Towers always astound you when you notice their zeniths brushing the clouds. From a distance, you can see a tower peering over the cityscape or acting as a beacon of light. Towers have been built by man since prehistoric times, and even today when it comes to building one, engineers and architects are faced with tremendous challenges because of the sheer height-to-base ratio that they need to maintain. Hold on to your hats, as we begin a journey exploring the top 20 most famous towers in the world.
20. Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai, China
This tower, standing at 468 meters tall, which once held the crown of being the tallest structure in Shanghai, offers visitors dynamic views of this thriving city from three different observation decks. The second sightseeing deck, situated at 259 meters above sea level, features a glass bottomed floor. Standing on this floor gives you the feel of floating directly above the Huangpo River, and its beautiful scenery on either bank. The experience of ‘hovering’ over Shanghai is indeed petrifying, and yet enthralling.
19. The Shard, London, UK
When in London, it’s hard to imagine a work of architecture that would steal the limelight away from the classics such as Westminster Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Nevertheless, the 310 meter tall ‘The Shard’ went against all odds. This tower offers views twice as high as any other viewing floor in London from ‘The View from the Shard’. Interestingly, back in 2000, the architect of this marvel, Renzo Piano, candidly made an initial rough sketch of The Shard on the back of a menu card in Berlin.
18. Space Needle, Seattle, USA
Although this tower doesn’t boast of its massive height, the Space Needle remains an icon for Seattle till date. Built in 1961, this observation tower standing at 185 meters, is a landmark of the Pacific Northwest. The tower not only features an observation deck, but can also cater to your gastronomical cravings at the SkyCity Restaurant.
17. Torre Agbar, Barcelona, Spain
Designed by architect Jean Nouvel, this bullet like tower’s story is inspired by a geyser shooting up into the skies. Believe it or not, Torre Agbar is two towers inside one – well, the first cylinder has an outer layer of polished aluminium, while the outer cylinder is made of translucent glass that showcases 40 different colors. This tower measuring 144 meters to the tip turns into a beacon of light at night, with help from 4,500 lights that are placed on its facade. After sundown, you really can’t miss Torre Agbar, even if you are a few miles out!
16. Shanghai World Financial Centre, Shanghai, China
Fun fact: The unique ‘bottle opener’, which is in place to reduce the impact of wind pressure, wasn’t initially at the crest of this tower. Instead, there was a circle. Obviously it was changed to this ‘bottle opener’. Why? Because it resembled the sun design of the Japanese flag!
Nevertheless, this tower, standing at 492 meters, cost a whopping $1.2 billion to build, and the result was indeed impressive. The building also holds a lofty symbol: the opening on the top signifies earth’s interaction with the sky.
15. 30 St Mary Axe, London, UK
Standing tall in the heart of London’s financial district, 30 St Mary Axe doesn’t flaunt height, but an energy efficient design. Since its completion in 2003, this 180-meter tower has not failed to feature in films shot in London. For example, 30 St Mary Axe always makes an appearance in Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Sherlock’. “It’s extremely creative, and has had an enormous impact on the London skyline, particularly concerning its sculptural shape,” writes renowned architect A. Eugene Kohn.
14. Chrysler Building, New York City, USA
When completed in 1930, this particular work by William van Allen held the title of the world’s tallest building for a short lived 11 months, defeating the Eiffel Tower, while its defeater was the Empire State Building. This 319-meter-tall tower is often acclaimed as the most beautiful building in New York, and has remained a favorite of citizens in the Big Apple. You’d be interested to know that the building was financed by Walter Percy Chrysler – founder of Chrysler Corporation, and thus named after him – because he wished to have the highest toilet in Manhattan!
13. Canton Tower, Guangzhou, China
Also known as the Guangzhou Tower, this tower is a mere 5 meters shy of the 600 meter-mark, briefly making it the tallest tower in the world, replacing Toronto’s CN Tower. This unique tower, with literally a twist, features outdoor gardens set within the structure and a large observation deck set at 450 meters. You’d probably remember seeing this 595-meter giant on numerous occasions during the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.
12. Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan
When this $1.8 billion tower opened to visitors in 2004, it became the first to cross the half-kilometer mark. The building’s design brings to mind a growing bamboo stalk, which culturally symbolizes eternal strength in this part of the world. Standing at 508 meters tall, Taipei 101 is also home to the world’s fastest passenger elevator, which takes a mere 37 seconds to slingshot passengers from the fifth floor all the way to the highest point in Taipei. Make sure your ears don’t pop!
11. Macau Sky Tower, Macau, China
Officially known as the Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center, this 338-meter tower plays host to a range of ventures at a staggering height. There’s an observation deck with panoramic views of the city, restaurants, theaters, shopping malls and the Skywalk X – a breathtaking tour on foot on the outer rim. The Macau Sky Tower also features in the record books in form of the highest commercial Bunjee Jump being made from here.
