Top 10 city skylines

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We’ve created this top 10 about skylines that are massive, iconic – and just plain beautiful – around the world

There’s nothing like landing at a city – either for the first time or after time away – and catching a glimpse of its skyline. Whether it’s an illuminated Empire State Building in New York or an onion-domed church in Moscow, all it takes is a single landmark to evoke nostalgia. Other times it’s simply the sheer size of the city’s defining skyline. For our picks of the top city skylines around the world, we’re featuring 10 that are massive, iconic – and just plain beautiful – in scale.

(We know we could have an entire Top 10 of London skyline views so we’re saving that for another day. Stay tuned!)

Paris, France
Paris. Copyright by Moyan Brenn

PARIS, FRANCE

Paris owes its top-10 worthiness to its landmarks that dot the City of Light’s cityscape. After one visit to Sacré Cœur Basilica at the top of Montmartre – complete with an aerial view of a glistening skyline, poetically interrupted by the Eiffel Tower – travellers seem to understand the magic of Paris.

Trace its broad boulevards – from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysées to Concorde and the Musée du Louvre – and admire the city’s unparalleled beauty.

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Moscow, Russia
Moscow. Photo by John Leach

MOSCOW, RUSSIA

Moscow’s skyline is dominated by the colourful onion domes of Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the Seven Sisters, seven massive skyscrapers positioned equidistant from the Kremlin (not to mention the Kremlin itself).

Many visitors take note that the skyline seems like a throwback to hundreds of years ago, as little of the new architecture has garnered as much prestige in recent years.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong. Photo by Alfonso Jiménez

HONG KONG

Packed with more skyscrapers and people living above the 14th floor than any other city on the planet, Hong Kong and its skyline are transforming by the day. Towering across the impressive panorama – best seen from above at Victoria Peak and below from Victoria Harbour – is the HSBC Main Building, I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower and the International Commerce Centre (at 1,588 feet, the last is the world’s third-largest building).

We don’t anticipate that high-rise construction in the neon-lit city will slow any time soon, so keep an eye out for Hong Kong’s latest architectural wonders.

New York City, USA
New York. Photo by karmakazesal

NEW YORK, USA

The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the MetLife Building – need we go on? Manhattan’s epic skyline is synonymous with the diversity and possibility that echo through New York City’s gridded streets.

Whether it’s a view of the Financial District from the Brooklyn Bridge or a look at Midtown from the Hudson River, the Big Apple’s stretch of landmarks, from Brooklyn to the Bronx, is a recognisable sight to behold. Search and compare cheap flights to New York

Chicago, USA
Chicago. Photo by Nimesh M

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA

Although its winters force residents into hibernation for four months of the year, the US’s Second City comes alive in warmer months when pale Chicagoans come out to play. A boat trip on Lake Michigan provides a perfect view of locals running and biking along Lakeshore against a skyline marked by the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, the Hancock Building and Navy Pier.

For an up-close look at Chicago’s skyline, take an architectural boat tour; volunteers expertly detail the skyline’s history since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that destroyed more than three square miles of the city.

Sydney, Australia
Sydney. Photo by Linh_rOm

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

There are few buildings more iconic than the Sydney Opera House, so it’s hard not to see it as the figurative centrepiece of the clustered, modern skyline of Sydney. The distinctive modernist roof of the multi-venue performance centre (the UNESCO World Heritage Site is not just for operas) looks like either a series of shells or the sails of a vast schooner.

Other buildings – such as 1 Bligh Street, Sydney Tower and MLC Centre – represent the best in world-class architecture, making the skyline of Australia’s largest city – which overlooks the historic and beautiful Sydney Harbour – unforgettable.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro. Photo by over_kind_man

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Its defining landmark is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, so it should come as no surprise that Rio’s skyline made our cut. Is there a more iconic monument than the city’s Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain? “Marvellous City”, as its nickname translates, covers a stretch of Brazil’s Atlantic Coast that blends natural wonders seamlessly with man-made achievements.

Millions live together in the socio-economically divided city, which has preserved churches and buildings since the 1500s. The dichotomies of the skyline and the people – old and new, rich and poor – are the pulse of Rio de Janeiro.

For more pictures and films, have a look at these posts about Rio: Baton passes to Rio de Janeiro, host city of the 2016 Olympic Games; Rio de Janeiro, the next Olympic city, on film and Get sporty in Rio de Janeiro, host of 2016 Olympic Games.

Dubai, UAE
Dubai. Photo by dianitartemis

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Spurred by oil revenues, Dubai’s growth has accelerated rapidly in the past 15 years and its skyline reflects that. Its numerous tall and slender buildings – many of which were completed in just the last five years – look, from a distance, like man-made stalagmites jutting up from the desert floor.

Buildings such as the Burj Khalifa (by far the tallest building in the world) and the Burj al Arab (built on its own artificial island) combine state-of-the-art modern architecture with design cues pulled from nature and Islamic heritage. All help to give Dubai’s skyline its distinctive visage.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Jimmy McIntyre – Strange Lands Travel Blog

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

There’s something particularly majestic about Kuala Lumpur’s defining skyscrapers, the Petronas Towers. Malaysia Truly Asia, as the tourism board’s tagline goes, is a wonder of multiculturalism, awe-inspiring landscapes and white-sand islands (our picks are Langkawi and Borneo, by the way).

But Kuala Lumpur, one of the fastest-growing cities in the region, quickly gives visitors a faster paced perspective on the country.

Shanghai, China
Shanghai. Photo by Robert S. Donovan

SHANGHAI, CHINA

Many of China’s cities boast impressive skylines packed with a seemingly endless number of skyscrapers. (Honourable mentions go to Macao, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Beijing – you get it…) But it’s Shanghai’s eclectic skyline that stands out from the crowd. The most populous city proper in the world also has one of the most distinctive skylines, featuring Art Deco, Soviet neoclassical and traditional Jiangnan architecture.

Reaching higher – and more grandly – than most are the Shanghai World Financial Centre (1,614 feet), Jin Mao Tower (1,380 feet) and the Sci-Fi looking Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower (1,535 feet).

Want to see more of Shanghai? See Shanghai in 7 shots. Robert S. Donovan took the pictures as well as the skyline picture above.

Top 10 city skylines was last modified: November 3rd, 2015 by Lauren Sullivan
Author: Lauren Sullivan (56 posts)

Lauren’s spent her twenty-some years of life saving up nickels, dimes and vacation days to see the world, typically with only a backpack in tow.