There’s no better way to take in the beauty of any city than to look down from a great height. That’s why, first and foremost, when visiting a new place, you should go to the tallest building in the area. It’s not only about the views (which most of the time are magnificent); a skyscraper itself is an important part of a city’s identity. Buildings tell us a lot about a country’s culture and represent the local community. Check out these ten famous, iconic and unique skyscrapers you can visit in the world.
What is a skyscraper?
To be clear, not every tall building is a skyscraper. To qualify as a true “skyscraper”, a structure must be self-supporting and it has to be 50% occupied. What’s more, a “skyscraper” must rise to a minimum height of 150 meters (492 feet).
How we made this list
To create this list of the best skyscrapers to visit in the world, we aggregated listings made by Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler and CNN. We also looked at the list of the most influential buildings in the world and the data provided by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
Holding a Guinness World Record was an important factor too. Last but not least, an obligatory criterion was that there must be something to visit in the skyscraper, whether an observation deck, bar or restaurant.
1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE – The tallest building in the world
Burj Khalifa has held the title of the tallest building in the world since 2010. Even the word gigantic can hardly describe it, since the skyscraper is more than twice as tall as the Empire State Building in New York.
Besides holding the Guinness world record for the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa holds many other world records, including the tallest man-made structure, highest restaurant and bar, highest outdoor observation deck, tallest elevator, and so on. Some respected websites also claimed that Burj Khalifa is home to the world’s highest mosque, but it’s not exactly the truth.
Standing at 828 meters (2,722 feet) tall, the skyscraper was originally named Burj Dubai, but was later renamed in honor of Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates.
The design of Burj Khalifa was inspired by Islamic architecture, specifically the Great Mosque of Samarra.
The Burj Khalifa has two observation decks. The lower deck is located on floors 124 and 125 and is called “At the Top”. At 452 meters (1,483 feet), it was the world’s highest observation deck when it opened in 2010. In 2014, the Burj Khalifa opened a new deck “At the Top Sky” on the 148th floor. At 555 meters (1,821 feet) it’s the highest outdoor observation deck in the world.
The World’s Highest Lounge
If you want to skip the crowds and get even higher, buy VIP tickets and go to The Lounge. Situated at 585 meters (1,919 feet), it’s the highest lounge in the world. It covers floors 152, 153 and 154 and offers two experiences: Tea in the clouds and Bubbly sundowner. The first one gives you the ability to enjoy the views while tasting desserts and drinking coffee during the day. The second one is for sunsets and night view lovers.
At.mosphere – The World’s Highest Restaurant
If you don’t want to pay for a ticket to the observation deck, you can visit At.mosphere, a restaurant located on Level 122. At 442 meters (1450 feet ) above ground, it’s the highest restaurant in the world. Though you won’t save money by choosing “At.mosphere” over “At the Top” observation deck, as the restaurant is not cheap. And by “not cheap” I actually mean very expensive.
Armani Hotel Dubai
For a more luxurious experience, you can stay at the Armani Hotel Dubai. Designed by fashion icon Giorgio Armani, the hotel occupies the first eight and then 38th and 39th floors. Armani Dubai also features a world-class spa and several restaurants that offer different cuisines, including Japanese, Italian, Indian and European.
The Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain is located right outside the Burj Khalifa. It’s the tallest performing fountain in the world. More 270 meters (900 feet) long, the fountain shoots water 150 meters (500 feet) into the air. Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors, the Dubai Fountain offers an unforgettable water, music and light experience.
2. Empire State Building, NYC, US – The most famous skyscraper in the world
New York City is best known as the city of skyscrapers. In fact, NYC has close to 300 buildings that are 150 meters (492 ft) or more tall, which makes it the 3rd city with the most skyscrapers in the world (only Hong Kong and Shenzhen boast more). And, of course, nothing defines the NYC skyline better than the Empire State Building.
The 381-meter (1,250 ft) Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world when it was built and it held that title for 40 years (from 1931 to 1971). Even now, despite being only the 46th tallest, it remains an icon of New York and one of the most popular landmarks in the world. Each year, the Empire State Building is visited by more than 4 million people from all over the world.
As an icon of NYC, the Empire State Building has been featured in more than 250 movies. The most well known are “King Kong,” “An Affair to Remember,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Independence Day” and “Elf”.
The Empire State Building is not only one of the most visited tourist attractions in NYC, but also a popular place to get engaged. Every year numerous couples enter the contest for the chance to win a dream wedding ceremony at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.
Empire State Building observation decks
The Empire State Building offers two observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors. Situated at 320 meters (1,050 feet), the 86th-floor observatory is an open-air terrace with 360-degree views. The deck is open during the winter too, as radiant heaters keep it warm.
