UNESCO Sites in the Benelux
The remarkable UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Low Countries - Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg - include defensive innovations, delightful architecture, feats of hydraulic engineering, and a prehistoric mining community.
Interactive map of UNESCO locations in Benelux
To Defend and Protect
The Old Quarters and Fortifications of the City of Luxembourg, dating from the 16th to mid-18th centuries, tell the tale of a city whose location appealed to everyone. The powers of the Holy Roman Emperors, the House of Burgundy, the Habsburgs, and French, Spanish, and Prussian rulers all held sway here at some time. Now partially demolished, these once mighty fortifications still evoke centuries of history and are a fine example of military architecture.
In the Netherlands is an ingenious defense system known as the Defence Line of Amsterdam. It combined an extensive network of 45 fortresses and hydraulic engineering within a circle 135 kilometers around to protect the centre of the country. Polders, canals, and locks made it possible to thwart enemies with temporary floods, and artillery from the fortresses provided another effective deterrent. Nowadays the Defence Line is a peaceful place with bicycle paths and green space. You can still visit some of the forts and see parts of the engineering works earned this site a place on the World Heritage list.
The Grand’Place in Brussels, Belgium is a fairytale square of ornate baroque and gothic guild houses, often considered to be one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Built as a merchants market in the 13th century, this World Heritage site still bustles with commerce, café life, and always some artist or performer entertaining the crowds, in the most popular spot in Brussels.
The Art Nouveau movement, at its peak at the turn of the 20th century, is embodied in the Major Town Hosues of the Architect Victor Horta. His private residence, now a museum, is a light-filled space of golden ones and sinuous lines. Three other town houses, the Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, and Hôtel van Eetvelde, join the Maison & Atelier on the World Heritage List as examples of the epitome of the Art Nouveau style.
Some of Holland’s best-loved and iconic sites are its windmills. Not only are they integral to the Dutch landscape, they are impressive solutions to the problem or water management in Holland. At the Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout, you can see 19 windmills, dykes, and various other water works and dating from the Middle Ages and still in use!
Mining the Past
The Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes near Mons, Belgium were the center of civilization in prehistoric Europe, from the Paleolithic Age, when stone tools were modern, to the Iron Age. You can actually enter the labyrinth of 6000-year old flint mines; dug out with stone and deer antler, and the pick marks left by those long-ago miners.