Disclaimer: This is a subjective list; I haven’t been everywhere in the world and is based on the views that either took my breath away, or are forever burned into my head. All the photos are original. Just in case you didn’t believe I actually went!
25. Shaftesbury, UK
Gold Hill, famous for being used in Ridley Scott’s Hovis adverts in the 1970s, is the perfect representation of a quaint English town. The tranquillity of the area is a perfect place to visit a tea room and have some scones – visiting Shaftesbury is visiting Victorian England and it’s one of the best places in the country to do it.
24. Niagara Falls, Canada and USA
The Niagara Falls is the tourist honeypot where everyone goes, sure, but it’s undeniably an awe-inspiring view. And yes, the Canadian side is better. Not much more need be said.
23. Monte Naranco, Spain
Woody Allen described Oviedo as the most beautiful city in the world, because of its pedestrianised centre. That’s fair, but the real best part of Oviedo is the walk up to the Jesus monument, ascending the Monte Naranco.
At first you receive a wonderful mix of hilly streets with illustrious apartments and the mountains, shrouded by fog in the distance. Once you scale it, the entire valley is visible and it takes your breath away. Jesus is also rather impressively giant.
22. Montmartre, France
There’s so much to be said of Paris, but the packed streets that encircle the Sacré-Coeur are some of the most picturesque and active in the capital. Just expect crowds – it’s probably one of the busiest pedestrian areas in Europe.
21. DC National Mall, USA
Sitting besides the tower that is the Washington Monument, you can get a magnificent view of the US Capitol Building, The White House and The Lincoln Memorial in one panorama. I think you might even be able to eke a peek at the Jefferson Memorial too.
Aside from the famous buildings, you’ll also see museums built in various architectural styles, ranging from a weird Gothic impersonation to ostentatious Parthenon imitators.
20. Thames Path, London, UK
This one is personal for me, as it’s near my home in London. Quite frankly, I had never considered up until then that where I lived was so beautiful.
My first time cycling along the Thames Path, coming from Kingston, the view befuddled me as I had no idea where the hell I was. And then I realised I was looking at the façade of Richmond – and I suddenly felt transported to the Victorian ages. It’s a time capsule of a cycle and, if you’re into that and visiting London, a ride you should take.
19. The Dark Hedges, UK
One of the roads that leads up to Giant’s Causeway, (in of itself deserving of a place on this list), The Dark Hedges is a moody street in Northern Ireland where the trees overshadow you, in a bid to pick up your car and eat you alive. Not really. But it looks that way.
18. George Washington Bridge, USA
Most bridges around New York City probably give you a good view, but the George Washington Bridge on the Upper East Side grants you a surreal vantage point of the whole city. It’s like walking past a fake backdrop. The light pollution at sunset – best time to do this – ebbs a uniquely faint brown-purple glow over the skyline.
17. Lisbon from Castelo São Jorge, Portugal
Lisbon is a stunningly beautiful city, and so it’s hard to pinpoint a particular view that does it justice, but one that comes to mind is the ‘mirador’ from the Castelo São Jorge. From the top, you can see the whole city in its glory. Another worthy mention is a viewing platform on a park on the north east side of the Bairro Alto. (There’s a lot of viewing platforms in Lisbon, take your pick.)
16. Dubrovnik, Croatia
They call Dubrovnik the Pearl of the Adriatic, and the city truly lives up to that name, when you can escape the boatloads of tourists, that is. The place to do this is to walk up, or take the funicular, but walking is so much better, the city park to the Stari Grad. It gives you a beautiful overview of the sea and city, where you can really appreciate the walled old town in its entirety – which itself has some impressive sights.
15. Islas Cíes, Spain
For a scant €10, you can take a return boat ride from Vigo to the islands, which have what the Guardian controversially calls the best beach in the world – I’d take a step back and say probably the best beach in Europe. Which is still a mean feat, and it makes for an unforgettable view and hike.
14. Rua da Santa Catarina, Porto, Portugal
I’ve never been to the heaving streets of India or China, but if I were to, I would imagine it’d be like the main road in Porto. The whole city has uniquely attractive views, a very 1920s swing era, art deco vibe and a grit that really shouldn’t be endearing, but somehow is. The high street chaos here will be burned into my mind for quite a while.
13. Annecy, France
More like Switzerland than France, the small town of Annecy will charm you – it is so typically…Alpish? Either way, the best views come from the green, forested mountains rising high above the deep blues of the lake. The contrast is stunning. Annecy is a popular tourist destination, and also not quite so easy on the wallet, but you can see why.
12. Mostar-Sarajevo journey, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Known as the most scenic journey in the world, the road/train track, (the train is recommended), between the cities of Mostar in the east and Sarajevo in the west takes you through the most vivid untouched land you could possibly imagine. Green valleys fluctuate in height, as you travel right besides an impossibly turquoise river – with the odd Mosque spiral dotting the view. It makes for captivating on-board entertainment.
I should give a special nod to the Rijeka-Split bus ride in Croatia, where the coach takes the dangerous path alongside the Adriatic the whole way. It is unmistakably beautiful.
11. Sea of Galilee, Israel
You won’t believe how blue the Sea of Galilee is until you get there. And you won’t believe how warm and smooth it is to swim in until you take a dip, either. The best views can be taken from up the Ramot resort (££££!) and from, I’m sure, any beach on the lake. Jesus, quite frankly, missed out when he decided to walk on the sea, instead of swim in it.
