Sergiev Posad by Night

UNESCO World heritage site review: Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad

The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is a still working Orthodox monastery and a popular site of pilgrimage and tourism. The monastery is the spiritual centre of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is situated in the town of Sergiev Posad, about 75 km north from Moscow and part of Russia’s Golden Ring. The monastery is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site under the name ‘Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad’. We reviewed this site to let you know if it’s also an interesting site to visit as a tourist.


Sergiev Posad Trinity Lavra
Main square

Russia’s patron saint Sergius of Radonezh founded the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in 1337. Sergius developed the monastery according to his own charter, that specified which supporting buildings were necessary for the development of a monastery. This charter would be used by his followers to found hundreds of monasteries across Russia.

Serbian monks build the first stone cathedral, the Trinity Cathedral in 1422. In 1476 the church of the Holy Spirit was added to the complex. Several other buildings would be added in the 16th century which also saw the wooden palisade replaced by a stone towered wall. This was finished just in time to help the monastery survive the 16-month long Polish-Lithuanian siege in 1608.

In 1559 the building of the Assumption Cathedral started which would take 26 years to finish. It’s the only place where a Russian Tsar is buried, besides the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg and the Moscow Kremlin. The monastery would become one of the wealthiest landowners in Russia and would continue to be that until the end of the 19th century.

In the 17th century churches and buildings continued to be added. This expansion included several palaces and the giant refectory of St. Sergius, the largest hall in Russia at that time. The last major shrine was added in the 18th century by Empress Elizabeth who also commissioned the 88-meter-high bell tower.

Many patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox church are buried in the monastery. It functioned as their headquarter until 1983 when it was moved to the Danilov Monastery in Moscow.


Beauty 4/5

Sergiev Posad Assumption Cathedral
Assumption Cathedral

Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is the embodiment of stereotypical Russian Orthodox architecture. It is colourful with soft salmon pink contrasted by hard dark blues and a range of other colours. The insides are filled with fresco’s leaving no spot untouched. Golden icons stare at you from all directions. The site is extravagant and in good condition. Although the site is over the top, we rate this site a 4 mainly for being so photogenic and pleasing to the eye.

Uniqueness 3.5/5

Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius has an important place in the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s almost on the same level as the Vatican is for the Roman Catholic Church. Apart from this important place in history, the site feels a bit generic. This generic feeling is caused by the fact that most buildings are 18th-20th century restorations aimed to conform to the stereotypes of Orthodox architecture. If you travel the Golden Ring you will see more stunning examples of Orthodox architecture. This results in a score of 3.5 on uniqueness.

Experience 3/5

Sergiev Posad Bell tower

The site is an active monastery and a pilgrimage site. So, catering to tourists, especially international ones, is not the most important function. There are just some signs with the names of the different buildings in Russian and English. The rest of the information you will have to find in a guidebook or on the internet.


The complex is accessible by wheelchair. There are smooth brick walkways to make getting around easier for everyone. Sadly, most churches have high stone stairs without ramps. There is a lack of overall signages and there are none for the visually impaired.

Value for money:

Access to the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius monastery is free, so the value for money is great.
This all results in a 3 for the experience.

Location 4/5

Sergiev Posad by Night
Sergiev Posad by Night

Sergiev Posad lies 75km north of Moscow, an hour and a half drive if the traffic isn’t too busy. There are several train connections which also take around 1.5 hours. Sergiev Posad is part of the Golden Ring and as such is on many tourist itineraries. So, chances are high that you’ll visit it when you’re on an organised tour of Russia. This results in a score of 4 for location.

Overall rating 3.5/5

The site is photogenic and beautiful, but so are a lot of the other sites of the Golden Ring. The tourist experience isn’t that great because of the lack of information, as is the accessibility of this site. But it’s not that far from Moscow and fairly easy to include in your itinerary especially if you’re doing Russia’s Golden Ring. This all results in an overall score of 3.5

Kizhi Pogost

UNESCO World heritage site review: Kizhi Pogost

Kizhi Pogost is the most important tourist destination in Russian Karelia. But is it worth the visit? Globazine reviews this UNESCO World Heritage Site, exploring its history, beauty, uniqueness, and experience. Continue reading to learn more!

