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February 3, 2023

Which cities have the best skylines?

Cities throughout the world have a wide range of views. The most well-known skylines are in New York, London and Paris, but which is the best?

By Silvia Pellegrino

High skyscrapers, vivid lights, and traditional and contemporary buildings all contribute to iconic city skylines. Skylines can be breathtaking in every part of the world, from those in Australia, Europe and Asia to the US.

Does Toronto’s skyline rival that of Paris, London or New York? (Photo by Artem Zavarzin/Shutterstock)

Iconic city skylines

We all know the Empire State Building and Big Ben, but what else can we see in other cities’ skylines?

New York, US

New York City dominates everything with its vistas both day and night with skyscrapers that soar to the clouds. The city’s ancient bedrock is the foundation for hundreds of them, and the Big Apple is renowned for having 47 skyscrapers taller than 200m.

The viewing spots to admire the New York skyline are numerous. The Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge, for instance, are two of New York’s most recognisable monuments and two of the best vantage points to admire the surroundings.

The stately Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, and, when dusk falls, the lit One World Trade Center are further significant and well-known buildings.

Paris, France

Paris‘ skyline is dotted with several notable structures, such as the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, which has been undergoing restorations following the fire that broke out inside the cathedral in 2019. 

But where should you go for the best vantage point of the most romantic skyline on earth? The Arc de Triomphe Rooftop Terrace offers a perfect 360-degree panoramic view of France’s most famous sites.

Just a few examples of what can be seen from the Arc de Triomphe are the Saint Augustine Church, the Louvre Palace, Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre. The 12 majestic tree-lined avenues that culminate at the Arc de Triomphe may also be seen.

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London, England

The city of London boasts one of the nicest skylines, most visible from a few precise spots. From Hampstead Heath, which more closely resembles the constrained metropolises of the early 20th century than the amorphous megalopolises of today, one may get one of the best perspectives of the city.

Thanks to the London Eye, Tower Bridge and Houses of Parliament along the Thames, London has one of the most recognisable skylines in the whole world.

St Paul’s Cathedral sticks out in the panorama as well. Its dome creates a dramatic shadow against the setting light that accentuates the large, cutting-edge buildings around it, like the Shard.

Other notable city skylines

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul‘s imposing skyline is a reflection of its illustrious past. Six of the seven hills that made up the historic peninsular city’s topography — the Golden Horn — are the crests of a long ridge. The other hill is seen in the south-west corner.

The populous city‘s hills are home to a number of mosques that have been recognised as Unesco World Heritage sites since 1985. Particularly looming above the old town is the Blue Mosque. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the city is the Galata Tower, which is also visible from the skyline.

On Istanbul’s outskirts, you may still see the remains of ancient defences. The 4.5-km-long walls of Stamboul are characterised by a double line of ramparts. The Istanbul Bridge, which crosses the Bosphorus and links Europe and Asia, is another noteworthy building.

Dubai, UAE

Skyscrapers, ports and beaches make Dubai famous. The oldest buildings in Dubai are also the shortest. The city is spread over Dubai Creek, a natural estuary in the southern Persian Gulf beaches.

Because of the city’s proximity to the Persian Gulf, on the west side of the creek are some really peculiar homes with distinctive wind tower designs that were imported by Persian traders in the 19th century.

The Emirates Towers, the world’s tallest residential building the Burj Khalifa, and the arch-shaped tower housing the Dubai Financial Centre are among the notable buildings that make up today’s city centre. Another notable building is the Burj al-Arab, a huge tower in the shape of a sail that contains a seven-star luxury hotel.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney‘s architecture stands out for its stylistic diversity. While the majority of homes on the periphery are one-storey brick or wood bungalows, the central business district is home to numerous enormous multistorey complexes.

Despite the fact that its structures are quite little in contrast to those seen in the Big Apple, the city centre today resembles a miniature Manhattan emerging from the harbour’s beaches.

Overlooking the city centre is the Sydney Tower, which is more than 1,000ft tall and features restaurants and an observation deck. The Harbour Bridge, one of the most recognisable elements of the Australian metropolis, as well as Parramatta, connect North Sydney to the Metropolis of Sydney.

The Sydney Opera House is the most recognisable and famous building on Sydney’s skyline and it dominates the waterfront.

Toronto, Canada

The CN Tower, a communications and observation tower, and the First Canadian Place (Bank of Montreal) now dominate Toronto’s skyline, which was built in 1973 but reached its final shape after an economic boom in 2006. 

There are additional relevant and recognisable buildings with more than 50 floors, such as Scotia Plaza, Canada Trust Tower, and others.

From observation decks like those at the CN Tower and the Manulife Centre at Bay and Bloor, a great deal of Canada’s largest metropolis may be seen.

Shanghai, China

The city of Shanghai stretches to the north, west and south from the Suzhou confluence. Modern business buildings and the Lujiazui banking and trade zone dominate the skyline.

The three most notable buildings are the 128-storey Shanghai Tower, 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Center, and 88-storey Jin Mao Tower.

The Bund, a historic district with colonial buildings and a riverfront boardwalk with a number of diverse views of the Shanghai business district, is the best vantage point for seeing the city.

San Francisco, US

The city born from the California Gold Rush, San Francisco is one of the most well-known in the US for its landmarks. On the city’s hills lie the financial district, North Beach, Chinatown and the main commercial district.

To the west, one can see San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, which dominates the city’s skyline.

A noticeable change known as the “Manhattanization of San Francisco” emerged after the 1960s. In a city where few structures were taller than 20 stories for years, the financial sector saw the construction of one big skyscraper after another.

The Transamerica Pyramid, the Transamerica Building at 555 California Street, and Le Meridien San Francisco Hotel are just a few of the prominent landmarks on the skyline.

Singapore, Singapore

One of the most advanced cities in South East Asia is Singapore. Skyscrapers and modern buildings mingle with more historic structures in the city’s skyline, which symbolise its rapid development.

You may get a postcard-perfect view of Singapore by strolling along the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay waterfront. The renowned Fullerton Hotel and Raffles Palace are the focus of the upcoming scene.

In addition to the Old Supreme Court Building and St Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore’s skyline also features the CBD skyscrapers, Marina Bay, the Singapore Flyer and the ArtScience museum.

[Read more: What are the most visited cities in the world?]

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