Sixteen stories above, there is the 102nd Floor Observatory at a height of 381 meters (1,250 feet). Renovated and reopened in 2019, it gives visitors a 360-degree view of the city through large floor-to-ceiling windows.
On a clear day, it’s possible to see six states, namely New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Delaware, from the observatories.
3. Shanghai Tower, Shanghai, China – The highest observation deck and hotel
The 128-story Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in Asia and the second tallest in the world, just behind Burj Khalifa. The building also holds the Guinness World Record for the highest observation deck in the world. What’s more, it also has the world’s second-fastest elevators, which reach a top speed of 20.5 meters per second (74 km/h; 46 mph).
The features of the Shanghai Tower are really impressive, however, there are some doubts about the success of this building.
Shanghai Tower Observation Deck
Currently, visitors can only get tickets to the observation deck located on the 118th floor (546 m/1,791 ft). The 119th floor can also be accessed through a stairway connecting two floors. At 552 meters (1,811 feet), it is the world’s second-highest observation deck, being just 3 meters lower than the highest on the Burj Khalifa. The Guinness World Record observation deck that is located on the 121st floor will be available to the public in the future.
Hotel, Book Store and Michelin Star Restaurant
On the 68th floor of the Shanghai Tower is Maison Lameloise Shanghai, a Michelin star restaurant. Opened in May 2018, the French fine dining restaurant offers spectacular views over Shanghai and the Bund, and diners can sample the cuisine of Eric Pras, a master chef from Burgundy, France.
Shanghai Tower is also the home of the highest books store in the world. Duoyun Bookstore, located on the 52nd floor of the building, occupies more than 2,200 square meters and has more than 60,000 books to offer. At a height of 239 meters (784 feet), visitors can purchase their favorite books and also enjoy an amazing panoramic view of Shanghai.
Shanghai Tower J-Hotel, located on the 84th-110th floor of the Shanghai Tower, claims to be the highest hotel in the world. Opened on June 19, 2021, it surpassed the Ritz Carlton in the Hong Kong International Commercial Center.
4. The Shard, London, UK – The most impressive skyscraper in Europe
At 310 meters (1,017 feet) and with 96 floors, The Shard is the tallest building in both the UK and Western Europe. Since opening in 2013, the building has become one of the greatest tourist attractions in London.
The British capital is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and there’s no better way to appreciate the city’s historical landmarks than visiting The View, The Shard’s observation deck.
The View from The Shard
The View from The Shard offers the best views of the London skyline from two observation decks: an indoor deck on the 69th floor and an open-air deck on the 72nd floor. The one on the 72nd floor is the highest publicly accessible spot of The Shard. From a height of 244 meters (801 feet), visitors can feast their eyes on the most iconic landmarks of the British capital, including the London Eye, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
If you can’t find a landmark, no problem, use the high-tech digital telescopes, called Tell:scopes. They will help you identify more than 200 landmarks of London and give you a chance to see pre-recorded day and night views of the city.
The View from The Shard is undoubtedly the best observation deck in London. It’s almost twice as high as any other platform in the city and offers views of up to 64 km (40 miles). In contrast, the famous London Eye allows you to see 48 km (30 miles).
Free option to visit The Shard – GŎNG Bar
If you want to enjoy a drink with a view, consider visiting the GŎNG Bar on the 52nd floor. It’s the highest hotel bar in Europe. The best part is that you’ll be able to visit The Shard just for the price of a drink.
Premium option – Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, London
Those who are looking for a luxury experience can stay at the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel. Situated on floors 34-52, the hotel offers rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide magnificent views of London. Moreover, visitors can take a swim in the highest pool in Western Europe, located on the 52nd floor of The Shard.
5. Landmark 81, HCMC, Vietnam – The tallest building in Southeast Asia
With 81 floors and 461.2 meters (1,513 ft) high, Landmark 81 is the tallest building in Southeast Asia and the 15th tallest in the world. Completed in 2018 the skyscraper surpassed another building on our list – the Petronas Twin Towers by 10 meters and has unarguably become a must-visit destination in Ho Chi Minh City.
Landmark 81 is located in the Binh Thanh district, which is next to the Saigon river in the center of the area known as Vinhomes Central Park. The park, inspired by New York City’s Central Park, is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City and be surrounded by greenery.
Landmark 81 Skyview Observation Deck
The Landmark 81 observation deck, named Skyview, stretches across the three highest floors of the building – from the 79th to 81st. It’s the highest observation deck in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, with a height of 461.2 meters.
