World Heritage Destinations Rated: Europe
Introduction Africa (sub-Saharan) Asia Australia & New Zealand
Europe Middle East & North Africa North America & the Caribbean
South and Central AmericaPanelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality during the rating process. These lightly edited excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.
Austria: Salzburg historic center
"Not overly touristic—has social/cultural integrity to high degree. All structures, both historic and business, are in fine shape, with great appeal aesthetically. Tourism development is appropriate, not excessive, and not in your face."
"A well-managed cultural city."
"The over-commercialized Mozart tradition dominates the tourist experience."
Belgium: Historic center of Bruges
"The businesses cater to tourists, and while there is a feeling that the buildings are from another time, the place is not sterile; it is a living place, not a backdrop for tourists. You remember the experience because you become part of it; as you walk you peep into houses where people live, you eat at a café; you're not a spectator in a sterile museum."
"The carrying capacity of the inner city is being exceeded and affects the quality of life of inhabitants, as well as the tourism experience. Conservation of built heritage seems to be good, as is the aesthetic appeal, although the presence of advertising signs, of flashy terraces, displays, etc. spoils many beautiful spots. The sense of place and enchantment are gradually lost."
"It is remarkable how successful the burghers of Bruges have been in retaining the historical authenticity and ambience of their town while at the same time attracting many hundreds of thousands of tourists. The future outlook is rosy."
"The quality of the environment, a most attractive scenery with a high density of monuments, protected cityscapes, and museums make this a unique place for cultural tourists to discover."
"There is little sense of the historic importance of the locale."
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Old Bridge area of Mostar
"Huge symbolic significance for the town, region and country—needs to be leveraged to improve livelihoods around the region."
"In the reconstruction, original stones were recovered from the river and reused by the architect in the correct positions. The surrounding areas, however, are still a disaster."
"Most handicrafts are Turkish imports; there is only one inbound tour operator; the tensions between Croat and Bosian sectors persist; and well-developed tour circuits through Herzegovina are not yet online."
"Tourism can be and is a big benefit to this area, helping to generate the necessary resources to restore, sustain, and literally bridge the fractured communities of Mostar
"In spite of wounds caused by recent war Mostar is full of energy and life, and I simply love it. Its people are much more similar than they think. Tourism here is definitely a cure, not a threat."
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Croatia: Diocletian's Palace, Split, and surroundings
"The archaeological excavations and reports are thorough and academic, but there is very little link between this work and the tourist information. The World Heritage site is a place where people live, work and get married
but the pressures of over-crowding are evident. The aesthetic appeal is that of a stage set, a theatrical setting for people to be players."
"There was little in the way of organized tourism around the ruins—there was an outdoor cafe in the middle of them. However, I found this integration of the historic and the contemporary to be quite pleasing."
Croatia: Dubrovnik and environs
"Well-restored, well-situated and a mecca for tourists interested in history ancient through contemporary, including the 1990s war. Site is very suitable for self-guided wandering, with lots of eateries and accommodations. Best accommodation deals and most culturally interesting experiences mean staying in locals homes B&B style, which is not hard to arrange. This destination has a lot of potential if it stays on track."
"This beautiful site and its environs are now deluged by an invasion of tourists. Sheer numbers, particularly from cruise ships, overwhelm Dubrovnik. Attention to the scheduling of ship arrivals and departures is badly needed to alleviate congestion of the site. Narrow roads crammed with buses, and scarcity of parking for private autos is regrettable."
"A museum-town for decades. There is still a living community within the magnificent walls, one which skillfully makes use of its historic beauty without jeopardizing its integrity. Tourists are well cared for in every way, to the benefit of the inhabitants."
"The uniformity of buildings and structures was well maintained within historical guidelines. Very strong aesthetic appeal, what with the wall and multiple-layered buildings against an ocean backdrop."
"A classic success story of restoration and preservation. It has become an extremely popular destination and will hopefully not exceed its capacity to absorb visitors. Tourism can be a good thing for the local economy, but environmental and social impacts should be carefully monitored."
Czech Republic: Historic center of Prague
"Prague remains one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with the historic center the highlight. Concerns about tourism pressures need to be addressed to remain the high-quality cultural heritage experience it has been."
