In 1972, UNESCO ratified the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage to protect sites deemed “of exceptional universal value.” Candidate sites are put forth by countries and must fulfill stringent criteria to be accepted as a world heritage site. UNESCO is the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
There are 890 sites in 148 countries on the present World Heritage List, 689 of them cultural, 176 natural, and 25 mixed.
Top Swiss Heritage Sights
Switzerland currently has ten cultural and natural sites listed by UNESCO as being of world heritage value. Along with the dates they made the list, these are:
- Old City of Bern with its towers, arcades, fountains and Gothic cathedral (1983)
- Benedictine convent of Saint John, a 1200 year old monastery said to have been founded by Charlemagne, Müstair, Graubünden (1983)
- Convent of St. Gallen, a Baroque complex including church and a library containing major manuscripts (1983)
- Three castles, walls and ramparts of Bellinzona, Ticino (2000)
- Jungfrau Aletsch region in the Alps of Bern and Valais which has been described as ‘’a work of art in ice’’ (2001)
- Monte San Giorgio overlooking Lake Lugano in Ticino, home to the world’s best fossil record of marine life from the Triassic Period 230-245 million years ago (2003)
- Swiss Tectonic Arena around Piz Sardona on the borders of cantons St Gallen, Glarus and Graubünden, a unique illustration of the way the collision of tectonic plates relates to the formation of mountains (2008)
- Vineyard terraces of Lavaux, Vaud, overlooking Lake Geneva (2007)
- Rhaetian railway, Graubünden, 128 km (79.5 miles) of railway built in the early 20th century featuring 55 tunnels and covered galleries, 196 viaducts and bridges, and breathtaking scenery (2008)
- Watch making centers of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle in Neuchâtel (2009)