UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Switzerland
Switzerland is a central European country located near France, Germany, Austria and Italy. The city’s architecture is a clash of medieval and modern styles and boasts UNESCO status. The streets are wide and well-defined, with many shops lining them. Its architectural sights include the Zytglogge, a medieval mechanical clock tower and astrolabe.
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Here is the list of all 13 UNESCO Heritage Sites in Switzerland:
1. Abbey of St Gall, Switzerland
The Abbey of St Gall, Switzerland is part of a large Catholic religious complex. The abbey dates back to 719. It was founded by Saint Othmar on the site of Gallus’ hermitage. Today, the building is a popular tourist attraction. It is located on the bank of the River Rhine. The abbey was a center for art, learning, and monastic discipline.
It also boasted one of the largest medieval libraries. In fact, the abbey was so important that it was granted papal and Imperial privileges. The building’s importance was felt throughout the world. In 1983, UNESCO inscribed it as a world cultural heritage site. The library at the Abbey of St Gall contains a wealth of medieval manuscripts.
The collection includes over one hundred thousand works, including Irish illuminated manuscripts and architectural drawings. The only complete manuscript from that era, the Plan of St. Gall (830 AD), contains an extensive collection of chants for the Mass. It also houses works on literary history, the Old High German language, and the history of medicine.
The abbey was governed by the monks for a long time. The last abbot died in Muri in 1829. In 1846, the abbey was turned into a diocese. The monastic buildings and church became the bishop’s residence. The abbey was also a place where King Gustav Adolf IV spent his last years.
2. The Benedictine Convent of St John at Msstair
The Benedictine Convent of St John at Msstair was founded in the 8th century. It was a monastery that was later turned into a convent. Today, the complex includes many architectural styles and artistic treasures from the 12th and 13th centuries.
The convent is also home to a community of nuns who live by the Benedictine ideals. Located in the Grisons valley in southern Switzerland, the Benedictine Convent of St John at Msstair is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is most notable for its superbly preserved Carolingian art, including Romanesque frescoes and murals.
The convent also features two courtyards and a Carolingian conventual church. The monastery is located in Mustair, near the border with Italy. You can reach it by bus or postbus from Zernez. It’s a good idea to have a guide with you when you visit the monastery. It’s important to keep in mind that the museum is not wheelchair accessible.
The chapel was considered Romanesque for a long time but was recently discovered to be Carolingian. It was originally attached to other monastery buildings, so the abbots had direct access to the upper level. The upper chapel contains several layers of painting. Some are older than others, and research is currently being conducted to determine which ones should be preserved.
The upper chapel features a gable with a bell that dates from 1518. The roof of the convent is unusually steep, even for a Carolingian building.
3. La Chaux De Fonds Le Locle Watchmaking Town Planning
Karl Marx, in his book, Das Kapital, described La Chaux-de-Fonds as “a vast factory town”. He had analysed the division of labour in the watchmaking industry of the Jura. The town was a key factor in the industrialization of Switzerland. A visit to this town is a fascinating way to learn more about watchmaking and its town planning.
The tourism office has brochures with information about local art, architecture, and watchmaking. In addition to tours, you can also attend a workshop or two. The Espace de l’urbanisme horloger, a free exhibition room, features a 15-minute film that explains the history of La Chaux-de-Fonds and its development.
The town was designed specifically to attract the watchmaking industry to the Jura mountains. The town has wide streets and plenty of natural light. A former municipal architect, Denis Clerc now heads a regional branch of an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting Swiss heritage. After the Great Fire in 1794, the town underwent several reconstructions. In 1870, there were 4,500 people directly employed in the watchmaking industry.
Reconstruction plans reflected Enlightenment values such as safety, health, and fairness. Watchmakers’ houses had a traditional austere appearance, but a combination of Art Nouveau and Modern architecture provided a touch of discreet exuberance. In the past, the wealthy families of the watchmaking industry had villas in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
These villas are still standing today and are surrounded by worker’s housing. They were built in the same town, and were decorated with tempera paintings and frescoes. In 2009, UNESCO added the town to its World Heritage list.