"The historic center of Prague is visually appealing with a walkable streetscape and wonderful historic architecture. After a day or so the visitor realizes that real people do not live there and that there is an interpretive discontinuity between the past and the present. The real people are congregating outside the old city walls. As visitation increases these two worlds need to come together."
"Large numbers of noisy, youthful visitors can degrade the experience of middle and older age visitors interested in the numerous historic sites and streetscapes in the medieval center. Youthful partying and nightclub activities do not always blend well with heritage enthusiasts."
"Local tourist establishments overcharge visitors for the apparent privilege of eating/staying with them. Historical information about the district is easily obtained, but tourists are not given any reason to feel invested in its future."
"Tourism development appeared to be appropriate to the character of the city, information was generally good, and infrastructure in terms of trams/underground and walking maps was very good—the city was extremely easy to access from the airport."
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France: Historic center of AvignonScore: 75
"The papal palace in Avignon ensures its place as one of the most important historical sites in France. The surrounding town is charming and remarkably unspoiled, full of good restaurants and shops. The Palace itself is used for many activities, including open-air opera in the summer months. Avignon is a beautiful and prosperous town that is obviously enjoyed by its inhabitants."
"The historic center of Avignon is well preserved, its accessibility is tourist-friendly—trains, buses, good roads, though often overcrowded in high season. The festival every summer illustrates the effective use of a historic space for cultural activities."
"During the summer festival Avignon is a very lively (crowded) and entertaining place to be, with a wide range of cultural activities (music, dance, museum visits, art exhibitions, etc.) that keeps the local and regional economy going strong throughout the year."
"Some concerns: too many cars are allowed inside the walled area, there need to be some restrictions, also on their parking."
"The creeping boutiques have to be watched, as do the type of restaurants and cafés that can too easily become tacky."
France: Loire Valley
Score: 75"The chateaus stand out in terms of their beauty, interpretation, and high standard of conservation."
"Very attractive, the condition of the architectural heritage is generally good, and facilities for tourists are diverse. Regional flavor is still very apparent (e.g., in food and wine), and it's clear the local communities benefit considerably from tourism."
"Aesthetic appeal of the attractions is very high. Some tourism development is scrappy and inappropriate, but it certainly benefits local people. Plenty of information about the attractions of the Loire Valley, but tourists are not particularly well-informed about anything other than historical and cultural features. The future of the destination seems assured."
"Delightful. Exquisite cuisine, peaceful scenery, delightful corners to explore, heavy sense of history. Sensation of visiting a place that is getting on with its normal life—doesn't feel like a tourist hotspot. Plenty of tourist information available. Sad that many simple old establishments being forced to close as American fast food chains move into the area."
France: Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay
"From a distance, particularly coming from the east along the coast of Brittany, Mont-Saint-Michel appears to float on the horizon. It is magical. As you approach it the magic gives way to a clutter of dining and lodging options. The parking lot at the base is unattractive. The shops on the mount contribute more clutter. And the crowds! Only when you look out from the ramparts onto the expanse of the bay do you recapture the majesty of the place."
"Well managed despite the high visitor numbers, excellent self-guiding infrastructure, well-integrated into local socio-economy, but really there are too many visitors in peak season to make it a pleasant experience."
"Just too congested, compounded by down-market souvenir shops and loud tour guides."
"An engineering solution to avoid sediments going into the bay and to take away parking is said to have been approved. Good for the site."
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France: Paris, banks of the Seine
"More than any other European urban river, the Seine defines the city of Paris. As a visitor, you can walk on well-maintained streets and sidewalks past most of the city's iconic sites. The opportunities for eating, people-watching and experiencing art and architecture are outstanding."
"The amazing thing about the 'Old World' is how it manages to maintain its history, culture, and buildings intact. Paris is no exception, there is a timelessness about the Seine. Has absorbed increased influx of tourists very well, without being spoilt. Maintains its unique Parisian feel."
"The Seine takes you past some of the greatest architectural destinations in Europe—it is still magical. The restorations and heritage interpretations are first class."
"Perhaps the world's best example of successful urban and landscape design. Given the bustle of Parisian life, people seem inclined to promenade. Remarkable."
"The riverboats are horribly managed and a detriment to the historic vistas afforded by the riverbanks. At the same time, the current mayor has done a fantastic job of programming those banks with smart, well-managed events like the Paris Plage and the 'white nights.' Monuments along the river, including the Louvre and D'Orsay, are top-notch."
