Chatham's Historic Dockyard has been recognised for introducing new business to the area while retaining the atmosphere of the working dockyard.
Sir Ian Garnett said he was delighted for the trustees and staff
It marks 20 years' work by the dockyard trust and completion of a £18m project to renovate attractions such as the ropery, the museum and HMS Gannet.
A medal for the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage was presented at the Kent dockyard on Tuesday.
"I am delighted," said dockyard trust chairman, Admiral Sir Ian Garnett.
"It is difficult to generate money-raising activities while preserving the culture and heritage of the site.
Age of sail
"There is a balance and I think this award recognises that the trustees and staff have achieved that in the 20 years since the dockyard closed."
He said 130,000 people visited the dockyard every year.
There were 100 businesses employing 1,000 people and 400 residents on the site.
"The dockyard is reckoned to be the best example of a dockyard from the age of sail in Europe," said Sir Ian.
"Most of our visitors come from a radius of Chatham.
"We draw very much on the local community, because this is their dockyard and we very much appreciate the support given by all those in the Medway area."
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who was guest of honour at the presentation, said she was "impressed beyond words" with the dockyard.