From very high to very quirky: the world’s coolest observation decks

People love observation decks for different reasons. Some want to test their fear of heights while others love the breathtaking views. It is always a humbling experience to see familiar landmarks or the urban landscape reduced to a tiny speck and realize how big the world really is.

Observation decks can be found in many locations, such as skyscrapers, towers, or even mountains. Up until 2008, the world’s highest observatories were located in North America, the only exception being the Eiffel Tower. Since 2008, however, the world’s highest views can only be had in Asia or the Middle East. But it’s not just height that counts: some of the most amazing observatories make their mark with other means like bungee jumping, augmented reality, or exciting rides.

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Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

With approximately six million visitors per year, the Eiffel Tower is still the most popular observation deck in the world. Completed in 1889, Gustave Eiffel’s masterpiece was the world’s highest observation deck – at 276 meters – until the Empire State Building’s observation deck (373 meters) surpassed it in 1931.

The Eiffel Tower The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower

One World Trade Center, New York City, USA

At 386.5 meters high, the observation deck in One World Trade Center is not quite as high as its predecessor, Two World Trade Center, whose observation deck was perched on the roof at 415 meters. Nevertheless, the new “One World Observatory” scores high with its fascinating tech. Users can take an augmented reality tour of the skyline by using a tablet to explore the city’s landmarks. Plus, the high-speed elevator – 47 seconds to the top – features floor-to-ceiling, high-definition monitors that show a time lapse history of Lower Manhattan’s skyline that spans 500 years.

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Take a ride through history up to the One World Observatory.

thyssenkrupp Test Tower, Rottweil, Germany

When visitors visit the tallest observation deck in Germany (232m) on top of the world’s tallest (and most stylish) elevator testing tower, they’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Rottweil and, on a clear day, even the Swiss Alps because there are no other tall structures in sight. The Test Tower acts as a laboratory for testing high-speed and innovative elevators like the ropeless MULTI.

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thyssenkrupp Test Tower, Rottweil, Germany

Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand

The Sky Tower is the tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Its observation deck offers breathtaking views of Auckland, the ocean, and the rolling mountains of New Zealand. The tower is frequently lit in beautiful colors to commemorate various occasions such as Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day. It certainly takes courage to stand on the glass floors in the observation deck, but the truly courageous will take the fast way down by bungee jumping from a height of 192 meters.

Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand Sky Tower, Auckland, New Zealand

Canton Tower, Guangzhou, China

With its subtle twisting and delicate lines, Canton Tower in Guangzhou is a real eye-catcher. Not only is it beautifully lit at night, fireworks are often launched from its sides for special events. Visitors can take in the views of the Pearl River Delta from the 488-meter-high observation deck, which was the world’s highest in 2010, or take a ride around the angled quasi-Ferris wheel at a height of 450 m.

Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia

The Harbour Bridge is the perfect destination for those who aren’t satisfied with just one observation deck. The bridge has a more traditional observatory on the southeast pylon that offers excellent views of the city, the opera house, and the harbor. Visitors with strong legs and nerves can climb over the arches of the bridge to another viewing platform at the bridge’s highest point.

Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia
Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Australia

Grand Canyon Skywalk, Arizona, USA

Although this observation deck is actually at ground level, when one stands on the glass of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, there are a whopping 1,220 meters between one and the canyon floor. That’s more than twice as high as the observatory in the Burj Khalifa (555.7m). Understandably, many tourists choose not to walk on the glass. If folks still need more of a thrill, they can always go back inside and book a helicopter ride.

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Would you walk on the glass?

Future tallest: Jeddah Tower, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The Jeddah Tower, the future tallest building in the world, is expected to meet or exceed the 1-kilometer mark. Once completed in 2020, it will also be home to the world’s highest observatory at 637.5 meters. It will feature an exceptionally large outdoor terrace (697 square meters) that will overlook the Red Sea and include numerous glass floor panels to let visitors test their nerves.

Image Credits:

Erik Söderström [CC BY 2.0], Eiffel Tower

By © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

By kherzigOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

By H2NCH2COOHOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

By Colin Zhu – originally posted to Flickr as Guangzhou Tower – 2010 Asian Games Opening Ceremony, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

By User:慕尼黑啤酒Own work, GFDL, Link

David Geen [CC BY-ND 2.0″], Harbour Bridge

Jeddah Tower, taken from smithgill.com – image by: © Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture LLP, all rights reserved

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