Travel Diaries 003: Top 5 Best Views

When you're in a foreign country, it seems inevitable to feel overwhelmed by all the differences to your home country. While places like Tokyo are a little confronting the moment you step off the plane, even if you're like me, a native English speaker from Australia, stepping out of the subway in Manhattan felt akin to the city swallowing me whole.

Perhaps this is why I am always determined to make my way to the highest peak of all the places I visit. Looking down at the tiny people and cars beneath you makes you truly realise where you are in the world, and how incredible it is that you are there. These are usually the memories I carry with me long after I leave the city.

5. Monte Igueldo, San Sebastian

San Sebastian turned out to be one of my favourite places in Europe, and the beautiful view from the top of Monte Igueldo really made me realise just how special this place was. The journey up the mountain (although I do hesitate to label it as such) was in a rickety, 100 year old funicular, and while the steep ascent somewhat defied the laws of physics, it was definitely worth the terror. The panoramic view of not only San Sebastian, but the surrounding hills of Basque Country was breathtaking, particularly on the clear and sunny day I was lucky enough to be there - in December, no less.

Although San Sebastian is perhaps best known for the food (and it truly lives up to all expectations on that front), I must admit that the view from the top of Monte Igueldo was the high point of my visit there.

4. Tour Montparnasse, Paris

Not to sound like a snob, but it completely blows my mind that people go up the Eiffel Tower to get their view of Paris. Why would you do that when you won't be able to see the most iconic landmark of the city?

Not only does Montparnasse Tower offer a stunning view of the city, the lines to go up are a fraction of the size, and you actually get to see the impressive Eiffel Tower!

3. Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

Reaching the summit of Arthur's Seat is no easy feat. The entire journey took around three hours and can be a little challenging in parts, as it can get incredibly windy, the ground uneven in parts, and becoming quite steep the closer you get to the summit. Full disclosure: I ruined a pair of newly purchased jeans due to unsure footing on the way back down, so full attention to where your feet are going is a must (although I have been known to fall over at inopportune times in the past).

Nevertheless, once you see that spectacular view from the top it's completely worth it. Sometimes I feel that the the journey can almost be as rewarding as the view from the top - but yes, it's easy to say this in hindsight, as I distinctly remember wanting to give up a couple of times on the climb.

The hill itself is roughly 250 meters high, and offers panoramic views of Edinburgh and beyond. To fully appreciate this, going on a clear day is a must. Fortunately I had a week to spend in Edinburgh, and managed to have one day (yes, one day in the entire week) where it wasn't raining to go up. Pack plenty of water, some lunch, and a warm jacket (it gets incredibly cold towards the summit) and enjoy the view!

2. Top of the Rock, New York City

Once upon a time the Empire State Building may have been the go-to destination for views of New York City, but not any more. With the timed entry system and larger observation deck, the top of 30 Rockefeller Centre is the best location for unspoiled, spectacular views of the city, which (funnily enough) will include the Empire State Building. There are few places in the world where you can look down and truly get a sense of how high up you are and just how enormous the city actually is. Central Park alone looks so much grander when you see just how tiny the taxi's are dotted around it.

Sure, there are crowds, but this is one of the most popular cities on Earth so it's best to put on a brave face and try not to let it get to you. Check out the Rock MOMA special ticket to receive discounted entry into both locations while in NYC.

1. Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Not only was this the most awe-inspiring view I have ever seen, this was probably one of the best days of my life. I can say, without a shred of hyperbole, that the view from the Basilica over Florence literally took my breath away. No photo I post here can truly do it any justice, although I took about 200 photos of pretty much the same view while I was there.

The walk up to the Basilica is a little challenging. There are seemingly endless amounts of stairs, but the journey itself is very pleasant, as you're covered in shade thanks to the beautiful trees that line the stairs. Just make sure to wear sensible shoes and pack water, as you don't want the view ruined by blisters or heat exhaustion.

Nevertheless, let me put this in perspective - I hiked up those horrible stairs to reach the Basilica not once, but twice on the same day. That's just how beautiful it was. Initially I climbed up in the morning, but when I realised how special this place was I felt compelled to return just before sunset. I can't adequately explain what it was like, sitting up on the stone wall, the city and surrounding hills bathed in purples, blues, and reds. It's an experience I don't think will ever be able to be replicate, even if I do return one day.