To see the world’s most vertical skylines, those which contain the tallest buildings and greatest feats in modern architecture, is like stepping into the future. Even though the first skyscraper opened in the late 1800s, the biggest and brightest skylines still give a sense of being ahead of their time. Standing at street level in any of the most impressive built environments, those big enough to place you at the bottom of a canyon of skyscrapers, is truly a humbling, inspiring and exhilirating experience. These eight cities contain the world’s most impressive and modern skylines.
Photo by Justin Elson, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Hong Kong’s skyline is as dense as it is tall and when you see it in person, you can almost feel the energy of the city pulsating from it. It contains more than 7,500 high-rise buildings flanked by the mountains and standing at the foot of Victoria Harbour. There are numerous vantage points that offer an all-encompassing view of this city’s world-famous skyline, including from the top of Victoria Peak (pictured). Another not-to-miss view is from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade across Victoria Harbour during the evening Symphony of Lights show, where nearly 50 skyscrapers ignite in a synchronized light and music show.
Photo by KayYen, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
It’s hard to argue any skyline is more famous than New York City’s. It’s home to more than 6,000 high-rise buildings and growing, the majority of which are packed into Manhattan. While most visitors will flock to the iconic observation deck at the Empire State Building, the views from the Top of the Rock at Rockfellar Center should not be missed.
Photo by Jason Mrachina, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Shanghai is not only home to nearly 7,000 high-rise buildings, including the world’s third tallest, its skyline is one of the most unique and futuristic. From the twisting Shanghai Tower to the bulbous Oriental Pearl Tower and the stratosphere-reaching Shanghai Financial Tower, it’s a skyline not to miss. Most of the city’s skyscrapers are in the Pudong district, so the best views are from across the water in an area known as the Bund.
Photo by Miroslav Petrasko, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
While the Dubai skyline has significantly less high-rise buildings than the others on this list, less than a 1,000 to be exact, it deserves recognition for the heights it quite literally has reached. Home to the world’s tallest skyscraper and tallest residential tower, the city’s small footprint packs quite the punch. Dubai’s skyline is also considerably young. The first high-rise wasn’t completed until 1979. For panoramic views of the city visit the 148th-floor outdoor observation deck (the highest in the world) at the Burj Khalifa.
Photo by inefekt69, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Tokyo’s skyline bursts with color, light and motion. Think New York’s Times Square amplified and you have a pretty good sense of what it’s like to walk through the streets of Japan’s bustling capital. The recently-opened Skytree is currently the tallest tower in the world and has two observation decks, the tallest of which offers views from 1,480 feet above the city. Mori Tower, part of the popular Roppongi Hills development, gives panoramic views from its Tokyo City View observatory (pictured) near the tower’s top.
Photo by Joe Price, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Paris’ skyline isn’t particularly large by international standards, but it’s currently the largest in the European Union. Its 17 skyscrapers make quite the statement standing inline with the Eiffel Tower and jutting out from the older parts of the city, giving it a new-meets-old juxtaposition. You’ll get a good look of the skyline from the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, but if you’re looking for a view that includes Paris’ most iconic (and tallest) structure then head to the south tower of Notre-Dame. From there you’ll be able to see the Eiffel Tower, La Défense and more. The 58-story Tour Montparnasse also offers incredible views from its observatory on the 56th floor.
Photo by Mac Qin, CC BY-ND 2.0
The most iconic structure in Singapore’s towering skyline is Marina Bay Sands Resort. The famous infinity pool at the top of the resort offers its guests a can’t-be-beat view of the city. For those staying elsewhere in Singapore, head to the Marina Bay waterfront for some of the best street-level views, including these vertical icons like the famous Merlion, the durian-shaped Esplanade and the ArtScience Museum. Those looking for a drink with their view, visit 1-Altitude for an bird’s-eye perspective on Singapore’s Central Business District.
Photo by Anh Dinh, CC BY-NC 2.0
Chicago is arguably the first city to go vertical, it was home to the world’s first skyscraper, and today it contains one of the most beautiful modern skylines on the planet. There are a handful of observatories and restaurants near the top of its most iconic buildings that offer great vantage points, including the Skydeck at Willis Tower (pictured at the top), the Signature Room and 360 Chicago at the John Hancock building, as well as Cite atop Lake Point Tower. All offer panoramic views from the heart of the city. But to see Chicago’s skyline in its entirety, visit Museum Campus along Lake Michigan (pictured). Not only is it home to some of Chicago’s best museums, it also offers one of the best views of of the skyline.
Top photo: Shutter Runner, CC BY-NC 2.0
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.