Each floor offers unique facilities, from cocktails or coffee to virtual reality games. As all of the walls on these floors are made from glass, visitors can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of Ho Chi Minh City. On the 81st floor is an open-air terrace called SkyTouch, where the bravest can step onto the SkyTouch Bridge and not only enjoy spectacular views of the city but also feel the wind and air at more than 380 meters height.
Free option to visit Landmark 81 – The Blank Lounge
If you don’t want to pay for visiting the Skyview observation deck, you can visit The Blank Lounge and Bar. Located on the 75-76th floors of Landmark 81 is the highest bar in South East Asia. So you can just buy a beer or cocktail for 6-10 USD and enjoy panoramic views of Ho Chi Minh City.
Premium option – Vinpearl Luxury Landmark 81 Hotel
If you want to get the maximum from Landmark 81, you can spend a night at Vinpearl Luxury Landmark 81 5 star hotel. Located from the 47th to the 77th floors, the hotel has 223 rooms to offer. The real treat there is a 1,000 square-meter wide infinity pool with stunning views of the Saigon River.
6. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The tallest twin towers in the world
The Petronas Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world between 1998 and 2004 when they were surpassed by Taipei 101 in Taiwan. However, the Petronas Towers remain the tallest twin towers in the world. What’s more, the Skybridge on the 41st and 42nd floors is the highest 2-story bridge in the world at more than 170 meters (558 ft) in height.
The Petronas Twin Towers changed the skyline of Kuala Lumpur and became the most iconic buildings in Malaysia. It is also a symbol of postmodern Islamic architecture. The design of the towers is based on Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, creating a shape of an eight-pointed star. Number eight symbolizes good fortune and is used in other aspects of the Petronas Towers too. For example, each building has 88 floors.
Petronas Twin Towers Observation Deck and SkyBridge
Located on the 86th floor of both towers, the observation deck allows visitors to enjoy the Kuala Lumpur panorama from 370 meters above the ground. There are also AR screens and digital displays that provide information about the building’s structure, history and more.
Visitors can also see the views of the city from the Skybridge, which connects the two towers. As we already mentioned, it is the highest 2-story bridge in the world. The bridge is 58.4 meters (192 ft) long and allows visitors to walk between the two towers. The Skybridge also forms the letter “M” for Malaysia and works as a stabilizing structure.
7. Willis Tower, Chicago, US – The highest observation deck in the United States
Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is the most iconic building in Chicago. The first trip to Chicago would be incomplete without a visit to the Willis Tower. It’s like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.
From 1978 to 1998, the 443-meter (1.450 feet) Willis Tower was the tallest building in the world surpassed by the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia. Today, the skyscraper is the 23rd tallest in the world and the 3rd tallest in North America.
Skydeck and The Ledge
On the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower at 412 meters (1,353 feet), the tower’s viewing platform (Skydeck) is located. It’s the highest observation deck in the USA, as the One World Trade Center’s observation deck is 26 cm (10 inches) lower.
On a clear day, the visibility from the Skydeck is about 65-80 kilometers (40-50 miles) and visitors can see four states – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.The highlight of the Skydeck is The Ledge. Opened in 2009, The Ledge is a glass floor balcony that extends out 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) from the Skydeck. It was inspired by an iconic movie scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the many forehead prints visitors left on the Skydeck’s windows. By the way, don’t worry, it’s safe to walk on The Ledge, as it can hold up to 4,500kg (10,000 pounds).
8. Lotte World Tower, Seoul, South Korea – The highest glass-floor observation deck
At 555 meters (1820 feet), the Lotte World Tower is the 5th tallest building in the world and the 3rd tallest building in Asia. The 123-storey skyscraper holds two Guinness World Records and is the best place to get a birds-eye view of the capital city of South Korea. The Lotte World Tower is also a popular tourist destination, receiving about 13 million visitors each year.
The Seoul Sky Observatory
Seoul is one of the largest cities in the world, so it’s really hard to comprehend the vastness of this metropolis on the ground. However, there are many observation decks in the city that make it possible to really see how huge Seoul is and none of them give you a better view than the Seoul Sky Observatory.
Seoul Sky occupies 7 floors (117th to 123rd floor) of the building.
On the 120th floor, at 486 meters (1,594 feet), there’s an observation deck, called Sky Terrace. It’s the 5th highest observation deck in the world. An outdoor viewing platform offers a 360-degree view of the city. On a clear day, it’s even possible to see the nearby city Incheon and the Yellow Sea.
But it’s not all you can experience there. Those who want to feel like they’re walking on air should go to floors 118-119, where the highest glass-floor observation deck in the world is located. This is the perfect place to test whether you have acrophobia (the fear of heights).
