View From the Bell Tower

View from the Cathedral, Freiburg Germany

When visiting a new city, one of the first things I like to do is climb up to a vantage point that helps me get my bearings on the streets below. In Europe, one of the best places to go is to the top of the bell tower in a cathedral, which are often centrally located and open to the public.

The Minster

On our first full day in Freiburg, Germany, where my sister and her husband live, we took the 209 spiral stairs to the top of the Minster Cathedral. This mixed Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral, started around 1200 and finished in 1330, is one of the oldest surviving churches in Europe. It was purposely spared the bombing raids of World War II, which leveled large sections of Freiburg.

My brother on the spiral staircase to the bell tower

From the Minster’s bell tower, we had a great view of the city. Freiburg has an extensive no-cars-allowed pedestrian zone in the center. The clear, cold Dreisam River runs through the middle of town and sparkling canals divert water from the main river throughout the city. To the east lies the Black Forest, to the south, Switzerland and to the west, France.

View to the North. My sister's apartment is near the church with the twin steeples.

The Hosanna bell, cast in 1258

Mortons overlooking Freiburg, photo by Nik

Europe isn’t the only place to climb bell towers for a view. When I was in Ecuador, I scaled the Basilica in Quito. The Basilica is a full size replica of Paris’ Notre Dame, rendered entirely in concrete. The climb to the top was harrowing, involving rickety ladders and narrow planks over sheer drops, but the view was worth it:

Birds eye view of Quito

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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6 Responses to View From the Bell Tower

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  5. Ken Woodrome says:

    Do you remember how many steps to the stop of the tower?

  6. Ken Woodrome says:

    Do you remember the number of steps to the top of the steeple in Frieburg Germany?

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