“At the Top” is the name of the observation deck at Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Although the name might suggest otherwise, and despite being 1,483-feet up, “At the Top” does not actually lead its field – and not by some distance. In fact, the 828-meter tall skyscraper in Dubai only makes third place in a list of the world’s highest observation decks just compiled by Emporis, the international provider of building data.

Willis Tower Glass Balconies View

At 1,352-feet above the Chicago streets, Willis Tower’s glass balconies are not for the faint of heart.
Photo credit: Skydeck Chicago

At a height of 1,355-feet, the viewing balcony at Willis Tower, the tallest skyscraper in the United States, also has its place among the world’s highest observation decks. A visit is not for the fainthearted: originally opened as far back as 1974, more recently installed glass balconies with transparent floors on the west side of the building invite visitors to take an unobstructed look down. Here one can experience the unique feeling of hovering 1,355-feet above Chicago.

Topping the ranking is Canton Tower, at 2,028-feet the world’s third-tallest structure, which is home, at 1,507-feet, to the world’s highest publicly-accessible observation deck. The tower not only provides a magnificent view of Guangzhou, but also offers a further attraction to visitors with a particularly good head for heights – the chance to circle the top of tower in glass pods 1,507-feet above the ground.

The Shanghai World Financial Center ranks at similarly dizzying heights. Its Skywalk 100, a 180-foot long glass bridge 1,555-feet up the tower, puts it in second place in the ranking. It will have to give up its current spot, though, when its neighbor Shanghai Tower is completed next year. At the spectacular height of 1,827-feet, Shanghai Tower’s observation deck will then far outstrip even the current recordholder.

The battle for the world’s highest observation deck is set to remain exciting into the future. Last month saw the start of construction work on Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The megaproject, due to have an overall height of over a kilometer, will put even Burj Khalifa in the shade. With an observation deck planned at a height of around 2,625-feet, it will bring the desert state not only the title of the world’s tallest building, but also that of the world’s highest observation deck. It will be a few years yet, however, before one can enjoy the view from the king of towers, with opening planned for 2018.

1. Canton Tower
Architect: information based architecture
During construction, Canton Tower overtook the then-tallest television tower, CN Tower. However, it soon had to relinquish this title when the Tokyo Sky Tree in Japan, which is fifty-three-feet taller, was completed in 2011. The structure, whose shape is reminiscent of an hourglass, contains several amusements. The highlight of these is a big wheel with glass pods, which is located at 1,507-feet high.

Canton Tower

Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China. Building height: 2,027-feet, Observation deck height: 1,601-feet. Photo credit: sanfamedia.com

2. Shanghai World Financial Center
Architects: Kohn Pedersen Fox; East China Architectural Design & Research Institute Co. Ltd.
The Shanghai World Financial Center claimed third place in the 2008 Emporis Skyscraper Award. A particularly eye-catching feature is the rectangular hole at the top of the building, which has led it also being referred to as the “bottle-opener”. The building is currently Shanghai’s tallest. However, it will have to give up this record on the planned completion in 2014 of the 2,073-feet tall Shanghai Tower.

Shanghai World Financial Center

Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai China. Building height: 1,614-feet, Observation deck height: 1,555-feet. Photo credit: Thierry Beauvier

3. Burj Khalifa
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Opened in 2010, Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest structure. It is said to be visible from 50km away in good weather conditions. The observation deck on the 124th floor is reached using one of the world’s fastest elevators, bringing passengers to a height of 1,483-feet in 60 seconds.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE. Building height: 2,716-feet, Observation deck height: 1,483-feet. Photo credit: Axel Schmies

Burj Khalifa Observation Deck

Burj Khalifa observation deck. Photo credit: Axel Schmies

Burj Khalifa Observation Deck View

Burj Khalifa observation deck view. Photo credit: Axel Schmies

4. Tokyo Sky Tree
Architect: Nikken Sekkei Ltd.
Its 2,080-feet make the Tokyo Sky Tree the world’s second-tallest structure. Now the world’s tallest television tower, it superseded the previous record-holder, Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China. From the observation deck at 1,476-feet it is said to be possible to see the entire Tokyo region and even the curvature of the Earth.

Tokyo Sky Tree

Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo, Japan. Building height: 2,080-feet. Observation deck height: 1,476-feet. Photo credit: Mokurenmei

5. CN Tower
Architects: WZMH Architects; duToit Architects Limited; John Andrews International
CN Tower is the icon of the Canadian city Toronto. The tower is also referred to as “Canada’s Wonder of the World”. It sees over 2 million visitors a year. The top of the tower is believed to sway up to ten-feet during stormy gusts of wind.

CN Tower

CN Tower, Toronto, Canada. Building height: 1,814-feet, Observation deck height: 1,467-feet. Photo credit: Edvard Mahnic

6. KK100
Architect: Terry Farrell and Partners; HuaSen Architectural & Engineering Designing Consultant Ltd.
The building’s shape in the form of a well or fountain is intended to symbolize Shenzhen’s wealth and prosperity. Since its completion in 2011 it has been the tallest building in the city. The uppermost stories are home to the St. Regis Hotel Shenzhen, which features a sky bar on the 97th floor. The bar forms part of a multi-story sky lobby that occupies the very top floors of the building’s glass apex.


KK100, Shenzhen, China. Building height: 1,450-feet. Observation deck height: 1,401-feet. Photo credit: ArnieLee

7. Guangzhou International Finance Center
Architect: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
The Guangzhou International Finance Center was designed by the award-winning practice Wilkinson Eyre Architects. An unusual aspect of the building is its triangular footprint. The Cloud Bar and Catch Restaurant in the hotel on the top floors of the building offer a breathtaking view of the Pearl River and Guangzhou’s skyline.

Guangzhou International Finance Center

Guangzhou International Finance Center, Guangzhou, China. Building height: 1,437-feet, Observation deck height: 1,362-feet. Photo credit: Wylie Poon

8. Willis Tower
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
The building used to be called Sears Tower until the Willis Group acquired naming rights in 2009.
The tower, with its overall height of 1,447-feet, is the tallest building in the city of Chicago. A particular highlight for visitors are the glass-bottomed balconies built into the facade 1,352-feet up the building in 2009.

Willis Tower

Willis Tower, Chicago, U.S.A. Building height: 1,450-feet, Observation deck height: 1,355-feet. Photo credit: Royce Douglas

Willis Tower

Willis Tower’s glass observation balconies. Photo credit: Skydeck Chicago

Willis Tower Glass Balconies View

Willis Tower’s glass observation balconies. Photo credit: Skydeck Chicago

9. Taipei 101
Architect: C.Y. Lee & Partners
Taipei 101 is the world’s tallest office building. The skyscraper’s observation deck is located on the 89th floor at 1,286-feet high. Two out of the total 61 elevators in the building attain a top speed of 1010 m/min. This earned Taipei 101 an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

Taipei 101

Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan. Building height: 1,670-feet, Observation deck height: 1,286-feet. Photo credit: Daniel Shih

10. International Commerce Centre
Architects: Kohn Pederson Fox Associates; Wong & Ouyang (HK) Limited
The International Commerce Centre is Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper. The observation deck at 1,273-feet offers a magnificent view of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island.

International Commerce Centre

International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong, China. Building height: 1,588-feet, Observation deck height: 1,273-feet. Photo credit: Wilson Ling

Source: Emporis