My pick of urban observatory decks, based on a few criteria that I thought would be important in the selection process. First, the city itself has to have a unique and spectacular cityscape for the viewers to appreciate; Secondly, the observatory deck has to offer the best angle of the iconic landmarks with the backdrop of the stunning skyline. Therefore, some of the choices are tough, and they might not be the landmark itself. Instead – they are my “even-better” choices. Hmm.
#10 Kuala Lumpur
The view – Tropical greenery of the bustling city and the world’s tallest twin tower
The usual choice: The PETRONAS Twin Towers
My “even-better” choice: The Menara
There are lots of things that give you Monday blue…
Waking up on a dreary morning after a night of thunder downpour….
Heading to work after an exciting, fun weekend….
Or, Realizing that the sky bridge in between Petronas twin towers closes on Mondays (when you were there)!
The PETRONAS Twin Towers looks like two giant sweet corns, and they have been holding the record of the world’s tallest twin towers for 18 years. The observatory deck in Tower 2 offers a far-reaching and stunning view of the city; more, the sky bridge between the two towers is opened for visitors as well. Not only the bridge closes on Monday… Sadly. Please also note, the sky bridge used to be, but no longer, free! So we wandered to another observation deck which turned out kind of cool. It’s the Menara in KL city.
The Menara, a.k.a. The Kuala Lumpur Tower is a telecommunication tower atop a small hill; it is also the highest lookout point of the city that opens to the public. The tower also features a revolving restaurant with panoramic views of the city and allegedly the world’s highest McDonald’s a few floors down. 🙂
The view – Skyscrapers, the ultramodern architecture around the marina bay, Gardens by the Bay, and cargo ships in the Singapore Strait
The usual choice: Singapore Flyer
My “even-better” choice: Sands Skypark
When the Singapore Flyer opened, the owners had high hopes for it being the new icon of the city. How the Singapore Flyer ended up in a financial storm merely five years after its grand opening? Lack of originality, safety issues, price issues, low attractiveness… all added up to the reasons why it went wrong. As a tourist, it’s the location. The entire Marina Bay was under construction for the last ten years, and the wheel doesn’t have the best angle to see the Marina Bay skyline. Particularly for a similar price, there’s a Sky Deck in Marina Bay Sands right across the bridge?
The Infinity pool and Marina Bay Sands Sky Deck are opened to the hotel guests, where visitors could also enjoy the Sky Deck with a fee. Soaring 57 levels above ground the MBS infinity pool is one of the most iconic swimming pools in the world.
The view – One of the world’s largest natural harbors, iconic Sydney Opera House, beautiful city greenery
The usual choice: Sydney Tower
My “even-better” choice: Sydney BridgeClimb
Sydney’s skyline has undergone a complete makeover for the past 30 years; If you look at the photo of Sydney’s skyline from the late 80s, you won’t even recognize it. The Sydney opera house, however, remained at the waterfront as the most iconic feature of the Darling Harbor. Sydney Tower is located in Sydney’s CBD, and it’s the tallest structure in the city – I have learned that based on the city planning control, no buildings are allowed to be built taller than 235 meters (a.k.a. the Sydney Tower). Its observation deck offers a 360 panoramic view at a height of 1,000 feet above the ground. Visitors can even see Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains on a clear day.
With so many skyscrapers in the City Center, it could be hard now to see the Opera House and Harbor Bridge from the Sydney Tower.
Another way to enjoy the stunning view of the harbor would be Sydney BridgeClimb. Although it could be a little bit costly, it is a more exciting experience, and the bridge offered climbers an unobstructed view of the Sydney Opera House. Besides, the funny narrations really helped me understand the history and funny stories of many places in the city!
#7 Las Vegas, Nevada
The view – Hotels, Casinos, Giant Wheel, and the Red Rock Canyon
The usual choice: High Roller Vegas
My “even-better” choice: Stratosphere Las Vegas
Sure, Las Vegas has a bold and interesting skyline. Nowhere in the world, one may see so many different shapes and flavors. Along the Las Vegas Strip, there is a giant pyramid with a sphinx, an Eiffel tower, a Statue of Liberty, a Caesar Palace, a Venetian complex… and so much more. The recently opened High Roller is the world’s tallest Ferris wheel in the middle of the Strip across Caesar Palace.
