Why build gigantic buildings? Because we can! These are the tallest skyscrapers, and these giant structures, dotted around the planet, are marvels of engineering.
How do you measure a skyscraper?
To determine the height of these buildings, we must first define some criteria. Most official measurements, such as those of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), use the architectural height, from the curb-level entrance to the top, including spiers, but without antennas or flag poles.
Also, the number of floors displayed may differ from the actual number of floors – some buildings for example skip unlucky numbers or use letters, such as 42A above the 42nd floor.
Our list also only includes buildings that were completed and open at the time of publication. Asia and the Middle East now have most of the tallest buildings in the world.
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates has held the world record for height since 2010 when it was inaugurated in the commercial and entertainment district of downtown Dubai. At 828 meters (2,717 feet) high, the building also has the highest number of floors, at 162.
The Burj Khalifa is primarily home to a hotel and luxury residences, but visitors can explore several observatories and a lounge on the 154th floor. Tickets to visit the tallest observation deck in the world, on the 148th floor, start at around $120. The Burj Khalifa will lose its title as the world’s tallest building when the one-kilometre (3,281ft) high Jeddah Tower, currently under construction in Saudi Arabia, is completed in 2021.
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China’s tallest tower ranks second in the world. The Shanghai Tower was inaugurated in 2017. Together with the Jin Mao Tower (23rd tallest) and the Shanghai World Financial Center (10th tallest), the three buildings form the centerpiece of the city’s financial district.
Shanghai, one of the most populous cities on the planet – and in full swing – has everything to gain from betting on vertical growth. With its 632 meters (2073 feet) and 128 floors, this “vertical city” combines offices, shops and restaurants. It also has an observatory on the 118th floor and a museum.
Makkah Royal Clock Tower
Forget Big Ben! The four clocks in Makkah’s Royal Clock Tower, with its LED lighting, are the largest and tallest in the world. At 601 meters (1,972 feet) and 120 stories high, this magnificent tower seems to have stood there for a long time, but it was only completed in 2012.
Located in the historic center of the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, near the Grand Mosque, the third tallest building in the world houses a hotel that welcomes Muslims who come to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Islam – the six smaller buildings surrounding it also offer accommodation. If you are visiting, contact the hotel for information on prices and access to the observation deck. Do you know that it is forbidden to walk your dog in Saudi Arabia? It’s one of the 25 weirdest laws around the world.
Ping An Financial Center
The 115-story, 555-meter (1,965-foot) high office building occupies the center of the rapidly growing Chinese city of Shenzhen. Opened in 2017, the Ping An Financial Center was named after the Chinese insurance company Ping An.
Its central location allows its occupants easy access to the subway and commercial and residential buildings in this booming city, which was China’s first special economic zone. The building’s amphitheater-style podium features various retail and dining spaces. During your stay, don’t forget to visit the National Museum of China, which is one of the 20 most popular museums in the world.
Lotte World Tower
Lotte World Tower literally dominates the skyline of Seoul, South Korea – it is the tallest building in the city and the country. With a height of 554 meters (1,819 feet), it has more floors (123) than Ping An. The building, completed in 2017, serves many purposes: offices, luxury hotel, residences and a convention center.
Next door are the hugely popular Lotte World indoor and outdoor amusement parks as well as the Lotte World Mall shopping and entertainment centre. Visitors can get to the 123rd floor observation deck, cafe and gift shop for around $25.
One World Trade Center
The One World Trade Center in New York is both a monument to the memory of the twin towers, destroyed on September 11, 2001, and an affirmation of the vitality of the financial district. Its 1776 feet (541 meters) symbolize the year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The 94-story office building, topped by a 124-meter (408-foot) spire, opened in 2014 next to the 9/11 Memorial. Also called Freedom Tower, it is currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors can take in the 360-degree view from the observatory at the top, which also has exhibits and restaurants. If you’re visiting the city, consider checking out these 25 must-see places in New York!
Guangzhou CTF Finance Center
The tallest building in the venerable city of Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is the CTF Finance Center (not to be confused with the International Finance Center, further down this list). Guangzhou’s economic prowess is on full display in a towering complex of skyscrapers in this 530-meter (1,739-foot) and 111-story giant, completed in 2016.
The building, which houses a hotel, residences and offices, has an observation deck offering spectacular views of the city and the Canton Tower (a landmark that is not on this list, as it is only of a television and surveillance tower). You can also visit the Sky Bar at the Rosewood Hotel on the 107th floor.
