Top 10 City Skylines

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All my years in studying Urban Planning helped me grow a greater appreciation for the skyline of the big city. The downtown core of big cities across the world, are the cultural pulse and economic engines of urban regions where millions of people live. The skyline is the fingerprint of that city. All urban life begins each day and ends each night under the watch of the city’s tallest skyscrapers and most grand architectural structures. So kick back and appreciate the view that they have to offer…

10. Seattle, USA

See images: http://diserio.com/seattleskyline.html

Seattle is the commercial, cultural and advanced technology hub of the Northwest USA and a major port city for Pacific and European trade. Home 4 buildings over 200m and the famous 184m Space Needle observation tower, Seattle is surrounded by mountains and water and offers some picture-perfect views. Seattle is commonly referred to as the Emerald City and renowned as a great social and corporate city with infrastructure. The planning is spectacular, as it helped create the hill-like effect on the skyline’s silhouette, add the mountain backdrop and this city is almost a picture perfect. Best View(s): Kerry Park (Franklin Place.

9. Shenzhen, China

See images: http://diserio.com/shenzhenskyline.html

What was a tiny fishing village on the border of Hong Kong in 1970 is now a buzzing metropolis of over six million people! Already containing 20 buildings at over 200 meters tall, including the Shun Hing Square (the 8th tallest building in the world), the development is not stopping. There are photos of Shenzhen floating around the Web that appear so surreal, experts and enthusiast argue whether or not they doctored or real. Shenzhen is a spectacle of lights and neon signs after sunset, you can’t help but ask yourself… if you are in a video game or in a real city. The only downfall of the Shenzhen skyline is it is often criticized for its high levels of smog.

8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

See images: http://diserio.com/klskyline.html

This is probably the most impressive city worldwide that has less than 2 million residents. Marvelous modern buildings reach the sky here, and while the skyline is not exactly the densest, it does allow buildings to soar and stand out. Kuala Lumpur has 10 structures standing over 200 meters tall with three of them being in the 25 tallest buildings worldwide. Kuala Lumpur is also home to the tallest twin buildings, the Petronas Towers as well as the peaking, 420 meter Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower. Along with Singapore are said to be the frontier cities to boom from the Southeast Asian economic revolution.

7. Toronto, Canada

See images: http://diserio.com/torontoskyline.html

Toronto is a meeting place, a crossroads of many cultures and ethnicities. . Toronto has 7 structures in its skyline that stand at over 200 metres, including the astonishingly tall 553 metre, CN Tower, which is often referred to as the tallest free-standing structure in North America. Currently, the CN Tower possess the world’s highest observation deck, making this city’s skyline one of the most immediately identifiable. Toronto, also contains a diverse collection of renowned architecture, including it’s city hall. Toronto also has one of the densest financial districts in North America only beaten by New York and Chicago. Toronto is still experience a condo boom where 30 story condos have been springing up along the lakeshore and in the suburbs. Best View(s): Centre Island or Leslie Split

6. Tokyo, Japan

See images: http://diserio.com/tokyoskyline.html

Tokyo is the world’s most populated city and considered by many to be the capital of the Eastern world. Its skyline has a number of unique characteristics that set it apart from other big city skylines, among them 18 structures at over 200 metres tall (including the Tokyo Tower which changes colors every night). But because of the density and vast size of the city, every corner appears to have its own skyline. With the height restrictions and the required red lights that flash atop all mid to tall-sized buildings make the city look spectacular at night. Tokyo is filled with neon lighting and unique, contemporary architecture, and like New York City is also often portrayed in movies for its aesthetic and eye-catching cityscapes. The Mt. Fuji range in the distant view, adds that technology meets nature contrast. Interesting fact: Tokyo houses the world’s largest fleet of helicopters to get around town if traffic gets too crazy.

5. Singapore, Singapore

See images: http://diserio.com/singaporeskyline.html

One of the best (urban) planned and cleanliest metropolitan cities in the world, Singapore looks like an architectural city model come to life. The buildings cannot be higher than 280 metres due to air traffic control restrictions, but that has added a tall (but not too tall) and consistent building height and space pattern that makes this skyline unique: Three buildings are exactly 280 metres tall and 6 others (11 total) stand at just over 200 metres. The buildings are mostly light-colored and there is a large expanse of greenery dotted around the city core. This South-Eastern city is definitely in a league of its own.