Despite the novelty that may sound appealing, it was the Stratosphere Las Vegas that excited me the most. It didn’t seem that tall to me from afar, but the Stratosphere is the second tallest free-standing observation tower in the Western Hemisphere, behind Toronto’s CN Tower. Just when one might think the height couldn’t get any more heart-pounding – there is four SICK thrill rides at the top of the tower (The world’s 1st/2nd and 3rd highest thrill rides) that give daredevils a good reason to scream their lungs out.
More, consider taking a short helicopter tour at night to see the beautiful magic lights of the Gambling Capital of the World~
The view – Seoul’s Gangnam Skyline, Lotte Amusement Park and Han River
The usual choice: N Tower
My “even-better” choice: Seoul Sky
The N Tower has been an iconic and very visible landmark in Seoul since 1971. It holds dear to the locals and many memorable TV Show memories were created there. The top of the tower offers a panoramic view of the entire city and it’s even more romantic during springtime when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. However, there is a new addition to the city. The Lotte World Mall in Jamsil is a world-class shopping mall that comprises the incredible shopping, art, food, and entertainment experience. The newly established Lotte World Tower is the 5th tallest building in the world and the Sky deck n Seoul Sky has been verified by Guinness World Records as the world’s highest glass-floor observation deck in the world.
At 468 meters above ground, the Sky Deck on the 118th floor is the main attraction of Seoul Sky. To me, the Lotte World Tower may not be in the best location for viewing the city center; but I went there for the entire experience. Seoul Sky occupies the top 11 floors of the 555-meter high skyscraper and the tower features the world’s tallest and fastest double-decker elevator, the Sky Shuttle, which whisks passengers from the basement to the 121st-floor observation deck in one minute.
The entrance of Seoul Sky celebrated Korea’s history and culture through media art. More, I highly recommend the 123 Lounge and enjoy some drinks or dessert while sitting by the window.
The view – Come on, it’s London! The beautiful mix of old and new architecture along the River Thames
The usual choice: The London Eye, the Shard, and more…
My “even-better” choice: London Sky Garden
The London Eye was erected 18 years ago to welcome the millennium, and it has immediately become a prototype of its kind; Yes, it is the pioneer of giant wheels – before the London Eye, the world didn’t have a monumental and permanent urban observatory wheels, (at least as iconic as the London Eye) and now it’s everywhere. Anyway, the latecomers wouldn’t have the originality and the perfect view of the Westminster inside the comfy and spacious egg-shaped capsules. The Shard, on the other hand, offers the tallest view of the European continent. Completed in 2013, it offers the highest city lookout point and a panoramic view of the city. In fact, the tower itself is an architectural marvel as the glass panels change colors and collectively form the shapes of a gigantic “shard of glass.”
So – an “even better” way to appreciate this giant art piece would be from the new London Sky Garden, which is located on the rooftop of the 20 Frenchchurch Street Building, the latest addition to the Central London skyline.
The most remarkable thing about the “Walkie-Talkie” is that admission to the Sky Garden is free during the day; however, it is necessary to pre-book a time slot online, and it could get busy. Although the open-air balcony is only one-sided, the platform offers viewers the best view of the South Bank of River Thames, including a LOT of London key sights, from the HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge (Of course!), the bulbous London City Hall, the Tower of London, Tate Modern Museum (the chimneys), the dome of Saint Paul Cathedral, the Gherkin… all the way to the houses of Parliament and the London Eye, if the sky is clear.
If possible, select the timeslot around sunset. At night, the SkyGarden becomes a bar and visitors could enjoy the night view with music. 🙂
The view – The spider web-like city grid, romantic blue mansard rooftops, historic landmarks… and so much more
The usual choice: Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, et plus…
My “even-better” choice: Montparnasse
Welcome to Paris! Everyone loves Paris for different reasons. The consistent blue mansard rooftops that cover the city is one of mine. Although there aren’t really that many tall buildings from the 1st to 20th arrondissement, visitors have quite a lot of options: They could climb to the top of Notre Dame tower, go to the roof of the department store Printemps Haussmann, or queue the way up to the observatory deck of Arc de Triomphe.