France: Versailles and environs
"Versailles seems perfectly preserved, and driving through the front gates is a step back in time. The promenade and walks for leisurely strolls are magical. Sculptures appear along shaded walks."
"Parts of the site were being refurbished, while others were newly opened, giving the visitor a continual variety of experience. Parklands and gardens were stunning, well managed. Park accessibility is excellent. A great cultural heritage site that is managed in such a way as to deal with mass tourism."
"Versailles itself (the palace and tourism attractions) has not changed too much over the last 25 years, but the town and overall region has boomed considerably and its landscape shows the overall commercialization. Just try to get parking."
"An iconic destination, as well as a site of great historic significance. Overcrowding inside the palace ruined the visit for me. It was suffocating. The gardens provided a much more satisfying experience, as they gave the opportunity to wander and look as long as one liked."
"A zoo of dueling tours. Hard to navigate. Garden is nice, but could be much nicer."
"Some inappropriate development underway very close to the palace that detracts from the visual impact of the approach from the town, which has already lost much of its character in the station area."
France: Vézelay, church, hill, and town
"Beautiful part of Burgundy with excellent and diverse levels of accommodations, cuisine, etc. The church itself is beautiful, well-preserved, and worth the journey
"Well kept, good atmosphere, and beautiful site on the hill surrounded by countryside."
"Local business seems to profit. I see no imminent threat of dangers."
Germany: Cologne (Köln) cathedral and city
"The place has developed into a modern city. If a tourist goes to Cologne expecting a city that matches the medieval cathedral, she or he will be deceived."
"The protection of the cathedral itself has improved, but the landscape surrounding the property is a permanent problem; it is situated almost at the modern commercial center and central train station—the surrounding space is not in the right proportion and there is no consistent style to the commercial center buildings."
"The monument itself is impressive, but the area around it largely spoils the scenery. Tourism is more linked to the intangible heritage of Cologne, a town known for its party-loving people, and especially its carnival."
"Köln city has built its tourist attraction around the cathedral. Through its information center, brochures, and guided tours, visitors have a wonderful experience of its cathedral. Of all the European cities I have visited, Cologne is the most 'tourist friendly' and the attraction seems to be the most sustainable."
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Germany: Upper Middle Rhine Valley
"One of the important aspects of the heritage of the Rhine Valley is as a traditional transport corridor—with river barge traffic and two important railway lines. This should not be lost in the interest of historic heritage preservation, as the Rhine is Europe's greatest living river."
"Looks good and faithful to its historical character."
"Well-managed; tourism development is currently compatible with the ecological and historic character of Rhine environs."
"Great site with diverse potential, but lacks tourist infrastructure."
"It's a bore mostly."
"Good blend of tourism and heritage maintenance with the traditional agricultural economy."
Greece: Acropolis, Athens, and environs
"Substantial improvements in the past few years with interventions renovating public spaces, pedestrianization schemes, access via metro-underground, control of land uses in surrounding area."
"In serious trouble. The historical/architectural sites are no doubt amazing, but the 'wear and tear' on these places is noticeable and the throng of tourists at most times detracts from the experience. Also, from my observation, aside from the trickle down to opportunistic local establishments (e.g. overpriced and mediocre restaurants, aggressive vendors) near the Acropolis, the benefits are not felt by the locals."
"The city itself has improved and the air is much cleaner than 20 years ago. But much improvement needs to be done. It is not the friendliest city in the world, and most tourists after the obligatory two days at the sites look at getting to the islands. There is need for more greenery (pocket parks and so on)."
"Enhancement on other than Acropolis interpretation should be a priority, particularly in sites near Plaka. There is opportunity to engage visitors in the restoration, mitigation through volunteer tourism."
"Threatened by the corrosive effects of air pollution. The Acropolis and other sites have tremendous aesthetic appeal, and tourists are generally well-informed about the locale."
"The visitor numbers to the Acropolis are enormous. However, Athens has adjusted to the demand with surprising aplomb, and both the city and the site are admirably equipped to cater for these huge numbers."
Greece: Delphi and environs
"The environmental and built heritage integrity were just as good as 40 years ago! I hiked for miles around the valley, orchards, mountainsides and saw very little human degradation. The town of Delphi was remarkably similar though expanded in size with lots of accommodation choices. The backdrop for Delphi is remarkable—huge aesthetic appeal. The future looks good."
