How to See 8 Popular European Cities from Above | Budget-Friendly Tips and Tricks!
After spending a semester abroad and getting the chance to visit 30+ European cities, I found that the best way to fall in love with a city is to see it from above. I’m not kidding – some of the cities that I didn’t get to see from up high, I ended up not liking as much! It’s just a surreal feeling being able to look down on a city. That’s why I decided to put together this post of the best ways to see some of my favorite cities from above, including Dublin, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Paris, Zurich, Munich, Vienna, and Florence!
Plus, you could easily travel Europe by train and visit all of these locations if you wanted. Train travel can be a really great experience in Europe. Here’s one blogger’s experience on why strangers on the train boosted her well-being!
If you’re visiting Europe, be sure to look at these 8 essentials you need to bring along.
Dublin, Ireland: Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar
History: If the name didn’t give it away… this is the location that all the world’s Guinness is brewed! It’s also Ireland’s number one most visited tourist attraction. However, don’t let that scare you! Guinness was started in 1759 when Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for only £45 a year at this very location in St. James’s Gate. Guinness has been brewed here ever since! The seven floor visitor experience that the Gravity Bar is located in is actually the world’s largest pint glass as well, because of its shape.
How could I not include my all-time favorite city on this list? There is so much to love about Dublin, but I really fell in love with it when I finally got the chance to see the beautiful city from the Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar. Tickets can be purchased online or when you get to the storehouse. You do have to buy your tickets for a time slot. I’d suggest purchasing them online so you don’t show up and find that you have to wait a while! Unfortunately, you do have to purchase a ticket to the entire Storehouse in order to even go up to the Gravity Bar. I do think it’s worth it! This is one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to. Plus, the view at the top is magnificent.
Price: Tickets are free for children under 6. Then they start at €5 for children 6-12, €16 for teenagers 13-17, and €18.50 for anybody 18 or older. However, ticket prices vary based on the time that you go… if you were to go earlier in the day, tickets would probably be the exact price I listed, but if you went during the busiest time for them then they would probably be more.
Location: St James’s Gate, Dublin 8, Ireland
Hours: 9:30 AM – 7 PM (last admission at 5 PM), July – August open 9 AM – 8 PM (last admission at 6 PM)
Florence, Italy: Brunelleschi’s Dome
History: Brunelleschi’s Dome was built in the 15th Century to replace the old cathedral from the 5th Century. After a public competition, Filippo Brunelleschi was chosen to build the dome and to this day is still considered an amazing piece of architecture. Its size and stature is massive and comprises of a double dome structure. Today, it’s still considered one of the top ten biggest churches worldwide. The inside of the dome features frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari from 1572 – 1579. It is now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re visiting Italy, you absolutely must spend at least one day in Florence so that you can get this view! It’s considered one of the major towns of Tuscany.
Be warned that it is 463 steps to the top. I will say that I have climbed so many church towers, and this one is the easiest and most comfortable climb by far just because of the setup. There are different places that you can rest on the way to the top and it’s actually not that claustrophobic compared to many other European church climbs. The only way to get to the top is to climb, as there are not lifts/elevators available at all. So… once you go up, you do have to come down! Luckily, there are separate steps for people going up and people going down, which is another huge plus for this climb.
It is important to know that in order to go in, you have to follow dress code! Your shoulders and knees should be covered or you could be denied entrance.
Price: It’s €20 for a ticket. It is €18 plus a €2 booking fee. Children aged 6-11 may buy a reduced ticket for €3 plus the €2 booking fee (€5). Unfortunately, there is not a way to just buy a ticket for the Duomo. This ticket will get you into the Great Museum Opera del Duomo, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Archaeological site of Santa Reparata. So, you do get a lot out of the ticket and it’s valid for 3 days. You can only enter each site once with the ticket though. You also have to book a time to go up the dome and should line up about 20 minutes before your time since they only let in a few people at a time!
Location: Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Hours: 8:30 AM – 7:00 PM
The museum is closed the first Tuesday of every month!
