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10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are also Amazing Museums

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10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are also Amazing Museums


Since 1978, UNESCO has been compiling its list of World Heritage Sites, places of historical significance that have been designated as worthy of conservation and protection for the future.

There are now over 1,000 World Heritage Sites, each one a culturally important or geographically remarkable place — a stunning landscape, historic city centre, or recognized landmark or monument of human history.

For International Museum Day, we’ve pulled together a list of sites that are also great museums or which have museums on site.

Here are ten of the best museums you can visit at UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines, Poland
The Wieliczka Salt Mine has been a source of rock salt for Poland since the 13th century, and its nine levels of underground chambers are a marvel of handcraftsmanship. The mine contains underground churches, a sanatorium for people suffering from respiratory ailments, a subterranean lake, and the impressive Kraków Saltworks Museum.



Palace and Park of Versailles, France
Versailles was the primary palace of the French kings from Louis XIV to Louis XVI and was a symbol of royal power during the infamous Ancien Régime. The palace became the Museum of the History of France in 1837 and visitors can explore the palace interior as well as gardens, fountains, waterfalls, and more.


Maya Site of Cópan, Honduras

Abandoned around 900 AD, after having been inhabited since 2000 BCE, the ruins of Cópan were discovered by the Spanish in 1570. They were excavated in the 19th century, revealing temples, plazas, and terraces that are among the most characteristic of Mayan architecture. The Museo de Escultura showcases some of the finest work of Mayan sculpture in the world.


Museumsinsel, Germany
Museumsinsel — or Museum Island — is home to five museums built between 1824 and 1930. Visitors can take in the grand architecture of the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum, and the Pergamon Museum as well as the antiquities, paintings, and sculptures in each impressive collection.


Tower of London, UK
The imposing fortress that is the Tower of London is steeped in history. William the Conqueror began building his stronghold and royal residence on the Thames in 1066. By 1100 the tower was being used as a royal residence and a prison, housing many famous prisoners from Anne Boleyn to Thomas More to the Kray twins. It is now an impressive museum and home to the British Crown Jewels.


Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang, China
The Forbidden City in Beijing was the Imperial Palace during the Ming and Yuan dynasties, from 1416-1911. It is the world’s largest palace complex, with nearly 10,000 rooms and stunning landscaped gardens. It now houses the Palace Museum, one of the most prestigious in the world.


Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belem in Lisbon, Portugal
Construction of the Monastery of the Hieronymites began in 1502, and it took 100 years to complete the impressive building. The monastery is one of the finest examples of Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline architecture, with highly detailed ornamentation carved on the columns and walls. It houses the Maritime Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, as well as the tombs of several famous Portuguese poets and presidents.


Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn, Austria
The famous Baroque royal residence at Schönbrunn was built in the mid-18th century as a wedding gift for Empress Maria Theresa. The vast gardens and courtyards are home to the oldest zoo in the world, which was founded in 1752, as well as a hedge maze and vineyard. The palace has been maintained as a museum of the Habsburg dynasty.


Himeji-jo, Japan
Himeji-jo is an architectural marvel. Dating from the early 17th century, this impressive fortress is comprised of 83 buildings including the Dai-Tenshu or main keep, three secondary keeps, and an elaborate system of watchtowers, gates, and plastered earthen walls. The castle’s secrets are revealed by an app which provides an x-ray view of each room along with filmed reconstructions of life at Himeji-jo.


Vatican City, Holy See
Vatican City is one of the most sacred cities on earth as well as one of the most architecturally impressive. The tiny enclave within Rome covers an area of less than 0.5km2, within which lies a stunning assemblage of Renaissance and Baroque art. The Apostolic Palace or Vatican Palace is the official residence of the Pope, as well as the home of the Vatican Museum, the Vatican Library, and various chapels including the Sistine Chapel, many of which are open to visitors.


BONUS: Archaeological Site of Troy, Turkey

Though the Troy Museum is only set to open in fall 2018, the Turkish government has already declared this year the “Year of Troy”. The archaeological site of the multi-layered city is fascinating to visit due to its 4,000-year history.


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