10. Ring of Kerry, Ireland
The Kerry peninsula is exactly what one thinks of when you hear Ireland. Driving alongside the craggy, grey cliffs and green fields that surround the area, you run into quaint towns such as Dingle, (home of the best bed and breakfast in the country – I can certainly vouch for the latter), and even sandy beaches.
9. Rovinj, Croatia
Rovinj is a tourist gem in the north of Croatia – but not tacky in the slightest, as the danger tends to be when a town receives an influx of visitors.
It’s a genuine fishing village and the tourist area by the boardwalk is out of the centre – so you’re mingling with the locals. The narrow, cobbled streets, crimson rooves and scorching sun make Rovinj a premier destination in the country.
8. Sintra from Cruz Alta, Portugal
Sintra National Park, less than an hour from Lisbon by train, is a popular tourist destination, and boy don’t you know it. Not only does the local industry milk it for all its worth, (you pay a pretty penny to enter), if you’re not careful or go as a tour group, you’ll be herded like sheep with thousands of other tourists. Not an enjoyable experience.
However, if you do wander the Pena Palace gardens independently, find the Cruz Alta, the highest point in the park. It’s a bit of a trek, but it’s beautiful, quiet and the view is so rewarding.
7. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is a magical place for various reasons; the old town is a time capsule to the glory days of the Ottoman empire, and the contemporary parts of the city take you back to the 1990s, a contentious period in Bosnian history that featured the wars for independence from Yugoslavia. Rubble and wrecked buildings are scattered all around – most notably the chilling ‘Sniper Tower’ which overlooks a children’s playground.
On the other side of that, because of the destruction, the UNESCO World heritage site old town was felt too valuable not to be rebuilt, and so with generous foreign donations, it was reconstructed and looks as good as it must have done in 1592. The best view is on the banks below the Stari Most, where you get a mesmerising view of the bridge and old town. Enjoy an ice cream here from the shop on the east side of the bridge for 50¢ a scoop!
6. Jerusalem and the Western Wall, Israel
The Holy City of Jerusalem is a place to go before you die; its melting pot of cultures and histories is unlike any other, and you can get a fantastic view just about anywhere. On top of rooves, (the Austrian Hospice will let you on their rooftop for a great view), or on viewing points along the road into Jerusalem are good bets. The Dome of the Rock dominates the panorama and the Western Wall below it.
The Western Wall is a breathtaking view by itself. From the security, (which, being in Israel, is tight), the holy reputation of the site and the general aura of ‘whoa’ you get from the people leaving – the anticipation of entering the Wall is an experience unto itself. It’s a place that you will never forget visiting.
5. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Sarajevo speaks for itself as one of the richest cities in Europe, historically speaking, with a culture long locked in harmony between Muslims, Christians and Jews, and the passing of numerous powerful Empires. There are modern Austro-Hungarian remnants, the magnificent Ottoman old town and Byzantine streets and temples.
What is most attractive about the city, though, are the mountains that surround it. During the day, houses and Mosque spires are half clear through the fog, and at, night, each house in the steep, outer suburbs turns on their lights – creating an inescapable banner of spotlights that encircles the city. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and, sadly, the camera just doesn’t capture the magic of it.
4. Avdat, Israel
The Avdat ruins, a UNESCO World heritage site, is one of the most awe-inspiring places you could ever visit. A well preserved Nabataean/Byzantine city atop a large mountain in the Negev Desert, it dates all the way back to the 3rd Century BCE. That’s OLD.
For how expansive it is, and the lack of damage done to parts of it, (from a major earthquake in the 5th Century CE), it is incredible. It is one place you need on your bucket list.
3. Ramon Crater, Israel
Israel’s answer to the Grand Canyon, free to enter and practically devoid of other human life, the Ramon Crater down south is a place like no other. It is literally other worldly. The sands are so deep red in some places, that you will feel like you’re on Mars. At night, the hundreds of thousands of stars and constellations are so bright and easy to distinguish, that you feel a distinct part of it. Remnants and ruins of long extinct civilisations pepper the crater and life is found so far and few in between, that not even crickets make a noise at night.
Saying that, you might be lucky, and catch a rare glimpse of a Nubian Ibex or an Asian Onager. But if you’re unlucky, you might run into a scorpion, snake, hyena or even a leopard. The Ramon Crater is unpredictable and unforgettable.
2. Covadonga, Spain
Covadonga, in the northern Spanish province of Asturias, is as close to a South American landscape as I’m sure you find in Europe. Thin canopy trees drape over lush, green fields – nothing you imagine when you think of Spain.
Farmers with black berets work their cattle, whilst rabbits and lizards run over the road that runs to Los Picos National Park. It makes for a great cycle or drive, with an especially great view from the hamlet of Santianes de Tornín.
Along the way to the park, you will pass waterfalls, mountains, foggy valleys and winding paths along rapids to get to the famed Covadonga lakes up in Los Picos. Take a dip! (Warning: it’s bloody ice cold.) This is all without mentioning the impressionable Sanctuary of Covadonga and Grotto. You can easily spend a week here.
1. Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor has everything – an enchanting old town, hundreds of stray cats, (seriously, it’s famous for that), and a beautiful, intimidating mountainscape that rises steep at a seemingly ninety degree angle, encompassing a glistening blue lake that’s shaped by the banks of the land.
Climb the Stari Grad, and you can stand for hours up there, peering through the mountainous fog to see the lake below. It’s as dramatic as any landscape you could hope to find – it is absolutely breathtaking.