UNESCO World Heritage

Today, Switzerland has 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Jungfrau-Aletsch region (Aletsch glacier), the remains of prehistoric pile-dwellings, as well as two incredibly scenic railway lines in the canton of Graubünden.

View of the Lavaux vineyards on the shores of Lake Geneva
The terraced vineyards of the Lavaux, canton of Vaud © www.diapo.ch / Régis Colombo

UNESCO has set itself the mission of protecting cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value. To help it achieve this goal, it has drawn up a list, which currently comprises 981 cultural or natural heritage sites. Eleven of these are in Switzerland. Eight are cultural heritage sites (buildings of particular architectural merit, entire towns, and sites created by the emergence of industrialisation), while the remaining three are natural heritage sites.

The first three Swiss sites to be accepted on the UNESCO list, back in 1983, are the Library and Monastery Complex of St. Gallen, the Old City of Bern and the Benedictine Convent of St. John in Müstair (canton of Graubünden). These were followed in 2000 by the Three Castles of Bellinzona (canton of Ticino), and their medieval defensive walls and ramparts, and by the Jungfrau-Aletsch region (cantons of Bern and Valais) in 2001.

In 2003 UNESCO World Natural Heritage status was granted to the pyramid-shaped Monte San Giorgio (canton of Ticino) and its repository of 250-300 million-year-old fossils. The terraced vineyards of Lavaux (canton of Vaud) followed suit in 2007. Likewise, the Albula and Bernina lines of the Rhaetian Railway and the Swiss Tectonic Arena of Sardona (cantons of Graubünden, St. Gallen and Glarus) were named UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2008. The following year saw the addition of the watchmaking centre of La Chaux-de-Fonds.

The most recent Swiss addition to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites was in 2011 and comprises 56 sites containing the relics of prehistoric pile dwellings dating from around 5,000 BC to 500 BC. These are found on lake shores, riverbanks and marshes. Switzerland has still one application pending: the urban and architectural work of Le Corbusier.

Additional information