10. CN Tower, Toronto, Canada
Completed back in 1976, this iconic tower that defines Toronto, was both the world’s tallest free-standing structure as well as the world’s tallest tower. At a massive 553 meters, this tower was only surpassed by the Canton Tower in 2010, which means it held both those records for 34 years. Today, CN Tower still remains the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere.
9. Shanghai Tower, Shanghai, China
We’re back to Shanghai to look at another tower that pierces the clouds. The Shanghai Tower measures a staggering 632 meters in height, and cost a whopping $2.4 million. The tower provides multiple zones for office purposes, retail, as well as leisure. The Shanghai Tower ranks no.1 in the list of tallest structures in China, and when expanding this list to the world, the tower comes third, behind the Tokyo Skytree and of course the Burj Khalifa.
8. Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE
Strictly speaking, the Burj Al Arab isn’t a tower, but it still happens to be a really tall structure. That’s partly because it’s in Dubai! Well, jokes apart, this incredibly amazing sail-shaped hotel stands 321 meters tall, and has become an icon of Dubai’s luxurious display. The hotel sits on a man-made island and has its very own bridge that connects it to the rest of the city. The Burj Al Arab has a helipad situated at 300 meters above the ground, on which Tiger Woods has putted a few golf balls, and Federer and Agassi have had their very own version of a Wimbledon showdown.
7. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The first thing that probably comes to mind when one refers to KL is undoubtedly the Petronas Twin Towers. Architect César Pelli made use of repetitive geometric patterns found in Islamic architecture to exhibit Malaysia’s culture and heritage. A Skybridge connects the world’s tallest twin towers, which both measure a staggering 452 meters. Once again, Kohn writes ‘Petronas was also an attempt to relate a tall building to a country’s culture and history, and to make a statement about its power…’
6. One World Trade Center, New York City, USA
Undoubtedly one of the most controversial buildings today, One World Trade Center sits on the spot where the earlier 6 World Trade Center stood, which was subsequently destroyed in the devastating events of 9/11. The new building interestingly stands at 546 meters, or more importantly 1,776 feet, signifying the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. One World Trade Center is equipped with numerous safety features, including biological and chemical filters in the ventilation system, reinforced walls and pressurized stairwells, in case of emergencies in the future.
5. Big Ben, London, UK
What is London without the Big Ben? This clock tower derives its name from Sir Benjamin Hall, the man who first ordered the 13 ton bell that is housed within. The 96-meter Big Ben celebrated its 150th anniversary on 31st May 2009 amid great festive events. Films shot in London never forget to include a shot of this tower, whether it be wizards flying past on their broomsticks or secret agents looking at it from afar.
4. Empire State Building, New York City, USA
Despite King Kong swatting planes from its top, the Empire State Building still stands firm today. It also holds the unique record of being built in a year and 45 days, the fastest for a skyscraper of its height. ‘With the passing of the World Trade Center, it became even more entrenched in the hearts and souls of New Yorkers and the rest of the world,’ said actor Michael Greene. Measuring 437 meters, the tower held the record of ‘the tallest building in the word’ for a record 41 years.
3. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa, Ialy
Speaking of the fastest built tower, this tower right here would be ranked no.1 from the bottom! The Leaning Tower of Pisa, measuring only 56 meters, was built over a span of 177 years. In fact, the tower was left untouched for a century due to its poor foundation. Engineers had to build floors with one side higher than the other in order to compensate for the tilt. If you’re a climbing enthusiast, you can make your way up the 296 steps to the top of the tower.
2. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Bienvenue à Paris! And of course, the moment you step into Paris, the Eiffel Tower is the first monument you want to lay your eyes on. The tower was built by Gustave Eiffel as the entrance arch for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889. Standing tall at 300 meters, it then held the record for the world’s tallest building, until the Chrysler Building was erected in 1930. As of date, more than 2 billion people have paid the Eiffel Tower a visit, making it the most visited paid monument in the world. The observation deck at the top offers Parisians and visitors alike magnificent views of the snaking Seine and all the famous monuments lined on its bank.
1. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE
Last, but in no ways the least, is Dubai’s latest addition to its exhibition of wealth – even the one and only Tom Cruise couldn’t stay away from this tower! Of course, it’s the undisputed king of towers, the 828 meter Burj Khalifa. The word gigantic doesn’t do justice to this structure. The tower is also home to the world’s highest mosque situated on the 158th floor. The tripedal design and its projecting edges are a few of the features that helped the Burj Khalifa break all barriers. Adrian Smith, the architect of this giant, wishes to surpass the kilometer mark in form of the Kingdom Tower in Riyadh which is slated to open in 2017.
These towers are perhaps not the most beautiful buildings in the world, neither are they the tallest, but nevertheless, they are iconic representations of the cities and countries they are situated in. So next time you happen to drive past any of these towers, take a few seconds off to look at it from a different perspective, keeping in mind the cultural as well as economical value they hold for their country. This is what makes these the top 20 most famous towers in the world.