10 Irresistibly Charming World Heritage Cities

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Cover: Bryggen in Bergen, Norway
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on October 19, 2013. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Anne Banas, Arles, Bergen, Bruges, destination, Luang Prabang, Lunenburg, Oaxaca, Quebec City, Quedlinburg, Quito, Tallinn.

(Photo: Jean-Pierre Lescourret/Getty Images)

Ancient monuments. Preserved town centers. Superlative art and architecture. While UNESCO has its World Heritage criteria, what makes a place "charming" is a bit more subjective. Perhaps it comes down to winding cobbled lanes and fairy-tale castles or colorful old houses surrounded by outdoor cafes. Maybe it's just a certain je ne sais quoi. While charm, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder, these 10 cities from around the world impress with rich culture and history and are sure to captivate your imagination.


Bergen, Norway

In Norway's "Gateway to the Fjords," painted wooden houses with gabled fronts lean along the harbor, where market sellers entice shoppers with wild smoked salmon, caramelized brown cheese, and jars of orange-red cloudberry jam. Bergen is colorful, even on rainy days. It's also historical. Not only is it designated a World Heritage city, but its old wharf, Bryggen, is listed as a UNESCO site. Originally established for the dried codfish trade by German Hanseatic merchants in the 14th century, this medieval settlement of long, slender dockside homes has been plagued by fires over the years but has been rebuilt each time using traditional methods. Today, some 62 buildings, including the Hanseatic Museum, remain. Explore Bryggen via narrow passageways leading to old warehouses, where the floorboards creak and the walls smell of aged salted wood.

Don't Miss: Dining at Enhjorningen (The Unicorn), set in one of the restored wharf buildings and known for its seafood menu, and Tracteursted, the oldest restaurant in town, serving classic Bergen food in an old assembly room with slanted floors.

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