Tuesday 2 Nov, 2010

Viewing Europe from above, Part I

View tate modern

Getting a great view over a city doesn’t always have to cost. Here are a few suggestions on places to visit in three of the most popular cities that EF Educational Tours takes student travelers. For just a few dollars and some decent legwork, you can be well rewarded.

If you are in London, then try to find time to visit the Tate Modern. This superb gallery is free to enter. While there, take the elevator to the café level for a view over the city of London. St Paul’s Cathedral is the dominant site across the river (above), but among the towers of the financial district, it is amazing to see how many churches are located in the square mile of the city (more than 50).

Not far away is the Monument (entrance fee $5). It was built shortly after the great Fire of London, 1666, and is 202 feet high—the distance from the base to the site of the shop in Pudding Lane where the fire started. To reach the top of Wren’s Doric column, you need to climb 311 steps but are rewarded with spectacular views and a certificate!

View pompidou centre Paris is a city designed for enjoying from high up. Restrictions on building height means there are several places to get excellent views over the city. The controversial and free-to-enter Pompidou Centre has a viewing platform at the top with great views over the city (right), and if you don’t like the building, better still, just recall Guy de Maupassant and the Eiffel Tower.

Elsewhere, just behind the Garnier Opera is the department store Galeries Lafayette. Go to the top floor to enjoy not only the great views from the terrace but also the domed glass ceiling inside. You might also want to experience the views from the Sacré-Coeur atop Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Finally, a small fee and a couple of hundred steps will get you to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can enjoy the perspectif all the way to the Louvre and La Defense and, more amusingly, the traffic around the arch that reminds one of this.

View capitoline hill

Being built around seven hills means finding a great view over Rome is never too difficult. Behind Piazza Venezia is Michelangelo’s beautiful staircase that leads to the top of the Capitoline Hill. From the far side, you can enjoy terrific views over the Roman Forum (above). Very close to the Colosseum is the Aventine Hill. Midway along Circus Maximus, opposite the ruins of the emperors’ villas is a rose garden. Take the via di Santa Sabina up the hill. Just after the church grounds, with splendid views, is the quiet Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta. On the right, at number 3, is a large arched wooden door — the Door of the Knights of Malta (originally this area belonged to the Knights Templar). Look through the large keyhole for a great view. Kind of spoils the fun if I tell you what you will see.

Finally, in Vatican City, it is possible to take an elevator to the dome of St. Peter’s. You will walk around part of the base of the dome, inside the church, before climbing a rather tight, spiral staircase to the top. Exiting here you have fabulous views over the gardens of the Vatican with Rome in the background. There is a fee of 4 euros (7 euros, if using the elevator).

Coming next week: More suggested bird’s-eye views of European cities.

(Editor’s note: Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)

Photos: UGArdener (London) via Flickr (CC license); fmpgoh (Paris) via Flickr (CC license);
Kwong Yee Cheng (Rome) via Flickr (CC license)