On my first trip to Europe I was young, full of energy and not yet “churched out” (if you’ve visited Europe a few times, I’m certain you understand this phenomena). I’d approach each house of worship with the same gusto, taking in the stained glass, altar and vaulted ceilings before promptly paying my nominal fee to climb the church tower.
Not even the Ulmer Münster, the world’s tallest church steeple, was able to vanquish my enthusiasm for gaining a bird’s-eye view of every city I visited. (Although it did turn my and my host sister’s legs to jelly. Who knew going down those tiny, curvy staircases was as much of a workout as going up?)
While I no longer climb everything in sight, I still enjoy watching the workings of a city from on high. Berlin, London and Paris all offer visitors various options for getting above the fray. Here are some of my favorite views from the top.
Berlin’s high points
The Reichstag is at the, um, top of most Berlin to-do lists, especially for first-time visitors. When it was built in the late-19th century, the now iconic Parliament building towered over even the City Castle. After it was destroyed in World War II, the Reichstag was rebuilt in the ’60s, and its new, modern glass dome (added in the ’90s) has become a Berlin Landmark.
Today, due to security concerns, visits to the Reichstag’s dome are possible only with advance online registration. They are, however, free, and the building is open daily (with a few exceptions noted on the Web site) from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Alternatively, you can visit the top of Berlin’s Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz. Open daily from 9 a.m. (summer) / 10 a.m. (winter) to midnight. Admission €12 for adults. Visit the Fernsehturm’s Web site for more information about planning a visit.
London high points
Tours of Big Ben are available to UK permanent residents only. Tickets must be requested in advance (allow 3-4 months) through the resident’s MP or MHL office. There are three possible visits per day, weekdays only (closed bank holidays). Admission is free.
The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral has three galleries — one internal, two external — which allow for panoramic views of central London. Open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last entry 4 p.m.), closed to visitors Sundays. Admission £15. Read more on St. Paul’s Web site.
Paris’ high points
Skip the long lines at the Eiffel Tower by booking your ticket in advance online at no extra cost. In summer, you may need to book your tickets at least two months before your intended visit. Open daily from 9 a.m. – midnight (summer), 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (other three seasons). Admission (elevators to all levels) €14.
If the views from the hillside of Montmartre still aren’t high enough, climb up the dome of the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (winter) / 7 p.m. (summer). Admission €5. (Read our tips for visiting Sacre Coeur.)
Your favorite high points?
Do you have a favorite high place in Europe? Share with us in our comments section!