We all like a city with a sky-high skyline, a spectacular geographical setting or architecturally stunning horizon. Getting a bird’s-eye view from a cool vantage point is an essential way to get your bearings on a new destination.
Here’s our list of top 10 city skylines – in no particular order – and the locations you want to hit in order to drink in those glorious skyscraper (or low-rise) vistas.
Ah, New York, the city that invented the skyscraper – hang on, wasn’t that Chicago? Or St. Louis? Well, New York is the city that epitomises skyscraper glamour, holding the record for the world’s tallest building for almost a century, from the 1895 American Surety Building to the World Trade Center in 1972. Of course, the two buildings that cemented New York’s skyscraper reputation are the Art Deco Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. The Empire State Building’s observation deck is the ideal vantage point to view the Chrysler Building, and if you want to see the Empire State from a distance, your best bet is Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island are lit by forests of glowing skyscrapers, and the city puts on a spectacular choreographed laser light show every evening. The best vantage point is from ground level looking over to Hong Kong Island, beside the Star Ferry terminal in Kowloon. For a high-rise view, visit the Felix cocktail bar in the Peninsula Hotel – the astounding views are well worth the price of a G&T.
Two words: Petronas Towers. The pagoda-inspired towers held the world’s tallest title from 1998 to 2004, until edged out by Taipei 101. They’re still the tallest twin towers on the planet. The towers are linked by a Skybridge, for close-up views of the towers, and the shadows they cast, from the 42nd floor.
Chicago helped write the skyscraper blueprint, and the city boasts three of the top 5 tallest buildings in the USA – Willis/Sears Tower, the Trump Tower and the Aon Center. Skyscraper fans can spot gobsmackingly tall buildings at every turn, with the best views of the city’s serried ranks of towers being grabbed from the opposite side of Lake Michigan near the Adler Planetarium.
The current holder of the world’s tallest title is Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, overlooking Dubai Mall. The tower’s soaring spire stands head and shoulders above the brilliantly lit towers lining Sheikh Zayed Road, a sparkling showcase for contemporary styles in postmodernist towers over the last decade or so. The other building that adds magic to Dubai’s skyline is the sail-shaped tower of the Burj al Arab hotel, standing on its own island off the sands of Jumeirah Beach. On the 124th floor, the Burj Khalifa observation deck is the obvious choice for drinking in those Dubai views.
You won’t find many skyscrapers in central Paris – the obvious interloper being the monstrous Montparnasse Tower – and that’s why the city’s skyline is unique. From the basilica-topped hill of Montmartre to Notre Dame’s medieval towers and the emblematic Eiffel Tower, Paris is a captivating low-rise panorama of slate roofs and mansard windows, church spires, monuments and gardens. Of course, the best place to take in the views of Paris is from the 56th floor of Tour Montparnasse – so you don’t have to see it!
Corcovado with its statue of Christ the Redeemer and the city’s stunning seafront setting set Rio apart. High-rise buildings trickle down the hillsides to line those curving stretches of beach and fringe the surrounding mountains. And to grab those views? Head to Copacabana Beach or head out to Corcovado itself.
Istanbul’s setting alone gives the city a winning skyline, its hills crowned by minaret-ringed mosques and highlighted by architectural gems like the Galata Tower and Topkapi palace. Setting off the postcard views is the sparkling Bosphorus, the two shores linked by the Galata Bridge. You’ll grab the best views from the Suleymaniye Mosque, set strategically on Istanbul’s highest point.
With its waterfront setting ringed by skyscrapers and backed by mountains, Vancouver is an obvious candidate for skyline beauty. From today’s glistening glass towers to the baronial grandeur of the Hotel Vancouver, the city has plenty of vertical interest to please skyscraper fans and visitors alike. Getting a good view is easy – just head to the inner-urban greenery of Stanley Park.
You could argue that today’s skyscrapers originated in medieval Italy, when constantly warring factions led people to construct fortified towers for their homes. Cities like Bologna and Florence were once dotted with towers, but today the town that comes closest to providing a glimpse into that war-torn era of Guelfs versus Ghibellines is the Tuscan hilltop village of San Gimignano. There were once 70 of the foreboding-looking towers piercing the horizon, but today only just over a doz