"Site well preserved, environs do not integrate well. Village is still too separate, too commercial with ticky-tacky activity. Still very special place, with all the spirituality of ancient Greece."
"The natural settings and human-made structures have great aesthetic appeal and are in good condition overall. Tourism development seems to benefit local people and motivate them to protect the locale. Development on the plateau above Delphi and ski resorts on Parnassus may be a threat. Prospects for sustainability are good."
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Greece: Medieval city of Rhodes
"The impact of the hotel development adjacent to the medieval city is very negative. More and more shops selling tourist tat of the lowest order. The fabric of the buildings seems on the whole in good order. Lots of excavations opened up, but few people working in them."
"Admirably organized to deal with the enormous numbers of tourists that it receives each year. Facilities both for the mass tourists and for the more historically-oriented visitors. "
"Great numbers of tourists; many not oriented to heritage values."
"A once attractive destination subjugated to the interests and the priorities of mass tourism. An attractive place to find oneself only in off-season."
"Because of tourism pressure, it is losing its authenticity; souvenir vendors are taking over as much space as they can, residents seem to be absent from the old center or only coming there to support the tourism industry."
Hungary: Budapest—banks of the Danube, Buda Castle quarter and Andrássy Avenue
"Older buildings have been converted to boutique, but moderately-priced, hotels. Good restaurants and a surprisingly small number of intrusive souvenir stands. Pedestrian-friendly with as many Hungarian visitors as foreigners. Dynamic, with many attractive buildings in the art-deco style. Needs better planning and enforcement of good practices."
"The three sites are very different and have different tourism features and management issues:
Danube: The Danube banks have been improved through walkways, bicycle routes and scenic points, but there is a lot of car traffic. A huge plus is the night illumination of historic buildings and bridges. Variety of services and attractions, ranging from shops, museums, natural parks, viewpoints or thermal baths.
Castle: The buildings are well-preserved. Access is good but car traffic is still an issue. Added-value: House of the Hungarian Vines (a cellar where tourists can experience all the vine regions of Hungary and taste the region-specific varieties) and the Casemate, an ancient tunnel system.
Andrássy Avenue: Probably where most improvements are needed for tourism. A historic subway (very nicely renovated in original style, with photos and information from the classic era of Budapest when the metro was built) is a true and original tourist attraction."
"No management plan exists—far too many interests should be harmonized (there is no one single management body). Legal protection is far too complicated and not powerful enough. Decision-making is extremely time-consuming. The area is in relatively good shape, although its future depends on the overall dynamics of the city."
"Limited information for foreign visitors about the historic significance and cultural symbolism of the area."
"The old town within the walls is well managed and surviving the large number of visitors with little adverse impact. I imagine parking outside the walls could be a problem (arrival by train and bus isn't). Modern development is entirely beyond the walls."
"Restoration after earthquake was important. Very nice work of handicap accessibility."
"Wonderfully restored cathedral—crowded at times, but still very pleasant."
"Stunning. Very well preserved, strong sense of history and culture, with small hotels and restaurants incorporated into nooks of the old city. In low season, a pleasure to wander the streets. Food excellent, nearby countryside charming and well-preserved. Future looks good if current policies are maintained."
"Commerce is tourism oriented with very few functions serving daily life."
Back to TopItaly: Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast)
"What a great stretch of coastline! Couple wonderful views with great music festivals and religious celebrations, and it's a great destination."
"Amalfi has not lost the local character of the coastal towns and agrarian industry up in the hills. Spectacular hiking opportunities."
"The modern buildings are integrated into the landscape very well. Traffic along the coastal road is often very heavy and the drive is heart-stopping. Amalfi and Positano both retain their charm."
"The protection and conservation of the beautiful littoral landscape of the Costiera Amalfitana has been a remarkable success. The excesses of the development up to and including Positano have been checked, and as a result a dramatic and immensely varied natural landscape, along with some remarkable historic towns such as Amalfi and Ravello, will survive."
"The Amalfi Coast continues as a seaside resort with pride of place. Although too crowded during peak tourism seasons by multi-nationals, the overall area remains intact."
"A visit to Florence should be a required part of everyone's education. The museums and churches are exceptionally well done, and in general the flow of people is orderly and well-organized. My only complaint was that it was hard to find any Italians—the city was very full of U.S. citizens."