Munich, Germany: Alter Peter
History: There has been a church in this very location (Petersbergl) since the 11th Century, though it’s been rebuilt many times! It has also undergone renovations multiple times. This church is the oldest church in the city of Munich. There are eight bells and eight clocks in this church in total. One of the bells was actually an execution bell back in the 14th Century.
The best view of Munich from above is from St. Peter’s Church, also known as Peterskirche or Alter Peter. There are 299 steps to the top, and once again there is no elevator! This view is 400% worth it because you even get rewarded with a view of the Bavarian Alps from the distance. You can also see all the beautiful red roofs – the view is absolutely breathtaking! The nice thing about the top of this church tower is that it’s caged all around. There is very little room at the top and lots of people, so prepare to move slowly, take your time, and really look at all that’s around you.
While you’re in the city, be sure to check out these other cool places in Munich!
Price: €3 to climb to the top for adults, €2 for children
Location: Rindermarkt 1, 80331 München, Germany
Hours: During the summer, hours are Monday – Friday 9 AM – 6:30 PM, while weekend/holiday hours are 10 AM – 6:30 PM. Winter hours for Monday – Friday are 9 AM – 5:30 PM, while weekend/holiday hours are 10 AM – 5:30 PM.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg: Casemates du Bock
History: The Casemates du Bock are actually located underneath a fort created for Count Sigefroi in 963. Spaniards created underground tunnels here in the 17th Century, and later the French and Austrians also furthered the tunnels. There were once over 14 miles of underground tunnels, though the Treaty of of London in 1867 destroyed all of the tunnels except for 10 miles that are still there. These tunnels were used for a lot over the years, including a shelter for over 30,000 people during WWII. Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site! You can explore a lot of the Casemates on your own with a map that they hand you at the entrance of the site. The pamphlet also includes a lot of historical information about different parts of the Casemates.
Though this is not a complete “birds-eye” view like the other city options are, I highly suggest checking out the Casemates in Luxembourg City to try to see Luxembourg from higher up. While looking around the caves, you can easily peak out at the many different “windows” and see some great views of Luxembourg City down below. You absolutely can’t miss Luxembourg – it’s the small country with plenty to do!
Price: FREE for children under 4, €3,50 for children 4-12 years, €6,00 for students/seniors, and €7,00 for adults. From my research, you can’t buy tickets online for the Bock Casemates. I found it super easy to just buy them right on location!
Location: 10 Montée de Clausen, 1343 Luxembourg
Hours: Mid February – March 10 AM – 5:30 PM, April – September 10 AM to 8:30 PM, and October – Early November 10 AM – 5:30 PM.
Paris, France: Sacré-Cœur Basilica
History: The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was built between 1875 – 1914 by Paul Abadie. Abadie won a competition which allowed him to be the designer for the church, which is said to be the second most visited monument in Paris. It was built after the end of the Franco-Prussian War to honor the Sacred Heart in Paris and was dedicated to those who lost their lives during the war.
I know that there are a bunch of ways to see Paris from above, like going up the Eiffel Tower or going to the top of the Arc de Triumph, but if you’re looking for a cheap option, definitely climb up to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. There are about 100 steps to reach this basilica. You will seriously feel the burn on the way up! I promise you that the views are worth it on the top. You could also take a funicular instead nearby, which takes 1.5 minutes and costs the same as a metro ticket. The nice thing about this view is that you can easily see the Eiffel Tower from it in the distance! Looking for more places to get a great view? Here are 6 top locations for the best Eiffel Tower pictures!
Paris itself is an absolutely beautiful city that absolutely must be seen from above! It’s also a popular digital nomad destination, and even I’ve considered living there for a little since I do so much freelance work. Here’s 7 reasons to live in Paris for a month as a digital nomad to convince you!
Price: FREE! It’s completely free to climb up to this viewpoint. It’s also free to enter the Basilica if you’d like to, but be warned you might have to wait in a little bit of a line. Security at the entrance can also take a while. If you want even more of a view, you can pay €5 to climb another 300 steps to the dome of the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur, though I think the view was great without climbing even more.
