I always enjoy taking in the view from hillsides to dizzying my high Ferris wheels to glorious edifying monuments of a Communist past and even the odd ancient religious building. It must be in my nature as a Capricorn; the desire to want to be like the mountain goat and climb to the top of all that is high. If there's a tall building with a viewing platform, I probably will want to be up it! The funny thing is...when faced with these ginormous buildings, my foot on the first step of a 354 step spiral staircase climb, I often think, "Surely the Benedictine Monks installed a lift!" But, despite my moans, both internal and to anyone who will listen, I always think it is worth the effort and have never regretted a hearty ascent and the view that comes with it.
TOP 3 FREE VIEWS...
- Primrose Hill, London - This North London spot offers great views over this mighty fine city. Grab a picnic, get among the crowds on a summer's day and live the high life in this fantastic city!
- Griffith Park, Los Angeles - The City of Angels has its detractors, but who could argue with the stunning view from Griffith Park, looking over this sprawling US metropolis?
- Printemps, Paris - Many will recommend a climb to Montmartre and the church of Sacre Coeur for an impressive free view of Paris. Avoid the crowds of tourists and wind your way through the immaculately arranged departments of the Printemps store on Boulevard Haussman for a brilliant 360-ish view of the French capital, including a close up of La Madeleine and the gilded rooftop of the Paris Opera. The rooftop terrace has a cafe where you can soak up the views over a cup of creme or sparkling fizz.
- Arc de Triomphe, Paris - The 'city of views' features twice on the list and what list of great views would leave out the Eiffel Tower?! Well, this one, for a start! Notoriously busy, a little pricey and filled with a constant stream of couples proposing to each other, I would rather recommend the triumphal arch at the end of the Champs Élysée anyday! Though, not as high, this does not mean the view on offer is not as good. Far from it. Because you are not as high, you get to see more of the city close up, including the direct symmetry of I.M. Pei's Louvre Pyramid through the Arc, all the way to La Defensé, as well as enjoy the hustle and bustle of one of the busiest junctions in Western Europe! Not only that, but time your visit right; getting there just before dusk and you will have the benefit of a daytime view of Paris coupled with a brilliant nighttime view, as all the cars drive in 8 different directions towards the Arc, the myriad of headlights a sign that Paris at night has come alive!
- The Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, New York - Two impressive skyscrapers in one mind blowing city! But which to ascend? I am no authority on this, having only been to the top of the Empire State Building (which offers excellent views), but have been reliably informed that the Rockefeller Centre is a better experience as it allows you to see both the Empire State Building AND the magnificent Chrysler Building from the same rooftop.
- The Academy of Sciences, Riga - If you ever visit Riga, I can highly recommend a trip to the top of 'Stalin's birthday cake'. This ornate Communist block was built as centre of agricultural education. Its two attractions are the fact that it really isn't visited in large numbers; leaving me and two giggling girls as the only people at the top of this monument the whole 30 mins I was there! Also, by getting up that high, you can really appreciate what a green and pleasant land lies so close to this city. The locals I met made such a great play on the fact that Latvians are proud to say that their country is their 'breadbasket', with much of their food coming directly from the countryside to the capital city. Once you see the expanse of fields and forests so close to Riga, what the Latvians claim suddenly all becomes clear.
- Castelo Sao Jorge, Lisbon - High over the Portuguese capital is an old castle with some fantastic views. On a clear summer's day, I was able to enjoy a superb view across this city of 7 hills! Watching trams work their way through the maze of narrow streets and Lisboetas make their way around this wonderful capital city. In addition to the views from the castle, I would certainly recommend catching the views and the sun's rays from the many miradouros across Lisbon, where people gather to socialise, drink beer and generally have fun as they watch the sun set.