When it opened in 2010, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa stole the title for tallest building in the world. Now, three years later, China is attempting to beat that record with Sky City, a 2,749 foot tall building made out of pre-assembled blocks. Construction hit a snag this weekend, however, when a local newspaper revealed that developers failed to obtain a building permit – oops!
While authorities sort through that mess, we thought we’d take a quick look at the world’s most tourist-friendly skyscrapers – not the ones you stand and gaze at from afar (though you can also do that at all of these), but the ones that allow visitors to go inside and do stuff. What kind of stuff, you ask?
1. Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Though Taipei, Hong Kong, and Shanghai technically boast taller buildings, this architectural masterpiece, unveiled in 1998, wins in a category of its own: tallest twin-tower structure in the world. Once inside, visitors can ascend to the 41st-floor, where a panoramic double-decker skybridge connects the two towers. Supported by a “three-hinged arch,” the bridge’s spectacular views are rivaled only by its sense of danger: while walking across it, visitors can supposedly feel the wind swaying it gently back and forth. Meanwhile, upstairs on the 86th floor, a model skyline and interactive TV screens provide fun trivia on the towers.
2. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE
Many Emirates passengers book a stopover in Dubai for the sole purpose of visiting the city’s iconic 2,717 foot tower. But what do you do once you get there? A whole lot, actually. ‘At The Top,’ an observation deck on the 124th floor, is reachable via an express elevator that whisks visitors up at a speed of 32 feet per second. After taking in the view, the tower direct connects to the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping center; alternatively, you can head to the ground floor to glimpse the lobby (and, if you’ve got the dough, a room) at the exclusive Armani Hotel.
Admission: advance purchase from $34; immediate access from $109.
3. The Empire State Building, New York, USA
We often wonder why visitors tolerate hour-long waits to get to the Empire State Building’s two observation decks (one on the 86th floor, and another on the 102nd floor), but then we see photos like the one above and it all becomes clear. Though much of the King Kong-immortalized skyscraper is made up of offices, visitors have a chance to learn all about its history in “Dare To Dream,” a new 80th floor exhibit of archived photographs, architectural sketches, and documents dating back to the 1930s.
Admission: $25 for access to 86th floor; $17 extra for access to 102nd floor.
4. The Shard, London, UK
The tallest building in Western Europe is still relatively new, having officially opened to the public in 2012. Visitors have plenty to do – starting with The View, a multi-level observation deck that allows 360º views of London (the 72nd floor open-air terrace is particularly breath-taking). Elsewhere in the 1,076 foot building, a 200-room Shangri-La hotel is scheduled to debut this September (with its very own infinity pool), while a trio of fine dining restaurants (Hutong, Aqua, and Oblix) occupies floors 31–33.
Admission: advance purchase from $38; immediate access from $46.
5. Q1, Gold Coast, Australia
At 1,058 feet, this skyscraper’s got nothing on taller edifices in other countries (like those mentioned above), yet it still manages to hold a few titles of its own: Tallest Building in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as Australia’s only beachfront observation deck. The latter, SkyPoint, is located on the 77th and 78th floors, accessible via a 43-second express elevator, and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A café and bar are open throughout the day (high tea is a popular choice), though if it’s real pampering you’re after, a full range of treatments is available at the award-winning Q1 Spa, located on the ground floor.
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