One of my favourite things to do when travelling anywhere is to find places with high vantage points that give you a sweeping view of a city or landscape. Luckily for me, Europe is loaded with them. Although I’ve climbed innumerable towers and castles but the eight mentioned below stand out to me as the best towers to climb in Europe.
Almost every city you visit has at least one church tower you can climb; more often than not, they provide some of the area’s best views. Plus, climbing towers is usually a pretty cheap activity, rarely costing more than a couple of euros. So, what’s not to love between the affordability, the calories burned, and the incredible views?
Towers to climb in Europe: St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City
The climb up the interior of this dome gives a true appreciation for the enormous size of the basilica. It’s a crowded climb and the line moves slowly, but it’s all worth it when you exit onto the roof. The views of Vatican City and Rome are just stunning. Although most of the climb winds up through the walls inside, a brief section cuts into the dome’s interior, with a gorgeous view down to the church’s floor. Opt for the elevator that takes you part way up if you feel like cheating.
Towers to climb in Europe: Church of Our Saviour in Copenhagen, Denmark
It’s not hard to spot the unique spire of the Church of Our Saviour near Christiania in Copenhagen. Much of the climb up this tower is inside the church. Old wooden steps leisurely wind up and around the gears and bells of the tower. One last climb up some steep steps takes you outside the tower and onto the spiralling spire, where the view of Copenhagen is fantastic. You can see for miles in every direction as you climb farther up the spire.
It was a breezy day when we were there and the sway of the spire was pretty noticeable. Between the swaying and the increasingly narrow steps, this isn’t a climb for those with a fear of heights.
Towers to climb in Europe: St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, Czech Republic
If the steep climb up the hill to Prague Castle isn’t enough, you can tackle the 287 steps up the tower of St. Vitus Cathedral within the castle grounds for some amazing views of Prague and the surrounding castle. There are warnings at the entrance to the stairs, but honestly, this was probably one of the easier tower climbs I’ve done. Don’t let the warnings scare you off. The views are worth it.
Towers to climb in Europe: Frauenkirche in Munich, Germany
This was the very first church tower I climbed in Europe and the trigger for this travel hobby. The colossal church stands out right in Munich, making for some great 360-degree views of the city once you reach the top of the tower. Of course, you can take an elevator up most of the way, but isn’t it more satisfying to do it on foot and burn off some of those beers and pretzels?
Towers to climb in Europe: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
I was a little reluctant to put St. Stephen’s on this list because we had to cheat and use the elevator since the tower with stairs was closed. But it’s so unique I felt it had to be included.
After riding up in the tight, cylindrical elevator, you’re dumped out onto a grated metal platform on top of the roof. As soon as you step out, you can see just about straight down to the street a couple of hundred feet below. It’s only a small section with the open grating, but it caught a couple of people in our elevator off guard. The coolest part of this tower climb is the view of the roof. It’s such a unique, colourful roof and you really can’t get a full appreciation for it from the ground.
Towers to climb in Europe: Florence Cathedral in Florence, Italy
Florence Cathedral is enormous. And this climb was no joke. Unlike the dome climb of St. Peter’s Basilica, this one wound up through the dome’s interior, forcing climbers to bend at awkward angles as they trudge the countless steps. This climb also exits into the dome’s interior not once but twice, offering up some knee-shaking views of the church below. From the roof, you can admire the beauty of Florence and the gorgeous green hillsides of Tuscany that surround the city.
Towers to climb in Europe: St. Olaf’s Church in Tallinn, Estonia
We came across this one while wandering through Tallinn. You can scramble up the old stone steps for two euros to some incredible views at the top.
Climbing up the inside of the tower feels like climbing through history. The medieval stone steps are sometimes uneven and spiralled, making for somewhat slow going. Out on top of the tower, some not-so-solid wooden boards create a platform that encircles the green roof, allowing access to views of Old Town Tallinn, the skyscrapers of the modern city, and the blue Baltic Sea.
Towers to climb in Europe: Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland
There’s no denying that Blarney Castle is a tourist trap. It costs way too much money to get in. It isn’t nearly as exciting as other castles in Ireland, but how many times in your life do you get to dangle backwards from a tower to kiss a stone?
Everyone who visits Blarney Castle talks about the overhyped kissing of the stone and some mention the beautiful grounds (they are stunning). Still, few point out the views from the top of the castle. To kiss the stone, you must climb up several flights of stairs to reach the top. It’s an easy climb up with several stops along the way to learn about the castle’s history. Once at the top, wait in line for the obligatory kiss, then spend some time soaking in the views of the green hillside. It’s gorgeous!