28 May Climbing 2,391 Stairs in Europe
We took it upon ourselves to climb over 2,391 stairs in Europe the last time we visited. To put that into perspective, if you were to climb to the top of New York City’s Empire State Building by stairs, you would be climbing up 1,860 stairs, so that means we walked quite a few more stairs than those of the second tallest building in NYC. I love the vast views from the top of any tall structure, and for some strange reason unbeknownst to man, I actually get excited to take the stairs to the top of these buildings. So, on this trip we hiked up the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the steps outside Sacré Couer in Montmartre and even the Belfry of Bruges. The only two with elevators are the Eiffel Tower and a portion of the Arc de Triomphe, so if you want to visit these sights, start getting prepared with a stair-master; my legs were killing me after the first couple of climbs!
The Eiffel Tower is the tallest of all the buildings we hiked–there are 704 steps to get to the second level. You can stop at the first level to take in the views; the stairs are wide enough to take a quick stop along the way if you must. There is a stairway that reaches all the way to the third level, but it is not open to visitors. By taking the stairs, you save money, get some great exercise, and can experience beautiful views from a unique vantage point that you miss by taking the elevator. Also, you will most likely save time waiting in line because the stair line is shorter than the line for the elevator.
After taking a tour of the inside of the cathedral, you can head outside and get in line to climb the towers. Walking all the way to the top rings in at 387 steps that spiral upward, and there aren’t many places to rest, so you need to be fairly comfortable walking the majority of the steps without many stops. Once you get to the top, you have an up close look at the gargoyles watching over the church, and you can also take a look at the bell up in the bell tower.
Not far from the Notre Dame on Île de la Cité, sits the Sainte Chapelle, a chapel located within the courtyard on the Royal Palace. Because of its location, you have to go through almost airport like security to get inside, but in my opinion it’s worth it. The 15 panels of stained glass are beautiful and best viewed on a sunny day. You can visit during the day or attend one of the nightly concerts that are held on a regular basis. This is probably the shortest staircase out of the whole group, and after just climbing Notre Dame it felt like a piece of cake. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how many stairs there are at Sainte Chapelle, so I am guessing around 150–I could be way off, so please correct me if you know! The staircases are very small though, and they are still fairly steep, so just keep in mind that there isn’t much room for stopping if you need to.
Arc de Triomphe:
Standing at the end of the Champs-Élysées the Arc de Triomphe is in the center of a roundabout with traffic constantly swirling around it. To reach this monument, you need to take the tunnel underneath the road to bypass traffic. Every evening at the base of the arch, there is a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to rekindle the eternal flame. After taking a look at the tomb, you can start your climb up 284 steps to the top. About two-thirds of the way up there is an area where you can stop for a rest and browse a small museum that looks at the history of the arc. From there, it’s a short climb to the top that is only accessible by stairs. Once you reach this point, you will have sprawling views of the city–my favorite views out of any of the monuments we visited. Visiting at dusk is perfect because you can watch the sunset and then stay to see the city and Eiffel Tower light up in all their glory.
The steps in Montmartre that lead up to the front of the Sacré Coeur are high and steep. If you are not up for the challenge of taking the 300+ stairs, you can hop on the funicular that runs along the side. Once you get to the top, there are even more steps in the front of the cathedral, but the views are worth the extra climb as the cathedral sits on the highest hill in the city. It is from here that you can see just how large the city actually is–the views are pretty incredible. If you are feeling ambitious, you can also climb the stairs to the top of the cathedral as well. I have never climbed that tower, but I have heard the views are great as well.
Abbesses Metro Station Stairway:
Do not ignore the warning signs near the stairs if you happen to arrive at this metro stop. Think long and hard if you really want to climb this 200+ step spiral staircase. We didn’t want to wait for the elevators, so we thought we would rough it and climb the stairs anyways, but wow, was that ever a mistake. Little did we know that this metro station is one of the few deep stations in Paris, which means it is located approximately 118 ft underground. Taking the stairs was not our brightest idea because we were heading to the Montmartre steps next, you know, the ones I just talked about. However, if you do decide to brave the stairway, you will at least have art to look at, as the walls were all painted by artists. The walls were fun to look at, but I think we were just so traumatized by the unexpected climb that we didn’t end up taking any photos!
Belfry of Bruges:
The Belfry of Bruges is the only tower we climbed when in Belgium, but it came in second in terms of number of steps: 366. It was also the tightest on space compared to the other staircases. There are a few spots to stop if you need to, one of which shows you the mechanics of the bells which are played throughout the day. Once you get close to the top, you are practically climbing upward because the stairs are so steep–thankfully there is a rope to hold onto in case you need it. Bruges is an adorable city, and the view from the top of the Belfry is very pretty; I almost felt as though we were in a storybook land!
Do you like to take the stairs at monuments too, or do you usually and jump in the elevator line?
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