Unique world heritage
Magnificent castles, rusty industrial relics, romantic historic town centres and natural beauty worthy of protection – a journey around Germany’s world heritage sites.
Germany. 44 places in Germany have been designated World Heritage Sites by UNESCO: churches and monasteries, castles and palaces, prehistoric settlements, modernist architecture, historic industrial sites and biotopes.
The latest additions to the list in 2018 are Naumburg Cathedral and the archaeological Border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke.
At its July 2017 session, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee extended Germany’s Bauhaus World Heritage Site: in addition to the buildings in Weimar and Dessau, the former Trade Union School in Bernau and five Houses with Balcony Access in Dessau-Rosslau were also included in the list.
In 1978, Aachen Cathedral was the first World Heritage Site in Germany to be included in UNESCO’s list. Emperor Charlemagne had this monumental church constructed in the year 800. 30 German emperors were crowned at Aachen Cathedral over the following centuries.
In addition, ten other churches and monasteries have World Heritage status, including Cologne Cathedral, Speyer Cathedral and Maulbronn Monastery. The commemorative sites in Eisleben and Wittenberg are associated with the work of the reformer Martin Luther, as is Wartburg Castle.
Towns through the ages
There are a number of towns whose entire historic centres have been placed under UNESCO protection because characteristic ensembles have been preserved there over the course of the centuries. These include the historic centres of the Hanseatic towns of Lübeck, Wismar and Stralsund, as well as the mediaeval trading centre of Regensburg. Modernist architecture can likewise be found on the list, such as the Bauhaus sites in Weimar and Dessau, the Siemensstadt housing estate in Berlin and the Weissenhof estate in Stuttgart.
Germany is famous for its castles and palaces, some of which are representative of specific epochs of the European monarchy. One example is the magnificent Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, which is surrounded by romantic parkland.
There are also rusty industrial relics that have been designated world heritage: Zollverein Coal Mine in Essen is a representative example of the development of heavy industry in Europe, as is Völklingen Ironworks, the only intact example of an ironworks in western Europe. And the imposing brick buildings of Hamburg’s Speicherstadt constitute the world’s largest coherent ensembles of port warehouses.
Unique cultural landscape
One peculiarity among Germany’s World Heritage Sites is the Middle Rhine Valley, recognised by UNESCO as a unique cultural landscape at the heart of Europe. The region combines the romantic Rhine Valley with European history and natural beauty. There is a whole host of castles – as well as historic industrial sites – along this stretch of the Rhine between Bingen and Koblenz.
Natural beauty worthy of protection
Besides numerous areas of natural conservation, Germany boasts two biotopes with natural world heritage status: the Wadden Sea on the North Sea coast and five Ancient Beech Forest regions.
Stripped of World Heritage status
Places are delighted to be designated World Heritage Sites, as this attracts tourists from all over the world. However, the status also entails certain obligations, UNESCO demanding that a concept be put in place to protect and preserve the sites. It can also strip a site of its heritage title. In 2009, the Dresden Elbe Valley cultural landscape lost its World Heritage status because Dresden built a road bridge over the River Elbe, impairing the appearance of the landscape.
All World Heritage Sites in Germany
Churches and monasteries
- Aachen Cathedral
- Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey
- St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church at Hildesheim
- Abbey of Lorsch
- Maulbronn Monastery Complex
- Monastic Island of Reichennau
- Naumburg Cathedral
- Cologne Cathedral
- Speyer Cathedral
- Collegiate Church of Quedlinburg
- Pilgrimage Church of Wies
- House of Luther’s birth in Eisleben and the castle church in Wittenberg
- Wartburg Castle
Castles, palaces, parks
- Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at Brühl
- Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
- Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz
- Upper Middle Rhine Valley
- Muskauer Park / Park Muzakowski
- Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam
- Wartburg Castle
- Würzburg Residence
- Museum Island Berlin
- Margravial Opera House Bayreuth
- Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen
Historic town centres
- Upper German-Raetian Limes
- Porta Nigra, Aula Palatina, Imperial Baths and Cathedral in Trier
- Bauhaus sites in Weimar, Dessau, Bernau
- Architectural work of Le Corbusier, Weissenhof estate in Stuttgart
- Berlin Modernism Housing Estates
- Mines of Rammelsberg at Goslar
- Fagus Factory in Alfeld
- Speicherstadt Hamburg
- Völklingen Ironworks
- Zollverein Coal Mine in Essen
- Ancient Beech Forests
- Messel Pit Fossil Site near Darmstadt
- Wadden Sea
- Ice Age caves in the Swabian Jura
- Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps
- Archaeological Border complex of Hedeby and the Danevirke
At a glance: map of World Heritage Sites in Germany