Eastern Europe is home to a rich and diverse history that spans thousands of years. This is why the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have deemed many Eastern European cities as World Heritage sites. By putting them under protection and preservation, UNESCO is ensuring that these places of outstanding beauty and cultural interest can be enjoyed for many years to come. Whether you are looking to explore a fairy tale castle or be mesmerised by ancient ruins, Eastern Europe has a plethora of unique places to put on your travel itinerary.
Added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in 1979, the ancient city walls of Old Town Dubrovnik are one of the most important features of this medieval city. A complex system of white stone defensive towers and forts surround the capital of Dubrovnik, contrasting with the shimmering coastline and earning it the nickname “The Pearl of the Adriatic Sea”. Take a walk through the streets to see stunning examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, churches, palaces and fountains or head up to Boninovo to leave a padlock on Dubrovnik’s own Love Lock Wall.
The 3,000-year-old site of Nessebar is one of the most impressive Byzantine towns on the coast of the Black Sea. Added to the World Heritage sites list in 1983, the rich history of the ancient city stretches as far back as the Bronze Age. Strolling through the streets of Old Nessebar, you can see the remains of buildings from the 12th century, as well as the famous wooden windmills and Bulgarian Revival-style houses. Make your way through the quaint cobbled streets, before collecting some souvenirs from the multitudes of sidewalk vendors selling everything from fine crochet and pottery to woodcarvings and paintings.
Warsaw is a stunning example of restorative architecture - Photo Mircea Iancu
Prague, Czech Republic
One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, exploring the fairy tale buildings in Prague is an unforgettable experience. Named as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992, the Historic Centre of Prague is one of the few cities in Europe to have survived the Middle Ages completely intact. Consisting of three areas – Old Town, Lesser Town and New Town, the city is a fine example of true architectural mastery. Stroll around the streets to take in the Gothic churches, Renaissance theatres, Baroque halls and neoclassical buildings. Take a walk across Charles Bridge and grab a bite to eat in the Old Town Square, before heading out to experience Prague’s famous nightlife scene.
The Historic Centre of Warsaw is an anomaly on the UNESCO World Heritage list. This is because it was almost entirely reconstructed after the complete destruction of WWII. Originally a small medieval settlement, Warsaw soon became a hub of activity due to its location on the Vistula, an important transportation route. The capital was transferred from Kraków to Warsaw in the early 17th century, and the city’s development continued. Spend some time soaking up the atmosphere in the Market Square, before enjoying a meal in one of the numerous restaurants and café gardens, and pay a visit to the Royal Castle to see the stunning interiors.
One of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, Sighisoara was built in the 12 century by the Saxons of Transylvania and has remained relatively unchanged until this day. Added to the World Heritage list in 1999, the medieval buildings, fortified churches, painted monasteries and ancient Dacian ruins make up much of Romania’s cultural heritage. Visit the home of Vlad Dracula – nicknamed Vlad the Impaler, who was the ruler of Walachia from 1456 to 1462 and inspired the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. Take a tour of the beautifully preserved architectural gems, before heading up into the Orastie mountains to visit the ancient military and religious Dacian Fortresses.
Eastern Europe is a rich treasure trove of historic and cultural importance. The UNESCO World Heritage sites are a great way to explore the ancient history of this part of the world, so make sure you put them on your bucket list!