Did you know that there are 38 World Heritage Sites in Germany? And this year these cultural gems take center stage; from historical towns, natural landscapes and rich examples of architecture.
Religious structures dominate the UNESCO list, with no fewer than five majestic cathedrals making an appearance. The imperial Aachen Cathedral has Roman roots, the Romanesque towers and dome of the Speyer Cathedral dominate the skyline and Gothic Cologne Cathedral is a medieval masterpiece. St Mary's Cathedral at Hildesheim and the Cathedral of St Peter (along with the Roman Monuments) of Trier also feature. Other resplendent churches to make up the nation’s World Heritage List include the Pilgrimage Church of Wies, the Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch, the Collegiate Church (along with the Castle and Old Town) of Quedlinburg and the Maulbronn Monastery Complex.
Germany is brimming with fairytale castles, aka Schloss, each more breathtaking than the last, but only two have dedicated UNESCO status; the complex of Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at Brühl and Wartburg Castle (pictured top).
Royal residences and palaces offer a rare glimpse into days gone by and the lives that the royals and nobility enjoyed within these opulent buildings. The delightful Rococo Würzburg Residence was commissioned by Prince-Bishop of Würzburg in 1720 and was lauded by Napoleon on one of his visits. The Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin complex covers more than 2,000 hectares and is actually comprised of many properties such as a castle, log house, islands and a cemetery.
There are three natural sites that make up Germany's World Heritage Sites listing, including the Messel Pit Fossil Site, the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and The Wadden Sea. The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is also recognised, although as a cultural site
Germany is well known for its majestic cities, boasting diverse architecture and regional culture. And five such cities have been rewarded with World Heritage status including the Hanseatic City of Lübeck, the Town of Bamberg, the Historic Centres of Stralsund and Wismar, the Old town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof and Classical Weimar, including the impressive City Castle, aka Weimarer Stadtschloss or Residenzschloss, which is pictured above.
There is one overseas UNESCO site; the Frontiers of the Roman Empire within the UK, particularly the impressive Hadrian’s Wall which stretches coast to coast for 118 km.
Germany’s rich engineering and manufacturing heritage is also recognised in the Mines of Rammelsberg, along with the Historic Town of Goslar, the Zollverein Coal Mines and the vast Völklingen Ironworks plant. The Fagus Factory in Alfeld has served the shoe industry since 1910 and continues to do so today.
Two islands gained listing in 1999 and 2000 namely the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) in the Spree River of Berlin and the dedicated Monastic Island of Reichenau.
Other listings include the Bauhaus School Sites in Weimar which lead the Modern Movement and the Luther Memorials within Eisleben and Wittenberg, which honour the German monk who lead the Christian reform movement in the 16th century. The utopian Muskauer Park (which also expands into Poland) was recognised in 2004 and is set along the Neisse River.
Individual buildings recognised for their place in history include the impressive Town Hall of Bremen and the Baroque masterpiece of the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth.
And in 2008 the colourfully innovative Berlin Modernism Housing Estates were granted a prestigious World Heritage listing for their forward thinking housing policy, which was implemented between 1910 and 1933. The result is six housing estates whose urban design and architectural practicalities inspired architects all over the world.
The Prehistoric Pile dwellings located around the Alps span six European countries comprising some 111 individual sites. These prehistoric stilt houses are small in size with the oldest dating back to 5000 BC.
And finally, two green spaces close this list. The Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe boasts a huge monument of Hercules and was started in 1689. The centerpiece is the vast Baroque water theatre alongside grottos, water fountains and an impressive Grand Cascade which runs to 350 meters long. And the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz is an exemplar of the so-called ‘Age of the Enlightenment’ which grew from the 18th century. The English styled gardens and park are a revelation.
And to promote the 38 UNESCO sites, the German tourist board has produced a dedicated travel app and a virtual image gallery to take travellers on a “journey back in time”.