4. Shanghai, China

See images: http://diserio.com/shanghaiskyline.html

Not to be mistaken for a space station, Shanghai is a real city! China’s biggest and most advanced city, Shanghai was said to be one of the most modern cities at the turn of the 20th century, but lost its glory, due to a long standing repressive rule. It is now quickly regaining its position as one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world. Shanghai is becoming a showcase of modern architecture and is quickly amassing a collection of sky reaching buildings decked along the edges of the semi-circular shoreline in Pudong district. In Shanghai you’ll find 28 structures that are over 200 metres tall and two over 400 metres including one that is insanely tall (468m), the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

3. New York City, USA

See images: http://diserio.com/nycskyline.html

New York City has one of the densest and most diverse skylines, with a huge collection of buildings and building styles. Thanks to artist’s and Hollywood’s obsession with the city, it is also the most easily recognizable skyline in the world. New York City has an amazing collection of 48 buildings that stand over 200 metres – the most in the world! New York city probably has the greatest heritage in terms of skyscrapers, building the world’s first commercial super-tall. The four tallest buildings in NYC were all built in the early 1930s! Home of the famous, now destroyed World Trade Center Towers, the Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations, New York City is the financial capital of the western world. New York’s skyline probably has the most compact and overwhelming collection of architecture from almost any point in the city. New York skyscrapers pattern do create a skyline effect against a horizon, but it is probably a better view from the inside looking out and about rather than looking at it from afar. Best View(s): NJ’s Liberty State Park, Fulton Street Pier Under Brooklyn Bridge, Staten Island Ferry

2. Chicago, USA

See images: http://diserio.com/chicagoskyline.html

Chicago is the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. When Chicago built its first steel high-rise in 1885, it was not the tallest structure in the world but the first example of a new form of engineering that would change nearly every city on earth. Chicago has 20 buildings over 200 metres tall (three of which are among the top 20 tallest buildings in the world, including the tallest in North America). Chicago has some of the finest mid-century architecture and examples of modern skyscrapers. This skyline has many distinctive views, changing it’s pattern ever so subtly at each angle you choose to look at it from. Like Hong Kong and New York, Chicago’s skyscraper’s really do create a line, stacked up along the shoreline, creating a true, skyline effect. Best View(s): Adler Planetarium or Montrose Point or US Cellular Field

1. Hong Kong, China

See images: http://diserio.com/hongkongskyline.html

The city of Hong Kong has the greatest skyline in the world! Hong Kong has a whopping 43 buildings over 200 metres tall, 30 of which were built in the year 2000 or later!!! There are also an number of residential condominiums with 60 stories. It also boasts four of the 17 tallest buildings in the world… That’s 20% of the top 20, all in one city! Egbert Gramsbergen and Paul Kazmierczak have dubbed Hong Kong “The tallest city in the world” in their online Skyscraper Cities Ranking List which is referenced in the Almanac of Architecture in 2006. Contrary to common belief, Hong Kong’s skyline shows a large selection of distinct sky-reaching towers, rather than block-style apartments. At night, the skyline is glimmers with lighting and reflections. This city exemplifies the post-modern skyscraper and skyline. Finally, the mountainous backdrop makes this skyline the greatest on the planet! Best View(s): Victoria Harbor or Victoria Peak

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Much thanks to Luigi Di Serio for providing this list.


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49 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this. I would really like to hear you opinion of some of the less successful (read: ugly) skylines as well. I am not too keen on the current shape of Dubai, but can't really explain why other than a sense of crassness.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing!

  2. eh….not a lover of cities….but why isn't San Fransico mentioned? Beauty of a skyline.

    Also…London and Paris.

    oh yeah….BOSTON!!!

    Just my sad opinion.

  3. yeah yeah yeah…okay,,,,just read what I wrote…well, I LOVE visiting cities….just can't stand being in them for more than 3 days…..

  4. New York is clearly the best skyline; you list the reasons, yet evade the obvious conclusion. Height, density, history. How about beauty, influence on other skylines, cultural importance.

    New York has two amazing skylines: downtown and midtown. The Chrysler tower is the single most beautiful skyscraper every built. New York is the best skyline. Case closed.

  5. I have to second a city mentioned above: PITTSBURGH should definitely be on the list……beautiful skyline in the Burgh!

  6. Lawrence Oliver on

    Chicago is the most beautiful city in the world; but Vancouver, Canada deserves to be on the list as does San Fran.

  7. I have been to 4 out of 10 above cities: Seattle, Toronto, Tokyo and Shanghai. To my opinion, Toronto is the best. I lived there for 1 year and never get bored to enjoy the waterfront view and CN tower. It was so modern and impressive, as if I have seen the city in the future.
    A city with good skyline must have a “marker”, which is a distinctive symbol represents the city. i.e. CN tower in Toronto, Space Needle in Seattle, Oriental Pearl in Shanghai. To me, the skyline of crowded cities such as NY, HK and Tokyo is too dense, and that makes them not as impressive as others. Also depends on the environment around the city, for example, the water of Huangpu river in Shanghai is dirty, and the air quality is poor.
    Why Los Angeles is not on the top 10 list? in addition, I personally think Calgary, Canada has one of the top 10 skyline.

