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10 UNESCO Heritage Sites across Europe for your inner culture geek

Europe is a continent of incredible beauty. It boasts intriguing landmarks with outstanding cultural and historical significance, of which some have been registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. From mysterious ancient ruins and well-preserved towns to impressive temples and arenas from ancient civilizations.

So, If you’re planning your next holiday trip, why not consider adding these gems to your list?

1. Angra do Heroismo - The Azores

Angra do Heroismo is located on the island of Terceira, in the Azores. Possibly dating from 1450, it is the oldest town of this alluring Portuguese archipelago. The town played a major role as a port-of-call for ships sailing between Europe and America from the 15th century onwards. The bay of Angra flourished from that moment which was reflected in its urban landscape.

In January 1980, an earthquake hit Angra and damaged considerably the city's historic center. But it was rebuilt, preserving its centuries-old road networks, as well as its buildings using traditional materials and techniques.

Angra do Heroismo, Terceira,Azores, yacht harbour with historic buildings in the backgorund

In 1983, the city of Angra was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list for the important urban development around its bay and its contribution to the discovery of the New World. Walking around the old town is like traveling back in time. The historic center is enchanting and full of treasures to discover, including the fortresses, The Sé cathedral, and the Franciscan convent.

How to get there?

The quickest way to get to Terceira is by plane. The island has a small airport that connects the island with Lisbon in a little more than 2 hours. From the main island of the Azores, São Miguel, you can take a short flight to Terceira or get a ferry.

2. Urnes Stave Church - Norway

Urnes Stave chuch, Sohnfjord, Norway, black church surrounded by a cemetery  and mountains

Between the 11th and 14th century, about 1.200 Stave churches were built in Scandinavia. At that time, the Vikings were Christianized, and as sailors, ships played an important role in their beliefs. That's why they constructed their churches as “upside-down ships". Only 28 of these extraordinarily shaped churches remain one of which is the Urnes Stave Church, the oldest of Norway's stave churches. It was built around 1130 AD and brings together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions, and Romanesque structures. It is the most distinctive and decorated of all Norwegian stave churches and has characteristic carvings on the north wall.

The church was included on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1980 for its unique artistic design. It sits in a beautiful location in the majestic Lustrafjord.

How to get there?

You can reach Ornes - where the stave church is located - by ferry from Solvorn on the other side of the fjord. The journey takes around 20 minutes. From Bergen, Solvorn can be reached by car in about 5 hours, from Alesund it is about 5,5 hours.

3. The Valley of the Temples - Sicily

Spread around Sicily, the Greeks have left their marks, and for that reason, it possesses some of the best-preserved temples in Europe. The most impressive ones can be found in Syracuse, Selinunte, and Segesta. But The Valley of the Temples - not far from the historic centre of Agrigento - is undoubtedly the most important one!

In 1997, it was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site for being one of the largest and most remarkable testimonies of antiquity in the Mediterranean area.

Temple of Concordia, Valley of Temples, Agrigento, Sicily, ruin of a Greek temple

Founded in the 6th century BC by the Greeks from Rhodes and Crete, Akagras - which was the name of Agrigento - was a thriving Greek city. Its wealth is manifest in its amazing constructions, including eight imposing Doric temples. These masterpieces you can admire as you stroll through the valley surrounded by olive groves and the sea in the distance.

How to get there?

You can visit the Valley of the Temples as an organized day trip from Palermo or Catania or go on your own. From Palermo, it is a 2-2,5 hrs drive and from Catania, a 2 hrs drive. You can also make your way up to Agrigento and use this town as your home base. From Agrigento, there are public buses to the site.

Tip! Head after your visit to the Scala dei Turchi in Realmonte, close to the Valley of the Temples. It is famous for its white limestone cliffs that drop steeply into the turquoise waters below.

4. Bru na Boinne - Ireland

Sitting within the inland island known as the Bend of the Boyne, the archaeological site Brú na Bóinne consists of a large collection of Neolithic monuments of which three burial mounds: Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth. Each holds its own unique story – but it's the combination of all three amid Ireland's countryside that makes this complex unique. The site dates back over 5,000 years - making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids - and was rewarded in 1993 as UNESCO Heritage Site because of its artistic value and for being the largest collection of megalithic art in Europe.

Newgrange Passage Tomb, Bru Na Boinne, Boyne Vallye, Ireland, Neolithic tomb on a green hill