There are so many ways to see and experience a city. But one of my top ways to get to “know” a city is by getting up high and looking down at it. Of course, this is not hard to do as there are usually man-made or natural high points. While I like getting a view more than anything else, the view is even more appreciated when I have had to climb my way to get it. I will only list here places that I have actually climbed as opposed to places where I rode up when there was a way to climb it – the ones I rode up will be the subject of another post… So, here are eight (in no particular order) of my favorite climbs to get a city view in Europe!
Paris’ Eiffel Tower
Yes, I may be stating the obvious but most people ride the elevator on this one. I have been up the Eiffel Tower two times and both times I climbed it up to the point at which there is no other way open to the public to get to the very top (and then you are required to take an elevator). I love the freedom of walking up the tower, seeing its beams and bolts up close, and pausing a lot along the way (yea, for the view, that’s the ticket!). It may not be for everyone but if you are able to do experience the tower this way, do it! Regardless of how you go up, the altitude and the view of Paris combine to give one a great experience!
Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre
You can walk up or ride up to Montmartre (I have done both) but the best view is from climbing the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur itself. Of course, this is a better view in some ways than the Eiffel Tower since this view includes the Eiffel Tower. But not only are you rewarded by looking at Paris from this angle, but you get to see the many gargoyles and other details of the church up close and personal – which makes for good photo opps!
St. Paul’s Cathedral in London
When I went up St. Paul’s Cathedral, it was the first time I had gone to the top of any church. St. Paul’s, built in the 17th century, is 111 m high (365 ft) so you really are high up when you climb it. I enjoyed not only the view but seeing the “innards” of the structure as I made my way up to get a glimpse of London (pre-London Eye!).
Bologna’s Medieval Towers
Bologna is a city of arcades (or porticoes): it is great to be able to walk around the city whether it is raining or not thanks to this feature of this unique Italian city (home of the world’s oldest university!). But perhaps a lesser known secret of this town, former possessor of many medieval towers (estimated at 180 towers!), is that you can go up one of the remaining towers (one of the pair called the Due Torri). It will not be the one with the serious tilt but the other one (which is taller). I recommend putting out the effort and going up!
St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican
OK, to get to the first viewing point, you do take an elevator but to get to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you walk it up. Not only do you get to look down across the Tiber to Rome but you get to look down onto St. Peter’s Square (where I have participated in a papal audience (as a VIP!) and an Easter Mass) from a great vantage point. What I enjoyed (besides getting to the top) was walking inside the dome’s inner and outer walls in the passageways – the higher you got, the more you noticed the curvature of the walls and sometimes had to tilt the head a little bit to adjust to it! When you come down, you are deposited right inside the basilica.
La Giralda in Sevilla (Seville), Spain
La Giralda, Seville’s famous tower is part of which is a former minaret built in 1198 during the Moors’ occupation of Spain. It sits in the center of the city right next to the amazing Cathedral of Seville (3rd largest church in the world). To go up this 100m+ tower, you do not walk up stairs. So how do you go up if it is a “climb” and there are no stairs? Well, it actually has ramps! Why? So horses could go up! So, do like the horses and go up the ramps to enjoy views of the city center of Sevilla.
Galata Tower in Istanbul
Where else, other than Istanbul, can you look at a city laid across two continents with a great bird’s eye view? Besides learning about its history, it was a great climb. Once at the top, I looked at Asia across the busy Bosphorus with all its maritime traffic and then with a slight turn of the head, I was looking at Europe. Across the Golden Horn, I could see the “skyline” of Seraglio Point where the eye quickly focused on Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
The city walls of Dubrovnik
Though there are higher vantage points from which to admire the tiled roofs and setting of Dubrovnik, the city walls allowed me to look down but yet be close enough to feel the city. It was more of a walk than a climb but, since I had to use stairs to get to them, I will call them a “climb” – but don’t be scared, it is pretty easy to walk along these walls!