4. Lavaux Vineyard Terraces – A UNESCO Heritage Site
The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces stretch along 30 kilometers of the shoreline of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The area has 830 hectares of terraced vineyards. They are located in the district of Lavaux-Oron. The region is well known for the quality of its wines and is a popular tourist destination.
In September, the harvest period is an important time for the vineyard. It is a time when many people participate in the meticulous work of harvesting the grapes. The harvest is an important stage for the development of the wine. Friends of the winemaker eagerly assist in the meticulous gathering of the healthy grains.
In the 12th century, the Bishop of Lausanne granted the land to the Cistercian Order, which used the steep slopes to plant vines. This practice resulted in the creation of a unique cultural landscape, which is now protected by UNESCO. It is also protected by strict cantonal laws, meaning that the vines cannot be treated with synthetic pesticides.
The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces stretch over 30 kilometers of the shores of Lake Geneva, which is one of the largest lakes in the world. These vineyards are an UNESCO world heritage site. The vineyards were once home to Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries, and are still a source of fine wine.
5. The Old City of Berne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The medieval city center of Berne is located on a narrow hill surrounded by the Aare River. It was rebuilt in sandstone after a major fire in 1405. Today, it retains its medieval character. The Old City is home to Switzerland’s largest cathedral, the 15th century town hall, and a large collection of Renaissance fountains.
The Old City of Berne is the seat of the municipal government of Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town is surrounded by the Aare River and offers magnificent views of the Alps. The medieval townscape was established in the 12th century on a hill surrounded by the River Aar. Since then, the city has undergone several stages of expansion.
One of Berne’s most iconic symbols is its medieval clock tower, which has stood since 1220. The tower houses one of the three oldest clocks in Switzerland. The city is also home to up to 100 public fountains. These fountains were originally built as a public water supply and were later expanded and repurposed for other purposes. A fascinating feature of the Old City is its medieval character.
Its medieval character can still be felt today. There are still many medieval buildings that remain, including the clock tower. Some of these buildings were previously used as prisons. A court jester and a rooster perform outside the clock tower every hour. These performances draw crowds of tourists, especially in the summer.
6. Prehistoric Pile Dwellings Around the Alps – Unesco Heritage Site
The prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps are a collection of prehistoric settlements that were built in the Alps around 5000 BC. These settlements were situated near rivers, wetlands, and lakes. They were built to withstand harsh weather conditions, such as ice and snow.
The pile dwellings were typically used for five to twenty years before being demolished and rebuilt. However, they lasted from 50 to 100 years during the Late Bronze Age. There is no one specific culture that lived in these pile dwellings; they were used by a wide variety of different cultures.
However, these pile dwellings shared some common architectural features. The pile dwellings are located in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and Germany. Though these buildings aren’t easily visible to the average visitor, the foundations of the houses, access paths, and palisades are still visible.
Archaeologists have excavated these structures and have found a variety of tools and materials. The Prehistoric Pile Dwellings Around the Alps aren’t as famous as the more famous archeological sites, but they are no less impressive. The discovery of the prehistoric pile dwellings dates back to 1853, and they were first recognized by Pirro Marconi in the 1920s.
Renato Perini, a renowned archeologist, also helped identify and document these unique settlements. The Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around Switzerland are scattered throughout several cantons. The best places to see pile dwellings include the Village Lacustre de Gletterens, which is open daily from May to October. In Hauterive, the Latenium Park and Museum of Archaeology is another great place to see these structures.
7. The Rhaetian Railway in the Albul and Bernina Landscapes
The Rhaetian Railway in the Albul and Bernina Landscapes is a World Heritage Site. It consists of two railway lines – the Albula Railway and the Bernina Railway. Its most famous trains are the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express. The Albula Railway opened in 1904, while the Bernina Railway opened two years later.