If not, maybe, you could try the newest attraction – the Sky Bride Tour. Launched in 2020, the tour allows visitors to walk above the Seoul Sky Observatory across a bridge connecting the two structures at the peak of the Lotte World Tower. The bridge is 541 meters (1775 feet) above the ground and 11 meters (36 feet) long.
Sky Shuttle Elevator
The Lotte World Tower also holds the Guinness World Record of the tallest double-deck elevator. The elevator, called the Sky Shuttle, travels 117 floors in less than a minute. That’s a crazy speed of 10 meters (33 feet) per second!
Premium option – Signiel Seoul Hotel
If you really want to immerse yourself in the Lotte World Tower experience, you can stay at the Signiel Seoul 5 star hotel. You can choose one of 235 rooms located between floors 76 and 101. On the 85th floor, there’s a swimming pool, which is the highest swimming pool in South Korea.
9. International Commerce Center, Hong Kong – The highest pool and bar in the world
At 484 meters (1,588 feet), the International Commerce Center (ICC) is the tallest building in Hong Kong and the 12th tallest in the world. The official website of the skyscraper claims that it is a 118-storey building, but, in fact, it only has 108 floors. Because of tetraphobia (which is widespread in Hong Kong), all of the floors that would include the number “4” (4,14,24, etc.) have been omitted.
But that is not the reason why we added ICC to our list. There are a few things that make the International Commerce Centre special, since there you can find the world’s highest hotel bar and swimming pool.
The highest swimming pool in the world
Ever wondered how it would feel to swim in the clouds? Well, on the hotel’s top floor is the highest swimming pool in the world, so you can find out for yourself. The huge pool, with a mirrored ceiling and high-resolution LED wall, offers breathtaking views of the famous Victoria Harbour. Besides the swimming pool, you can also relax in an indoor and outdoor jacuzzi.
Ozone – The highest hotel bar in the world
Try googling “The highest bar in the world” and you’ll see that most articles claim that Ozone, in the Ritz-Carlton, is the world’s highest bar. In fact, this is not true, as we already mentioned The Lounge in the Burj Khalifa holds the Guinness World Record holder as the highest bar in a building. However, being a few meters lower doesn’t make Ozone worse. In our opinion, it’s even better than The Lounge.
Located on the 118th floor, sitting in the bar transports you into a fantasy world high up in the clouds. The interior design, created by Japanese company Wonderwall, makes you feel that you really are in the Ozone Layer. The astonishing views of the city, unique interior and signature cocktails makes this indoor-meets-outdoor bar highly worth visiting when you’re in Hong Kong.
The Ritz Carlton
Located on the top floors (102nd – 118th) of the International Commerce Center, The Ritz Carlton was the highest hotel in the world until 2021 when J Hotel, Shanghai Tower was opened. It’s the best place to enjoy the Hong Kong skyline from the comfort of your hotel room. However, the stunning view is not the only thing the hotel can offer. The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong takes luxury to new heights in every possible way.
It has a spa center with the highest pool in the world, a fitness center, two Michelin-starred restaurants and the highest bar in the world, called Ozone. Guest rooms are nicely decorated and have flat-screen TVs, workstations and luxurious bedding.
The International Commerce Center also has an observation deck known as the Sky100 Observatory. Located on the 100th floor, the observation deck offers 360-degree panoramic views, interactive multimedia exhibits and fun-filled facilities.
10. Marina Bay Sands, Singapore – The world’s largest rooftop infinity pool
Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is the shortest skyscraper on our list with 57 floors and at 195 meters (640 feet) makes it only 1439th tallest in the world. However, although Marina Bay Sands lacks height, it’s still one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.
Located on the seafront near Singapore’s center, Marina Bay Sands creates an imaginary gateway to the city. The buildings’ design is also one of a kind, with three towers connected by the observation area in the form of a ship, known as Skypark, on their roofs.
SkyPark pool and observation deck
The Marina Bay Sands SkyPark is a roof like no other, featuring gardens, restaurants, jogging paths, an infinity pool and an observation deck. At 340 meters (1,120 feet) long, the SkyPark is longer than the Eiffel tower’s height.
The infinity pool is the jewel in the crown of the Marina Bay Sand and one of the most amazing swimming pools in the world. At 150 meters (492 feet) long (and the length of three Olympic-sized swimming pools), the pool is the world’s largest elevated infinity pool.
The problem is that only Marina Bay Sands hotel guests can access the Skypark and swim in this “endless” pool. However, you can still enjoy the 360-degree views of Singapore by visiting an observation deck available to the public. Visitors can buy tickets to the SkyPark Observation Deck and get the best view of the city’s magnificent skyline.