UNESCO Sites in Scandinavia
UNESCO sites in Scandinavia honor human creativity from cave paintings to radio technology, and some of Earth’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. Visit Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden World Heritage sites for eye-popping beauty and interest!
Interactive map of UNESCO locations in Scandinavia
Fjords, Fire and Ice
The majesty and beauty of the West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord in southwestern Norway have earned them their Wolrd Heritage listing. As interesting geologically as they are scenically, the play of sheer fjord walls, forests, waterfalls and wildlife is stunning. VisitNorway’s fjord guide tells you more about these and other fjords in Norway.
These next two UNESCO World Heritage sites illustrate the geologic breath of Scandinavia. Denmark’s Ilulissat Icefjord (glacier) off the coast of Greenland is the passageway for the Greenland icecap to reach the sea. It calves (releases) more ice than any other glacier outside Antarctica! The icefjord is extremely useful in studying climate change.
Volcanic activity is responsible for Surtsey, an island that erupted into existence off the coast of Iceland in the 1960’s. Its name is derived from the Norse god of fire, Sutur. This brand new piece or land has provided scientists with a unique opportunity to observe how life gets established and evolves on pristine territory.
For Work and Worship
The Urnes Stave Church in Norway, built between the 12th and 13th centuries, is one of only its kind left - and there used be thousands of these churches. It is also the most ornate and the best example of traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture, which combines elements from Celtic, Viking, and Romanesque traditions.
Another house of worship on the World Heritage List is the Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark. From the same era as the Stave Church, this Danish building was the first brick Gothic cathedral in Scandinavia and started a trend that spread throughout northern Europe.
Moving up a few centuries and to Finland, you can see an excellent example of the Industrial Revolution at the Verla Groundwood and Board Mill and Residential Area. You can really get a feel here for a 19th century, small-scale rural industrial settlement, typical of many in Europe and North America – and one of the few still standing.
Still in working condition is the Varberg Radio Station in southern Sweden, a well-preserved relic of early wireless transatlantic communication from the 1920’s. You can see the original transmitter and the six steel towers that at the time were the tallest constructions in Sweden.
Before the Modern Era
Thousands of bear, moose, reindeer, fish and birds are depicted in the Rock Art of Alta, near the Arctic Circle in Norway. These petroglyphs, dating from the 5th millennium B.C., have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of prehistoric human life.
Fantastic Bronze Age images enliven the Rock Carvings in Tanum, Sweden, including representations of humans, weapons, and boats. The carvings are listed by UNESCO for their number, quality, and the insight they give us into belief systems and the culture of that long-ago time.
Thingvellir National Park in Iceland is essential to Icelandic history: this is where Iceland became a nation. In the 10th century settlers needed to establish a general assembly so that no single family had too much power. The land was taken away from a convicted murderer and has served the public ever since, as a governmental and social hub. The Althing, or parliament, stayed in this location until the 18th century, when it moved to Reykjavik. You can see turf and stone remains of the Althing, examples of 18-19th century farming techniques, and enjoy the unparalleled natural beauty of this national park.