When it comes to exploring a city, nothing quite beats getting in and amongst its twists and turns. However, to see the entire scope of those streets and alleyways, the only solution is to take to the skies and get a birds-eye view of the ever-changing maze of humanity.
Most cities now have huge skyscrapers that allow visitors the chance to do just that. Towering monuments to the engineering ingenuity of humans with dedicated viewing decks that open up to reveal views of horizons previous generations could only dream of. There is no end of cities that look incredible from above, but here are 10 of the best.
10 The Shard, London
One of the most incredible cities to be seen from a great height due to its remarkable blending of ancient history with modern marvels, London boasts several locations that grant a panoramic and breathtaking view of all the city has to offer.
The Shard, however, dominates the skyline. It is not only the tallest building in the United Kingdom, but also holds the title of the fifth tallest in all of Europe. Standing at an imposing 1,016 feet, it is a behemoth of 21st Century construction and features an indoor viewing deck on the 69th floor and an open-air deck on the 72nd. Quite literally in the clouds some (most) days, there is no better place to cast an eye over the British capital.
9 One World Trade Center, New York City
Finally reaching its pinnacle at 1,776 feet above Manhattan, One World Trade is a building that defiantly rises above the city as a beacon of freedom and hope in the aftermath of the deadly attacks of 2001.
It takes the elevator just 42 seconds to reach the 102nd floor where visitors can enjoy floor to ceiling windows that broadcast the city that never sleeps on an endless loop. The iconic city has featured so many times on television and in movies that one begins to feel like they have already visited without ever actually going, but this view is something that has to seen in person to be believed.
8 Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur
The Petronas Towers in the Malaysian capital held the coveted distinction of world's tallest buildings between the years of 1998 and 2004. This was no accident given they were designed to represent the country’s culture and advancement on the world stage.
There are two ways to enjoy the spectacular views granted by these towers today: The Skybridge linking the buildings and a dedicated observation deck. The bridge still holds the title of world’s tallest two-story bridge. The observation deck on level 86 may not be the highest any longer but it remains every little bit as amazing as it the day it opened.
7 John Hancock Centre, Chicago
A glorious feature of the Chicago skyline since 1969, the John Hancock Centre comes in at a satisfying 100 floors that span 1,128 feet of vertical space and welcomes visitors to its 94th-floor observation deck offering a 360-degree view of the beautiful city.
2014 saw the addition of an attraction named ‘Tilt,’ which does exactly what the title suggests. Visitors can place themselves on a series of floor to ceiling windows that slowly tilt 30 degrees out of the building. It is equal parts terrifying and wondrous, so this experience is not for the faint of heart.
6 Gran Torre Santiago, Santiago
The tallest building in Latin America and second tallest in the Southern Hemisphere, Gran Torre Santiago opened its observation deck to the public in 2015. Sporting a 360-degree view of the surrounding city, there is no better place in South America to get lost amongst the clouds.
Visitors will be able to look to the horizon and take in the vast Andes Mountains as they cast a shadow over the surrounding terrain. Somehow, the experience of Gran Torre is one that reminds us how small we are while also inspiring us to feel bigger than the bodies we inhabit.
5 Lotte World Tower, Seoul
The sixth tallest building in the world, Lotte World Tower is the result of 13 years planning and preparation followed by six years of groundbreaking assembly that eventually saw the building open in 2017.
The observation deck has stunning glass windows that measure two stories tall and frame the incredible city of Seoul for visitors to soak in. There is also an option on the 120th floor to feel the elevated air against your face on the outdoor observation area and wine-lovers can even enjoy a glass in the lounge on the 123rd floor.
4 Taipei 101, Taipei
Officially the tallest building in the world until the construction of the Burj Khalifa in 2010, Taipei 101 now holds the environmental distinction of world’s tallest green building.
Sitting on the 89th floor is an indoor observation deck and two floors higher rests the outdoor option. Taipei is a vast, sprawling metropolis that is simply stunning from above and viewers will be awestruck by the forest-covered mountains able to be seen from this magical building.
3 Tour Montparnasse, Paris
Often criticized for its simple design, it is more than fair to say that Tour Montparnasse is not an overly popular structure with the French people. So much so that since its completion, the construction of buildings over seven stories in the city center has been banned.
In spite of this, no one can deny the enchanting view that is created from the observation deck which opens up the entire city with unobstructed views of everything that defines Paris. At night the streets burst with life and this is the best place to see it all unfold while standing amongst the stars.
2 Grand Canyon Skywalk, Arizona
Unveiled in 2007, this horseshoe-shaped bridge extends over the hulking Grand Canyon and features a glass walkway that hovers above a 650-foot drop. One of the most visited tourist destinations in the world is now accessible like never before thanks to this tremble-inducing construction.
The old adage of ‘don’t look down’ is impossible to follow here because that is exactly what it is designed to encourage. There is no safe space for those with a fear of heights to look so it’s best to just keep staring forward and hope that creaking noise is nothing sinister.
1 Aurland Lookout, Norway
Stretching out over one of Norway’s largest fjords, this strange structure is often referred to as a ‘bridge into mid-air’ and it is a perfectly fitting description. Designed with tourism in mind, it sits nearly 2,000 feet above the picturesque landscape and features just a thin pane of glass at its completion to stop any careless wanderers toppling over.
The striking structure was designed by renowned architects in 2005 and although it is constructed almost completely out of wood and absolutely intended to scare visitors, they are adamant it is perfectly safe so don’t think twice as you slowly edge your way towards its sheer drop.