Kizhi Pogost is not a single building but three different ones. The pogost is the area within the wooden enclosure. Within this enclosure are two churches and one bell tower which together form Kizhi Pogost.


Kizhi Pogost Church
Kizhi Pogost Church

The religious significance of the island goes back further than the present-day churches. Before Christianity came to this area, pagan rituals were performed here. The earliest reference of churches on the island is 1496, then there were also two churches and one bell tower within the pogost. Lightning hit these buildings in 1693 and as a result they burned down.

The main building is the ‘church of the Transfiguration’. This church has 22 domes and is 37 meters high. It was the second church rebuild in the pogost and was finished in 1714. This church is the summer (Preobrazhenskaya) church for services during the summer since it’s not heated.

The winter (Pokrovskaya) church, the Church of the Intercession was the first church to be rebuilt and was finished in 1694. It would be rebuilt several times until it got its final present-day 9-dome shape in 1764.

The belfry, or bell tower, was only rebuilt in 1862 but deteriorated so fast that it needed to be rebuilt once again twelve years later. The surrounding fence serves no defensive purpose but only marks the area of the pogost.

The area started to function as an open-air museum from 1951 when monumental wooden buildings started to be transported to Kizhi.

Beauty 4.5/5

Kizhi house
House near the water

Situated on a green island in Lake Onega in Russian Karelia, Kizhi Pogost is a perfect sight. It naturally fits in with its surroundings. Whatever the angle, this wooden church looks the part. The design is simple but beautiful. This results in a 4.5 out of 5.

Uniqueness 4.5/5

Wooden churches once were a common sight in northern Russia. But fire, destruction and neglect has destroyed most of them. Of the remaining wooden churches, none look so typical Russian Orthodox as Kizhi Pogost. But at the same time, its strangely different because of the wooden building material. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit Kizhi, try to visit the wooden churches of Suzdal, so you at least get an impression of Russian wooden churches. On uniqueness, Kizhi scores a 4.5 out of 5.

Experience 4.5/5

Kizhi farmers
Farmers working the field

Most people will get to Kizhi by boat, probably by hydrofoil. This is an exhilarating ride across a remote part of Russia. Apart from Kizhi Pogost, the island houses many other wooden structures kept here for preservation. This gives a good insight into how life used to be in this part of the world. During the summer season, people will exhibit typical professions, while traditionally dressed. There are a lot of signs in both English and Russian to explain the function of the different buildings and its origins. The staff usually is willing to tell more about the buildings, although language can be a barrier. There are audio guides available in English, Finnish, French and Chinese.


The biggest hurdle for people in a wheelchair is getting to the island. The hydrofoils are cramped with limited facilities and extra space. There are alternatives, such as helicopter rides, but these are far more expensive. Contact the operators to get more information about the possibilities.
The island itself has hardened walkways between the different buildings. But most buildings have wooden stairs without ramps as an entrance. The audio guide can be used by the visually impaired to get information about the site.

Value for money:

Going to Kizhi is relatively expensive as you need both transport to the island and an entry ticket. Altogether this is around 50-euro pp. This is reasonable value for money as you get an exciting boat ride and a visit to a unique museum-reserve.

Location 2.5/5


The best place to explore Kizhi from is Petrozavodsk which is 5 hours away by train from St. Petersburg. There are a limited number of trains per day and the train schedule makes it impossible to go here as a day trip. There are night trains to St. Petersburg and Murmansk. From Petrozavodsk, it’s another 1.5 hours by boat to get to Kizhi. So, it takes at least 1.5 days to visit this place. There are some organised tours from St. Petersburg, but most stick to the city and the surrounding palaces. The difficult reachability results in a 2.5 for the location.

Overall rating 4/5

Kizhi Pogost is a beautiful place that is a unique experience in Russia. Compared to other Russian tourist sites it’s well developed and friendly to tourists, providing a pleasant experience. The only downside is the relative remoteness of the site. This leads to an overall score of 4.

