View from the Top: Photos From the World's Most Iconic Landmarks
Upon arriving in a destination, an effective way to get the lay of the land is to look down on the city from above. Whether from the roof of a centuries-old cathedral, the summit of a mountain, or the observation deck of a skyscraper, these views can offer travelers a breathtaking new perspective on even the most popular tourist spots. Scared of heights? Get a vertigo fix without leaving your living room, with photos from the top of 21 landmarks around the world.
Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia
Thrill-seekers know the best view of Sydney’s famed Opera House comes from the top of Harbour Bridge. Climb to almost 440 feet above sea level for an unobstructed vista of the city below.
Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur
No trip to the Malaysian capital would be complete without an expedition to the top of these twin towers. Visit the observation deck on the 86th floor, or walk between the structures on the Skybridge, 557 feet above ground.
The Empire State Building in NYC
Once an airship docking station, the Empire State Building now stands as an icon in New York City’s skyline. Head up to the main observation deck on the 86th floor for expansive views of The Big Apple’s most notable landmarks. Then, kick your visit up a notch by taking the manually operated elevator to the 102nd-floor “Top Deck” where you can see up for 80 miles, depending on the weather.
For a truly vertigo-inducing visit to the Grand Canyon, take a stroll on the Skywalk, a glass-bottomed, horseshoe-shaped platform that extends over the western end of the natural wonder, nearly 4,000 feet above the floor.
The Shard, London
London's iconic, Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper offers visitors a view of the city skyline from 800 feet up. Once you’re at the top, pause for a snapshot, or, if you’re feeling peckish, a picnic.
Eiffel Tower in Paris
The most famous lookout in the City of Light got a bit of a makeover last fall with a new glass floor 187 feet above the ground. Stop your ascension there for breathtaking views of the city below or take the stairs one story up and reward yourself with a panoramic vista paired with a glass of champagne from the on-site bar.
The reward for summiting the highest peak on Earth? An otherworldly view of the mountain below.
Willis Tower in Chicago
Perhaps more commonly known by its former name—Sears Tower—Willis Tower gives tourists a new perspective the Windy City. Dare-devils should venture out on the “Ledge,” a glass box extending four feet from the Skydeck that gives the impression of hovering over thin air.
St. Peter's Basilica
After taking in the beauty of the Sistine Chapel, climb to the top of St. Peter’s Dome—a short 551 steps, but who’s counting—for another masterpiece: the view of Vatican City.
Climb to the top of the Incan citadel for this birds-eye view of the Peruvian UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Duomo in Florence
The only way to the top of the Duomo’s cupola is to scale its 463 steps—read: there’s no elevator—but visitors up for the climb will be rewarded with up-close views Giorgio Vasari's Last Judgment frescoes, and a scenic outlook onto all of Florence.
One World Trade Center
Opening at the end of May 2015 on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors of the newly crowned tallest building in the western hemisphere, One World Observatory sits approximately 1,250 feet above the street. Watch a virtual time-lapse of the evolution of New York City in the elevator on your way up, then stop by one of the three restaurants open to guests for a quick snack before taking in the view.
Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The highest point in Tennessee, Clingmans Dome offers visitors willing to make the climb 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains and beyond. On a clear day, hikers can see for 100 miles from the top.
Look down from the top of the Barcelona park to see Gaudi’s mosaic-tiled, gingerbread-esque design fantasy in full.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Tickets to the highest observation deck in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai will cost you upwards of 300 AED, but it’s a bargain considering you’ll get to skip the line to see the sunset from the tallest building in the world.
Great Wall of China
The Great Wall stretches for 5,500 miles across China with its highest point being in Beijing at Heita Mountain, about 5,000 feet above sea level.
Shanghai World Financial Centre
Located on the 100th floor of Shanghai’s World Financial Centre, the observatory offers visitors views of China’s largest city from 1,555 feet up.
Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio
If you don’t fancy yourself an extreme travel photographer à la Lee Thompson, you’ll have to take in the scene from the top of Christ the Redeemer from the comfort of your own home.
Aurland Lookout in Norway
With a striking minimalist design, Aurland Lookout towers almost 2,100 feet above the Sogn og Fjordane landscape.
A trip to the highest point in Burma’s ancient city of Bagan comes complete with scenes of thousands of Buddhist temples and stupas. For a full aerial view, book a hot-air balloon ride over the region.
Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
Space Needle in Seattle
Seattle’s most recognizable landmark offers visitors the chance to see the city from 520 feet above ground. Can’t make it to Washington? Check out the Space Needle’s webcam for a continuous view of The Emerald City.
Reverie Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City's splashiest newcomer is the Reverie Saigon, in the 39-floor Times Square building. The hotel’s style may not be for everyone: Rolls-Royce Phantom Dragons and Maybachs are the house cars, there’s a velvet-and-gold-leaf 10-seater couch in the lobby, and you’ll see marble and Murano glass everywhere. Yet somehow it works, particularly in the 286 spacious guest rooms, which balance the extravagance with cushy, all-white beds, free mini-bars, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river. The service is warm (every staff member greets you by name) and smart (log in just once for free Wi-Fi everywhere, even the elevators). The standout two-story spa is more serene and streamlined, but with salt-brick saunas and an underwater-speaker-equipped pool, it feels just as regal. Doubles from $350.