An outline of land and buildings defined against the sky.
Iconic skylines can be found all around the world. Though it is impossible to say which is best, we’ve put together a list of our favourite. From the USA to China, each is unique but which is the most impressive?
Chicago, United States of America
Popularly known as the ‘Windy City,’ Chicago is the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. Built in 1885, The Home Insurance Building was the very first steel high-rise structure. Though it wasn’t the tallest structure in the world, it was the first example of a new form of engineering - one that would change nearly every city on earth. At the time, no-one predicted how popular the timeless design would be but today, the city is home to 19 skyscrapers over 200 metres tall (3 of which are among the tallest in the world).
Perhaps most famous of all buildings on Chicago’s skyline is the Willis Tower. Formerly known as Sears Tower, it once held the title of ‘tallest building in the world.’ Reaching a height of almost 442 metres, the skyscraper stands proudly alongside Trump Tower and John Hancock Tower. Chicago’s skyline reflects picturesquely on Lake Michigan, making it an excellent destination for keen photographers.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Home to arguably the best modern architecture in the world, Dubai’s skyline is exceptionally unique and offers plenty of photographic potential. Known as ‘the city of the future,’ this popular cruise destination is a metropolis of impossibly tall skyscrapers and uniquely shaped innovative structures.
Each structure is a marvel all of its own but Burj Khalifa is perhaps the most impressive. Acting as an exclamation mark on a skyline that has exploded over the last decade, the Burj Khalifa is both the tallest building and tallest structure in the world, at more than 822 metres. Neighbouring Burj al Arab is another highly recognisable Dubai structure. Sitting on a small artificial island only accessible via a short bridge, the building resembles the sail of a ship.
There are 33 structures in Dubai that are over 200 metres tall. All were built in 1999 or later which shows just how young this city is! Few places in the world have transformed as quickly as the Arabian Desert.
Hong Kong, China
A major seaport, financial centre and the business hub of Asia, Hong Kong towers over the Victoria Harbour. Known as the ‘world’s most vertical city,’ Hong Kong is home to 1,294 skyscrapers taller than 100 metres and 43 taller than 200 metres - all of which were built in the year 2000 or later. Impressive for a city that only covers 50,000 acres of land.
The picture-perfect backdrop is what makes Hong Kong’s skyline so special. It is a breathtaking combination of imposing towers, majestic hills and islands dotted along the bay. In juxtaposition to the man-made structures, mountains stand tall, competing with the forever lit forest of glowing skyscrapers. The city is the most photographed in the world and it is so easy to see why. The one-time British territory boasts 4 of the 15 tallest buildings in the world - greedy!
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Located in South East Asia, the capital of Malaysia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Though Kuala Lumpur doesn’t have the densest skyline, it does hold several impressive records - one of which relates to the famous Petronas Towers. Completed in 1996 the Petronas Towers were designed by Argentine architect César Pelli to look like rockets. For 6 years (from 1998 to 2004) the towers were the tallest building in the world until they were surpassed by Taipei 101. However, they remain the tallest twin towers in the world.
Kuala Lumpur’s stunning skyline is an incredible blend of skyscrapers and natural landscapes. For the best view, we’d recommend soaring to the 86th floor of 442 metre Petronas Towers. Here, you’ll witness a breathtaking panoramic view of the buzzing capital.
New York City, USA
The city so good they named it twice, New York is defined by its iconic Manhattan skyline. Featuring a mesmerising silhouette created by dozens of shimmering skyscrapers, the Big Apple characterises glamour at every twist and turn. With 58 buildings over 200 metres - the most in the world - New York has easily the most recognisable skyline. Four of its tallest buildings were built in the early 1930s while today, more than 6,000 completed architectural marvels stand tall.
Most notable of all is the Empire State Building. The 102-story Art Deco skyscraper was completed in 1931 and has dominated the New York skyline ever since. Perhaps the most well known structure in the USA, it provides the most incredible views of the city from its observation decks on floors 86 and 102. A cruise to New York would be incomplete without a visit to the Empire State Building - just ensure you book tickets in advance.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A little different to the other skylines featured on our list, Rio de Janeiro is blessed with one of the most dramatic natural settings in the world. There’s a Brazilian saying, “God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio,” and it couldn’t be more accurate. The blue of the Atlantic Ocean against the white sandy beaches, the tropical green vegetation and the grey of the urbanisation makes this one of the globe’s most exciting skylines.
Overlooking the city and visible from every vantage point is Christ the Redeemer. One of the seven wonders of the world, Christ the Redeemer is considered the largest Art Deco sculpture on earth. Atop the summit of Mount Corcovado offers the best visual variety of the rolling landscape and the water of the Guanabara Bay while striking mountains only add to the beautiful view.
Ask someone what they imagine Tomorrowland to look like and they may draw Shanghai. China’s largest and most advanced city has grown rapidly making it one of the biggest economic powerhouses. Once coined the “Paris of the Far East,” Shanghai is known for its glamour and elegance and with 24 million inhabitants it is the largest metropolis in the world.
Showcasing modern architecture, Shanghai truly looks like a futuristic land. At every twist and turn you’ll find unbelievable structures like the LED-adorned Oriental Pearl Tower, the twisted 128-story Shanghai Tower (the tallest building in China) and the Shanghai World Financial Center. There are 45 structures here that are taller than 200 metres and 4 that are more than 400 metres - impressive!
Australia’s largest city might not have the densest concentration of skyscrapers but it certainly has one of the most photogenic. Thanks to its world-famous harbour, Sydney is on the map as one of the most visited destinations in the world. With its many bays and inlets, Sydney Harbour is often referred to as the most beautiful in the world and it is easy to see why - stunning skyscrapers reflect in the bright blue water and the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge stands tall watching the world go by.
Though the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge are two of the city’s most iconic monuments, there are 8 structures over 200 metres tall. At more than 300 metres, Sydney Tower Eye provides one of the best views of the city from its observation deck. A cruise to Sydney will provide one of the most visually appealing experiences on earth.
Home to some of the best karaoke bars around, Tokyo is the largest city in the world. Because of its size and density, every corner in the capital of Japan appears to have its own skyline. Neon lighting and unique, contemporary architecture is visible at every turn - this is one skyline that means business.
Tokyo has over 20 structures that are 200 metres in height, one of the most well known is Tokyo Tower. A communication and observation tower, this structure is the second tallest in Japan. Tokyo is a city that looks spectacular at night with myriad colours - adding to it is the Tokyo Tower, which changes colour each night (see if you can spot it above).
Despite it’s incredible skyline, Tokyo is actually a city restricted by its structures. Unlike many other destinations in Asia, Tokyo can’t build mega-towers due to its susceptibility to earthquakes. It does however, have the largest fleet of helicopters in the world, meaning you can view the existing structures in the most incredible way.
The biggest city in Canada has a skyline to match. Situated on the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto is a meeting place of many cultures featuring a distinct and beautiful skyline. The architecture found here is a true mix of periods and styles with many structures dating back to the mid-19th century.
Toronto boasts 15 structures at a height of 200 metres or more, most notably the CN Tower. The tallest structure in the world for over 30 years, the CN Tower is a concrete communications and observation tower that hosts the world’s highest observation deck. Visible from pretty much every corner of Toronto, the tower was completed in 1976.
The city is in the midst of an architectural revival. See it unfold from Toronto Island, the best viewing point in the area. Here, you’ll see just how stunning the skyline is as it reflects in the bright blue water below it.