"Tourism feels out of control in Florence. Tourists have absolutely no sense of their proper role in the locale. Efforts to curb crowds at the Uffizi and other museums are successful in terms of preserving the artworks therein; but the effect on the street is nerve-wracking. A general decline in the quality of food, gelato, and other aspects of culture within the historic center, but there is still plenty of local character just outside of the area. Florence is a mixed bag."
"There are still some magical nooks and crannies with charming restaurants where you feel like a local, and a welcomed guest. Environmentally it's a little dirty, but this didn't take away from its spirit, energy, and sense of itself."
"There has been a visible improvement in the management and restoration of the city during the last 20 years, despite the increasing number of visitors. The shops in the historic center have been taken by the same international brands you find everywhere, which alters the originality of the city. There is a dangerous decline of local products, Italian shops, and of the quality of food (industrial-made pizza and ice cream). The volunteer local guides you meet in some churches (Santa Maria Maggiore) are of great help."
Italy: Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and islands
"Small villages at different heights along the coast with spectacular views, harbors, walkways, places to eat. Currently well-protected because of inaccessibility by road. Visitors are probably not that aware of the ecological importance of the marine park."
"Walking from town to town through the Cinque Terre along a rugged, decaying stone path, we passed tourists and locals alike. Environmentally the area was well cared for
. The danger for this area is overuse."
"An excellent example of Italian landscape protection policies. The creation of a Parco Nazionale has ensured ongoing protection, whilst energetic policies for the rehabilitation of the dramatic vineyard terraces are proving successful."
"Smart conservation planning in the past five years has helped preserve Cinque Terre considerably. It serves now as an exemplar of planning and conservation in the relatively new field of cultural landscape management."
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"Manages to host thousands of tourists and still be a real place with laundry hanging in the back streets. Maybe it is the university presence, or just enough critical mass of local people. The historic center is automobile free and has fantastic architecture, yet it does not feel like a stage set—it feels like a place to put down roots."
"Nice blend of 13th-century and modern day Italian culture. The aesthetic appeal in Siena comes in the details—frescoes, bas reliefs, and people watching. The historic sites propel you back in time, while the cafés and boutique shops with Italian crafts and foods give you a sense of today's culture as well. The Bell Tower could be better controlled with timed entrances. If it survived the bubonic plague and centuries of war, it can probably withstand tourists as long as they are properly managed."
"Seeing the cathedral in Siena is essential to understanding the perspective of late medieval Europe, and gave me a whole new perspective. The walled city itself is charming and lovely."
"Although tourism benefits the local community, Siena has moderate problems absorbing the enormous amount of visitors it gets every year."
"The concept of 'boundary maintenance' with visitors deposited at the perimeter and forced to find their way on foot into the heart of the city is excellent. It remains a vibrant, lived-in place where the locals have adapted to tourism, retaining a degree of control over their own affairs, hanging out their washing on lines stretched across the narrow streets regardless of what the visitors might think. They do not work for tourism, rather tourism works for them!"
Italy: Venice and its lagoon
"One gets a sense of the decay of the city everywhere and almost regrets coming as a result of feeling like an accomplice to the deterioration of the city. One does not get any glimpse of the 'real' life that people lead, as everyone seems to be trying to get the most out of tourists. The 'cultural' visit is therefore limited to the monuments, the churches, and the canals."
"Beautiful fading jewel, now just a museum of a place, with massive maritime activity on the edge."
"Venice is beautiful, but no one lives there except tourists, and its days of power and importance are long past. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating destination, and the Byzantine architecture is truly amazing."
"While Venice is very crowded, that is what people expect. What is creating problems with crowding and ruining it from an aesthetic perspective is the cruise-ship industry. It has tipped the balance by disgorging hordes of tourists who seem not to spend any money. This has to be better regulated."
"Two blocks away from the hordes of tourists, a visitor can get lost in traditional Venetian experiences without a tourist in sight."
"Very early mornings wandering the area, watching the boatmen load their provisions and locals getting their day underway, provided a very different experience than the crowds experienced during 'visitor hours.' Environmental quality is variable and significant issues continue in regards to flooding, air and water quality."
Latvia: Historic Riga
"Very appealing city with colorful houses and art-nouveau buildings. Attention urgently needed to conserve additional built heritage. Increase in tourism could become a problem."
