Monday’s Money Saving Tips: Free Views of City Skylines

free views of city skylines

Monday’s Money Saving Tips: Free views of city skylines such as this one in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

As a budget traveller and nomadic Ulsterman I find myself loving skyscrapers and vantage points over towns and cities. Having grown up in a town where the highest building was a church and anything over 3 storeys looked out of place, it’s incredible to be able to go dozens of floors high on lifts and get good views. But I don’t like paying for it. In fact it’s a pet hate so today’s Monday’s Money Saving Tips is about getting free views of city skylines. How do you find a great view over a city without having to fork out extra money? OK, here are a few tips. Please share more tips and free city skylines with me and my readers.

free view of Kuala Lumpur Petronas Twin Towers

Enjoying the free view of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia from the Petronas Twin Towers.

1. Research The City!

Have a look in your travel guide book before you arrive in the city. There will more than likely be a high building that is advertised in the book and costs around $20 US Dollars or something ridiculous so that;s the place to avoid – stroke it off for a start!! Look at photos of the skyline on the internet and find buildings a bit lower that might be free to go up. Check other travel blogs for free views of that city, you’ll be surprised what you find on google by typing “free view of buenos aires” etc. Some travel blogger will have it covered, you can be sure of that.

free view of macau skyline from the fortress

Free views over a city – just google it…here I am enjoying a free view of Macau from the hill leading up to the fortress!

2. Mountains and Hills

Mountains and Hills are free to hike up, walk up or for a small sum get a bus up to. A lot of major towns and cities have outlying mountains – a great chance to see nature and the bustling urban city all at once. Good examples of mountains and hills to see city skylines for free are Hobart, Tasmania (Mount Wellington), Brisbane (Mount Cootha), Belfast (Cavehill), Quito (Cruz Loma) and Hong Kong (Lam Tin, Ma On Shan).

free views of city skylines cruz loma quito

Loving the view of the colossal city of Quito in Ecuador from Cruz Loma.

3. Don’t go for the Highest Building

The highest buildings and vantage points in each city will undoubtedly be aware of the tourist pull they can have and mostly charge you to go to the top. So look for the ones a few floors lower, in fact even a building with 10 – 20 storeys offers great vantage points.

Belfast from Victoria Square Jonny Blair Dont Stop Living

Loving the free view of BELFAST in my home country of Northern Ireland from the top of Victoria Square, not the highest building but FREE.

4. Book Accommodation at Height

If you’re going to be paying for a hostel or hotel in that city anyway, why not book into one that is already at a height. A good example of a cheap one was when I stayed in Taipei in 2009 I stayed on the 13th floor of a building which was a cheap hostel, had great views!

13th floor of hostel in Taipei Taiwan

Pretty damn awesome right? The view from my hostel room in Taipei, Taiwan in 2009 – the 13th floor!

5. Bars!

A good Northern Irishman like myself loves a beer and a beer with a view is even better. Most bars offer free entry so why not pop in for a single beer and enjoy the view! Hong Kong has a few bars that you can do this in, though admittedly the bar prices are a tad dear. But that’s not always the case in other cities and I quite often find a bar with a view, so that I get the added bonus of a free view with my beer which I probably would have bought in a ground level bar anyway. The Gravity bar in the Guinness Brewery in Dublin offers a great view of the city, but you will have to pay entry into the Guinness Storehouse. This is one exception to the rule – blow your budget on it – it’s worth it!

Dublin Ireland from Gravity Bar

How’s this for a view of Dublin from a Bar!! The Gravity Bar – OK you need to pay for the tour but it’s WORTH IT.

6. Restaurants with a View!

You need to eat anyway so why not have lunch (instead of dinner to save money) in a restaurant with a view. While you’re up there enjoying the view simply order the cheapest thing on the menu and share it while enjoying the view. My girlfriend and I are particularly fond of this idea!

free view of bangkok thailand

Great view over Bangkok, Thailand from our hotel room in 2011.

7. Ask Your Mates That Live There

In Sao Paulo in Brazil I had heard about two high buildings to get a good vantage point over the monstrous sky scraping city. Luckily my mate Rodrigo was on hand to tell me that one of them, the 41 storey Edificio Italio offers free views of the city. Just go up in the lift to the restaurant and enjoy the views. Same thing happened in Brisbane when my mate Owen Millar took me to Mount Cootha, which offers awesome views of the city!

Brisbane from Mount Cootha

Free view of Brisbane from Mount Cootha – how’s that for a skyline?

8. Pretend to be a Student

OK so you really want to go up the highest building but you don’t want to pay full price. Just get a fake student ID and dress like you have no money and read books all day.

fake student ID money saving tips dont stop living

Get a fake student ID and blag a half price entry to some random high buildings.

9. Say You Work There

A mate of mine is good at this and has got to the top of manys a high profile building by dressing smart, carrying a briefcase and saying he’s going to a business meeting. Works for him and a good tactic. Though I must admit I have never owned a briefcase.

10. Really Work There

On many an occassion I have been lucky to be working in buildings with high vantage points. Over the years I have worked in high buildings in Belfast, London, Bournemouth, Sydney and Hong Kong and enjoyed complimentary views and got paid at the same time. Got to love it! Don’t forget my top 5 tips for earning money on your travels!

free view over Hong Kong w hotel working there

Hows this for a view – swimming pool, a beer and Hong Kong skyline – I was working at an event in the W Hotel to get paid to see this view!

A Few City Skylines You Can See For Free and How

These are just a few tips on what cities you can see for free and a quick guide as to how. On my travels, I’ve SAVED a load of money doing this and increased my appetite for adventure. I love a good challenge for getting a free view of a city.

1. Macau – Walk up to St. Paul’s ruins and take a right up the path to the fortress. Bang – free view of the epic Macau Skyline.

2. Sao Paulo, Brazil – Head to the Edificio Italia between 3 – 4pm for a free view of the city. Outside those times you’ll need to buy a drink or a meal in the restaurant.

3. Belfast, Northern Ireland – Head up to Cavehill on the road to Belfast Zoo to see the Northern Irish capital in all its glory. Also in the city centre head to Victoria Square.

4. Caracas, Venezuela – Take the FREE Cable Car the Metrocable de San Agustin for a view and ride at height over ones of the world’s most horrible cities!

5. Quito, Ecuador – A few options here but the city library offers free entry and great views over the Plaza Grande.

6. Guangzhou, China – Head to Yue Xie Park and up to the Sun Yat Sen monument for a skyline view (though slightly obscured by trees it’s still FREE).

7. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Get up early and head to the Petronas Twin Towers. If you join the queue to go up around 8am you get up for free for excellent views.

8. Brisbane, Australia – Head out of the city to Mount Cootha for awesome views.

9. Cebu, The Philippines – Go to the Sky Walk on the 38th floor of the Crown Regency Hotel. Just go up in the lift and check out the views! No obligation to pay in at all!

10. Hong Kong – Go hiking in Kowloon for epic views with a difference. I recently did the Bauhinia Trail in Lam Tin which offers cracking views over Tseung Kwan O.

Tseung Kwan O Hong Kong free view

On the Bauhinia Trail in Lam Tin checking out the FREE view of Tseung Kwan O!

By the way life wasn’t always about FREE city skyline views, I have paid to go up the Empire State Building, the Cathedral in Hamburg, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, CN Tower, Taipei 101 and Auckland Tower. I’m not dissing those places you pay into at all as I loved them! I’m just helping fellow travellers save money and think outside the box. Thanks for reading today’s money saving tips. Safe travels one and all!

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