Planning an itinerary for a trip can be both exciting and stressful. At least for me.
There's the long hours of searching through travel websites, blogs and other media outlets, asking around friends and family who've already been to the area and then there's that moment, "we can figure out when we get there."
The higher, the better
But if there's one place I always tend to search for before arriving anywhere is the highest point. The higher, the better.
The beauty of this strategy is that it works everywhere: big cities, small cities, old cities, new cities, mountains and countrysides. Sometimes it will cost your wallet, most of the time your energy, but it will offer a great moment for both your eyes and camera feed. And the rather obvious yet interesting thing is that many cities already offer a list of places where you can see the entire place from up above. All you have to do is to check the location, check if there are any tickets, check if you need to make any reservations and you are set. Oh, and be sure to take your selfie stick, too.
Getting high, one city at a time
Seoul: The Namsan Tower is a favorite and the easiest. Both night and day, the view is amazing and you can even find some interesting events happening around the tower. The famous photos you see of Seoul, with all the skyscrapers and lights? They were probably taken here.
Chicago: There are three locations: the Skydeck at the Willis Tower and the 360 Chicago and the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Tower. The Skydeck and the 360 Chicago are more attractions than a public space and you do have to buy a ticket to ride up the elevator. The lounge, however, is free of charge, but you preferably may have to get yourself a drink.
Bologna: The Asinelli Tower is 97 meters high and was built in 1109. You have to walk up the 498 steps and it's a bit scary. The steps are very narrow and it's quite dark, so take that into consideration. It does't take that long to go up, but there can be a lot of waiting for other people coming down or up. But the view! Plus, one interesting fact about the tower: it's the highest leaning tower in Italy. Higher than Pisa.
Berlin: There are various ways to "get high" in Berlin, and one of them is the Berliner Dom. It's quite a maze to find your way up, and it's not the most popular point to see the city, but it's still a great viewpoint. Plus the Berliner Dom is gorgeous.
Venice: The St. Mark's Campanile, or the bell tower, is a must. It's quite doable, not so many stairs and not very expensive. It could turn into a long line of travelers waiting to see the entire view of Venice, but it's worth the wait.
Tennessee: The Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and it's quite a hike. The road to it is a rather zigzaggy one, but it's worth all the effort. It may have been built in 1959, but it looks very "Men in Black"-ish. Gorgeous view of the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Stuttgart: The Fersehturm, or Television Tower, is the first choice to see Stuttgart from above, but it's undergoing renovation through December, 2015. So an alternate way would be going up high on one of the vineyards. An easy way to do this would be to take the Stuttgart City bus tour where you can stop at one of the most famous vineyards in town and take a look over the beautiful city. And have a glass of wine, while you're at it.
Turin: The Superga is the best place to enjoy the city of Turin. Very doable, compared to others like the Duomo in Milan or Munich's St. Peter, but the views, very comparable. Plus, Trattoria Superga on the way up the cathedral has one of the best truffle cream pastas.
Alsace: The region of Alsace is famous for many things, including wine, but if you want a clear view of the region, drive up to Mont Sainte-Odile. You can visit the Mont Saint-Odile Abbey and enjoy the most famous mountain range and even see the famous Strasbourg Cathedral if you are lucky and the weather helps out.
Dresden: The Frauenkirche is one of the largest domes in Europe and very feminine, architecturally. Unlike many other churches or cathedrals, there is a separate entrance to go to the top. An elevator take you halfway up and you have to climb a bit up to the top, but it's interesting because the little windows along the way enables you to see both in and out of the entire structure.
Edinburg: Calton Hill's nickname is the "Athens of the North" and it's where you can get a glimpse of the beautiful city of Edinburgh, both Old and New. On a sunny day, you can even see the Edinburgh Castle way out in the background. It's also a good way to start the entire trip, as you can easily map out the famous attractions and decide where to go and when.
Milan: The Duomo. It's not just about the view at the Duomo, but the roof itself. Fantastic architecture and it's amazing to see the ancient roof decorations mesh into the more modern architectural works of the city. Quite the climb though, but if you had to do one thing in Milan, this would be it.
Verona: Castel San Pietro, if you want the lovely view of the city of Romeo and Juliet. You can also pay a visit to the Archeological Museum and the famous Roman Theater. It can be a hike, but a very good one for both body and soul.
Prague: Prague Castle. It's not an actual point, but the castle is located quite high up so it offers a beautiful view of the city. Red roofs, chapels, cathedrals and the bridge, all in one take. You need tickets to enter the Prague Castle.
Munich: The Church of St. Peter. It's the oldest Parish church in the city and it's quite a walk up. Along with the Milan Duomo, the toughest one to date, at least for me. Very narrow, not much space and pretty dark. Plus there are a lot of people, which can be a good thing because this means you can stop to rest time to time.