"Pedestrian areas in the inner city enhance experience and quality of life. Flashy decoration of bars, restaurants, and tourism businesses could become a threat to visual integrity
. Low-cost carriers seem to attract mass tourism; city lacks proper vision and visitor management to deal with this."
"The old town in Riga is in danger of becoming a tourism 'ghetto' surrounded by the 'real' Riga."
"Riga should be more selective in its marketing, pay more attention to local involvement and poverty alleviation and set a clear tourism strategy/visitor management plan. Tourism should create conservation benefits in a more systematic way."
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Norway: Bryggen, Bergen
"Bryggen consists of a single row of medieval timber houses, on the quayside in Bergen. The city easily deals with the small numbers of visitors who do not visit as part of a cruise."
"Old, beautiful Hanseatic buildings are well kept in spite of considerable structural work needed. The harbor architecture blends seamlessly in with the rest of the city center, overlooking the fjords and sheltered by hills."
"One of the best managed urban World Heritage sites I have visited. Surrounding urbanization compliments rather than competes."
"Overdone to cater to tourism and appears to be over-commercialized, sacrificing authenticity. 'Facadism' cannot be the only answer for conservation."
Norway: "West Fjords" (Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord) and Alesund
"Since this part of Norway was just chosen as a World Heritage site, a visitor management plan is completely lacking, but the scenery is beautiful and the roads to Geiranger are improving."
"To float into the Geirangerfjord is an astonishingly complete natural experience—steep, lush and rocky canyon walls, endless waterfalls, a snow-capped backdrop and inconceivably deep, emerald green water. There are a wealth of farms, now largely abandoned (Skagefla, Knivsfla and Blomberg) along Geirangerfjord's banks, one of which is only accessed by climbing a flimsy rope ladder which spans hundreds of meters from the water, along the cliff face, to the farm plateau. Some information on its history is available, but there's not yet an emphasis on touring there."
"The West Fjords have sensational scenery, are well-preserved and are clean. The people there are willing and helpful. There are great outdoor activities, and good hotel options and restaurants, but they close rather early! In May-June there's no feeling of mass tourism, visitors can just take ferries like normal Norwegians going about their business."
"The presence of the 'shelf farms' and human population scattered along this dramatic coastline is unique and wondrous. But is this farming sustainable, and can it continue? Or will the settlements become subject to the pressures of camping and cruise tourism, as some signs (and obtrusive) signage begin to indicate?"
"The Norwegians know they have a good thing going, and they want to preserve it. They're doing all the right things and there's little doubt they'll succeed in maintaining a destination that meets all the criteria for sustainability."
Poland: Krakow's historic center
"Krakow is a nice medieval city, full of history and culture, old and new. There is a visible effort to restore everything to its initial condition."
"A pleasant, safe atmosphere and sense of place can be found in the bars and restaurants. The condition of the buildings is good, although some need urgent restoration. Tourism information on sustainability/environmental issues could be improved. The city needs a clear tourism strategy, aiming at quality instead of quantity."
"Get rid of the billboards on the main square. Horrid!"
"Altogether a pretty successful blend of modern and restored, of upscale cultural tourism and the economy/backpacker version. The charm is still intact, although cleanliness and signage could be improved."
"Beautifully restored and looked after, although the site tends to be over-visited by tourists."
"Apart from the main square and the castle, which suffer from the presence of too many tourists, the atmosphere of the town is enjoyable."
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"One of the best cases of good conservation of built heritage, strong social/cultural integration, and fantastic countryside for its aesthetic appeal."
"Everything is fine in Évora, because it is too far away from the beach which fosters the main tourism in Portugal."
"Évora is the model that all World Heritage sites ought to follow. The primary beneficiaries of their historic resources are the citizens. Visitors are accommodated appropriately, and citizens have steadfastly resisted a scale of development that would diminish the quality of the ancient city."
"Interpretation of the site for the visitor is reasonable, although guiding is not as readily available as might be expected. The clustering of historic buildings certainly enhances the aesthetic appeal of the destination. However, the town itself appears to be struggling to accommodate the number of day visitors and the authenticity is likely to be affected."
