A view from the top: St Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City

Did you know Vatican City is the smallest country in the world? Pretty cool, huh? It’s not just a city in the middle of Italy, it is an actual independent city-state, where it issues its own stamps and passports and everything. So when in Rome… you can’t really pass up an opportunity to go see it for yourself! My favourite part of Vatican City was climbing the dome of St Peter’s Basilica to get some spectacular views over St Peter’s Square and Rome.

view from the top of St Peter's Basilica

Because the Vatican City is a religious site, the dress code must be respected – no shorts, bare shoulders or short skirts. For us visiting in November, this wasn’t a problem as it was pretty chilly. We also found the queues in November perfectly fine, it took us around half an hour to get through security checks. Again, this might be somewhat more lengthy during summer.

There are two ways to climb the dome – climb all the way by foot (551 steps) or go part way in the lift and climb the rest (320 steps). There is a slight price difference, obviously climbing by foot is slightly cheaper.

People standing at the highest point of the climb at the top of the dome (St Peter's Basilica)
People standing at the highest point of the climb at the top of the dome

Pros – The view! The climb is quite an experience but it’s worth it when you reach the top, even just for bragging rights and a quick instagram snap.

Cons – 551 steps is A LONG WAY! My dad didn’t even bother coming up the dome with us as he hates heights but to be honest, I think he might have found the climb too much of a challenge. In addition to the number of steps there are also parts that are very narrow, especially where you’re climbing inside the curve of the dome.

View inside the Basilica from the interior balcony - St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City.
View inside the Basilica from the interior balcony

Surprises – After the initial climb (or where I believe the lift may take you to) you reach the interior balcony where you are still inside the dome and can look down on the people visiting inside St Peter’s. At first we were a bit like, is this it?! But then we realised you can climb a little further to get those spectacular views from outside and over the square. Oh and there’s a cafe and shop on a terrace part way up too.

Verdict – When in Rome… make this a priority.


If you liked this then you might enjoy the view from Campanile di San Marco in Venice or any of my other View from the Top posts.

A view from the top: Stratosphere Tower – Las Vegas, USA

Following my post A View from the Top: Sky Tower Auckland, I thought I’d throw a #throwbackthursday at you, because I’m in a nostalgic kinda mood.

Stratosphere Tower – Las Vegas

The Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas

The Stratosphere is one of the many hotels that sit twinkling on the Las Vegas strip. If you’ve ever been to Vegas then you’ll know that each hotel has it’s own theme, e.g. there are gondolas at The Venetian, circus acts at Circus Circus and flamingoes at The Flamingo (well, duh!). The Stratosphere’s claim to fame is its tower – the tallest freestanding tower in the USA, standing at 1149 ft.

The Stratosphere Tower on the Las Vegas strip. Head up for the perfect view from the top!

Pros

The views from the 360 degree observation deck are fantastic. You get iconic views of the strip and it looks especially magical if you head up there at night time when you can see Vegas in all its glittering glory!

View from the top - the bright lights of Vegas from the top of the Stratosphere.
The photos don’t do it justice

Cons

The lights up on the deck indoors make it quite tricky to get decent photos without random glares in them and if you go outside, be prepared for it to be crazy windy out there (or at least it was when I visited) – I felt like I was going to get blown away!

The photos don't do it justice! View from the Stratosphere in Vegas
Not the best of photos!

Surprises

There are not only bars, restaurants and a sky jump up there but there’s also three thrill rides! There’s the Big Shot which shoots you straight up even higher, Insanity – where a mechanical arm spins you around 900ft above the strip and then there’s X-scream where you are catapulted off the tower edge! I couldn’t decide which would scare the crap out of me the most and just stuck to the thrill of the views!

One of the 3 terrifying rides at the top of the Stratosphere Tower
X-Scream

Verdict

It was just magic to see Las Vegas from this height and if I ever got to go back I would love to dine at the Top of the World restaurant. I would even go as far to say that I think The Stratosphere may be one of, if not the favourite of all my View from the Top adventures!

For more of my View from the Top series, click here.

Some of the hotels on the Vegas strip. View from The Stratosphere Tower.

A view from the top: Sky Tower Auckland – New Zealand

It’s been a while since my last A View From The Top post so I thought it was about time I wrote another!

The view from the Sky Tower Auckland, New Zealand
The view!