Location: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
Hours: From what I understand, you can do the stairs up to the Basilica at any time, but I’m not 100% positive! However, if you want to do the dome option (the extra 300 steps plus the extra €5) and go inside the Basilica then you’ll have to go at a certain time. From May – September hours are 8:30 AM – 8 PM and from October to April hours are 9 AM – 5 PM if you’d like to climb the dome.
Be sure to check out this post on where to stay in Paris if you’re looking for accommodation in the city!
Edinburgh, Scotland: Arthur’s Seat
History: Arthur’s Seat is actually the highest point of an extinct volcano located right in Holyrood Park. It was also a fort eventually, which makes perfect sense with its panoramic views of Edinburgh. There’s even legend that this is where Camelot was!
Though there are quite a few ways to see Edinburgh from above, my favorite is actually the view from Arthur’s Seat! I know that there’s a few routes to take, so I suggest taking whichever route you are most comfortable with. The red route that I did took about 1.5 – 2 hours, which wasn’t bad at all.
I did the hike around 10 AM and there were already quite a few people, especially at the top! If you’re looking to do this without others, maybe try coming at sunrise. The trek to the top honestly was not that bad until the very top! Then it gets kind of steep and rocky, but as long as you have the right footwear, you’ll be okay!
Price: FREE! Since it’s a hike, there’s no cost. There’s even car parks nearby that are free to park at! If you’re early enough, you might get one of these coveted parking spots!
Hours: Technically, since it’s a mountain, it never closes. Just be careful to not get stuck hiking (especially at the top) in the dark!
Planning a trip to Edinburgh? Be sure to check out my post on where to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland!
Vienna, Austria: St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Pro tip: You can easily take a day trip from Bartislava to Vienna!
History: St. Stephen’s Cathedral was originally built in the 12th Century, though it was eventually burned down and was destroyed during WWII. Since then, different parts have been added and reconstructed, and the Cathedral that is there today was finished in 1952! The rooftop is made out of more than 200,000 mosaic tiles, which is what it is most known for.
Out of all the cities I’ve visited, I consider the view from the top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral to be the best view I’ve ever seen. Plus, it’s one of the prettiest church exteriors, especially with the amazing mosaic pattern on the top of it. Not only is this city super friendly for solo travelers, it’s also super easy to spend a few days in Vienna with kids! However… it was the hardest climb I did while traveling! There are 343 winding steps to get to the top of the South Tower, and even then, you’re not completely at the top! You actually climb to a little gift shop that offers pretty great views of the city. The stairway is also very dark, and there are people coming down at the same time that others are walking up, so it can be a bit much to handle if you’re not up for the task!
If you’re not up for the climb, you can pay a euro more and go up an elevator in the North Tower. The North Tower does offer amazing views of the beautiful church roof, as well as the city below. The North Tower is also not as high up as the South Tower, and I’ve heard that part of what you see from the North Tower is obstructed by the roof. While you’re in Vienna, be sure to try some of the city’s amazing food!
Price: €5 to climb the South Tower and €6 to take an elevator up the North Tower!
Location: Stephansplatz 3, 1010 Wien, Austria
Hours: 9 AM – 5:30 PM to climb the tower, but the Cathedral is open much longer
Zürich, Switzerland: Grossmünster
History: The Grossmünster is a church built from 1100 AD – 1220 founded by Charlemagne. Legend has it that it’s built upon Felix and Regula, the city’s patron saints. The church was also where the beginning of the Swiss-German Reformation took place! There is so much rich history about the Grossmünster, so much so that I don’t think I could include it all here.
The view from the Grossmünster is absolutely amazing! To be specific, you can climb the Karlsturm, which is the southern tower. This climb is not that bad since it’s only a little under 200 steps! It’s not a bad climb at all for first-time church tower climbers. From the top, you can get sweeping views of the city below and you can even see the Swiss Alps in the distance.
Price: 5 CHF (about $5)
Location: Grossmünsterplatz, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Hours: March 1 – October 31: Monday – Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM, Sunday 12:30 PM – 5 PM. November 1 – February 28: Monday – Saturday 10 AM – 4:30 PM, Sunday 12:30 PM – 4:30 PM.