In addition to the two alpine routes, the Rhaetian Railway also built 55 tunnels and 196 bridges. This monumental infrastructure is spread over an area of 122 km, displaying grand innovative ingenuity. The Albula and Bernina railway systems helped overcome the isolation of these villages during the early 20th century. Both are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
They represent an exemplary railway development for the disenclavement of the Central Alps in the early 20th century. Moreover, the railway line from Thusis to Tirano is an example of harmonious integration of railway and landscape. The construction of the Albula railway aimed to showcase the best of the surrounding landscape.
Passengers can see a variety of natural phenomena, as well as rich cultural landscapes and important monuments. It was important to choose the exact location for the railway because it allowed the scenic and tourist attractions to be highlighted. The Rhaetian Railway in the Albulla and Bernina Landscapes is a World Heritage Site.
It comprises the Albula Railway and the Bernina Railway and contains 55 tunnels. Its goal is to make the scenic landscape of the Bernina and Albula Landscapes as accessible as possible for tourists. The railway has also contributed to the development of many existing ski resorts and winter sports resorts.
8. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier – A UNESCO Heritage Site
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier is a difficult case to make. He is responsible for a number of buildings around the world, but his most famous work was the “Unite d’Habitation” in Marseille, France. These buildings set the tone for a modernist housing concept that spread throughout Europe.
One example of this is the Chateau d’If on the Frioul archipelago, which was the inspiration for the Count of Monte Cristo. Le Corbusier influenced many architects and designers of the modern era. His large-scale, smooth, symmetrical buildings were revolutionary. They laid the groundwork for a generation of “brutalist” modern architects and posited a new vision of function and beauty.
Today, seventeen of his buildings are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo is one of them. In addition to his design work, Le Corbusier had a social conscience that affected his work. For example, in 1925-26, he designed a workers’ city in Pessac, near Bordeaux.
During the construction of the city, Pessac residents were cut off from the public water supply for six years. In 1927, he participated in the Deutscher Werkbund international exposition, which showcased works of different groups that produced functional objects.
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier is a world heritage site, with 17 buildings in three continents. It was inscribed in 2016 by the UNESCO and has an international impact. As a result, it is recognized as one of the most influential works of modern architecture.
9. Three Castles Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzona
The Three Castles are a group of fortifications in and around the town of Bellinzona in the foothills of the Alps. These fortifications are composed of three separate castles and fortified walls. UNESCO has listed the Three Castles of Bellinzona as a World Heritage Site. These medieval structures were built to control the Ticino River valley, access to the Alpine passes, and trade routes from San Gottardo.
The castles have undergone restoration in recent years. Today, they are the main tourist attraction in the city. The walls were built over time. The eastern bailey had four stories, but the original height of the roof is unknown. There is also a chapel dedicated to Saint Michael, which leans against the wall of the south-facing section.
In all, the walls of Bellinzona protected key routes between northern and southern Europe for centuries. As the city was at the crossroads of many alpine routes, bellinzona was the perfect location for a defensive project. Around the year 400, three castles, fortifications, and city walls were built.
The Dukes of Milan were trying to prevent the Swiss Confederates from gaining ground in the south. The only other access to the north was through the narrow Ticino valley. Bellinzona is accessible by train and there are several stops along the way. The castles of Bellinzona are within walking distance of the train station. However, Castello Sasso Corbaro may require a little climbing.
You can also take the Gotthard Panorama Express from Lucerne to Bellinzona. This train runs in first-class carriages only and traces the route of the historic Gotthard tunnel. This tunnel was constructed in 1882 and once served as the main route between northern and southern Switzerland.
10. Travel to the Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians
The Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of Europe are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest virgin beech forest in Europe and encompasses twelve European countries. The forest is home to some of the world’s tallest beech trees. The Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of Europe were first listed in 2007 and have since been expanded and protected.
The site consists of 78 beech forests in 12 countries, which provide a unique habitat for a variety of rare species. The ancient beech forests are also important habitat for brown bears, which live in the area. This Unesco World Heritage site covers a large area – more than seventy thousand square kilometers.