Kizhi Pogost
Kronborg castle

Kronborg Castle UNESCO World Heritage Site Review

What has Hamlet’s castle Kronborg, to offer? Globazine rates the home of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in its UNESCO World Heritage Site Review. Continue reading to know if we advise you to travel to Kronborg Castle, situated close to Copenhagen, Denmark.


Kronborg Castle is situated at the very edge of Denmark, close to Sweden. It guards the Øresund and thereby controlled this entrance way into the Baltic Sea. Eric of Pomerania, King of Norway, King of Denmark and King of Sweden built the first stronghold in 1420. King Frederick II transformed this fortress into a Dutch-Renaissance style castle in 1574. Fire destroyed this castle in 1629, leaving only the chapel standing.

Kronborg maquette

King Christian IV reconstructed the exterior of the castle exactly as it was before. But the interior would never regain its former glory. The Swedes conquered the castle in 1658 and plundered most of its art. This forced the Danes to fortify the castle much more. So afterwards they added extra defensive works and ramparts to the castle. The castle served as a prison from 1739 until the 1900s.

This castle is also known as Elsinore. This is the anglicized name of the surrounding village Helsingor. Elsinore is also the name that Shakespeare used, when he situated his famous play ‘Hamlet, Prince of Denmark’ in the castle. And thereby making Kronborg Castle the most famous castle of Denmark.


Read more about how we rated the Kronborg Castle and other sites at our UNESCO World Heritage Site Review.

Beauty 3.5/5

Kronborg interior

The castle has a nice Dutch renaissance style to it. It’s position overlooking the Øresund provides a beautiful backdrop. You have great views when the weather is clear. The interior of the castle is less stunning. Most rooms have simple decoration and fail to differentiate from other castles.

Uniqueness 2.5/5

Europe is littered with castles and this late-Renaissance example isn’t that extraordinary. But it still is in good shape without too much alterations. As an alternative you can visit Frederiksborg Palace or Rosenborg castle in Copenhagen. Both places are built in a similar style, but have much more lavish interiors. Nearby countries such as Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands also provide many alternatives.

Experience 4/5

Kronborg courtyard

Kronborg is a large castle divided into separate visiting areas. This makes your experience of the castle more focused and helps with the flow of visitors. Visitor numbers are especially high during the summer, so come early or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. The separate areas add a bit of extra time since you have to exit to the courtyard and re-enter at a different wing. There is an audio guide available which adds depth to the story of the castle. The variation in the interior keeps the different rooms interesting. And the tour through the scarcely-lid underground dungeons adds to the mystery of the castle.


Only the courtyard is accessible by wheelchair. The audio guide can also help the visually impaired. The lack of signage makes a visit less interesting for deaf people.

Value for money:

The entrance fee is like that of other castles and sights in Denmark. If you have bought the Copenhagen Card, then entry and transportation to the castle is free. Visiting the castle, the dungeons and the surrounding area will take around 2 hours. So, it’s good value for money.

Location 4/5

The castle is an hour away from Copenhagen by train. Trains run 2 or 3 times per hour depending on the day and time. Trains also stops at Humlebæk, there you can visit the excellent Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. This makes for a good combination as a day trip from Copenhagen.

Overall 3.5

Kronborg castle is a good-looking castle but apart from its location not so special. Still, it provides visitors with an interesting experience easy accessible from Copenhagen. This all leads to an overall score of 3.5.

Kronburg Castle
Grand Place

La Grand Place Brussels UNESCO World Heritage Site Review

The Grand Place of Brussels is the most important tourist destination in Brussels. But is it worth the visit? Globazine reviews this UNESCO World Heritage Site, exploring its history, beauty, uniqueness, and experience. Continue reading to learn more!


The market place dates to the end of the 11th century. At the beginning of the 13th century, indoor markets were built to showcase wares in bad weather. This way the storage and sales of goods could also be tracked to collect taxes.

The Town Hall was constructed between 1401 and 1455. This building is the only remaining medieval building on the square. It made the Grand Place the seat of municipal power. The Duke of Brabant countered this symbol of municipal power with a large building across the square. This King’s House (Maison du Roi or Broodhuis) served as a symbol of ducal power . The name is somewhat of a misnomer as no kings ever lived there. Over time many wealthy merchants and guilds of Brussels built houses around the edge of the square.

