Best views in the world

Sometimes you have to take a step back (and up!)  to really experience a city. Of course, no matter your destination, you probably already have an idea or two when it comes to classic viewpoints. However, sometimes, it's the unexpected spots that yield the most rewarding results. Whether you're looking for somewhere to get down on one knee, to take that perfect photograph or simply to soak up your chosen city, read on for inspiration!

  1. London: lastminute.com London Eye
  2. Rome: Top of St. Peter’s Basilica
  3. Paris: Montparnasse Tower
  4. Barcelona: Castell de Montjuïc
  5. New York: Edge
  6. Istanbul: Galata Tower
  7. Lisbon: Elevador de Santa Justa
  8. Berlin: Kollhoff-Hochhaus
  9. Bangkok: Mahanakhon SkyWalk
  10. Dubai: Burj Khalifa
  11. Budapest: Top of St. Stephen's Basilica

1. London: lastminute.com London Eye

A walk along London's Southbank is one of the best ways to experience this great city. Among the highlights is one of the newer attractions: the lastminute.com London Eye. Opened at the turn of the millennium, it's become a true London icon. Find it right beside the river, next to County Hall. On clear days, a trip on the lastminute.com London Eye lets you see for up to 40km but it's the bird's eye view of London's own landmarks that is most exciting. Look out for the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and, of course, Big Ben. An after-dark trip gives you the thrill of seeing the city lit up and ready for the night ahead.

Best free viewpoint: Primrose Hill is one of London's seven "protected viewpoints"  and it definitely delivers with its sweeping views of central London, Belsize Park and Hampstead.

2. Rome: Top of St. Peter’s Basilica

As a city that's existed for almost three millennia, grasping the scale of Rome's history is tricky. However, tackle the 551 steps to the top of St Peter's Basilica and you'll see this wonderful city, and St Peter's Square, in particular, in a whole new way. The first stage of the climb – 231 steps (or a lift) – takes you right inside Michelangelo's dome. At this point, you'll probably be looking down into the vast interior but don't forget to look up and admire the fabulous mosaics at close range. At this point, you can also walk out onto the Basilica's roof. However a second, narrow, corkscrewing staircase goes all the way to the cupola. It's quite an ascent but the very top is a marvellous spot for watching the sun rise or set across this ancient city.

Best free viewpoint: for sweeping views across the historic city centre try the Pincio Terrace, which you'll find by crossing a little pedestrian bridge from the Borghese gardens.

3. Paris: Montparnasse Tower

Want to see the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur, Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay in one incredible panorama? For a view like none other of the ‘City of Light’, head to a 210m high skyscraper that houses offices. Don't worry: the view is far more glamorous than the description makes it sound. During the day, you can see as far as 40km away but it's the nighttime spectacle that's most impressive. As well as the illuminated Eiffel Tower, there's Sacré-Cœur glowing golden above the streets of Montmartre. A speedy elevator takes you up to an enclosed observation deck on the 56th floor in only 38 seconds, where interactive screens identify lesser-known landmarks. A set of stairs completes your ascent to the rooftop, where a champagne bar awaits.

Best free viewpoint: the 8th floor rooftop terrace at the main Galeries Lafayette store offers outstanding views and the perfect place to enjoy a post-shopping snack or relaxing drink.

4. Barcelona: Castell de Montjuïc

Not to be missed on any Barcelona trip, Castell de Montjuïc is a one-time military fortress on Montjuïc hill. It's the hill and, in particular, the 360º views it affords that helps make it such a special place. What's more, getting there is part of the experience. Your trip begins with the Funicular de Montjuïc. Next, at the Avenida Miramar (which itself offers great views) you'll change to the Telefèric de Montjuïc for the final leg of the journey. The peace and quiet of this cable car ride is the perfect opportunity to absorb the sight of Barcelona spread out below you and the blue Mediterranean beyond. Once at Castell de Montjuïc, take your time admiring the views while strolling in the gardens around the fortress.

Best free viewpoint: once a gun emplacement during the Spanish Civil War, Bunkers del Carmel is now a great site for a panoramic picnic.

5. New York: Edge

Make sure Edge sky deck is on the itinerary for your next NYC trip. Find it at 30 Hudson Yards, and do check out the suspended observation deck – the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere – with its slanted glass walls before you make the 100-storey ascent. It almost looks like it's floating over the city and the Hudson River below. Once up there, it's time to admire the view, sip champagne and, if you dare, stand on the glass floor and look down to the streets below. A set of stairs, the Skyline Steps, take you up a final floor. And, if you're very brave (and the weather's in your favour), don a harness with City Climb NYC and get to the observation deck by climbing the outside of the skyscraper.

