TOP 5 Unexpected Aerial City Views in Western Europe

by Lauren Stefan

Europe’s astounding works of architecture lure travelers from all over the world to trek up hundreds of stairs and steep inclines, with the hope of discovering a remarkable view. Especially in the summer months, the biggest attractions are usually teeming with tourists. For those of you who have friends that have already traveled to every foreign destination, here are a few places you can visit that your jet-setting friends may have missed- and these are sure to be significantly less crowded! 

Castelo de San Jorge - Lisbon, Portgual
Castelo de San Jorge. Photo by Lauren Stefan

These five city views make the sore calves, sweaty backs, and getting lost time and time again all worth it. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or wearily comfortable with heights, you will not want to miss these lofty views on your next trip.

1. Arc de Triomphe - Paris, France:

Sure, the Eiffel Tower is the iconic image of Paris, but you are truly missing out if you do not take the time to check out the view from this French landmark as well. The Arc de Triomphe observation deck offers an incredible view of the entire city. From this one location, you can steal a glimpse of notable landmarks including la Défense, the Sacré-Coeur, the obelisk of Luxor, and the Champs-Élysées. The arch stands at the center of the Place de l’Étoile, a road junction where 12 avenues intersect. Relatively low security bars around the observation deck of this 162-foot tall monument make for great visibility and even better photo ops. An entry fee is required to access the monument.

2. Arenas de Barcelona - Barcelona, Spain: 

At this modern shopping center, it is as if you can see the entire city of Barcelona. The mall, located in Plaça de Espanya, offers a 360-degree view from the top deck. The circular nature of the building comes from the fact that it was formerly one of the main bullrings of Barcelona. It was transformed into this modern mall following the official outlawing of bullfighting in the region of Catalonia. First, there is the unparalleled view of Plaça de Espanya and the Palau Nacional. Another vantage point allows you to peer over the treetops in the beautiful Joan Miro Park. In addition to having a rather spacious viewing deck comparative to the typical European landmarks, there are typically few tourists enjoying the view. Entry the top level of the mall is free and accessible by elevator or a series of escalators.

3. Tartan Roof -  Madrid, Spain:

The “Tartan Roof” is located atop the Círculo de Bellas Artes, a renowned cultural center in downtown Madrid. Rooftop access costs a few Euros, but it features a restaurant and bar on the top level, as well as a lounge area. You will discover an up-close-and-personal view of the famous Metropolis building, which is situated across the street. The Tartan Roof is an excellent spot to dissect the city’s architecture, yet there are an unexpected number of publicly accessible rooftops in Madrid. For other spectacular city views, check out a wide array of hotels as well as the Town Hall of Madrid and the top of the Corte Inglés in Plaza de Callao. Feel free to ask locals for recommendations as you search for your own favorite rooftop paradise in Madrid!

4. Castelo de San Jorge - Lisbon, Portgual:

The views from any tower or wall of this castle are outstanding. The vibrant rooftops of the buildings, in combination with the calming blues of the Taugus River and the deep red of the 25 de Abril bridge in the distance, bestow a mesmerizing scene. Be sure not to miss out on the periscope, which provides a 360-degree real time view of Lisbon from the prominent Ulysses tower of the castle. The castle requires an entry fee, but this landmark has much to offer, from the impeccable views to its intriguing museum to its archaeological excavation site. Plan to spend several hours exploring the castle grounds.

5. Mirador de San Nicolas - Granada, Spain:

While many would argue that the views from within the Alhambra are more than satisfactory, no trip to Granada is complete without making the trek up to this lookout point. Navigating the narrow, winding streets of the Albcaín district to reach the Mirador de San Nicolas is an adventure in itself, but the result when you reach the lookout point is incomparable. The panoramic view of the Alhambra in front of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is ethereal. There is plenty of seating space so this is the perfect location to watch the sunset over Granada with friends, family, or loved ones- allot ample time to listen to the local musicians and relax. Best of all? It will not cost you a single Euro!