Sometimes to find the best views in a city, you have to do a lot more than just look up. From hidden rooftop gardens to famous attractions, Editor and Travel Writer Jillian Anthony discovers the most photogenic viewpoints in Lisbon, London, New York and Cancun. Add these sights, restaurants and hotel districts to your itinerary for a photo, meal or room with a view.

New York

Man looks at cityscape on Brooklyn bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

You’ve got to do the walk over this famous bridge (pictured) at least once, but be sure to go in the early morning or late at night to avoid the crowds that make strolling the tight walkways a challenge. The bridge has an undeniable romantic quality. You’ll get the best views from its centre where you can take in the lower Manhattan skyline on one side, the vast expanse of Brooklyn the other, the Staten Island Ferry passing by and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. After you’ve taken photographs, stroll over to Dumbo, a waterside Brooklyn neighbourhood where you can queue for Grimaldi’s Pizza (it’s worth it) and relax in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The High Line

A locals’ favourite, this three-mile-long, meandering park built along an above-ground railway line is a delight in any season. Trek along thin walkways through the trees, peeking out over the busy streets of Chelsea, and stop to recline on wooden lounge chairs built for two—it’s busy, but can still have the feeling of a secret passageway. At 10th Avenue and 17th Street, you’ll find a great lookout point with wooden seats and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall where you can enjoy the views and bustle of the city below. Come spring, explore rotating art projects, food (and a tiny bar) from vendors like Melt ice-cream sandwiches and Blue Bottle coffee, and public theatre and dance performances.

The Met’s Roof Garden Bar

The Met is one of New York’s most popular museums, but not everyone knows about its rooftop garden. As well as great views, each year brings a seasonal installation, so don’t forget to head to the very top floor where you can admire the art while sipping on a cocktail or munching on a light snack. The terrace’s up-close view of Central Park, surrounded by many of the city’s tallest skyscrapers, has an oasis-like feeling. Do expect a crowd, especially around sunset.

For great views, stay near: Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in Brooklyn

Lisbon

Skyline of Lisbon from Sao Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint

Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara

Get above it all with a funicular ride up to a garden with a serious view. This picturesque plaza (pictured)—filled with greenery, fountains and plenty of benches for lingering—is accessible by a two-minute ride on the Elevador de Glória, which has linked the neighbourhoods of Baixa to Bairro Alto since 1885. Once you’ve ascended the steep hill (you can walk, but be prepared for a challenge), stroll the plaza and take a seat at the outdoor cafe for sandwiches, pastries, coffee and cocktails. Look out on views of the River Tagus and the São Jorge Castle, its first fortifications were built around 48 BC and it looks like a castle straight out of a Disney film.

Miradouro das Portas do Sol

To really take in the architectural style of Lisbon (white, colonial-style exteriors with pointed red roofs), head to this overlook. It’s a good idea to walk here from Baixa after your visit to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara for an unbeatable sunset vantage point. Once darkness falls, head to rooftop nightlife venue Portas Do Sol for dinner, drinks and live DJs.

Café da Garagem

For those looking to kick back and stay awhile, or escape the tourist track, Café da Garagem at Teatro Taborda is a high-flying reprieve. The café has simple salads, sandwiches and cheese plates (and wine, of course) and doesn’t mind people camping out with laptops, but the real draws are the large glass windows offering an unencumbered view of the city below. Quaint decor like unique blown lamps and birdcages and a piano player make it a prime spot to curl up with a good book and people watch.

For great views, stay near: Alfama (pictured in main image)

London

View of London from the Sky Garden

Sky Garden

Want to experience the lush alien planet of Pandora? Sky Garden will get you that one step closer. Opened in 2015, the greenhouse in the clouds rises 25 floors above the sights below it. You can book a free ticket in advance to visit three floors of African Lilies, Birds of Paradise, herbs like French lavender and plenty of towering ferns. The floor-to-ceiling windows (pictured) provide spectacular views of the Tower of London, London Bridge, the Shard and the rest of the city sprawling out below you. There’s even a terrace, two restaurants and two bars, so you can spend the whole day in the sky.

Primrose Hill

Escape the bustle of city life for a picnic with a panoramic view right next to Regent’s Park (maybe before or after a trip to the nearby London Zoo). From your seat on a manicured lawn, you’ll see the tips of London’s skyline popping above the trees, but hear none of the fuss. Once you’ve had enough tranquillity, head to a café on nearby Regents Park Road or walk to buzzing Camden High Street to quickly be back in an area where pubs and restaurants reign.

London Eye

This popular landmark is famous for a reason. At 135m high, the London Eye was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world until 2006, when one in China took its title. Nevertheless, it’s a thrill to ride to the top. Perched on the edge of the River Thames, you’ll have an unrivalled bird’s-eye view of Big Ben, the people walking Westminster Bridge, and Buckingham Palace in the distance.

For great views, stay near: The district of Lambeth

Cancun

Sandy beaches in Cancuns Hotel Zone

Ultramar Ferry

When in a tropical paradise, why not go island-hopping? Book a ride on this large passenger boat, which will whisk you from the Hotel Zone, where most visitors stay, to Isla Mujeres. It’s one thing to look out over Mexico’s crystal-clear waters from the sand, but another to experience them from the ocean itself as the salty air whips through your hair.

Thai Lounge

Take a detour from Mexican food at this romantic Thai spot in the gorgeous La Isla Shopping village. Built over the lagoon (so it seems as though you’re sitting on top of the water itself), you can catch the brilliant sunset and dine in your own private hut. And if you eat in the bar and lounge area, dolphins from the attached aquarium will swim right by your table!

Torre Escencia

At Xcaret Park, a popular eco-park, you can pair epic adventures with epic views. Swim with dolphins, shoot down water slides and explore underwater caves, then ascend the rotating scenic tower, Torre Escencia, to get a panoramic view of Cancun 260 feet off the ground.

For great views, stay near: The Hotel Zone (pictured)

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