Best free viewpoint: the Staten Island ferry is a free service that offers great views of the city's famous skyline.

6. Istanbul: Galata Tower

An unmissable spot in an unmissable city, Istanbul's original Galata Tower was Byzantine. Today's version is still almost 700 years old and it's a heady combination of Ottoman, Genoese and Roman features. Its elevation and its position close to where the Golden Horn meets the Bosphorus Strait ensures it also provides one of the best views of the Istanbul peninsula. If you're feeling energetic, you can tackle the 146 steps to the observation deck but there's also a lift that will take you part of the way up. Keen photographers reckon that going early in the day guarantees the best light for pictures. Afterwards, the nearby Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Street) is a great spot to find a café to review your photos!

Best free viewpoint: for unparalleled views of the Bosphorus, head for Camlica Hill, where you'll find a park with teahouses and ornamental gardens.

7. Lisbon: Elevador de Santa Justa

An ideal spot for a proposal, the viewing platform at Lisbon's Elevador de Santa Justa is particularly romantic at dusk, when the distant cathedral and castle are backlit by the setting sun. The Elevador de Santa Justa is actually a lift that was once a mainstay of the city's public transportation network. Nowadays its elegant wrought-iron structure and gleaming wooden carriages (unaltered since their 1902 construction) is more of a tourist attraction. The lift departs every ten minutes, and tickets include admission to the viewing platform at the top. Expect glorious views across the Baixa district and over to Castelo de São Jorge.

Best free viewpoint: close to the castle, Miradouro Nossa Senhora do Monte is Lisbon's highest vantage point and also one of the least visited.

8. Berlin: Kollhoff-Hochhaus

Another viewpoint that was constructed just before the turn of the millennium, Kollhoff-Hochhaus in Potsdamer Platz district is constructed in a stepped fashion and clad in a dark ceramic material that stands out from the surrounding glass buildings. Kollhoff-Hochhaus' 25 storeys taper to a peak and the lower levels are roofed with grass. Once inside, whizz up to the 24th floor in Europe's fastest lift. Step out at Panoramapunkt, where you'll find an open-air exhibition (with fascinating information about how Potsdamer Platz looked prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall), a café and a roof terrace with awesome city views. A staircase takes you on to the sun deck on the 25th floor.

Best free viewpoint: translating as "devil's mountain", Teufelsberg is a man-made hill that was once a Cold War-era listening station and now provides magnificent views over the city. 

9. Bangkok: Mahanakhon SkyWalk

No trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the Mahanakhon SkyWalk, which is home to the highest observation deck in Thailand. Multimedia lifts – the fastest in Southeast Asia – take you to the 74th floor for the Mahanakhon SkyWalk's 360º viewing experience from its enclosed observation terrace. Then it's on to the 78th floor for the outdoor observation deck and the glass viewing platform (shoe covers compulsory!) that's as entrancing as it is terrifying. Time your visit for the late afternoon for dramatic sunset views or come after dark to see a glittering, illuminated nighttime cityscape.

Best free viewpoint: the Skybar at Lebua State Tower is not only one of the world's highest bars, it's free to enter and the perfect dress to impress opportunity – although you'll have to pay to enjoy one of its cocktails.

10. Dubai: Burj Khalifa

As the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa's place in architectural records – and millions of Instagram grids – is assured. However, the views it affords are every bit as impressive as its own image. It's also full of record-breakers. For instance, its double-deck elevators are the fastest in the world and its observation deck is the highest in the world with an outdoor terrace. However, head to Level 125 for the best, most far-reaching  views – almost 95 miles to Iran on a clear day. This is where you'll also find a glass floor and green-screen wizardry for truly amazing photographs. Buy your ticket in advance to guarantee your preferred entry date and time, and snag a 75% discount. 

Best free viewpoint: Dubai Creek Harbour is proof that you can also find great views at ground level. A walk along here offers outstanding vistas of the Dubai Skyline.

11. Budapest: Top of St. Stephen's Basilica

Both the biggest church and the highest building in Budapest, St. Stephen's Basilica is well worth your time. Its magnificent neo-Renaissance dome also offers some of the finest views of the city. Located next to the Hungarian Parliament, this Roman Catholic basilica is easy to find. Choose between a lift or 364 steps to reach the dome and its 360°, far-reaching views over the city, the Danube and all the way to the Buda hills. Sunset from the dome is an unforgettable experience –  and so much the better if you can follow up your star-gazing with one of the classical music concerts regularly hosted in the basilica.

Best free viewpoint: named after an unfortunate saint who was thrown to death from the hill, the summit of Gellért Hill is about 20 minutes by foot from Elisabeth Bridge and offers fantastic views. 

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