Mountain climbers are the men and women who wish to ascend to the kingdom of heaven from Earth. They are admirable people who are capable of photographing some of the most incredible vistas on the planet; but not everyone aspires to scale the highest peaks. Some of us would much rather push an elevator button and chat up whoever might be joining us for the ride to the top. Skyscrapers are our mountains, and we think the view from the penthouse is as good as it gets; plus there’s room service up there, which is more than Everest can claim.
For anyone who prefers looking out over 5th avenue to seeing the humdrum glory of nature, may we present 15 rare rooftop views to inspire the skyscraper mountaineer.
Cé La Vi – Singapore
Formerly Kú De Ta, this is a double winner in being a rooftop bar with incredible live DJs and drink specials, as well as a stunning place to snap a photo. It bears an infinity pool, and is part of the SkyPark, giving it one of the best unobstructed views of the city of sin that you’ll find anywhere outside of a helicopter.
Lower Manhattan – New York City
The New York skyline hasn’t gotten as much attention as it did before the twin towers fell, but this image proves that is a loss. Striking storm clouds brew above the One World Trade Center, while wispy clouds lurk amongst the skyscrapers of the city. This captures the sense of the city perfectly, with a silver land among the clouds in the distance, and the gritty aspects squatting in the foreground.
GB Roof Garden – Athens
To visit Greece is to be treated to innumerable historic sights, but when you grow weary of picking your way around ruins, head to the GB Roof Garden bar and restaurant where you can be treated to a look at the Acropolis, Lycabettus hill, and Greek Parliament. It’s a eyeful of the womb that birthed democracy.
Barcelona – Spain
Taken from the Grand Central Hotel’s picturesque roof, this view is a daunting look at the sprawling metropolis that is Barcelona. It’s one of the few places where you can get enough distance from the hulking Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia; the be-spired church in the lower right. An unfinished chapel by Antonti Gaudi, it’s a marvel at any distance.
Dubai – United Arab Emirates
It’s hard to believe this idyllic shot is of the pulsing, terrifying metropolis that is the wealthy, dangerous city of Dubai in the UAE. Shot from about 75 stories up, this view might not be the highest you can reach, but it’s a rare combination of timing, nature, and human structure. Only a few times a year does the mist creep over the landscape and obscure the streets below, making the whole city seem ethereal.
Rome – Italy
When in Rome, do not do as the Roman’s do. They can see the Vatican anytime they choose, and often don’t give it, St. Peter’s Basilica, or the Colosseum a second look. Our personal suggestion is to beg, borrow, or steal your way onto one of the hotel rooftops (we recommend the Hassler Roma) to capture some of the grace inherent in the very human construction of the home of Catholicism.
Tokyo – Japan
The crown jewel of Japan is a maze of labyrinthine streets that can be difficult to escape, but when you can, the urban layout before you is enough to give the most steadfast traveler vertigo. Seen here from the peak of the Andaz Toranomon Hills hotel, it’s the city lights that utterly blot out the stars.
Pyramids at Giza – Cairo
Though the hotel itself bears the unremarkable name of the Pyramids Inn Motel, if you climb to the roof, you’ll be treated to one of the best views of the Giza pyramids to be found anywhere. Lined up along the horizon like Rockettes, it’s a wonderful sight, so long as it’s not obscured by sandstorms.
The View from The Shard – London
The tallest building in all of Europe, it might come as a shock to some that the best rooftop view in London doesn’t focus on Westminster or Big Ben, but rather the iconic, panoramic look at the totality of the former center of the world. From the spire of The Shard you’ll survey a kingdom.
Aer Bar – Mumbai
India isn’t quite as big on rooftop dining as much of the world is, but when they do it, they do it with class and aplomb. The Aer Bar of Mumbai allows visitors to gaze at the water meeting the land, and the unique range of architecture that only the stylized aesthetics of India can provide. The drinks aren’t anything to scoff at, either.
Blue Mosque – Istanbul
Istanbul is often overlooked as a tourist destination, and that’s a crime against travel. While many visitors are drawn in by the Bosphorus Bridge, one night at the Hotel Arcadia Blue will change your tune. It provides a bar with a clear view of the astounding Blue Mosque, offering up an angle that makes this alien, yet holy structure’s magnificence pop and sizzle.
Tour Montparnasse – Paris
When in Paris, if you want to see Eiffel’s little pet project, all you really need to do is get on any roof and look in the proper direction. It sticks out a bit, making it hard to miss. If you want something more, take a tour to the top of the Tour Montparnasse. It’s an ugly building, but has the highest viewing platform in the City of Lights.
Basilica di Santa Maria – Florence
A climb up Michelangelo Hill will yield the Piazzale Michelangelo, which gives a look at the St. Mary Basilica with it’s signature dome. In a land rife with visual treasures, Florence’s sights are often overlooked in favor of food and revelry, or walking amongst the art of the city. Too rarely is it seen from afar.
Basilica of Koekelberg – Brussels
Famed for sprouts, and rarely remembered for anything else, Brussels has more than few diamonds in its rough. The Koekelberg Basilica is actually the 5th largest church in the world, and has an unusual melding of architecture that gives some wide, wild, bird’s eye ways to look at this capital city that time forgot.
Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia
Almost every city with a building over 5 stories has a SkyBar, but few can boast the look of the one in Kuala Lumpur. The 88-story Petronas Towers are the main attraction of this hard-drinking establishment, where the dual monuments are not the only unusual thing you will see after a night lounging amongst Malaysia’s elite.