July 12, 2015

The University of Virginia, UNESCO World Heritage Site

How many of you Virginians knew that the University of Virginia is one-half of a UNESCO World Heritage Site?  Anyone?

Well, now you do.

As a 2009 graduate of UVa, I must confess that I didn't realize the UNESCO status until, well, just a few months ago.  If there were an award for obliviousness, I would win it, hands down.  I walked by the UNESCO sign every single day.  But when you attend a university that screams history, it's easy to become immune.

The University of Virginia was established in 1819 and is affectionately known as Jefferson's University in honor of the man who designed the central buildings (picture above and to right).  Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe all served on the first Board of Visitors, jump-starting the University's reputation as an elite school.  Today UVa is known as a "public Ivy" and consistently ranks as the best or second best public university in the nation.

But before I lose you in a sea of alma mater nostalgia, let's focus on what makes UVa a great place for travelers.  Obviously, the UNESCO World Heritage status is one reason.  Jefferson designed the Academic Village with neoclassicism in mind.  The Rotunda dominates the Village, and those who have traveled to Rome will recognize its resemblance to the Pantheon.  Four colonnaded rows flank the terraced Lawn that extends from the Rotunda down to more academic buildings.  The student residences along the Lawn are prime real estate at UVa, but only fourth-year students with high GPAs (think, 4.0 and above) and who have shown "unselfish service to the University" can apply to live in these rooms.  Edgar Allan Poe himself lived in these rooms when he was a student at UVa for a few months in 1826 before he withdrew due to lack of funds.  His room is still on display on the West Range.

Besides Poe's footsteps, you'll also be retracing the steps of notable alumni and faculty such as Laura Ingraham, Antonin Scalia, Tina Fey, Larry Sabato, Katie Couric, Ronde and Tiki Barber, countless Kennedys, a Roosevelt, and more than a few astronauts.  Pretty cool, huh?
Poe's room on the West Range.
Be sure to check out the University Chapel located just northwest of the Rotunda.  Constructed in the 1880s, the Chapel is a great example of Gothic architecture and even features a Tiffany stained-glass window.

Finally, enjoy the serenity of the Lawn gardens tucked behind the unique serpentine brick walls before you leave Charlottesville visit Jefferson's Monticello, the other half of the UNESCO site.

Do you consider universities to be a cultural attraction worth seeing when traveling?  Which one(s) would you like to visit?

A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

Linking up for the #WeekendWanderlust!


  1. Beautiful! Wow, yeah, I lived 2 hours from UVA all my life and had no idea it was an UNESCO site! Very cool.

  2. Universities are definitely the sort of place I enjoy visiting. That is, as long as it's normal for non-alumni/students to visit--it feels a bit awkward otherwise! I've never been to UVa, but it does look beautiful! Of course, I'm a bit partial to Furman University myself. ;)


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