Sky Tower Auckland

Sitting at 328 metres tall, the Sky Tower Auckland often features on a top things to do in Auckland list. It is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and in true Kiwi style you can do something extreme by either doing the skywalk around the top or even jumping off of it!

Sky Tower Auckland
View from the bottom

For those without crazy daredevil tendencies, the Sky Tower has 3 circular public observation levels where you can enjoy the views from behind the safety of glass windows.

Pros – You can get some pretty spectacular 360 degree views of Auckland up here. There’s also a couple of restaurants although I didn’t eat in them.

Cons – As with most tourist attractions, you have to pay to enter, which if there are a few of you it can soon work out quite pricey.

Surprises – Glass floors! There are sections of floor throughout the tower which are see-through and although the signs all say that the glass floors are just as strong as the concrete floors, you can’t help but feel a little dizzy and unsure when you stand on them!

Glass floor at Auckland Sky Tower
I know it’s perfectly safe but my stomach still did flip flops!

Verdict – I don’t regret for one second not jumping off it (the glass floors were enough to make my legs feel like jelly) but it might have been nice to have a meal in the revolving restaurant. Another tip of mine would be to catch the ferry over to Devonport and climb up Mount Victoria for the views of the Auckland skyline which include the Sky Tower!

Auckland Skyline
View of Auckland from Devonport

If you enjoyed this post, why not check out the others in this series…


A view from the top: Empire State Building – New York, USA

Continuing on from A view from the top: Sigiriya – Sri Lanka, I’ve decided to write a bit of a #throwbackthursday kind of post on perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the world – The Empire State Building in New York City!

I had always wanted to visit NYC so jumped at the chance to go on a University trip which just happened to coincide with my 21st birthday. Of course, any trip to New York has to have the Empire State Building on it’s itinerary!

view-from-empire-state-building

Even if you’ve never been to New York, no doubt you will have seen either the inside, outside or view from the Empire State Building on television or in the movies or even in the video of the music collaboration between Jay-Z and Alicia Keys (bet you’ve got that song in your head now!)

Pros – You’re in NYC baby! Although my photos aren’t the greatest (it was before I had a decent camera and knew about megabytes, megapixels and stuff like that) with the wonder of modern technology and a good eye you will get some awesome shots from up here.

Cons – It’s not as romantic as the movies might lead you to believe (I am looking at you Sleepless in Seattle!) and it can get quite crowded up there.

Surprises – This may not be a surprise to everyone, but for me I found that when I was approaching the Empire State Building on foot, it was a lot smaller than I imagined. I know that sounds crazy but everything is tall in New York so the Empire State blended in more than I had expected (sorry!)

Verdict – You can’t go to New York without visiting the Empire State and if I ever get back to the Big Apple you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be going back up there – with a snazzier camera too!

inside-empire-state-building

A view from the top: Sigiriya – Sri Lanka

Continuing on from A view from the top: Tokyo Tower, is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya Rock, situated in the beautiful teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka. Located in the Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya (Lion Rock) sits at 200 metres tall and is one of the country’s most spectacular and most visited landmarks.

Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

The rock was home to a group of monks in 3rd century AD, however Sigiriya is most famous for becoming an unlikely setting for a royal palace. King Kassapa ruled from 477 AD to 495 AD and was born to a non-royal consort. Kassapa’s younger brother, of royal blood, had been proclaimed as their father’s heir to the kingdom and so Kassapa took it upon himself to murder his father and seize the throne from his brother. Fearing retaliation, Kassapa established his palace at the top of Sigiriya, a defensive place to reign from.

The famous lion paws at Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

Pros – It is quite an achievement to climb Sigiriya, no matter how tired you feel while doing so. The views are pretty rewarding and it’s worth taking a look at the frescoes part way up.

Cons – It is hot. And tiring. And you must make sure you take water with you as there is nowhere to purchase a bottle until you are right back at the bottom and on your way out.

Surprises – I was quite surprised by how broken up the climb is. You do a fair bit of climbing before you even reach the famous lion paws! Also watch out for the monkeys – they’ve been known to get a bit lairy.

Beware of the monkeys at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka!

Verdict – This is one of those things you do that you only truly appreciate once the moment has passed. I thought the heat and tiredness would kill me before I reached the top but I’m glad I made the climb up as the views are spectacular!

The view from Sigiriya Rock Fortress