15 UNESCO Sites in Germany You Must See

Danny Newman


Germany is packed full of unforgettable UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Today, we’re introducing you to 15 of the most impressive.

Germany is infamous for its sausages, beer, and lederhosen. But its natural, historical, and cultural attractions aren’t bad, either! This beautiful country has 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which is tied with France for the third highest number worldwide. Even better, up to 50% of these magical places are free to explore.

With iconic cathedrals, grand palaces, medieval towns, and spectacular landscapes to choose from, the question becomes, which UNESCO site in Germany will you visit first? Here are 15 you shouldn’t miss.

1. Aachen Cathedral

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First inscribed in 1978, Aachen Cathedral was Germany’s very first UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the most magnificent buildings in the country – a towering silhouette on the city skyline that the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne commissioned in the late 8th century (and where he would eventually be buried). Inside and out, you’ll be blown away by the cathedral’s scale and ornate detail.

2. Old Town of Regensburg With Stadtamhof

Regensburg With Stadtamhof
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Located in Bavaria, this picture-perfect town has a rich history. Regensburg started life as an imperial Roman river fort and became a key trading center in the Middle Ages. It’s a maze of charming streets lined with both medieval buildings and the remnants of Roman-era ones. Highlights of the city include St. Peter’s Cathedral, the 12th century Old Bridge, and the historic corn market.

3. Roman Monuments in Trier

Roman baths in Trier
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Welcome to the oldest city in Germany. Located close to the western border, Trier is another ancient destination of Roman origin. Its various Roman monuments (including the unbelievably well-preserved Porta Nigra, or Black Gate), the Church of Our Lady in Trier, and the Cathedral of St. Peter became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.

4. Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral
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With twin spires rising over 150 meters above the city, Cologne Cathedral is officially the largest Gothic church in northern Europe – not to mention the tallest twin-spired church on Earth.

Incredibly, construction of this prominent pilgrimage site began in the mid-13th century and, courtesy of a circa 250-year-long break, continued until 1880. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.

5. Hanseatic City of Lübeck

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According to Britannica, the Hanseatic League was an “organization founded by north German towns and German merchant communities abroad to protect their mutual trading interests.” The 12th-century city of Lübeck was one of its main trading centers.

In its old town, you'll find cobblestone streets and an array of medieval buildings, including the iconic 15th-century Holsten Gate.

6. Berlin’s Museum Island

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Museum Island is a complex of five top museums in Berlin: The Altes, Neues, Alta Nationalgalerie, Bode, and Pergamon (although the latter is temporarily closed). Think of it as Germany’s very own Smithsonian. You can see everything from Monet masterpieces to world-famous Egyptian antiquities. Better yet, it’s all housed in buildings that are so stunning they’re worth seeing in their own right.

7. Upper Middle Rhine Valley

Rhine Valley
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Otherwise known as the Rhine Gorge, this 40-mile (65 km) stretch of the Middle Rhine Valley is one of the country’s premier wine-producing regions. Timeless vineyards line its terraced hills, as do dozens of castles and sixty quaint settlements. The river running through the valley has been a critical transportation route for thousands of years. Joining a Rhine River cruise remains one of the best ways to explore the area.

8. Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle
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A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, Wartburg Castle is perched high on a rocky outcrop with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. Its location is almost as impressive as its size and aesthetic. Reconstructed in the 19th century, the castle is a mishmash of striking buildings and battlements with an evocative Medieval façade.

9. Palaces and Parks of Potsdam

Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam
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Three centuries ago, Prussian royalty turned the city of Potsdam into an oasis of opulence. Made a World Heritage Site in 1990, it’s an immense complex of palaces and parks comprising 150 buildings and over 1200 acres of parkland.

Highlights include Sanssouci Palace, built by Frederick the Great to escape Berlin’s bustle (the name means “without a care”), and the New Palace, with its 200 rooms and beautiful Baroque architecture. 

10. Würzburg Residence

Würzburg Residence
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Anyone keen for further architectural exploration in Germany should visit the Baroque masterpiece known as the Würzburg Residence.

A vast palace with equally ostentatious gardens, it was built in the 18th century to be the seat of the Prince-Bishops (rulers of semi-independent states within the Holy Roman Empire). Tour its whopping 300 rooms and halls full of renowned frescoes before enjoying a leisurely stroll through the manicured gardens.

11. Lorsch Abbey

Lorsch Abbey
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The town of Lorsch is home to a remarkably well-preserved gatehouse (Torhalle) that’s thought to be around 1,200 years old. Known as Königshalle (or the King’s Hall), it’s the only surviving building of a monastery that stood here for centuries. Alongside its age and attractive aesthetic, the gatehouse is of great cultural importance because it’s a rare example of Carolingian architecture.

12. Speyer Cathedral

Speyer Cathedral
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This mighty Romanesque basilica in southwest Germany is approximately 1,000 years old. Speyer Cathedral is a huge, imposing building with two domes, four towers, and a gallery that extends around the main structure. Such was its prominence in the Holy Roman Empire that German emperors were buried here for hundreds of years. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981.

13. Wadden Sea

Wadden Sea
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Shifting gears to one of Germany’s three natural heritage sites, the Wadden Sea is officially the world’s largest unbroken area of mud flats and intertidal sand. It’s a vast, dynamic landscape renowned both for its beauty and biodiversity. Depending on the habitat, you could see seals, porpoises, crabs, millions of migrating birds, and so much more.

14. Quedlinburg

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Quedlinburg is a quintessential medieval European market town that’s well over 1,000 years old. With charming cobblestone streets, squares lined with evocative half-timbered houses, and an iconic Romanesque castle/abbey perched on a hill overlooking town, the history is palpable. It’s a place you can wile away many happy hours simply walking around and enjoying the unique scenery.

15. Maulbronn Monastery

Maulbronn Monastery
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This medieval monastery complex in southern Germany is so well-preserved you’d never guess some parts of it are over 850 years old.

Chief among Maulbronn Monastery’s many points of interest are its fortified walls, the transitional Gothic-style church that influenced the spread of Gothic architecture around Europe, and a clever water management system comprised of reservoirs, irrigation canals, and drains. It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

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