"Sintra has managed to preserve its architectural heritage while at the same time engaging the community in sustainable tourism activity. The historic area has its share of touristy restaurants and gift shops, however, real people and families still live in the upstairs sections of those houses. Likewise, many palaces are open to tourists, but many others are still the weekend getaway of choice for many aristocratic families—not much has changed during the last few centuries."
"Beautiful location and built heritage. However, as the place is very small, tourism becomes more of a nuisance to the place, turning it into a souvenir selling site where people spend a couple of hours. Not sustainable in the long-term."
"The site has developed significantly for tourism in the past ten years, but has maintained most of its original character. Traffic in the center and parking are difficult. The botanical gardens and treed vistas have been very well maintained."
"Sintra is one of the few World Heritage sites where a balance is achieved between heritage preservation, tourism development, and local life. Tourism congestion is obvious ... however, the built heritage is very carefully preserved by the local government, with support from the national government and Portuguese NGOs. Further, Sintra is still very much alive. Tourism services and crafts are controlled by local entrepreneurs."
Russia: Historic center of Saint Petersburg
"Still sadly in need of much repair work, but the city itself is fascinating and retains great swatches of historic buildings. Evocative."
"There is a very concerted effort to restore the grandeur that was the historic St. Petersburg. From Michael's Castle to the many historic parks, the entire historic core seems to be under restoration of some sort."
"Leaders in St. Pete are doing a very good job of maintaining the site's integrity in the face of crass Russian commercialism. Many restoration projects have been completed, and slowly the central city is receiving a facelift. It will be a long process to reverse 70 years of neglect. This city is a treasure and local leaders appear aware of it."
"Considering the conditions of St. Petersburg a decade ago and the improvements made in the intervening years, we must be hopeful. A recent visit indicates that restoration of the city is in progress, however, there needs to be massive restoration of the Hermitage and other museums."
"The 20th-century history of St. Petersburg is of prime importance, and its interpretation should not be lost in a policy that focuses too much on static preservation of buildings."
"The historic city has notorious problems with surface transport and serious water quality problems. The federally protected iconic buildings are in better shape than the vernacular heritage, while the privately owned buildings are better maintained than those owned by the city."
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Spain: Alhambra and medieval Granada
"The Alhambra itself is in very good condition. The Albaicin area, while being renovated, might loose its character due to invasive construction and the division of old major buildings into apartments. Attention should be paid to the preservation of open areas, such as gardens and squares, as well as to the height of newly-constructed or restored buildings. The aesthetic appeal of the historic areas is fantastic. Tourism is of appropriate character, and benefits the local city population."
"Old Granada is a wonderful tangle of spice-scented alleys where ancient and modern cultures coexist. It's one of those rare places where the day-to-day existence of the modern residents doesn't interfere with the underlying sense of history. As a gateway to the Alhambra, it succeeds in connecting the preserved relic with a living, breathing extension of that era."
"Visitor management seemed to work OK. But the Alhambra needs better interpretation and signage throughout. It was hard to know exactly which room you were in even with a guidebook. The rest of the town held much of interest. Great for walking the old streets."
Spain: Historic Córdoba and mosque
"The mosque is well-preserved, and the local inns and restaurants harmonize with the mosque. Ecological quality appears to be high for an urban environment. Streets are well-maintained with little garbage or runoff. Many of the streets are unmarked, making it difficult for the first-time visitor to navigate the mosque area."
"This is one of Spain's most important tourist attractions. It is impeccably looked after and the arrangements for tourists are excellent. One is allowed to wander around the vast interior without hindrance."
"The historic town and mosque retain their local character, but suffer from excessive tourism at peak periods. Further tourism-related development could begin to erode the local character."
"The unique mosque alone is well worth the visit to this historic place, especially as it represents a high point of Islamic civilization and a period of unusual religious tolerance. Gardens outside the mosque provide aesthetic appeal. The medieval wall around the old core helps provide historic context."
"Redevelopment of the city over the past 20 years has been broadly sympathetic to the ancient Moorish core, and although the number of outlets catering for tourist trade has increased noticeably, the city does retain a coherent Andalusian character."
"The central area has retained intact its essential character, unmarred by modern, inappropriate developments. There is, however, some fairly unsightly development outside the walls towards the train and bus stations. The old town area has all a visitor needs."