Broodhuis, Museum of the city of Brussels

The square was also used for beheading and burning of trialed people. Among others, the counts of Egmont and Horn, who had spoken out against the policies of King Philip II in the Spanish Netherlands. They were beheaded in 1568. This event marked the beginning of the armed revolt against Spanish rule.

On 13 August 1695, the French bombarded Brussels with cannons and mortars. They flattened the majority of Grand Place and the surrounding city. Only the stone shell of the town hall and some fragments of other buildings remained. The square was rebuilt in the years thereafter. This was done with more coordination, delivering the remarkably harmonious layout you see today.


Read more about how we rated the Grand Place and other sites at our UNESCO World Heritage Site Review.

Beauty 4/5

Grote Markt
City Hall

The Grand Place is an outstanding example of Gothic and Baroque architecture, oozing former wealth and glory. The different buildings fit together very well, with the Town Hall and King’s House stealing the show. But the different guildhalls are also worth a closer look, with unashamed exhibitions, gable, statues and guild symbols. As the square has just been restored, the buildings are in great shape. In the evening, the scene is illuminated and there are lightshows organised. The only minus is that many houses have been transformed into (tourist) shops and cafés, this detracts a bit from the overall beauty. This all results in a rating of 4 out of 5.

Uniqueness 4/5

The Grand place is a unique square. But you can find similar style houses and buildings in other Flemish cities. For somewhat similar squares go to Antwerp (Grote Markt) and Arras (La Grand Place and La Place des Héros). But those lack the combination of grandeur, originality and cohesive design of this square. This all results in a rating of 4 out of 5.

Experience 3/5

Admiring the different building won’t keep you occupied the whole day. You might also want to visit the King’s house. Nowadays it houses the Brussels City Museum, which has various historical relics. Furthermore, many festive and cultural events are organized on the grand-place. You can also have a drink and bite in one of the many cafes. But expect to pay tourist prices for nothing extraordinary.


The large uneven boulders which form the pavement can be difficult to navigate with a wheelchair. There is no signage and explanation available to support the experience of the visually impaired.

Value for money:

It’s a public square and therefor free to experience. The Brussels City Museum provides more context to the place and is cheaper than most of Brussels museums. Read more about this museum and other museums in Brussels in our top 5 museums in Brussels.
This all results in a rating of 3 out of 5.

Location 5/5

Grand Place

The square is right in the middle of Brussels’ city center. A five minutes’ walk from the Central train station of Brussels. Other highlights of Brussels are also close by. Museums, Manneken Pis, the Brussels Stock Exchange and shopping streets are just around the corner. So are the many waffle and chocolate shops and beer cafés. This all results in a rating of 5 out of 5.

Overall rating 4/5

Overall Grand Place gets a 4 out of 5 rating. It is a beautiful square, but it won’t keep you occupied for long. Luckily, many other sights are close by.

For more gothic beauty take a look at our review of Bourges cathedral.

Grand Place Brussels

UNESCO World heritage site review: Chogha Zanbil, Iran


Chogha Zanbil is an Elamite ziggurat built in the 13th century BCE. The Elamite king Untash-Napirisha founded it in honour of the god Inshushimah. Smaller temples dedicated to other Elamite gods surround the ziggurat. The ziggurat is made from mud bricks, stacks of unused baked bricks still stand next to the building. The original name of the site was Dur Untash, town of Untash.

The site extents around one square kilometre and was originally surrounded by a four-kilometre wall. Building stopped after the death of Untash-Napirisha. There is discussion about the period of Untash-Napirisha’s rule, the most recent thought is that he reigned between 1275-1240 BCE. The site remained in use after the death of Untash-Napirisha until the Assyrian king Ashurbanipul destroyed it in 640 BCE.

In a month of days, I levelled the whole of Elam. I deprived its fields of the sound of human voices, the tread of cattle and sheep, the refrain of joyous harvest songs. I turned it into a pasture for wild asses, gazelles and all manner of wild animals.” This inscription from an Assyrian palace tells us about the destruction. Only decades later, the Medes would bring the same kind of destruction to the Assyrian civilization.


