The World's 20 Best Skylines, Ranked
Beauty, as we all learned from watching the Twilight Zone, is a very subjective thing. And while there aren't any cities in the world that people think are beautiful even though they really look like disfigured space aliens, our ideas about what makes a pretty skyline are, well, pretty subjective. Look no further than the comments on our America's best skylines story for proof.
But while beauty may be subjective, one thing is for certain: impressive, eye-catching, testament-to-human-engineering skylines are not exclusive to the USA. Which is why we decided to nod approvingly at pictures of the 20 most recognizable skylines around the world, and then rank them based on their overall aesthetics.
20. Shenzhen, China
The thing about China is, they've got a lot of people. As in, they've got cities with 10 million residents that many of us haven't even heard of. Like Shenzhen, a once sleepy riverside town turned major economic player that today boasts millions of occupants and 23 buildings over 650ft-tall.
19. Seoul, South Korea
While the largest skyline in both Koreas might not rock any record-shattering broadcast towers or landmark, space-aged LED orbs, it IS the only cityscape on this list to boast its own dance craze -- and there's definitely something to be said for that. Oh, you didn't know Gangnam was Seoul's central business district? Yeah, that song wasn't about horses.
18. Frankfurt, Germany
Unlike Americans, Asians, and Middle Eastern oil sheiks, Europeans aren't so hung up on excessive displays of civic wealth. Which is why the only skyline on the continent to make this list is Frankfurt am Main, the largest financial center in Europe and more or less the only European city with an intimidating glass tower skyline. Also, it's the birthplace of the hot dog.
17. Macau, SAR, China
Remember that time China was a communist country? Yeah, once you have your own version of Las Vegas, you can pretty much kiss that whole hammer-and-sickle thing goodbye. And that's exactly what Macau is: a tiny Vegas-like island city consumed by big, bright buildings with names like Wynn, MGM, and Sands, plus the 47-story Grand Lisboa hotel that towers like a giant fan over the Pearl River.
16. Vancouver, BC, Canada
Vancouver's dense, vertical downtown is often used in movies to replicate New York City, since to the untrained eye it can be tough to tell the difference. The condo towers don't offer much in the way of aesthetics, but their location at the base of a mountain range and the landmark Lookout Tower make this one of the prettiest skylines in the world.
15. New York, NY
Though certainly one of the world's most recognizable -- and photographed -- skylines, one could argue that the Big Apple has gone a little overboard with development. A few landmark buildings notwithstanding, it's more or less a giant blob of bland-colored towers, many of which look dated and old. That said, the bridges over the Hudson and East Rivers keep NYC from dropping further down the list.
14. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is more or less the Michael Jordan before Scottie Pippen of skylines, that is, it's a one-man team. But if you're gonna have a one-man team, that man might as well be Jesus Christ, right? The iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which sits atop Corcovado Mountain overlooking this city of 6.4 million on Guanabara Bay, steals the show. Combine it with views of the water and mountains, and this skyline is still one of the world's most beautiful.
13. Las Vegas, NV
Oh, that's cute, Paris, you've got an Eiffel Tower. Vegas sees that Eiffel Tower and raises you the Statue of Liberty. Oh, you have one of those too? Okay, how about all of New York City then? And a pyramid. And a giant hot air balloon. Vegas has basically taken some of the best skylines in the world and put them on one giant, neon-lit street, making it the most unique and creative cityscape on this list.
12. Los Angeles, CA
Because everyone in LA drives 50 miles to work and the city is considered the American birthplace of suburban sprawl, it's oft-overlooked skyline is possibly the most underrated in the country. The San Gabriel Mountains -- on the days you can see them through the smog -- make a perfect backdrop to this tightly-clustered collection of interesting buildings anchored by the 1,018ft US Bank Tower.
11. San Francisco, CA
On the odd day when you can actually SEE the San Fran skyline poking up between the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, it can be the most impressive urban landscape in America. But those days are few and far between. And as the City by the Bay has grown in importance, so too has its number of nondescript, indistinguishable office towers. Still, the overall setting combined with the TransAmerica pyramid make this one of the world's best.
10. Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When it comes to your classic skyline setting -- sports dome, tower, skyscrapers -- nobody does it better than Toronto, the largest city in Canada. Built on the shores of Lake Ontario and home to the first retractable-roof stadium in North American pro sports (Rogers Centre, but really, the SkyDome), Toronto's skyline is also distinguished by the 1815ft CN Tower and the 72-story First Canadian Place.
9. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In their seemingly never-ending quest to be the Texas of the Middle East, Dubai added the tallest building in the world as an exclamation point to a skyline that's exploded over the last decade. The 163-floor Burj Khalifa is half a mile tall and anchors the largest collection of taller-than-820ft buildings in the world.
8. Chicago, IL
Kinda like how Chicago manages to have some of the best looking people in America -- who still actually seem like genuine, friendly people -- so too has its skyline managed to maintain a humble aesthetic while remaining one of the world's most impressive. The 108-story Willis tower tops a pleasant tapestry of tall buildings that haven't gone overboard like New York or Miami, all set against the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan.
7. Seattle, WA
Between that 50 Shades movie and the NFL Playoffs, you're probably a little sick of looking at the Space Needle by now. But America's best skyline is a lot more than that. It's a series of architecturally diverse buildings set on a hill next to Puget Sound, with Mount Rainier looming in the background. Vertical growth restrictions have kept this skyline's aesthetics intact, although looming Amazon construction may change things.
Sure, they'll beat you with a cane if you try and "liven up" their downtown with a little of your own street art. But with a skyline like this -- complete with an illuminated Ferris wheel and the world's most expensive building (the $5.7 BILLION Marina Bay Sands) -- the city's aesthetics really don't need much help.
5. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Not satisfied to just go out and buy a Porsche like everyone else, the architect of Kuala Lumpur's landmark Petronas Twin Towers set out to not only build the tallest twin structures in the world, but also to make them look like... rockets. By doing so, he immediately thrust the city's skyline into the world's elite, transforming a nondescript collection of buildings into one of the most recognizable views on the planet.
4. Shanghai, China
Don't be fooled: just because the skyline of China's largest city (by population) looks a lot like Tomorrowland -- with the LED-studded China Pearl building offsetting futuristic office towers and the 101-story Shanghai World Financial Center -- you won't be able to find a single screening of Captain EO. With 24 million people, though, you will find Space Mountain-esque lines everywhere.
3. Tokyo, Japan
The reason Tokyo can't build mega-towers like some other Asian cities is because it's extremely susceptible to earthquakes. Although that didn't stop them from building the 2,080ft Tokyo Skytree, a broadcasting tower that's listed as the second tallest building in the world. They've also constructed some of the most architecturally intriguing structures around, all set against the backdrop of Mt. Fuji.
2. Hong Kong, SAR, China
Built on Victoria Harbour at the base of a mountain, this one-time British territory is one of the most densely-populated large cities on the planet (spanning only 50,000 acres) and claims the world's largest collection of buildings over 500ft. Topped by the 118-story International Commerce Center, views of this skyline are spectacular.
1. Sydney, Australia
Have you ever seen a picture of this skyline when the water and sky weren't completely blue? Except maybe the one above. Sure, Sydney has its rainy days, but the white of the landmark Sydney Opera House contrasts perfectly with the blue waters of Sydney Harbour and the impressive -- but not overdeveloped -- cadre of skyscrapers behind it. Plus, the long arc of the Sydney Harbour bridge makes Sydney, at least in our opinion, the most photogenic skyline in the world.