The curvature of Beijing’s tallest building is inspired by Chinese zun vases, hence its nickname “China Zun”. Just completed in 2018, the office tower was built to be the center of the city’s new business district.
Visitors can ascend its 527 meters (1,731 feet) and 109 stories aboard two-story elevators that will take them to the observation deck that sits atop this elegant tower that adorns the Beijing skyline.
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At 508 meters (1,667 feet), Taipei 101 earned the title of world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010. In 2010 the current holder of the title, the Burj Khalifa, was inaugurated.
Located in Taipei, Taiwan, in the Xinyi District, known for shopping, shopping and entertainment, the stepped building is fashioned in the traditional ‘pagoda’ style and is seen very often during New Year celebrations .
The 101-story office building also houses a shopping mall, restaurants and an observatory on the 89th floor – if the weather is nice enough, you can also head to the outdoor area on the 91st floor.
Shanghai World Financial Center
The second of Shanghai’s trio of financial flagships, this 492-meter (1,622-foot) building also houses shops, a restaurant and a five-star hotel, one of the tallest in the world.
The centerpiece of this 101-story building, completed in 2008, is the portal at the top, which resembles a gigantic open window and has earned the building its nickname “the bottle opener” (visitors can purchase actual bottle openers in the shape of the building in the gift shop).
The observation decks, located on floors 94, 97, and 100, allow you to stroll through a long viewing gallery overlooking the portal.
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International Commerce Center
This rather understated 484-meter (1,588-foot) building on Hong Kong‘s Kowloon Peninsula comes alive at night with a magnificent sound and light show overlooking Victoria Harbour.
The International Commerce Center and the Two International Finance Center opposite it form an imposing entrance to the port facilities. Completed in 2010 and primarily used as an office building, the ICC is also home to the tallest hotel in the world, the luxurious Ritz Carlton, which occupies the top floors of the building.
You can admire Hong Kong Island from the 100th floor observation deck for around twenty dollars if you buy the ticket online. The hotel’s ski bar, Ozone, is even higher, on the 118th floor.
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Vincom Landmark 81
Southeast Asia‘s tallest building, Vincom Landmark 81, towers over one of Asia’s most popular travel destinations: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Completed in 2018 on the west bank of the Saigon River, the 461-meter (1,540-foot), 81-story skyscraper is primarily residential. With shops and even an ice rink on the lower floors, and a hotel at the top.
It is part of a new urban development project that integrates housing and green spaces in Vincom Central Park. An observation deck opened in spring 2019 on floors 79 to 81. The more adventurous can try the SkyTouch , an outdoor space where harnessed visitors can lean into the void.
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Changsha IFS Tower T1
Another recent addition to the list, this skyscraper towering over Changsha, the capital of China’s Hunan province, was completed in 2018.
Together with the much smaller Tower 2, the building complex offers office space that sits above the Changsha IFS complex, a shopping and entertainment center. The 94-story, 452-meter (1,483-foot) building also houses a hotel at the top.
Tours Petronas 1
These stunning twin skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia tied for 14th and 15th respectively on our list. These buildings, 452 meters (1,483 feet) high and 88 stories high, caused a stir when they were inaugurated in 1998. They then stole the title of world’s tallest building from Chicago’s Sears Tower. (now known as Willis Tower). Record she had held since 1974.
Since much of the extra height of the Petronas Towers came from their spiers, the people of Chicago weren’t very happy – they saw it as cheating. The CTBUH got together and decided that the spiers would be factored into building heights, so the towers held on to the top spot until Taipei 101 took over in 2004.
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The world’s tallest twins were built as a testament to Malaysia’s economic boom and quickly became the capital’s dominating landmark. Connected to the 41st floor by an air bridge that allows people to move more easily between the two buildings. The towers mainly house offices and, on the lower levels, a shopping center.
Surrounding the buildings is the urban green space of KLCC Park. Visitors can go to the sky bridge and the observatory on the 86th floor of Tower 2 for around twenty dollars.
Ancient and modern come together in the beautiful city of Nanjing in eastern China. Inside the walls of the old city, the Zifeng Tower signals that this tranquil town is a thriving center of commerce and culture. Designed in a triangle shape to maximize views and blend in with both old and new architecture, the 450-meter (1,476-foot), 66-story building overlooks the nearby mountains and lake.
