Written by Brian Johnston
Few travellers can resist the lure of a soaring building or a good view. Get your ears popping on the ascent to the observation decks of the world’s tallest structures.
Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai
Opened in 2007, this 492m skyscraper was never in the running for world’s tallest, and was even eclipsed in China by 2014. But it does have a trump card: one of the world’s highest observation decks at 477m, bridging the hole in the summit of this striking building, and with the added challenge of a transparent floor for those who don’t suffer from vertigo.
Distance: 6,775 km
Flight Time: 8 hours, 5 minutes
International Commerce Centre, Hong Kong
Opened in 2010, the top floors of this 484m skyscraper are occupied by the world’s highest hotel, the five-star Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which has an outdoor terrace on the 118th floor, screened by large panels of glass to protect guests from blustery harbour winds. The terrace is at roughly the same altitude as The Peak across the water, Hong Kong’s traditional destination for views, reached by funicular railway. A public observation deck occupies the lowlier 100th floor.
Hong Kong, China
Distance: 6,337 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: Twice daily
Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur
The 452m Petronas Twin Towers opened in 1998, joined halfway up by a skywalk; for a time they were the world’s tallest buildings. The viewing deck in the bridge that links the two towers has impressive panoramas in two directions and allows a close-up view of the architecture, which features Islamic-inspired geometric patterns.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Distance: 5,894 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 40 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a day
CN Tower, Toronto
At 553m, the CN Tower has dominated Toronto’s skyline since 1976. Lifts, which ascend on the outside in under a minute, have similar thrust to a plane at take-off and will make your ears pop. A glass-floored lift to the lookout at 346m also gives access to the unnerving Glass Floor Level for those not faint of heart. To get even higher, you can ascend to the 447m Skypod, where you might spot the spray of Niagara Falls rising some 130km away by road.
Distance: 10,414 km
Flight Time: 13 hours, 40 mins
Frequency: 3 flights a week
with onward domestic connections to Toronto.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
In 2010, the 830m Burj took out a swag of world records: not only tallest building, most floors (163), and highest occupied floors, but tallest free-standing structure of any sort. Not surprisingly, it even has the world’s highest restaurant. Strangely, however, its 452m observation deck, called At the Top, isn’t the world’s highest, nor is it at the top of the building. It does, however, offer 360° views from both inside and out, with outdoor platforms assailed by hot winds. Look through clever telescopes and see the view as it was 10 years ago.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Distance: 377 km
Flight Time: 1 hour
Frequency: 154 flights a week