inside some of the windmills; they’re houses and water pumps, which we were surprised to discover!
5. Aachen Cathedral, Germany
One of the oldest cathedrals in Europe, Aachen was consecrated in 805 AD! Originally built as the private chapel of the emperor Charlemagne, who was buried there in 814AD, many German kings, queens and emperors were crowned here, and it was later extended in the Gothic style as well. We’ve seen a lot of cathedrals on this trip, and though it’s not the largest, the prettiest, or the most important, Aachen Cathedral makes a strong case as the most interesting!