Completed in 2010, the Zifeng Tower houses a hotel, shops, restaurants, offices and, at the top, an observation deck.
It is still called the Sears Tower, but the insurance company Willis Group Holdings has held the naming rights to this Chicago building since 2009. The tower became the tallest building in the world in 1974, taking the top honor from the World Trade Center in New York, which had held the title since 1971 – and which itself snatched it from the Empire State Building, which boasted about it for 40 years.
The Sears Tower held the title for more than 20 years, until that fight we mentioned earlier with the Petronas Towers in 1998. First an office building, the tower is undergoing a renovation. Renovation expected to be completed in 2020, to create retail and dining spaces, among other amenities. Visitors can climb the Skydeck that sits atop this iconic 443-meter (1,451-foot), 108-story tower for $25. It has a fully glazed balcony called the Ledge.
China continues to dominate the list of giant buildings with this second skyscraper in the booming city of Shenzhen. Opened in 2011, KK100 is 440 meters (1,449 feet) tall and has 100 floors. It mainly hosts offices and a hotel at the top.
The KK100 is part of a plan for the development of the financial district which also includes residential buildings and shops in the podium located at the foot of the building. On the upper floors of the building, the Hotel Saint-Régis stands out with its Sky Lobby on the 96th floor, an observation space in the form of a terrace entirely glazed to give visitors the impression that they are float between heaven and earth. At the very top, the 100th floor houses the hotel bar, the Decanter.
Guangzhou International Finance Center
The International Finance Center of Guangzhou and its companion, the CTF Finance Center, somehow frame the large square of the Zhujiang New Town district of Guangzhou, which hosts a cultural and commercial development center.
Completed in 2010, the 103-story, 438-meter (1,439-foot) building includes offices and a Four Seasons Hotel on the upper floors. The huge atrium of the hotel, which rises from the 70th floor, allows visitors to look up to the glass roof surmounting the building. A Sky Bar and a restaurant occupy the upper floors and there is also the roof, the highest helipad in the world.
432 Park Avenue
In New York, space is scarce, so better to rise than to spread out. Some Big Apple skyscrapers are so huge they even have their own postcode. Set in a prime location overlooking Central Park, the tall, slender rectangle at 432 Park Avenue, completed in 2015, reflects this upward mobility.
Composed of luxury residential apartments (Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez have lived there before), the 426-meter (1,397-foot) and 85-storey building fits very well into this luxurious neighborhood that it dominates. Unfortunately, the view from the top is not accessible to the public.
The art deco top of this Dubai skyscraper, completed in 2017, evokes the Empire State Building. Located in Dubai Marina, this 101-storey, 426.5-meter (1,394-foot) residential building is home to the first Hard Rock hotel in the Middle East. It integrates perfectly with restaurants, beaches and shops in the area. The hotel’s club and restaurant occupy the upper floors.
Trump International Hotel and Tower
Built along the Chicago River, in the heart of downtown, this skyscraper formed by a hotel and residences is 423 meters (1,389 feet) tall and has 98 floors. It occupies space vacated by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The tower houses restaurants and a spa. The green space at its base offers a park, a lily pond and a promenade lined with shops along the river. Visitors can enjoy the magnificent view offered by the outdoor restaurant: Terrace 16.
Jin Mao Tower
The third of the trio of tallest skyscrapers in Shanghai is also the oldest. The Jin Mao Tower, completed in 1999, was the tallest building in the city until 2008, when the Shanghai World Financial Center appeared on the scene. The 88-story tower, 420.5 meters (1,380 feet) high, houses shops and entertainment venues on the lower floors, and offices on the upper floors are capped by the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. The 88th-floor observatory includes the Skywalk where, equipped with a harness, visitors can sit and walk along the building’s glass exterior ledge, and even hang in the air – there is no has no ramp.
When completed in 2012, Dubai Marina’s Princess Tower was the tallest residential building in the world, at 414 meters (1,358 feet) and 101 stories tall (that honor now goes to 432 Park Avenue) . This “princess” wears a crown, literally: at the top of the building, decorative “teeth” surround a striped dome topped by a spire. Located directly across from Marina 101, the two skyscrapers share a prime location for retail, dining and entertainment in one of the most popular destinations in the Middle East.
The top floor is not open to the public, but if you are lucky enough to be invited to a meeting or a party in the space provided for this purpose, you can admire the breathtaking view of the coast.