Where trouble melts like lemon drops, high above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find us, soaking up the world’s best urban sunsets.
You need two good things for a sunset. A great view, and a westward-looking trajectory. Get those two right, though, and nature isn’t guaranteed to oblige. Yes, the sun will most definitely set, but the clouds mightn’t part. But here’s the ironic twist – cities, with their smoke, smog and dust – actually increase the potential for a multicolored display: all those hydrocarbons are obviously good for something after all.
But ultimately, you need to shake the city off – climb above the rooftops, and get above it all, to capture the best show in town. And we’ve tracked down seven of the best
Florida’s Gulf Coast reveals a succession of smart, year-round beach resorts, bristling with opportunities to enjoy the Sunshine State’s glorious weather, its warm clear waters, and its incredible sunsets. At the Port of Tampa, you’ll find a string of upscale restaurants and bars, and no shortage of pleasure cruisers ready to take you for a sunset cruise into the Gulf. But for the best sunsets, head over the 275 Bridge to St Pete Beach/Clearwater – a long strip of Blue Flag bathing and sands. Do what the locals do – every evening, they’ll stake out their place on the sands, with a picnic and some liquid refreshment, to enjoy the orange, pink and deep russet lightshow, as the sun sinks into the Gulf. Away from the crowds, Fort De Soto’s natural parkland, cycle paths and uncluttered sands offer sunsets and silence. Bliss.
Rising from a long-dormant volcanic system, Edinburgh does views spectacularly well, whether it’s from Calton Hill – site of an unfinished Acropolis-style memorial (the National Monument) – or the daddy of them all, Edinburgh Castle, perched atop a sheer, cliff-faced escarpment. But, for our money, it’s worth trekking just a little further from the city centre – to the other end of the Royal Mile – to climb Arthur’s Seat. The sunset bathes the warm stone of the Old Town in a glorious golden light – and on a good day you can even see as far as Glasgow. The easiest way to the summit is to start at the car park adjacent to Holyrood Palace. From there, take Queens drive to Dunsapie loch, from where paths lead to the summit. Don’t forget to take a torch for the way down.
Berlin does great sunsets, but the best vantage point by far has to be the Tempelhofer Freiheit. Once a busy airport, since 2008 it’s been used as a festival ground, racing track and skating centre. Now it’s a vast city park. And, thanks to its former use, it’s an incredibly flat expanse of open ground, just to the south of central Berlin. It’s the closest you’re going to get to see the sort of horizon sunset you only get at sea, right in the heart of a city. Try the entrance closest to Boddinstrasse or Leinestrasse U-bahn, bring a picnic and wait: summer sunsets in Berlin are long, leisurely and really beautiful. Grab a patch of grass on the incline overlooking the park towards the terminal building. Or hire a bike, and ride off into the sunset!
SANTA MONICA, LOS ANGELES
All Sheryl Crow might wanna do is have some fun until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard. But we’d suggest she takes the highway to the coast, to watch the sun set over this city by the sea, west of Downtown Los Angeles. This Pacific coast playground offers perfect sunset-seeking opportunities. Pretty Palisades Park enjoys great views over the ocean, with those all-important strategically placed benches to stake out the best show in town. But we love the city Pier, with its old school amusement park, Ferris wheel and 100-year old carousel, complete with garishly painted ponies. Then again, Muscle Beach offers you sunsets with a side order of flexing, if that’s your thing.
Befitting mainland Europe’s westernmost capital, Lisbon is a tremendous sunset city. But it’s as much to do with its topography as its geography. The vertiginous slopes of the Alfama, the old town, rising above the Tagus river offer the best city views. Keep your eyes peeled for the Miradouros – lookout points – on the way up to the castle, for the best city panoramas. But for the ultimate day’s end experience, take a 40 drive west, along the Lisbon riviera, past Belem, with its imposing tower (another good sunset spot) and charming Cascais, to Cabo da Roca lighthouse, a lonely cape at the westernmost flourish of mainland Portugal. Here you’ll experience the very last sunset in Europe, and it’s almost always worth travelling that little bit further to see. There’s a charmingly retro cafe here too, for a sunset sundowner with a view.
The Taj Mahal looks spellbinding in any light (and if you’re an early bird, it’s worth trying to catch it at sunrise) but the world’s most beautiful mausoleum glows gold, pink and orange as the sun sets over the Yamuna River. For the best views, we’d suggest escaping the tour parties and crowds at the site itself and head to the other bank of the river, to the Mehtab Bagh (the hibiscus and citrus tree-lined Midnight Garden). From here, you’ll see the sun set behind the white marble of the Taj Mahal or, in the other direction, the red bricks of the magnificent Agra Fort complex. You might be sharing the experience with some wallowing water buffalo at the river’s edge but that’s a good thing, right?
Peru’s hectic, colorful, colonial-era capital is a city by the sea, but raised aloft from it: its ocean drive, the Malecón, is a six-mile long Pacific-front boardwalk, perched high above the waves and the mist rolling in from the ocean. Here, above the vertical cliffs, lies a series of parks, punctuated with public art, paths and spectacular views. They’re at their best in the upscale Miraflores district, complete with shopping, dining and entertainment complexes. Watch the surfers tackle the huge waves, or grab a table (and dinner) at one of the fabulous restaurants offering traditional Peruvian food. Try the Larcomar complex in the heart of Miraflores. Most restaurants here know that the sunsets- after that delicious food – is the second best thing on their menu.
Of course, if you’re in Iceland in mid summer, you’ll have to wait an awfully long time to catch the sunset (and, not long after that, the sunrise!) but the sunsets of the far north really are something else. Yes, they’re great in the city – along the Sæbraut road at the coast, you’ll find the Sun Voyager sculpture – a vaguely Viking-looking longboat. It’s a good spot for a sunset, as is the swanky Perlan restaurant, revolving slowly above the city. But you’ll find us heading to breezy Seltjarnarnes, 5km west of the city centre (about a 40 minute walk along the coast), with the offshore island of Grótta, accessible at low tide, and its lighthouse standing sentinel above the crashing waves of the North Atlantic. The views across the fjords are spectacular, and the sunsets, like the country itself, are otherworldly. As we said, go in mid summer, and they seem to last forever.