On top of the world

Five continents; five views to take your breath away. Five top places to get a new - and spectacular - perspective on things. And four of them boast restaurants or bars, so why not arrange your own summit meeting!


At the top of the Eiffel Tower
Who could have predicted that the controversial hulk, designed for the 1889 World Fair, would eventually become the symbol not just of Paris, but of the whole of France? Not to mention it being the most visited monument on the planet. Even the designer, Gustave Eiffel, wouldn't have believed it: "pile of scrap" and "hollow candlestick" were just some of the epithets which scandalised Parisians used for the 324-metre tall structure when it was first erected in the heart of the capital. The main reason it avoided being dismantled was that its height made it a perfect place to locate all kinds of antenna.

Today, this, the greatest of all Iron Ladies, offers unbeatable views of the Gallic capital from the three floors that are open to the public. What's more, those with deep pockets can reserve a table at the legendary restaurant Le Jules Verne on the second floor. If your budget doesn't stretch quite that far, 58 Tour Eiffel, the brasserie on the first floor, has more moderate prices and still offers spectacular views. What better place than the Eiffel Tower to enjoy a glass of champagne?

More information on the Eiffel Tower  official website.

The Big Apple from the Empire State Building
Maybe the residents of Rio de Janeiro, with the splendid views out over the bay and the Cidade Maravilhosa from the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado, won't agree with our selection for the Americas. But, like it or not, New York is capital of the world, and the views from the Empire State Building, right on Fifth Avenue were making global news even before King Kong climbed to the summit back in 1933.

It is no surprise that this 443.2-metre tall art-deco giant is so famous. As well as appearing - complete with Daleks - in Doctor Who stories in 1966 and 2007, it has appeared in such diverse films as Superman, Independence Day, Kramer vs. Kramer, Taxi Driver, New York Stories, North by Northwest and On the Waterfront, as well as being the setting for Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks' meeting in the most famous scene from Sleepless in Seattle.

The skyscraper was built in record time in the early Thirties and regained its status as the tallest building in New York after the attack on the Twin Towers. It rises almost half a kilometre above the heart of Manhattan, and has a viewing platform on the 86th floor  and another on the 102nd, which closes at 2am, making it perfect for a romantic evening. There are also three restaurants, cafes and even a Post Office so your postcards home can be postmarked from the heights.

More information on the Empire State Building official website.

The mother of all cities as seen from the Cairo Tower
A city with the life and vibrancy of Cairo should be experienced at street level: the narrow alleys of the Khan el Khalili bazaars, the Islamic Cairo streets adorned by mosques and decadent mansions, the Coptic district, studded with ancient churches, and the downtown area choked with traffic. Occasionally, though, it's a good idea to take a break and catch your breath. One option is to hire a felucca for a few hours sailing on the Nile; another is to climb the 187 metre Cairo Tower and take in one of the most breathtaking views of this "mother of all cities".

Built in the Sixties, on the island of Gezira, in one of the most modern and elegant neighbourhoods of the city centre, the Tower houses a restaurant with large windows that turns very slowly so that diners don't miss any angle of the bird's eye view over Cairo. You don't even need to dine: you can just have a drink at the bar, or simply admire the view. The best time is at sun set when the city lights start to sparkle.

More on the Egyptian Tourist Board website.

The open air of Bangkok
Among the forest of skyscrapers that dominate the skyline of the Thai capital, the Banyan Tree hotel is an ideal place to dine or enjoy a drink, looking out on the stunning view from the aptly named Vertigo restaurant or the Moon Bar perched al fresco on the roof top, 61 floors above the ground. Equally sophisticated, and also a meeting place for the city's beautiful people, the Lebua building offers a number of bars and restaurants on different storeys, among which are Sirocco, the world's highest open-air restaurant, and, also on the 63rd floor, the Sky Bar, suspended out over the city.

Sydney from the Harbour Bridge
It was a landmark of engineering when, in 1932, the eight-year construction project resulted in the world's longest single-arch bridge. Today, the Sydney Harbour Bridge connects the city's financial centre with the mainly residential and commercial area on north coast. Although here on the bridge itself there are no restaurants or bars to complement the wonderful view of the bay's skyscraper skyline and the famous Opera House, there are organised walks on the bridge and, not recommended for the faint-hearted, guided climbs that take you to the summit of the monument, 134 metres above Sydney Harbour. 

More information from the Australian Tourist Board or from BridgeClimb, the company that organises the climbs.