Read more about how we rated Chogha Zanbil and other World Heritage sites at our UNESCO World Heritage Site Review page.

Beauty 4/5

The orange red bricks perfectly contrast the blue sky. As you walk around the ziggurat in the burning sun, the 3,500-year-old 53-meter-high building provides a passageway through time. Much of the ziggurat looks like it was built only yesterday. The site is even more magical at dawn or dusk, when the orange sky complements the warm colours of the ziggurat.

This results in an appreciation of 4 out of 5 for beauty.

Uniqueness 5/5

Chogha Zanbil

Chogha Zanbil is one of the best-preserved ziggurats in the world. It’s also one of the few ziggurats built outside of Mesopotamia. And if the security situation in Iraq hasn’t improved, this is your best option anyway. All this results in an appreciation of 5 out of 5 for uniqueness.

Experience 3.5/5

The ziggurat itself doesn’t come with much explanation. There are some bilingual signs in English and Iranian, explaining the functions of the different buildings. You’re free to wander the area as long as you stay of the ziggurat itself.
To give your visit more context, visit the nearby museum at Haft Tepe. Here you’ll find a detailed history of the ziggurat and the Elamites. The museum also houses archaeological finds from the site.

Disability: The site is flat without any stairs making it easily accessible. Major climate warning, there is almost no shade at the site. The temperature averages around 40+ degree Celsius in the spring and 50+ degree Celsius in the summer. Bring some water, air-conditioning, sunscreen, parasols and sunglasses.

Value for money: The entry price is 200,000 Rial (€4.5/$5), this is the average price tourists must pay for historical sites and museums. So, the value for money is good.

Location 2.5/5

Foundations of surrounding temples

Located in the south-western part of Iran near the Iraqi border, the only way to get to Chogha Zanbil is by car. So there are only a couple of options. Rent a car and drive yourself. Hire a taxi for a day and additionally go to Shush (Susa) and Shushtar to make the most of your day. Or be part of an organised tour which includes Chogha Zanbil in its itinerary. Apart from Shush and Shushtar there isn’t much to see in this area. So you need to plan carefully and arrange for enough time. This all leads to a score of 2.5 out of 5 for location.

Overall rating 4

Chogha Zanbil is a beautiful and unique site in a far corner of Iran. There is room for improvement. It needs to be accessible by public transport and the site can be better explained. But at the same time, there is a big chance that you will be all by yourself with this 3,500-year-old building. That’s worth some effort. Considering everything, we’ll give Chogha Zanbil a light 4.


Some websites mix the date of destruction with the date of the end of construction. To be clear, construction of the site stopped somewhere around 1240BCE. The site stopped being used in 640BCE after the destruction by the Assyrians.

Chogha Zanbil Unesco entry

Also read our two day itinerary for Tehran.

Chogha Zanbil

The 7 best Loire Valley Castles

The Loire Valley in France is home to around a hundred different castles. They range from small manors to royal hunting palaces and from single donjons to big fortresses. And don’t forget the romantic places where you can imagine fairy tales taking place. The area has one of the biggest castles densities in the world. This all results in abundant choice for tourists.

We’ve visited this region for more than 30 years and have seen them all, many multiple times. We made this list to give you an overview of what the Loire Valley has to offer. Hopefully this makes you hungry for more.  We’re looking forward to your feedback: do you agree with our list? Do you have other castles to add? Let us know!


Nr. 7 The Royal Château de Blois

History of the castle

The Royal Château de Blois was built in the middle of the town of Blois and overlooks the Loire river. Work on it started as early as the 13th century. The current castle is a mixture of several buildings ranging from the 13th to the 17th century with a central courtyard. The castle was the residence of several French kings. It also served as a base of operations for Joan of Arc during her successful attempt to relief the siege of Orleans.

The oldest part of the castle is the “Salle des États Généraux”. This gothic hall served as a court and as the place for the French parliament (the Estates General) to assemble. The French king Louis XII (1498 –1515) made the castle his residence and capital and added a wing to the castle. His successor François I added another wing and created a library. But he stopped using the castle after the death of his wife.