At the Arc de Triomphe, visitors could appreciate a perfect symmetrical view from the Place Charles de Gaulle down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Not all the best viewpoints are at famous sites. Through the windows from Musée d’Orsay or Centre Pompidou, the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Cœur is unforgettable.
However, among all these, Tour Montparnasse 56 is a hidden gem in terms of offering the most impressive view of Paris. No lines, no crush, no obstruction. Go up 689 feet within seconds with Europe’s fastest elevator. Everything, and yes, everything in Paris is in view. Some say it has the best viewpoint in Paris because it’s the only place you won’t see this sore thumb in the Paris cityscape… somehow I agree!
The view – modern architecture, chaotic road networks, the energetic city vibe and on a clear day – the Mount Fuji
The usual choice: The Tokyo Tower, The Tokyo Skytree, and more…
My “even-better” choice: Tokyo Cityview and Skydeck
Tokyo is a metropolis that sometimes it’s hard to find a focal point. Many major cities in the western world usually have a central point (it could be a central train station, a CBD with skyscraper cluster, or a large meeting point of freeways). For Tokyo, each district developed as an independent city, and it’s hard to identify a signature skyline. It might have been the Tokyo Tower for the last 50 years or so, and lately, the Tokyo Skytree took over and become one of the coolest lookouts in the Capital of Japan.
The highest reaching point of the Skytree’s observatory deck is 451.2 meters (out of its 634 meters total height). The tower is located in the Sumida district; the new landmark revitalized an old neighborhood in the city of Tokyo.
Roppongi is probably my favorite area in Tokyo. Every time I visited Tokyo, I went to Roppongi. It’s a hip and trendy district with some new residential developments; Besides, the location is convenient, between Ginza and Shibuya / Shinjuku.
The Mori Tower’s Tokyo City View experience is my “even-better” choice. Yes, it’s not just an observatory. It has an art museum and art gallery on the top floor of the Mori Tower. The entry ticket includes a visit to the modern art exhibition and the indoor observatory deck, and it’s a prestigious exhibition site in the city: many famous artists have displayed their work there – like Annette Messenger, Yayoi Kusama… and Ai Wei Wei.
If the weather allows, it’s possible to go up to the sky deck and enjoy a 360-degree view of the Tokyo metro area. Asakusa, Odaiba, Shiodome, Shibuya… and even Yokohama.
#2 Hong Kong
The View – Modern and dense skyscrapers along Victoria Harbor, a unique combination of sea, urban development and mountain range
The usual choice: The Victoria Peak
My “even-better” choice: Sky 100
Everyone has heard about Victoria Peak at one point. It’s probably the most visited tourist site in the city, and it is the best viewpoint of the spectacular city skyline. True – the peak is actually incredible, and the historical peak tram ride adds fun to the entire experience. Somehow the fast-paced city changed so fast that visitors may need to have a change of scenery. How about viewing capturing the Hong Kong unique skyline from a different angle across the Harbor?
The International Commerce Centre is located in the Kowloon Peninsula and currently the tallest building in the city. From the 102nd to the 118th floor – The Ritz-Carlton is the highest hotel in the world, with the world’s highest swimming pool, and bar right at the top of the 118th floor. The Observatory Sky 100 is on the 100th floor of the building, featuring a panoramic view of the entire Hong Kong and Kowloon areas.
#1 New York
The view – A concrete jungle where dreams were made of, the Manhattan skyline is not just a view, it’s a dream
The usual choice: The Empire State Building, One World Observatory, and more…
My “even-better” choice: Top of the Rock
Everyone recognizes the Empire State Building. It was probably because the building is 80-year-old, and was featured in so many Hollywood blockbusters like King Kong, An Affair to Remember, and Sleepless in Seattle… The 102-story tall building remained to be the world’s tallest building until 1972. The 86th-floor observation is definitely the “place-to-be” for visitors to immerse in New York’s sights.
Somehow, in the same prime location of the mid-Manhattan, another skyscraper offers an “even better” scene of both north and south. The Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center is also a “historic” observation deck since it opened to the public back in 1933. Top of the Rock is six-level high and offers some of the best views of the Big Apple’s Skyline: an unobstructed view of the greenery in the Central Park, calm yet busy Hudson River, blinding neon lights of Times Square, magnificently lit Empire State Building, all the way to the lower Manhattan.