These Are the World’s Most Jaw-dropping Skyscraper Observation Decks
Rising triumphantly out of the ground, skyscrapers are an important part of a city’s identity. Physically, they give people a point of reference, usually identifying the center of a city or its downtown area. They also give people a sense of pride, as skyscrapers represent their community to the world. They’re symbols of power, wealth, commerce, and even freedom or hope.
The best part of a skyscraper is getting to the top. Many of the world’s tallest buildings have incredible observation decks that let visitors view a city from an entirely new perspective. “It used to be that just having a space up high was enough,” William Baker, the structural engineer behind the Burj Khalifa, told Travel + Leisure. But observation decks are now more than just a window to the world, they’re full-on experiences with adrenaline producing ledges, bespoke cocktails, yoga, and Instagram-worthy photo ops.
To be clear, not every structure with an observation deck is a skyscraper. “The Council on Tall Buildings says it has to be 50% occupied to be on the building list instead of the tower list,” Baker said. Meaning that Toronto’s CN Tower, which has an observation deck, isn’t considered a skyscraper because there isn’t anything in the middle
To celebrate Skyscraper Day, which happens annually on September 3, we’ve gathered the most insane skyscraper observation decks for you to experience right now, from glass slides jutting out over Los Angeles to wine bars more than 1,000 feet up. And if you’ve already checked these off your list, don’t fret, new ones are currently in the works. According to Baker, “the future of skyscrapers is very robust.”
Burj Khalifa: Dubai, UAE
The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa towers 160 stories above the cosmopolitan metropolis of Dubai. For a luxury experience opt for the “Sky” package, which includes a private tour guide, an interactive exhibit, and exclusive access to the building’s tallest observation deck located on the 148th floor. If that’s too high (in cost and height) the regular observation area is still staggeringly high, sitting on floors 124 and 125.
The Shard: London, England
Standing over London like a beautiful piece of broken glass, the Shard offers visitors insane views of London from two observation decks: an indoor deck on level 69 and an open-air deck on level 72. Known for its rainy days and foggy skies, the Shard gives guests the “London Landmark Guarantee,” so if you find yourself literally in the clouds you can come back on a day with clear skies.
One World Trade Center: New York City, New York, U.S.
Triumphantly rising 1,776 feet above New York City, One World Trade was designed to boldly revive the space left behind after the September 11th attacks. After a 47-second elevator ride to the 102nd floor, visitors are treated to floor-to-ceiling views of the incredible web of people, cars, streets, and buildings that make up New York City.
Petronas Towers: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004, the Petronas Twin Towers represent Malaysia’s “culture and advancement on the world stage.” Visitors can experience two different levels of the buildings: the world’s tallest two-story skybridge, that connects the two towers, and an observation deck on level 86.
Shanghai World Financial Center: Shanghai, China
If you’ve ever wanted to do Yoga 1,555 feet above the Earth, it’s time to make a trip to Shanghai. This supertall skyscraper, which opened in 2008, gives visitors the opportunity to float above the massive city of Shanghai, and if desired, practice their Warrior pose.
John Hancock Building: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
An “amazingly wonderful building” that provided much inspiration to engineer William Baker, the John Hancock Building is an iconic part of the Chicago skyline. The observation deck offers one of the most exciting ways to view the city: Tilt, a glass panel that literally tilts out and over the Magnificent Mile at a staggering 1,030 feet up. Baker, who has done the Tilt experience himself sums it up best, “It takes your breath away.”
Gran Torre: Santiago, Chile
The highest observation deck in South America, visitors can catch unobstructed views of Santiago and the impressive Andes mountains 984 feet off the ground. Open 365 days a year, a trip to the observation deck, Sky Costanera, might just make the perfect holiday outing.
International Commerce Center: Hong Kong
Hong Kong has one of the most iconic skylines in the world, but it’s tallest building actually sits across Victoria Harbor in Kowloon. That’s in your favor, though, because a trip to the 100th floor gives visitors a view of Hong Kong Islands dream cityscape from 1289 feet up.
Empire State Building: New York City, New York, U.S.
You don’t have to be King Kong to get a glimpse of New York City from the top of the Empire State Building. Hang on tight, the main observatory deck, located on the 86th floor, is New York’s highest open-air observatory, and it can get pretty windy up there. Head up even further, to the 102nd floor, and you’ll realize why New York City is one of the best of them all.
Lotte World Tower: Seoul, South Korea
The fifth tallest building in the world, Lotte World Tower’s Seoul Sky observation deck has two-story glass windows to give visitors a massive wall of glass to glimpse out upon South Korea’s Capital City. To expose yourself to the elements, hit up the 120th floor, or for an “elevated” glass of wine, head to the premium lounge on the 123rd.
U.S. Bank Tower: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Most people had to observation decks for the view, but Los Angeles likes to do things different. At the U.S. Bank Tower, visitors can “observe” the City of Angels by riding down a 45-foot, fully enclosed glass slide almost 1,000 feet above the ground. If that’s too much adrenaline, the building also unparalleled views that don’t require “Fear Factor”-level panic.
Willis Tower: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Another icon of the Windy City, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) gives adrenaline junkies a great opportunity to test their limits. On the 103rd floor guests can step out on “The Ledge,” a glass bottom balcony that’s not for the faint of heart. If you’d rather not stand on a piece of glass 1,353 feet in the air, the Skydeck still offers incredible views of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
Taipei 101: Taipei, Taiwan
The tallest green building in the world,Taipei 101 offers an indoor observatory deck on the 89th floor and an outdoor observatory on the 91st floor. But the real sight to see in this super-tall skyscraper is the wind damper. Suspended between the 92nd and 87th floor, the wind damper is a massive ball that’s designed to reduce the swaying of the building from the strong winds outside.
Shanghai Tower: Shanghai, China
The tallest building in China, and the second tallest in the world, the Shanghai Tower is a forced to be reckoned with when it comes to imposing buildings. From the observation deck on the 188th floor, visitors look down upon the Shanghai World Financial Center, and across the commerce center of China.
Tour Montparnasse: Paris, France
Okay, people love to hate Paris’ Tour Montparnasse, and many consider it a massive eyesore. While that may be true, the views from inside the building are some of the most incredible in the whole city. The observation deck offers unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower, which sparkles brilliantly at night. For a very special (and expensive) experience, book a window front table at Ciel de Paris, a panoramic restaurant located in the building.