Want to stretch your legs and take in a great view? Here’s the ultimate guide to the world’s most famous stairways
High up on a hill overlooking Barcelona, this magical staircase draws you into a fairytale landscape of soft, sensuous curves and splashes of vivid colour. Designed by Antoni Gaudí at the start of the 20th century, the 45 steps are divided by elaborate fountains made from multicoloured mosaic fragments, every inch steeped in symbolism
We’ve all been told enough times that we’re supposed to take the stairs. But while the benefits of even a couple of flights up to the office are well documented, it’s better still if you can find exercise while enjoying some of the world’s best views. From Barcelona’s panoramic cityscape, visible from Park Güell, to the whole of Sydney Harbour seen from its world-famous bridge, you can’t beat getting high up for the perfect view – or for the satisfaction of leaving a few hundred calories at the top!
Park Güell, Barcelona
High up on a hill overlooking Barcelona, this magical staircase draws you into a fairytale landscape of soft, sensuous curves and splashes of vivid colour. Designed by Antoni Gaudí at the start of the 20th century, the 45 steps are divided by elaborate fountains made from multicoloured mosaic fragments, every inch steeped in symbolism. At the top of the staircase, a sheltered bench is framed by ceramic sunflowers, providing the perfect spot from which to survey the simply unforgettable view. The park is open from 10am to dusk every day and is free. Take the metro to Lesseps, then just hop on bus number 24.
Annie Bennett, author of Art/Shop/Eat Barcelona (published by Norton)
99 Steps, St Thomas
When the Danes first built the town of Charlotte Amalie, the engineers designed the streets in a grid format, but they very soon discovered that the steep hills posed something of a problem. Their answer was to create several streets of steps that linked the busy waterfront with the residential area above. The most famous of these is the 18th-century street called 99 Steps – something of a misnomer as it actually has 103 of them – made from bricks that were used for ballast on merchant ships arriving in St Thomas. After climbing to the old Fort Skytsborg watchtower, gaze down over the palm trees and bougainvillea to the harbour, where impressive cruise ships have now replaced colonial trading vessels. Take a taxi from the port, or find yourself a map and enjoy a leisurely walk.
Sarah Cameron, author of Caribbean Islands (published by Footprint)
Temple II, Guatemala
Rising 38 metres above the jungle floor, Temple II forms part of the awe-inspiring Tikal temple complex located in Northern Guatemala. The Maya built their temples as pyramids, to mimic the mountains they held so sacred. Only High Priests were allowed to climb them, as it was believed that doing so took them closer to God. Climbing Temple II really is a breathtaking experience. The world simply drops away as you rise, accompanied by the screech of howler monkeys and the call of scarlet macaw birds. At the top, you look out over the trees to savour a panoramic view of the jungle, with the crowns of nearby temples poking through the leafy canopy.
Lucas Vidgen, author of Guatemala (published by Lonely Planet)
Harbour Bridge, Sydney
The steps of Sydney Harbour Bridge, once only accessed by maintenance workers, are like no other: they shudder as traffic and trains pass underneath and, between the metal mesh at your feet, the waters of the harbour glint a hundred metres below. As the wind whistles, you inch your way on harness and safety cables up several hundred steps towards the summit of this iconic structure. The reward isn’t just a dizzying experience, but a full 360-degree view of Sydney’s stunning yacht-studded harbour, a new angle on the brilliant Opera House, and vistas all the way to the Blue Mountains. Prices seem as steep as the climb, but the experience is more than worth it.
Brian Johnston, author of Into The Never-Never: Travels In Australia (Melbourne University Press)
Primorsky Stairs, Odessa
These stairs (also known as the Potemkin Stairs or the Odessa Steps) are legendary for their appearance in the silent classic Battleship Potemkin (1925), when a baby in a pram bounces down them under gunfire. Even today, Odessa’s Primorsky Stairs make an impressive entrance from the port to the leafy, neoclassical city 142 metres above. A toga-clad statue of the first city governor, the Duc de Richelieu, greets you at the summit of the 192 steps, while along the way you can enjoy some truly remarkable optical illusions. Landings will disappear from one angle, steps from another, as the monumental staircase widens with its descent. Most fun of all is watching the people go by.
Sarah Johnstone, author of Ukraine (published by Lonely Planet)
This feature has previously been published elsewhere and all information was checked at the time of its original publication.