The Tallest Buildings in the World (For Now)
As of this writing, just two buildings (with “building” meaning a structure built to be habitable) in the world stand taller than 2,000 feet high. In April 2013, construction began on a building that will top out at some 3,307 feet sometime around 2020. That’s nearly twice as tall as One World Trade Center, North America’s tallest skyscraper.
Countries all over the world—especially in Asia—are building upward. The current highest skyscraper clocks in at a lofty 2,717 feet tall. That’s over half a mile in the sky. The United States, though, has none of the skyscrapers in the top five, and only Chicago and New York City represent America in this list of 21. China makes a big showing, with Shanghai and Hong Kong in particular boasting steep skylines, and Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, stands tall as well. Here, the 21 tallest buildings in the world, in stunning photographs.
Chris Abell is an editorial producer at Travel+Leisure. You can follow him on Instagram at @buildingflavors.
21. Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai (1,380 feet)
Shanghai boasts three towers on this list. The Jin Mao Tower features retail and office space and hosts the Grand Hyatt Shanghai on floors 53 to 87 (it’s not even the highest hotel in Shanghai; we’ll get to that later in the slideshow). Cool fact? The building boasts the world’s longest laundry chute.
20. Trump International Hotel and Tower, Chicago (1,389 feet)
We will not go into politics here. We’ll just discuss the building. The Trump Tower is a recent addition to the Chicago skyline and enjoys a prime riverfront location right on ritzy Michigan Avenue. The mostly residential and hotel-dedicated skyscraper offers amazing views and, before plans were scaled back, was at one point slotted to become the world’s tallest building.
19. 432 Park Avenue, New York City (1,397 feet)
This building actually has the highest roof in New York City, but it doesn’t have a spire like the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center do. The whitish tower has 88 above-ground floors, 104 condominium units, and the title of “tallest residential building in the world.” We’re assuming it’s not a walkup.
18. Marina 101, Dubai (1,399 feet)
Sorry, 432 Park, your run as tallest residential building will be short-lived, as Dubai’s Marina 101(of the two tallest buildings in this shot, it's the one on the left still under construction) will take over once people actually move in (although NYC will get the title back once the Central Park Tower is completed). It’s been topped out; the 30-plus-story Hard Rock Hotel and luxury residences are being installed now.
17. Wuhan Center, Wuhan, China (1,437 feet)
Like Marina 101, Wuhan Center is topped out but not yet occupied. Set near both a lake and the Yangzhi River, it is inspired by and resembles a sailing vessel. Its sustainable design signals a growing focus on reducing pollution in China.
16. Guangzhou International Finance Center, Guangzhou, China (1,440 feet)
The third-largest city in China has its own version of twin towers, with this stunner being the shorter of the two. As you might guess from its name, it serves primarily as an office building, though it houses a high-in-the-sky Four Seasons. Like Wuhan Center, it’s got a sleek, rounded look.
15. KK100, Shenzhen, China (1,449 feet)
Kinda kool name, huh? The title is an abbreviation of owner and developer Kingkey Real Estate, which topped out the skyscraper in 2011. The slim, rounded design keeps up the Chinese trend. A St. Regis Hotel occupies the upper floors of this otherwise commercial building.
14. Willis Tower, Chicago (1,451 feet)
The Big Willie, as locals call it, was for years the tallest building in the world and known as the Sears Tower. No more, but it’s still the second-tallest in America and an icon of Chicago’s epic skyline. It’s little brother, the Hancock Tower, shares the pitchfork-top design associated with the Windy City.
13. Zifeng Tower, Nanjing (1,476 feet)
This spired tower was built specifically to withstand strong earthquakes. It has what resemble sections and looks a bit like some Tetris pieces stacked together. The tower is home to the InterContinental Nanjing.
11. (tie). Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur (1,483 feet)
The tallest set of twin towers in the world was actually the pair of the tallest buildings period from 1998 until 2004. The majestic skyscrapers ooze a distinctly Malaysian design and are connected by a two-story skybridge a full 558 feet above the ground. The towers provide office space and feature a large shopping mall below them.
10. International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong (1,588 feet)
The tallest building in one of the world’s most stunning skylines, the ICC has towered over Hong Kong since 2010. It’s far more than an office building: It hosts a shopping mall, a 101st-floor restaurant, and the highest hotel in the world: Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong (which has a bar and swimming pool on floor 118, making them both the highest of their kind as well).
9. Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai (1,614 feet)
Or as we like to call it, The Bottle Opener—though it wasn’t constructed to look like one. According to The Skyscraper Center, the tower was “shaped by the intersection of two sweeping arcs and a square prism—shapes representing ancient Chinese symbols of heaven and earth, respectively.” So that explains the unique design. The tower also hosts the world’s second-highest hotel, the Park Hyatt Shanghai.
8. Taipei 101, Taipei (1,670 feet)
This Taiwanese tower looks like a supertall pagoda and was the tallest building in the world upon its completion in 2004. Taipei 101 and the surrounding area put on a dazzling display every New Year, and it is the tallest building green building in the world (meaning it received LEED Platinum Certification).
7. CTF Finance Centre, Guangzhou, China (1,740 feet)
The taller and younger of Guangzhou’s twin towers, the CTF Finance Centre is set to house the new highest hotel in the world when Rosewood opens a facility on the top 16 floors in 2017. It and its “twin” are not identical; this design has more edges and rectangular themes than its counterpart.
6. One World Trade Center, New York City (1,776 feet)
The number 1,776 is no coincidence; built to symbolize freedom and resilience, One World Trade Center even stands at a patriotic height. With its spire, it stands as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and it rises up over New York’s 9/11 Memorial and is just across the street from Travel + Leisure’s headquarters.
5. Lotte World Tower, Seoul (1,823 feet)
This brand new skyscraper towers high over South Korea’s capital and hosts a wide variety of tenants ranging from movie theaters to an “officetel,” a mixed residential and commercial zone where people can both work and live. Like many newer skyscrapers, its design features a sleek focus on glass and metal.
4. Ping An Finance Centre, Shenzhen, China (1,965 feet)
This new stainless steel beauty evokes the classic streamlined-and-spired skyscraper look. It gives Shenzhen the second-tallest building in China. A smaller adjacent tower is currently under construction and will be connected to by a bridge.
3. Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower, Mecca (1,971 feet)
Also known as the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, this majestic work of architecture rises up in Islam’s holy city of Mecca, within walking distance of the Grand Mosque. The Abraj Al-Bait complex features several towers to house the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the city. The clock tower is the highest of them and displays the four largest and highest clock facades in the world.
2. Shanghai Tower, Shanghai (2,073 feet)
The second-tallest building in the world and the second to break the incredible 2,000-foot barrier. It’s a smooth, swirly, eco-friendly building—a sort of green Twizzler, you might say—and completes a trio of Shanghai towers on this list. It’s been called a “vertical city,” complete with “neighborhoods” and indoor gardens in addition to its variety of commercial, retail and hotel space.
1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai (2,717 feet)
And here we are at last, the tallest building in the world. Almost 700 feet taller than its closest competitor, the Burj Khalifa pierces the clouds and incorporates design influenced by the desert flower Hymenocallis and Islamic architecture. It houses the world’s highest nightclub, the world’s highest restaurant, and the world’s highest observation deck. And it is, for now at least, the tallest structure ever built.