The world’s nine tallest buildings have all been completed in the last nine years, most of them in Asian megacities like Shanghai, Seoul and Dubai. Saudi Arabia has now joined the party with a planned mile tall structure named the Kingdom Tower, already rising from the desert like a giant middle finger to their rivals.
You probably can’t afford a penthouse, but many of these monoliths contain observatories from which punters can enjoy the view. Here’s a rundown of the world’s highest viewing platforms that you can visit right now…
1. Burj Khalifa, UAE
It’s not a total surprise that the world’s tallest building has the world’s highest observation deck, but it is quite surprising that it only takes the record by three metres.
Almost farcically large, the 828-metre Burj Khalifa towers above the rest of the world’s skyscrapers, but because it tapers into a narrow spike the viewing platform is at a comparatively lowly 555 metres.
There’s plenty to see even from the midriff of this architectural Goliath, not least the building site for the Dubai One Tower, projected to be the world’s tallest residential building on its completion in 2020.
2. Shanghai Tower, Shanghai
Within touching distance of top spot with its 119th floor viewing platform, the Shanghai Tower is the latest step in China’s ongoing quest to build the world’s biggest, brightest and best.
At 552 metres the deck offers stunning views of the Bund, the Huangpu River and beyond, flanked by fellow superstructures like the Shanghai World Financial Center, and the Jin Mao Tower.
You might want to check pollution levels before your visit, as Shanghai’s notorious smogs can cloak the deck in an impenetrable layer of particulate-filled cloud.
That said, we’d front the fee just for the lifts. Thought to be the fastest in the world, they barrel up the building at more than 40 miles per hour.
3. Ping An Finance Center, Shenzhen
If you know anything about China’s drive for urban development, you’ll know that one was never going to be enough. Our first entry to make full use of its massive size, the Ping An Finance Center measures 555 metres overall, and sneaks in an observation deck at 541 metres.
Set in the heart of the central business district, the accurately named Free Sky Observation Deck offers 360 degree views of the city, while the crenellated windows allow braver visitors to stare straight down the building’s sides.
In 2017, Shenzhen constructed more skyscrapers than any other country on Earth, so Ping An rewards repeat viewings. The skyline quite literally changes every month.
4. Canton Tower, Guangzhou
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, we’re in China again for number four, but since the Canton Tower platform isn’t even top two in its own country, the skyscraper has had to look for records elsewhere.
Best in show is the Spider Walk – the highest and longest open-air staircase in the world, which snakes around the tower for 170 metres on paths produced partly with transparent plates of glass. The tower also controversially claims to host the world’s highest ferris wheel – a record depending entirely on your definition of ‘wheel’ – with 16 transparent cars that circumnavigate the roof.
The 488-metre outdoor observation deck – the world’s highest when it opened in 2011 – is still pretty good too.
5. CN Tower, Toronto
Full disclosure – the CN Tower is not actually the fifth highest observation deck in the world, but it’s the tallest outside Asia so we thought we’d give it a shout out anyway.
More than four decades old and still neck-crickingly massive, the tower is synonymous with the city of Toronto, and at 447 metres the so-called SkyPod puts most viewing platforms to shame. On a clear day, you can see as far as Niagara Falls, while a few storeys down you can find one of the world’s first glass floors.
The great thing about SkyPod is that not only are you hoisted a ludicrous distance into the air, you’re also overlooking one of the most gorgeous cities in the Western hemisphere.