10 World Heritage Sites Along Viking's Grand European Tour
by Sara Jane Crane
If you choose to sail upon Viking River Cruise's famed "Grand European Tour", a 15 day journey through four countries and along three of Europe's most fascinating rivers, you will experience a wealth of human history and achievement, much of it important enough to be designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
UNESCO is the organization of the United Nations for Education, Science and Culture, and a special commission is tasked with the World Heritage List. Their mission is to determine valuable cultural-historic and natural landscape sites of importance from around the world, which are so unique that they should be preserved for the future. Among others, the list includes the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon, the pyramids at Giza and the historic centre of Florence.
These sites, whether they are buildings, or town centers, or even segments of a river valley, symbolize remarkable footprints of human existence.
In other words, the World Heritage Sites that you will visit on the "Grand European Tour" are some of the crowning achievements of humankind!
Here, we'll take a look at 10 of these World Heritage Sites.
World Heritage Site 1: Amsterdam Canal District
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Amsterdam was seen as the realization of the ideal city that was used as a model for new cities around the world. The network of canals in concentric arcs of a circle survives in its entirety. The majority of the houses erected in the 17th and 18th centuries are still present and in great condition.
Canal cruises are one of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions. For anyone visiting for the first time, it’s an excellent introduction to the city’s many sights.
World Heritage Site 2: Kinderdijk
The region of Kinderdijk-Elshout displays an ingenious network of windmills and other flood management devices. Here in the low country of The Netherlands, everything lies below sea level. Through centuries of Dutch history, complicated systems of windmills and pumping stations were developed to harness the water and make this very fertile land livable. It's a fascinating look at how humans have used their cooperative brain power to make a good life in othewise unlivable areas.
World Heritage Site 3: The Dom in Cologne, Germany’s largest cathedral
Begun in 1248, the construction of this Gothic masterpiece took place in several stages and was not completed until 1880. Over seven centuries, successive builders were inspired by the same faith and a spirit of absolute fidelity to the original plans. Apart from its exceptional intrinsic value and the artistic masterpieces it contains, Cologne Cathedral testifies to the enduring strength of European Christianity.
World Heritage Site 4: Upper Middle Rhine River Valley
The Rhine is one of the world's great rivers and has witnessed many crucial events in human history. The stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley between Bingen and Koblenz is in many ways an exceptional expression of this long history. The river has over the centuries fostered a cultural landscape of great beauty which has strongly influenced artists of all kinds - poets, painters, and composers - over the past two centuries.
World Heritage Site 5: Würzburg’s Bishops’ Residenz, Germany
One of Germany’s largest and most ornate baroque palaces is a joint achievement of the most significant European architects, sculptors, and painters of the 18th century from France (particularly Paris), Italy (particularly Venice), Austria (particularly Vienna), and Germany.
World Heritage Site 6: Bamberg's Medieval City Center, Germany
During its greatest period from the 12th century onwards, the architecture of this town strongly influenced northern Germany and Hungary. In the late 18th century Bamberg was the centre of the Enlightenment in southern Germany, with eminent philosophers and writers living there.
World Heritage Site 7: Regensburg, Germany
Located on the Danube River in Bavaria, this medieval town contains many exceptional buildings from the 9th century onward and include ancient Roman, Romanesque and Gothic styles. Regensburg’s 11th- to 13th-century architecture – including the market, city hall and cathedral – still defines the character of the town marked by tall buildings, dark and narrow lanes, and strong fortifications. The Old Town of Regensburg was the location for most of the assemblies of the Holy Roman Empire in the High Middle Ages.
World Heritage Site 8: The Wachau Valley, Austria
The Wachau is a beautiful stretch of the Danube Valley between Melk and Krems. Through monasteries, castles, ruins, towns and villages, and ancient vineyards - you can trace its evolution since prehistoric times.
World Heritage Site 9: Historic Center of Vienna, Austria
Vienna developed from early Celtic and Roman settlements into a Medieval and Baroque city, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The historic centre of Vienna is rich in architectural wonders, including Baroque castles and gardens, as well as the late-19th-century Ringstrasse lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks. Another World Heritage Site is nearby at the Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn.
World Heritage Site 10: Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue
This stretch of the Danube has been the location of human settlement since the Palaeolithic and was the site of the Roman city of Aquincum and includes the incredible Gothic castle of Buda.
Talk to an Acendas Travel Advisor to plan your Viking River Cruise!