Royal Château de Blois

After the French revolution, the castle was set to be demolished. It survived serving as a military barrack. In 1841 is was declared a historic monument and restoration started under the direction of the architect Felix Duban. Nowadays, the town of Blois owns the castle and it’s open to the public.

What makes the castle special

Blois castle is one of the few French castles used as a permanent royal residence. The different styles of the castle give a great overview of the architectural development throughout the 13th to 17th centuries. It also provides great views of the Loire river from the castle grounds.
The castle is centrally located both in the town of Blois and in the Loire Valley.

Nr. 6 Château de Chaumont

History of the castle

Odo I, then count of Blois, founded the Château de Chaumont in the 10th century. After the failed rebellion by its owner, Pierre d’Amboise, the original castle was destroyed in 1465. Charles I d’Amboise rebuilt the castle between 1469 and 1475.

The wife of King Henri II, Catherine de Medici acquired the castle in 1560. Among its famous visitors was the astrologer Nostradamus. After the death of her husband the King, Catherina forced his mistress Diane de Poitiers to swap castles. She received the castle of Chenonceau in exchange for the castle of Chaumont.

Château de Chaumont

What makes the castle special

Chaumont castle overlooks the Loire river. Its exterior has the classic look of a medieval castle. The castle is host to an international Garden Festival every year. Here contemporary garden designers display their work in the English-style garden. The gardens are huge and an attraction on their own.

Nr. 5 Château de Cheverny

History of the castle

At the end of the 15th century the Hurault family acquires the estate of Cheverny. In 1510 Raoul Hurault starts building a fortified manor at the estate. Henri Hurault replaces this building with the current castle in 1624 when he decides to raze to old building. This building is finished in 1634 and hasn’t been changed on the outside since. The Hurault family still owns the estate today. They lost ownership twice, but managed to get it back both times.

Château de Cheverny

What makes the castle special

Even as the castle has been opened to the public since 1925, the original owners still live at the property. The castle has a great hunting estate and hundreds of hunting dogs are kept for annual hunts in Autumn. Château de Cheverny also served as inspiration for Hergé. As he based Captain Haddock’s castle Marlinspike Hall (Château de Moulinsart) in the ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ on this castle.

Nr. 4 Château de Chinon

History of the castle

Chinon is one of the older castles in the region. Theobald I, Count of Blois founded the first castle at this spot in the 10th century. In the 11th century the counts of Anjou acquired the castle. Henry II, member of the House of Anjou was king of England and took the castle from his rebelling brother in 1156. He made Chinon the administrative centre for his continental possessions. Most of the structures seen today can be attributed to his reign. Henry died here in 1189.

At the beginning of the 13th century, King Philip II of France beleaguered the English lands in France. In 1205 he captured Chinon, the castle remained under French control ever since. On 6 March 1429 Joan of Arc arrived at Château de Chinon. Here she convinced the dauphin Charles VII to let her join the army at Orleans and try to lift the siege.

The castle fell into disuse at the end of the 17th century. Aside from brief use during the ‘Reign of Terror’ at the end of the 18th century, it was left to decay until the beginning of the 21st century.
Massive excavation and restoration works started in 2003. They finished in 2010, resulting in the castle as it can be seen today.

Château de Chinon

What makes the castle special

Château de Chinon is a proper medieval castle with an interesting history. It hereby fits the preconceived picture of castles and knights. The link with the mystical hero of Joan of Arc adds extra flavour to the castle. There is a museum dedicated to her on the grounds. The castle is located on the bank of the Vienne river and is quite the sight as it towers the under-laying village.

Nr. 3 Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

History of the castle

A local lord named Ridel (or Rideau) d’Azay, built a fort at the site in the 12th century. The future French king Charles VII burned this castle to the ground in 1418. He did this as a reaction to the insults thrown by the occupying Burgundian soldiers.

Gilles Berthelot, mayor of Tours and treasurer to the King, started construction on the current castle in 1518. The new castle was a blend between its medieval past and the latest architectural styles of the Italian renaissance. The French state bought Azay-le-Rideau in 1905 and listed it as an historical monument.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

What makes the castle special

Together with Ussey, Azay-le-Rideau has the highest fairy-tale castle vibe. The castle is one of the best examples of early French renaissance architecture. The location on an island in the Indre gives this castle an edge. Visit the castle early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is softer. This way you can get a perfect picture as the castle is reflected in the water.