It spans from the Chornohora ridge in Ukraine to the Rakhiv and Vihorlat mountains in Slovakia. It covers over 77,971.6 ha (192,672 acres), and includes the forests in the Presov and Zakarpattia regions. The remaining area is considered a buffer zone. The main range of the Vihorlat is accessible by marked trails from Snina, Remetske Hamre, and Strihovce.
Its protection is less than that of the Bukovske Hills, but there are still areas that are relatively unspoiled. One area of particular interest is Jasmund, where beech forests are surrounded by chalk cliffs. In 2007, the Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of Europe were first designated a World Heritage Site.
This UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site protects the ancient and primeval beech forests in 12 European countries, which are comprised of 78 component parts. It aims to preserve the beech gene pool and maintain the diversity of beech species.
11. Travel Guide to Monte San Giorgio in Switzerland
The mountain of Monte San Giorgio rises to just under 1100 metres above Lake Lugano, and is the most important site for fossils of the Triassic Period. During this time, the region was a subtropical, 100-metre-deep lagoon that was filled with marine life. The mountain is home to thousands of fossilized fish and marine saurians.
Today, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. A trip up Monte San Giorgio is the perfect way to take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding region. This hiking excursion departs from the church of San Silvestro in Meride and begins with a mule track climb. From there, the trail flattens out and takes about 45 minutes to reach the town of Cassina.
Several attractions are available in Monte San Giorgio. The area is accessible by an ancient cableway, and there are hiking trails through shaded chestnut and vineyards. Visitors can also explore the ancient marble quarries and remnants of fish and reptiles from 240 million years ago.
The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Swiss government makes it a priority to protect the site. Monte San Giorgio has an incredible wealth of fossils. Scientists have found over 80 different species of fish, 30 species of marine reptiles, and hundreds of fossilized plants and invertebrate animals. The museum of fossils in Meride has remodeled exhibits of the local fossils.
12. Travel to the Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona
The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona formation provides an exceptional display of mountain building tectonics and is an important site for the study of geological processes. Since the 18th century, the area has been a key site for the study of geology and has made significant contributions to the study of mountain building and tectonics.
The Tectonic Arena Sardona covers 32,850 hectares and is home to seven 3,000m-plus peaks. It is an excellent example of tectonic thrust – the process of bringing older rock formations onto younger rocks. Its erosive history has led to its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Stunning outcrops of the entire range of stratigraphic units are visible in the area.
The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Switzerland. Located between the continents of Europe and Africa, this site displays three-dimensional views of underlying structures. It also has a history of pioneering eco-initiatives. This region is home to an impressive range of geological formations, including the Piz Sardona, which stands at 3056 metres.
The area demonstrates a rare example of mountain building through the collision of two continents. In 2008, it was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. During your visit, you can hike on the trails and enjoy the panoramic view.
13. The Swiss Alps Jungfrau Aletsch UNESCO Heritage Site
The Swiss Alps Jungfrau Aletsch World Heritage Site has recently been extended to include a larger area of the Bernese Alps. The area includes nine peaks over 4000 metres, including the Aletschhorn and Jungfrau. These mountains are part of one of the largest glaciated areas in Europe.
This area features many scenic views of the surrounding region and is also home to some of Switzerland’s most significant natural and cultural assets. From the Jungfraujoch, hikers can view the spectacular Aletsch Glacier from different vantage points. The Mt Eggishorn is the highest point on the Aletsch glacier, with a breathtaking view.
It is possible to access the site via two ropeways or hiking. Guests can also view the Aletsch Glacier from Bettmerhorn, a smaller peak that juts out on the other side of the ice field. UNESCO has designated the Jungfrau-Aletsch region as a world natural heritage site. This region contains the largest glacier in Europe and is an important research site for climate change.
It also features diverse flora and fauna. The area is well-managed, with a strategy and plan for conservation. Global climate change is another significant threat to the area’s glaciers. Global warming can cause a marked retreat of glaciers and increase slope instability. Studies conducted from 1850 to 1973 indicate that only about three-quarters of the original glacier area is left today.
The site may also face additional threats from expanding tourism. It shares the border with other existing winter sports resorts, and the Jungfraujoch has a solution for wastewater disposal.