    • Really Ny doesnt have anything distinctive? Empire State Building? Chrysler Building? soon to be Freedom tower? etc NYC is the best skyline in the world no question about it

  8. I wonder how Toronto, Canada made this list, but not Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver has glass highrises in the foreground, snowy mountains in the background… wierd…

  9. Agree that SF and Vancouver need to be on here. Just took a sunset bay cruise around Alcatraz island a few days ago and coming back looking at the whole of SF, it really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

  10. why was miami Atlanta or La not put on this list those skyline’s would beat some on the list I’m not saying they are the best but they would have beat some

  11. where the hell is Dubai it has the tallest building in the world , the tallest all hotel , in 2011 the tallest all residential building in the world it has 14 buildins over 300 m morw that hong kong and NY it must take at least the no 9 spot

  12. im sorry but, Hong Kong is was never the best and is never gonna be, NY should be the best, then Toronto, btw, im talking about 2010 not 2005 or 2007. Toronto has the second most number of buildings in the world just after NY soo yeah. do some research. Has lot more than Hong kong and shanghai but not taller, looks tall from ground level though atleast 200m and more. then chicago then HONG KONG then you can put ur chinese cities (shanghai etc.)

  13. just look at the distance of which the toronto and chicago skyline are taken from, also, toronto skyline from the side is killer lmao, thin and longggggggg like 8 kilos.

  14. Have to disagree with this list for a number of reasons

    1. This list is bias in that the person who created this is from the US and therefore is bias towards America
    2. Most of the cities listed are being marked as “The best skyline” because of how many buildings they have.

    Personally I think that Sydney, NSW Australia has the best skyline. The Harbour bridge and opera house in the foreground, Centre point tower in the midground, and the amazing blue sky in the background, as well as the beautiful harbour.

    Sorry but sydney owns.

    • AussieinChina on

      At last!! Have to agree with this comment wholeheartedly. Maybe not number 1, but Sydney’s skyline should be on here. It has dominated many top 10 travel/tourism lists for over a decade.
      Hong Kong? Maybe when you can see it!
      Overall, quite a subjective list.

  15. ahh the hong kong skyline is not bad, just doesnt deserve that no.1 position. Come on its china, all of them are coming down here to live u cant live there. its sh.it. new york is not bad, but its not clean, chicago is say, dust all over the place, like another new york. singapore skyline has nothing really. small no. of buildings

  16. Jeez SOME Americans make me laugh sometimes. How can anyone say “New York is the best because I say it is, case closed”. Are people here 5 years old?

    London in my view is more beautiful even though it does not have the height. What does New York win on?

    1. Beauty – no. London, Paris and countless European cities much more beautiful with a blend of history, something New York does not have
    2. Height – no. Not a single NY building is in the world’s top ten tallest now
    3. Most skycrapers – nope sorry that’s HK now and soon there will 2-3 Chinese cities with more.

    It seems some New Yorkers think by shouting loudest their city is the best. How ignorant but at the same time very amusing.

    • NYC currently has more tall buildings than anywhere else on earth. Now, granted, that doesn’t necessarily mean “best skyline”. That’s a personal preference. For all I know, one could prefer the Walla Walla, Washington skyline.

      But, the biggest skyline is definitely NYC, and HK is definitely #2.

  17. I agree with your list. Hong Kong is breathtaking when you land by plane at night and you see the whole city vista laid out to one side, though when I last did that was in 1994 at the old Kai Tak airport rather than the new Chek Lap Kok and I imagine the view landing at CLK isn’t as spectacular – but I could be wrong.

  18. NYC has more buildings above 200m than Hong Kong. I’m not sure why the article claimed otherwise. This can be verified at emporis.com

    If you’re asking who has the most tall buildings, the indisputable answer is NYC.

    And HK is easily #2.

    After NYC and HK, all the other cities are far, far behind.

  19. Its hard to say NYC isn’t #1 when every other city in the world used it as a model to build what they are today.

  20. The picture of Singapore captures about a third of the skyline. It’s impossible to capture all in one shot as lies around a bay in a circle.

  21. anonymous arab gal on

    Where in the world Is Dubai on that stupid list! The Burj Khalifa is 828 meters tall and has 163 stories! And the Burj al Arab, that’s a 7 STAR HOTEL! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MONEY IT COSTS TO STAY IN THE BURJ AL ARAB FOR ONE NIGHT! IN THE BURJ AL ARAB THERE ARE RAIN SHOWERS, JACUZZIS IN EVERY SUITE, PERSONAL BUTLERS ON COMMAND, A ROLLS ROYCE FLEET, AND DINING UNDER THE SEA AND STARS! THAT COSTS $1000 A NIGHT! THAT’S JUST FOR A SMALL ROOM ITSELF! ALL THE BUILDINGS ARE SO HUGE! LIKE THE MARRIOT HARBOR, THAT’S 54 STORIES TALL, AND IN DUBAI IT’S CONSIDERED A 3 STAR HOTEL! 3 STAR! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!

  22. I personallly don’t like the Dubai skyline, because it’s ugly and pointless, IMO. It’s just random giant towers in the desert. The highrises aren’t even downtown, so they”re basically just exurban sprawl, but 100 floors in the air, and surrounded by nothing.

    To me, skylines are supposed to be urban, pedestrian and transit oriented, and supposed to lead to density and vibrancy. They’re supposed to work as part of a cohesive whole.

    I don’t really care for towers in the middle of nowhere. Give me Manhattan over Dubai any day.

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