Recent decades have seen cities around the world race to build the tallest skyscraper. These physics-defying structures have shot up, and continue to do so, from Chicago to Shanghai since the second half of the 20th century. The list of tallest buildings seems to be in constant flux as new contenders break ground with hopes of breaking records, at least until the next super skyscraper is completed.
The seven skyscrapers on this list are all among the world’s tallest, and each has an observation deck open to the public. While their size can surely be surmised just from viewing them among their respected skylines, a view from the top (or near the top) is how you will really appreciate the true heights these buildings achieve.
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.
1 of 7
When it comes to the Petronas Towers, it's a two for one super structure. Located in Kuala Lumpur, these twin towers were the world's tallest from 1998 until 2004. Unlike the other buildings in this gallery, the Petronas Towers welcome visitors not to an observation floor, but rather a skybridge. The 2-story bridge, the highest in the world, is located between the towers on floors 41 and 42 at 558 feet above Malaysia's capital. For an extra fee, you can also visit the 86th floor of these 88-story towers.
Photo by Gavin Firkser, CC BY 2.0
2 of 7
At 2,717 feet, Dubai's Burj Khalifa reigns supreme among the world's tallest skyscrapers. It has held the record as tallest structure since it opened in 2010. The Burj has not one, but two observation decks open to visitors. At the Top, which is unique among most others on this list as it's outdoors, is located on the 125th floor at 1,483 feet. The second observatory, Burj Khalifa SKY, offers views from the 148th floor.
Photo by Royston Kane, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
3 of 7
After the One World Trade Center was completed, New York officially became home to the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Built to replace the World Trade Center, One World Trade Center is often referred to as Freedom Tower and its 1,776 feet is no coincidence. The height is an ode to the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. The 104-story building is home to a 3-story observation deck on floors 100 through 102. The One World Observatory has three restaurants, a souvenir shop, along with several other amenities.
Photo by Anthony Quintano, CC BY 2.0
4 of 7
The International Commerce Centre, ICC for short, towers over Hong Kong's West Kowloon at 1,588 feet. It was the world's fourth tallest building when it opened just more than six years ago, but has since dropped to 11th place. On the 100th floor of this 118-story tower you'll find Sky100, the building's 360-degree observatory that offers impressive views of surrounding Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and beyond. Better yet, head to the Ritz Carlton's Ozone bar located on the ICC's top floor, which promises spectacular views from its floor-to-ceiling windows.
Photo by Brian H.Y, CC BY-NC 2.0
5 of 7
Ranked number two among the world's tallest skyscrapers, Shanghai Tower soars above China's second biggest city at 2,073 feet tall. The 128-story building officially opened in 2015, but its observation decks didn't open until July of this year. Located on the 121st through 123rd floors, it's officially the world's highest observation deck. The recently-completed building holds several other honors, including China's highest swimming pool, restaurant and hotel lobby, as well as the fastest elevators...all for now.
Photo by Andy Miccone, CC0 1.0
6 of 7
Chicago's Willis Tower, or the Sears Tower for long-time locals, proudly ranked as the world's tallest building for some 25 years. It was an architectural marvel when it opened in 1974 and today remains a landmark within the city. The 108-story skyscraper is home to the Skydeck, an observatory that dares visitors to step into its all-glass balconies. The experience is not for the weak of heart, but doing so will grant you the sensation of floating 103 stories above Chicago's Loop. For those less comfortable with heights, the floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the rest of the observation deck offer more comfortable 306-degree views of Chicago and beyond, which includes Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan on a clear day.
Photo by Don Burkett, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
7 of 7
Taipei 101 held the honor of world's tallest building for several years before it was knocked from its spot at the top by the Burj Khalifa. It has since dropped to ninth place. The 101-story tower invites visitors to enjoy 360-degree views of surrounding Taipei from its 89th-floor indoor observation deck. There's also an outdoor observatory on the 91st floor at 1,285 feet above the city.
Photo by Sjekster, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0