UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites showcases both mankind’s greatest architectural achievements and the planet’s most naturally stunning landscapes, making them some of the most awe-inspiring places to visit on earth. While you may never be able to see all of the sites scattered around the globe (there are over a thousand at time of writing), there are many located only a short distance from the UK. To help you seek out these cultural hotspots, we’ve created a guide to five of the most beautiful UNESCO sites you can reach via ferry.
The Medieval Centre of Bruges
Located a short distance from Zeebrugge, the picture-perfect city of Bruges is a hotspot for visitors the world over – and the entire historic centre is a protected UNESCO site. Take a walk around the Gothic architecture in the Market Square and climb the breath-taking belfry tower, which provides a panoramic view of the city and the elegant guild houses that surround the square. After climbing the 83-metre tower, treat yourself to a tour of the artisan chocolate shops, or relax in one of the alfresco bars where locals and visitors alike wind-down with golden beers and steaming pots of mussels.
The Windmills of Rotterdam
Take a trip back through time with a tour around Rotterdam’s Kinderdijk-Elshout windmill network, which has been around since the Middle Ages. You can tour 19 of the iconic Dutch buildings and even meet a real life miller, giving you a great insight into the machinery that was once the pinnacle of engineering technology. Located a short drive or even boat ride from Rotterdam, a chance to explore these Dutch icons is unmissable.
The Giant’s Causeway
While local legends claim the Giant’s Causeway was created by the great giant Finn McCool, this natural marvel is in fact the result of intense volcanic pressure, making unique rock formations and a gorgeous geological wonder. You can reach the polygonal columns of basalt stone by travelling north from Larne along the Causeway Coast, a road consistently voted one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Once you arrive, there are a number of bracing walking trails and hikes that allow you to see Northern Ireland’s legendary coastline.
The 13th century Amiens Cathedral can be easily reached from Calais via a scenic drive through the Caps et Marais d’Opale regional national park. The beautiful building has one of the most outstanding exterior facades in France, and its striking style and intricate carved sculptures are admired by architects and visitors alike. Spend your time walking along the Somme River, exploring the many fascinating World War II sites, battlefields and memorials.
The Canals of Amsterdam
One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of Amsterdam is the charming maze of canals that weave across the city. These 17th century waterways are considered a masterpiece of urban planning and architecture to this day. Hire a bike and cycle around the picturesque Jordaan district for some of the best views of the canals and the narrow, tall houses. After a day of exploring, there is nothing better than a chance to relax in one of the historic brown cafés that line the banks of the water.