Nr. 2 Château de Chambord

History of the castle

Chambord was built to act a magnificent hunting lodge for King Francis I in 1519. Construction was only finished in 1547, the year Francis died. The castle was abandoned by his successors and fell into decay. In 1639, Gaston d’Orleans got the castle as a present from his brother King Louis XIII. He restored much of the castle. His work was continued by King Louis XIV who added a 1,200-horse stable. But in the end, he also abandoned the castle in 1685. This pattern would repeat itself, until the French government bought the castle in 1930. Restoration work started after the second world war.

Château de Chambord

What makes the castle special

It was hard to make a decision on the number one castle. Chambord has so much going for it. It’s huge and it has dozens of towers big and small. Both the exterior and the interior of the castle are embellished with emblems, gargoyles and double staircases. This all provides a unique experience. Added bonus is the controversy about the architect of the castle, was it Leonardo da Vinci or not?

But in the end, it’s the size which keeps this castle on the second spot. The castle feels a bit like an empty shell, still waiting for a king and his court to move in. You should go and visit, and decide for yourself.

Nr. 1 Château de Chenonceau

History of the castle

The original castle of Chenonceau was built somewhere in the 13th century. it burned down in 1412 to punish to owner Jean Marques. After a turn in fortune, he rebuilt the castle and fortified the mill in the 1430s. The new owner Thomas Bornier demolished the castle except for the keep in 1513. He build the current castle on top of the foundations of the fortified mill.

Francis I seized the castle because of outstanding debts. His successor Henri II gave it to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. She initiated the building of the bridge to connect the castle to the other side of the river. When Herni II died in 1559, his wife Catherine de Medici forced Diana to exchange Chenonceau for Chaumont. The castle became Catherine’s favourite residence. She added the gallery on the bridge and added new gardens.

The Dupin family bought the castle in 1733. Louise Dupin held famous literary salons at Chenonceau. They attracted famous French enlightenment writers like Voltaire, Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau also served as her secretary and tutor to her son. She saved the castle from destruction during the French revolution. She convinced the Revolutionary Guard of its importance for travel and commerce since it was the only bridge for miles.

The Menier family bought the castle in 1913, and still own the castle to this day. In the first world war the castle served as a hospital. During the Second World War it was a route to the unoccupied part of France on the other site of the river.

Château de Chenonceau

What makes the castle special

We visited this castle many times and it keeps drawing us back. It has an unique bridge design and beautiful formal French gardens. And on top of that, there is the Shakespearean story about Catherine de Medici, Diane de Potiers and Herni II. If you can only visit one Loire Valley castle in your life, let it be this one. Just know that it’s the river Cher, a Loire tributary and not the Loire itself, the castle crosses.

Follow up Where to go alternatives

If you still haven’t had enough try some other castles. To name a few, go to Ussey, Sully, Amboise or Villandry. But even after visiting those there are still dozens more to explore and discover. And while you’re in the area, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bourges Cathedral.

The seven best Loire Castles

Choirokoitia: an UNESCO WHS Review


Choirokoitia (Khirokitia) is an archaeological site on Cyprus dating from the Neolithic aceramic age. On Cyprus this age started somewhere around 8,200 B.C. Choirokoitia was inhabited until around 6,000 B.C. It is one of the most important and best preserved prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean area and has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1998.

Review of Choirokoitia

Read more about how we rated Choirokoitia and other sites at our UNESCO World Heritage Site Review. Also read our other article about archaeology on Cyprus if this interest you.

Beauty: 2.5

There is not much to see at the site. The archaeological remains are not more than some restored foundations. So what beauty this site has comes from its location and the surrounding area. The site lies on top of a hill which gives good views as far as the distant sea.


Uniqueness: 5

The site dates back to the 7th millennia B.C. and is therefore more than 9,000 years old. It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the eastern Mediterranean. The site still provides key insights into the spreading of civilization in the Mediterranean world. There is nothing else like this with similar scale and preservation on Cyprus. Other sites from the period are Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, Aleppo in Syria and Jericho in Palestine.