"Toledo has managed to control massive visitation very well. Most of the walled city is intact and vistas from the ring road across the river are largely unimpeded. While some traffic problems are found in the city, and further limitation to access for private vehicles should be considered, it is generally well done. Commerce has been reasonably well integrated into the old city, with minimal alteration to shop fronts, etc. Use of old buildings as accommodations has been well done."
"Toledo is over-commercialized and makes the visitor feel as if he/she is in a history-based shopping mall rather than at a World Heritage site. The mixture of cultures is good, and Toledo is finally beginning to deal with its Jewish past and the injustices that its former Jewish citizens suffered at the hands of the Inquisition."
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Switzerland: Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region
"The region is stunning. The site has high natural integrity and little development. There is very tasteful development in areas around the World Heritage site—highly controlled. Options are available for both outdoor enthusiast and armchair travelers. Benefits are going directly to the local people and there is major support from the local communities."
"This region benefits from an outstanding landscape. Unfortunately, global warming will severely affect this area."
"Regression of the Eiger glaciers will become a threat to the landscape integrity."
"Always nice to visit. Great hiking trails in season, and skiing in winter. There's something for everyone, and great scenery. Developed for tourism, its main industry."
"There is spectacular beauty in this region. The very efficient electric train system plays a major role in limiting the impact of growing visitation numbers, and helps to maintain the integrity of car-less towns like Wengen."
Turkey: Göreme and the rock sites of Cappadocia
"This site is truly unique, environmentally and historically. Naturally, some built heritage is deteriorating, and that is just part of the story—it does not detract from the site. Tourism was well-managed when I was there, and every effort was made to communicate the fragility of the built heritage sites. In addition, there were culturally-appropriate historic accommodations available in the area. It has a great future as long as tourism-related traffic is well managed."
"The outlook over the long term is bleak, unless a means by which to stop or slow the deterioration of the volcanic tuff can be found. In the short term, the outlook is much better, as management protocols in place seem to be effective so far in preventing vandalism and extremely intrusive development on-site. A plan to remove the rather jarring presence of parking lots in the near vicinity of some of the rock formations would improve the experience at Cappadocia and Goreme considerably."
United Kingdom: City of Bath
"Bath is a very well-kept reserve of Georgian architecture. What it is remarkable at Bath: the human scale of everything, from its many museums and walks to cultural events, shops, and restaurants."
"Very well done in terms of both urban conservation and interpretation of Roman and Georgian heritage."
"A beautifully presented World Heritage town. High-quality maintenance. A great deal of the charm of the city derives from high-quality gardens and public open space. Interpretation is of high quality."
"Overcrowding can be a problem."
"The town remains generally in good condition with a strong local authority and an enlightened and well-informed view of conservation."
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United Kingdom: Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon
"Well managed, although the popularity of the coastal walks leads to severe erosion of the cliffs and 'people pollution.' At busy times there are convoys of walkers. The information is good when you can find it. Unusually effective visitor centers."
"Creatively responding to the challenge of blending WHS designation (owing to outstanding geology) with a traditional seaside tourist destination, through encouraging sustainable access and exploration, for instance through themed walks and events."
"The new visitor centers at Charmouth and Lulworth are good, although there could be more emphasis on environmental protection. Surrounding towns and villages clearly benefit from the level of visitors, but there is a great deal of congestion in summer, as in Lyme Regis. Some of the tourism development seems inappropriate (e.g., cliff-top caravan parks)."
"WHS is still at a relatively early stage of management and has a complex set of stakeholders and historical tourism issues. Under the circumstances, the steering committee is doing an excellent job and gradually improving the area's image and sense of unity."
United Kingdom: Stonehenge and environs
"Massive numbers of tourists cycle through the site on a daily basis, making for a crowded, noisy environment. Condition of the site is protected by fencing to discourage defacing the structures, but the visual sightlines are disrupted. It does not appear that local populations benefit from the tourist development of the site, which has been protected from excessive commercial and residential development."
"Aesthetic qualities compromised by existing road and adjacent development. Massive tourism is limited to a few hours' visit, so there are few benefits to surrounding communities."
"What a mess! Compelling
certainly the current experience lacks magic."
"Crowd control is a good thing, but overregulation has made the visitor's experience rather disappointing, charm is gone. Would be good if something is done to surrounding landscape."
"Good interpretation and SO impressive. But you can get a similar impact from lots of other stone circles, especially up north in Scotland, without all the noise and intrusion."
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