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The German UNESCO World Heritage Sites Association is a collaboration between World Heritage sites in Germany and the tourism marketing organisations responsible for promoting them. Germany's UNESCO World Heritage sites first joined forces to form a tourism alliance in 1989. The association born out of this was founded in 2001 in Quedlinburg with the aim of intensifying tourism marketing efforts. Quedlinburg is also home to the association headquarters, in historical Palais Salfeldt.
Members alongside the tourism marketing organisations include the German Commission for UNESCO, the German National Tourist Board, the German Foundation for Monument Protection and an array of sponsors.
The German UNESCO World Heritage Sites Association aims to increase the popularity of German World Heritage sites and highlight their individual appeal, to promote Germany's outstanding cultural heritage on a collaborative basis and to establish itself as a beacon for travel in and to Germany. Particular emphasis is given to the promotion of low-impact and specialised tourism to World Heritage sites on a sustainable scale.
Where history comes to life
The list of UNESCO world heritage sites consists of outstanding testimonies to the history of mankind and nature: silent but eloquent witnesses to magnificent cultural achievements and natural phenomena.
The World Heritage Committee awards the UNESCO World Heritage title to monuments, ensembles, industrial monuments and extraordinary natural landscapes and thereby places them under special protection by the international community. A journey to a UNESCO World Heritage site is a very special and unique journey into the past. Experience the most impressive legacies of the past by visiting World Heritage sites in Germany. Discover the earliest traces of world history at the Pit Fossil Site at Messel in Hessen. Combine a trip to Berlin with an exploration of six thousand years of the history of mankind, or let yourself be won over by the clarity of the Bauhaus architecture in Dessau and Weimar. Every one of Germany ’s World Heritage sites is well worth a visit. Let yourself be captivated by the very places where history was made. Set out on a journey on which you will trace the history of mankind itself. UNESCO World Heritage is unique and so will be your journey to the German World Heritage sites. This booklet contains information and suggestions on how to experience history and how best to enjoy the delights of each individual region.
Currently, Germany has 39 sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Each bears its own unique testimony to history but can be broadly grouped under the following categories.
Castles & Palaces
The castles and palaces on the UNESCO list of World Heritage embody both magnificent royal splendour and elegance and impenetrable strength and fortitude: the Prussian Palaces and Gardens in Berlin and Potsdam, the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces in Brühl, the imposing Wartburg Castle in Eisenach and the episcopal Residenz Palace in Würzburg.
Landscapes & Gardens
Natural heritage such as the fossil deposits at the Messel Pit Fossil Site, man-made landscapes in the inspiring gardens of Dessau-Wörlitz, Bad Muskau, Kasseler Bergpark and Potsdam-Sanssouci and cultural landscapes such as the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the Beech Forests and the Wadden Sea that have developed through the ages as a symbiosis between man and nature, the urban and the rural. All these sites that draw on both human and natural influences to varying degrees are deemed to be part of mankind’s world heritage.
Mining and the industrial revolution have left an indelible stamp on German history. The legacy of striking industrial architecture is just as much part of mankind’s heritage as other cultural achievements. These include the Rammelsberg mines in Goslar, which were mined over a period of 1,020 years, the Völklingen Ironworks, the largest ironworks in the Saarland, and the industrial complex of the Zollverein Mine in Essen.
Churches & Abbeys
Sacred buildings have long been viewed as cultural monuments and placed under special protection.Outstanding buildings such as the Wieskirche Pilgrimage Church, the cathedrals of Aachen, Köln, Speyer, Trier and Hildesheim, as well as unique abbey complexes such as the Cistercian Abbey of Maulbronn, the Benedictine Abbey of Lorsch and the Monastic Island of Reichenau bear grand testimony to the cultural achievements of earlier periods. Wittenberg, Eisleben and Eisenach are closely associated with Martin Luther.
Monuments are only inscribed on the World Heritage List if they meet the criteria of “uniqueness” and “authenticity” laid down in the UNESCO convention. The historical town centres and building ensembles on the list of German sites of World Heritage are all quite unique in at least one respect. This applies equally to all the building ensembles in Lübeck, Wismar, Stralsund, Quedlinburg, Goslar, Weimar and Bamberg that have been placed under UNESCO protection.
Other World Heritage sites
The Berlin Modernism Housing Estates are not only examples of early 20th century architecture; they also had a profound impact on the development of social housing. They were the work of renowned architects, as were the Fagus Factory and the Bauhaus building and its associated sites – first in Weimar and later in Dessau – where the new, free spirit of the Bauhaus masters is still evident. Bremen Town Hall represents north German Renaissance architecture, and together with the impressive Roland statue also stands for autonomy and market rights. Another unique ensemble is Classical Weimar, which includes famous buildings from the time of Goethe, Schiller and Herder. The Upper-Germanic Roman Limes, once the frontier of the Roman Empire, is around 550 kilometres long and runs from Bad Hönnigen to the area near Regensburg on the Danube. Today, visitors can not only see relics from Roman times but also replicas and reconstructions. These ancient dwellings date back to between 5,000 and 500 BC.
The "youngest" world heritage site in Germany is the Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth, which was recognised by UNESCO in 2012. Even 250 years after its erection, it exerts an incomparable magic which, following completion of extensive renovation in 2017, will attract visitors from all over the world.
Itineraries, accommodation and packages for the German World Heritage sites can be booked on the websites for the individual attractions.
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention
The “Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage” was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 1972. It places the conservation of cultural or natural monuments of “outstanding universal value” into the care of humankind. By signing the Convention, each state party commits itself to protect the sites situated on its territory and to conserve them for future generations. In return, UNESCO member states receive expert advice on how to preserve their sites; states with insufficient financial means also receive financial assistance. It is the Convention’s aim to encourage cooperation between the peoples of the international community and to improve the conservation of cultural and natural heritage. Sustainable tourism too has a contribution to make to the conservation of world heritage sites. The German UNESCO World Heritage Sites Association wishes to increase awareness of Germany’s World Heritage sites and to promote low-impact and specialised tourism to heritage sites on a sustainable scale. This involves an opportunity to extend the appeal and accessibility of World Heritage sites as well as to guarantee the conservation of the World Heritage on a sustainable basis through income generated by tourism.