7 of the Best Urban Aerial Views in Europe
European cities are best viewed from multiple angles. If you’re down on the streets, it’s great to soak up the atmosphere and lose yourself in the old hobby of people watching. But many cities are just as captivating from above, especially when you reach the vantage points on your own steam. Here are 7 of the best aerial views in Europe.
Urban aerial views
Arc de Triomphe | Paris, France
Paris’s Arc de Triomphe is a hulking architectural beast built between 1806 and 1836. It sits on the western end of the famous Champs Élysées, and is still to this day one of the most famous landmarks in the iconic city.
The views from the Arc de Triomphe allow you to marvel at the chaotic traffic swirling at your feet. You’ll also see the stunning Champs Élysées stretching out into the distance, the beautiful Sacre Coeur, and even better, the legendary Eiffel Tower just across the way.
Insider tip: Bastille Day is one of the best days of the year to venture to the top of the Arc. Celebrations stretch out along the Champs Élysées.
How to get there by train: Paris is accessible from several cities across France and Europe. You will arrive at one of six different train stations depending on your origin.
Want more? Find out how to spend 24 hours in Paris.
St Mark’s Campanile | Venice, Italy
St Mark’s Campanile is the bell tower that belongs to the nearby St Mark’s Basilica on Venice’s Piazza San Marco. It’s a striking figure that reaches 98.6 meters high, and it offers spectacular 360 degree views from its viewing deck.
The views from the top of the Campanile allow you to soak up the majesty of picturesque Venice. You’ll retrace your steps along the labyrinth of canals and voyeuristically gaze through the shutters of distant houses. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Alps.
Insider tip: Get there early to avoid the queues – the tower opens at 9:30 a.m.
How to get there by train: Venezia Mestre is the last train stop on the mainland. It’s accessible from throughout Italy and Europe. From there, you’ll need to connect to the Venezia Santa Lucia station on the west end of Venice.
Want more? Learn the tips and tricks to see Venice on a backpacker’s budget.
Belfry of Bruges | Bruges, Belgium
Bruges’ Belfry is a beautiful medieval bell tower located in the heart of the city’s historical center. While made famous in the movie In Bruges, for slightly macabre reasons, the towering structure dates back to 1240.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that the walk to the top is anything but a breeze. But then you’ll also know that the aerial views are something to behold. Bruges is stunning from all angles, but heading to the top of this tower will put it all into perspective.
Insider tip: The tower is most popular in the early afternoon, so to avoid the queues make it an early morning or late afternoon mission. It’s open from 9:30 a.m and closes at 5 p.m.
How to get there by train: It is quick and easy to reach Bruges by train, and there are trains leaving from Brussels every 30 minutes.
Want more? Read about Bruge for first-timers.
Bunkers del Carmel | Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona’s Bunkers del Carmel was once an important military structure located on Turó de la Rovira. While the “bunker” no longer serves the same role it did during the Spanish civil war, these days the well-positioned ruins offer a more peaceful purpose.
The aerial views of Barcelona from the dilapidated bunkers are sweeping and impressive. You can take in the entire city from a single location. It’s also the perfect spot from which to view the Sagrada Familia rising up above the otherwise uniform city blocks.
Insider tip: Pack a beverage of choice and time your visit an hour before sunset.
How to get there by train: There are several trains to Barcelona from across Spain and France, including overnight trains. To reach the bunker, catch a buses on lines 24, 92, 114, 119 or V17.
Want more? Read about Bruge for first-timers.
Giotto’s Campanile | Florence, Italy
Giotto’s Campanile is a freestanding bell tower that is part of the famous Florence Cathedral. It opened in 1359, and reaches up to an impressive 84 meters.
While there are two impressive urban view sites attached to the cathedral that offer 360 degree views of the city of Florence and the beautiful surrounds, the view from the bell tower allows you a fascinating angle on the cathedral’s incredible dome as well.
Insider tip: Purchase a combination ticket to all sites linked to the cathedral . It’ll save you money and allow you multiple aerial perspectives on the city below.
How to get there by train: There are several high-speed trains to and from Florence each day, as well as overnight trains from France and Germany.
Want more? This is how you get from Rome to Florence by train.
Hohensalzburg Castle | Salzburg, Austria
Hohensalzburg Castle is one of the largest medieval structures in Europe. It sits idyllically atop the Festungsberg – a small hill some 500 meters high. Construction may have began in 1077, but it’s still the city’s top tourist attraction to this day.
While the castle may be impressive, it’s the aerial views from atop this little hill that are truly impressive. You’ll be treated to the perfect vantage point of the quaint city of Salzburg, the Salzach River, and the pristine natural scenery. It all makes the perfect backdrop.
Insider tip: You can obtain impressive views without entering the castle. But for the full experience, you’ll need to pay to enter the grounds.
How to get there by train: There are regular trains to Salzburg from Austria and neighbouring countries, including trains from Munich, Zurich, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Budapest.
Want more? Here are 9 things to do in Salzburg.
Fernsehturm de Berlín (Berlin TV Tower) | Berlin, Germany
Berlin’s iconic television tower may attract many opinions, but it’s now firmly entrenched as one of the city’s famous landmarks. Construction of the tower finished in 1969, and the rotating observatory deck is now a popular attraction.
Berlin may not have the scenic or architectural beauty of other European capitals, but it’s no less fascinating when viewed from above. The television tower provides a breathtaking vantage point to take in the sprawling mass of the city and reimagine its history.
Insider tip: Don’t bother with the trip if it’s cloudy. You’ll want to save this one for a clear and sunny day.
How to get there by train: Berlin is easily accessible by train from throughout Germany and neighbouring countries, including direct and overnight trains.
Want more? Here’s how you can travel from Berlin to Prague by train.
Most cities in Europe have aerial vantage points that are well worth scaling – whether you’re looking to retrace your steps from above, plan your days ahead, or simply absorb the architectural beauty from an altogether more thrilling perspective. And with a Eurail Global Pass, you can easily tick off several of these dramatic aerial views in a single journey.