26 Iconic UNESCO Cities
Collected by Maggie Fuller, AFAR Staff
Stepping into a UNESCO city is like stepping back in time, if the past came equipped with all the amenities of modern life. Cities protected on the UNESCO World Heritage list are preserved yet modernized, with their historic and cultural integrity meticulously maintained yet their urban fabric still intact. Whether quaint or impressive, these crystallized glimpses at an area’s history and culture are made to be explored.
There really is only one place to start any tour in Salzburg: Getreidegasse. The narrow road with its ornate facades and iron trade signs is a staple for visitors and locals alike. Once you have reached Number 9, you are in for a special treat at...
Molina 76, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile
Valparaíso, Chile’s main port city, rises from the water into steep hills laced with staircases and winding streets. Generations of poets, mariners, and adventurers have passed through. While the city has some of Chile’s best dining, the streets...
Palacio Hidalgo, Quito 170401, Ecuador
UNESCO got it right when it declared Quito’s historical center the world's first Cultural Heritage site. Hidden among the baroque churches, cobbled streets, and colorful markets lies a square of endless entertainment. If you find yourself in Plaza...
95660 Champagne-sur-Oise, France
Just south of the city of Reims, you will find the Champagne Route, which directs you through small villages and of course down roads with acres and acres of vineyards. These vines grow the grapes that make the world-famous Champagne.
HaYarkon St 205, Tel Aviv-Yafo, 6340506, Israel
While Jerusalem is the official capital of Israel, Tel Aviv is considered to be the capital of style and culture. Enjoy starting your day with a stroll along the beach or a great, rich breakfast in one of many outdoor cafes along some of the...
30 Place Guillaume II, 1648 Luxembourg
I took a walking tour through the Luxembourg tourism office. Our tour guide, Milda, was a lively young woman from Lithuania. She did reflect Luxembourg City, though, as there are more than 150 nationalities represented in this tiny country....
Exchange Buildings, Triq Ir-Repubblika, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta
Who knew Malta was so pretty? Well, I suppose the people who live there knew. I didn't. There was, to be fair, a lot I didn't know about Malta, including that the national language is actually Maltese, which sounds like no Mediterranean language...
Calle Francisco I. Madero 146, Mayahuel, 46400 Tequila, Jal., Mexico
Few visitors to Guadalajara skip a side trip to the town of Tequila, famous for the Mexican spirit of the same name. If you’re interested in going, your hotel can arrange a tequila trail excursion with a local outfitter, complete with...
Hanchi Snoa 1-5, Willemstad, Curaçao
Willemstad’s first colonial settlement started as a hub for Dutch slave traders. Now a World Heritage site, this modern city center has a distinct Euro-Caribbean atmosphere, its preserved colonial buildings housing fashion boutiques, art...
26 Dufferin St, Lunenburg, NS B0J 2C0, Canada
Last summer, I decided to spend time exploring my home province of Nova Scotia. My curiosity took me to the Southern Shore area of the province, all the way down to Port Mouton. One of the towns I’d wanted to visit for a long time was Lunenburg,...
Staroměstské nám. 1/4, 110 00 Praha-Staré Město, Czechia
Old Town Square, founded in the 12th century, is the center of Prague. In the middle of it all, the Old Town Hall (which also houses the famous Astronomical Clock), built in 1338, still provides the best 360-degree views of the city. For a...
Ban Meuna, B.P 749, Luang Prabang 06000, Laos
Luang Prabang is lovely, and sometimes just being nice is enough. Gently nestled in a bend on the Mekong, it is surrounded by great shards of elephant grey rock, delicate French colonial architecture, and teak balconies safely wrapped in the...
42 Đường Phan Bội Châu, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
Il Campo, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
Considered one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, the Piazza del Campo—or, simply, Il Campo—has been at the heart of life in Siena since it began as a marketplace and meeting spot for the area’s villages; the...
Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania
As easy as it would be to spend an entire trip to Zanzibar lazing around on soft-sand beaches, it’s well worth skipping an hour or two of sunbathing to see Stone Town, the ancient district of Zanzibar. With its narrow cobblestoned streets,...
Edinburgh EH1 1BB, UK
Scotland is one of the few places where you actually welcome rain. The stone used to construct most of old town Edinburgh takes on a magical dark hue when it's rain-soaked. What's even better, though, is those instances when the clouds separate to...
This is the Grand Mosque in Djenné, Mali. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it holds the distinction of being the largest adobe building in the world. It is also one of Africa’s most famous cultural heritage landmarks. The walls of the Grand...
18, Cannon Square, George Town, 10450 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Wandering through the streets of old George Town, the main city on the island of Penang, Malaysia, offers the opportunity to discover many UNESCO World Heritage sites, learn about Chinese heritage, and take in a good amount of Malay culture.
Centro, Ouro Preto - State of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Ouro Preto is a colonial-style tourist town in the Minas Gerais countryside in Brazil, just two hours from Belo Horizonte. There are wonderful restaurants, people, food, and places to stay, and a rich architectural history that can be viewed all...
Nevsky avenue, 53, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191025
The grand boulevard Nevksy Prospekt is St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, intended by Peter the Great to be the beginning of a road linking the city to Moscow and Novgorod. It is still St. Petersburg’s principal shopping and entertainment...
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