How to See 8 Popular European Cities from Above | Budget-Friendly Tips and Tricks!
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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
If the name didn’t give it away… this is the location where 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.
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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 must wait a while!
Unfortunately, you do have to purchase a ticket to the entire Storehouse 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.
Florence, Italy: Brunelleschi’s Dome
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 are massive and comprise 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 no 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 the dress code! Your shoulders and knees should be covered or you could be denied entrance.
Munich, Germany: Alter Peter
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!
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg: Casemates du Bock
The Casemates du Bock are located underneath a fort created for Count Sigefroi in 963. Spaniards created underground tunnels here in the 17th Century; later, the French and Austrians furthered the tunnels.
There were once over 14 miles of underground tunnels, though the Treaty of London in 1867 destroyed all of the tunnels except for 10 miles that are still there.
These tunnels were used extensively, 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 they hand you at the site entrance.
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, I highly suggest checking out the Casemates in Luxembourg City to see Luxembourg from higher up.
While looking around the caves, you can easily peek 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!
Paris, France: Sacré-Cœur Basilica
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was built between 1875 – 1914 by Paul Abadie. Abadie won a competition that 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 there are many 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 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!
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
Arthur’s Seat is the highest point of an extinct volcano in Holyrood Park. It was also a fort eventually, which makes perfect sense with its panoramic views of Edinburgh. There’s even a 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 are 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!
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!
St. Stephen’s Cathedral was originally built in the 12th Century, though it was eventually burned down and 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 it is most known for. Today, it’s one of the most famous landmarks in Austria.
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 top of it. Not only is this city super friendly for solo travelers, but 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 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 the roof obstructs part of what you see from the North Tower. While you’re in Vienna, be sure to try some of the city’s amazing food!
Zürich, Switzerland: Grossmünster
The Grossmünster is a church built from 1100 AD – 1220 and 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.
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Love this post! I always mean to find good viewpoints in cities but sometimes I forget!! Calton Hill is another good one in Edinburgh if you don’t fancy a hike up Arthur’s Seat. 🙂 One of my absolute favourites is walking the walls above Kotor in Montenegro! One of the best views I have EVER seen!
I walked up to Calton Hill as well – I couldn’t help but see Edinburgh from above as many ways as I could! That’s also an awesome view. 🙂 I’ll definitely have to check that out in Montenegro! Thank you for stopping by!
This is awesome! I love amazing views! And viewing all these beautiful European cities sounds like a great idea!
Thank you! 🙂
Love the descriptions for each of these amazing places! I haven’t been to Vienna yet but I’d love to visit. Wonderful post and gorgeous photos!
Thanks so much! I love Vienna – it’s one of my favorite cities. 🙂
Definitely some amazing views here, and always happy to hear of budget friendly options. Your photos are incredible.
Thank you! 🙂 As a student traveler, I’m all about saving money. Thanks for stopping by too!
I love enjoying the cities from above – I always include rooftop bars on my itineraries! I still have to make it to most of the places of this list, I’ve only made it to Sacre Coeur. Thank you for sharing!
I’d love to visit some rooftop bars! Thank you for stopping by. 🙂
I can always views like this but very often they are hard to find or are quite expensive to get to, thanks for the tips, will definitely try some of those
I totally understand! Honestly, look for local hikes (normally free) or a church tower to climb… that way you barely have to spend anything at all to get some amazing views!
Great article! I´ve been to a few of these suggestions like Sacre Coeur or Luxembourg. A few I missed like Arthur´s Seat in Edinburgh. I love to see cities and other places from above! Thanks for sharing!
That’s awesome! Next time you’re in Edinburgh, definitely try checking out Arthur’s Seat. Thank you for stopping by!
Such an interesting article Krystianna! I’ve been to the look-outs in Munich, Vienna and Luxembourg already hehe 🙂
Thank you – that’s awesome! 🙂
that’s a nice list!!!! thanks for sharing and definitely when going to those cities, gonna check those view points out!
Thank you! 🙂 They are all SO worth it!
So many cool place I haven’t visited yet! Omg, I need to travel way more 😉 Thanks for these great tips. I am definitely saving this post for later!
I hope you get to them eventually!
The view from the Grossmünster in Zurich looks stunning! I was pregnant back when we visited – so missed it! More reasons to travel back! My favorite city from the above is probably Paris!
The water in Zurich was definitely so breathtaking – it didn’t even look real! I also love Paris from above. 🙂
YES!! This is my kind of post! I looove getting up high and looking down on the world (I guess that is why I love mountains so much!) Still, when there is no hill like Arthur’s Seat, it’s always fun to find the tallest buildings. 😉
P.s, if you ever visit Japan, each prefecture has a government building. They are always open to the public, and normally have viewing platforms on the roof. It’s the easiest way to find a high point in most Japanese cities.
That’s awesome! I’d love to visit Japan one day. 🙂
Love this guide! Some of the best views of cities are from above. Another of our favourites is the Fernsehturm in Berlin which makes the division of the city by the wall very obvious, even after it has been demolished.
State-side the Space Needle in Seattle is also fabulous 😉
I’d love to visit Berlin and Seattle one day! I’ll be sure to keep those views in mind when I visit them. 🙂
What a great post! I agree seeing a town from above gives it such a different perspective. ?
I totally agree! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
Love this! So many great places and so cheap! I always love budget travel tips, definitely saving this for later! Thanks for sharing!
That’s great to hear! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
Love your post. Finding an awesome viewpoint to grasp the entire city is just lush.
Missing from your list is definitely London. You can find some great viewpoint, and best of all, free of charge. My favourite is the viewing terrace of One New Change Shopping Center, which puts you at eye level with the done of St. Paul’s.
Another one would be the Sky Garden one Fenchurch Street. And lastly the view over the entire city from either Hampstead Heath or Alexandra Palace.
I know! I only added cities to the list that I had actually seen from above, and when I was in London I never did! Next time I’m in London I’ll definitely check out those places. 🙂
Great post with so many beautiful cities of Europe. I too loved Munich, Vienna and Florence a lot.
That’s awesome! Thank you for stopping by.
What a great topic for an article! It’s always great to get a different perspective on the city you’re visiting. thanks for sharing!
Thank you! I love seeing cities from above.
Pleased to say I have been to seven of these lovely cities, and even five of the spots above you suggested. Such beautiful choices.
That’s so awesome! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
I love the view from Sacre-Coeur! It’s unparalleled, there’s no way that standing on top of the Eiffel Tower with so many other people could compare to the beautiful view from the Basilica.
That’s exactly how I feel! Plus, what’s the fun of standing in the Eiffel Tower… then you can’t even get the Tower in your photo!
Thanks for sharing this amazing post. I wish I can visit Berlin next year.
Of course, thanks for stopping by!