Experience: 3

The site isn’t developed for tourism. Nonetheless a couple of efforts have been made to facilitate the general public to understand the site. At the bottom of the hill a couple of the houses have been reconstructed to give an idea of the original look of the site. There are bilingual signs along the route in Greek and English. They explain the site, the functions of the different buildings, the people and the environment they were living in at the time. As stated earlier, there isn’t much to see. The foundations of some 20 houses have been excavated, that’s all there is to see.



Some parts of the site are wheelchair accessible mainly the reconstructed village below. From here you can see the site on the hill but you can’t get up close.

Value for money:

The entrance fee is €2.50; the visit will keep you occupied for 30-60 minutes. This gives you good value for money.

Location: 3.5

The site lies just off the exit off the main highway between Limassol, Larnaca and Nicosia. This makes the site easily accessible by car. Buses are infrequent especially out of season. The site is within daytrip distance of those staying in or around the above-mentioned cities. It’s a bit far away when staying in Paphos or Aya Napa and very difficult to get to if staying in the northern part of the island.

Overall rating: 3.5

This site is not the best looking archaeological site on Cyprus. But it provides a unique insight into the dawn of civilization. More could be done to help visitors to engage with the site and understand its importance. The location and accessibility of the site is okay, but access by public transport could be improved. All this leads to an overall rating of 3.5. This site is not for everyone, but when you’re interested in the history of mankind, be sure to visit.

Should you visit Choirokoitia?
Bourges Cathedral

Bourges Cathedral: an UNESCO WHS Review


The site of the cathedral served as the city’s main church all the way back to Carolingian times (714-1124) and maybe even further back to the founding of the bishopric, proposedly by saint Ursin in the 3th century.

It is not known when the construction of the current cathedral began, but documents suggest somewhere around 1194. The building was completed in different steps and finally consecrated in 1324. Due to structural problems with the South tower, an adjoining buttress tower was built in the 14th century. Probably due to similar problems the North tower collapsed in 1506, afterwards it was rebuilt in a more contemporary style.


Review of Bourges Cathedral

Read more about how we rated Bourges Cathedral and other sites at our UNESCO World Heritage Site Review.

Bourges Cathedral
Bourges Cathedral

Beauty: 4

The cathedral of Bourges is a highpoint of Gothic architecture. The stone work on the front façade is especially beautiful and intricate. When the light hits the original stained-glass windows, they come to live and add to the spiritual atmosphere of the place. The rest of the interior is restrained and simple with a 37m high nave that inspires awe.

Uniqueness: 3.5

Bourges cathedral is an excellent example of Western-European Gothic architecture. What makes it especially unique is the fact that the building survived through all the ages relatively undamaged. Therefor all but one of the stained-glass windows date back to 1215. But similar buildings can be found in France, not that far from this one. Four other great examples are the cathedrals of Chartres, Amiens, Reims and the Notre-Dame in Paris.

Stained glass

Experience: 3.5

The cathedral gets its fair share of visitors, but its far less crowded than similar Gothic cathedrals elsewhere. This leaves more room for silent contemplation and admiration here. Guided tours are available, but only in French. You can visit the tower which provides magnificent views of the town and the surrounding area.


The site is wheelchair accessible except for the tower with its 396 steps. Tours for the visual impaired are available by appointment.

Value for money:

The entrance fee is €8.00; the visit will take you between 30-60 minutes. This gives you reasonably good value for money.

Location: 3.5

Bourges lies along the A-71 highway and has a train station with trains to Paris and other cities. There are also various bus connections available. The cathedral is 15 minutes by bus from the station or 25 minutes on foot which takes you through the old town. It’s an easy daytrip from the popular Loire Valley. But it is further afield from Paris than the cathedrals of Reims, Amiens and Chartres.


Overall rating: 3.5

Bourges cathedral is a beautiful building which provides a decent visitors experience. There are other comparable cathedrals in the country and this one is a bit further away from the main tourist itineraries. Definitely worth the visit when you are in the area or are interested in gothic architecture. This all results in an overall score of 3.5 out of 5.

Also read our review of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Himeji Castle.

Should you visit Bourges Cathedral?