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view from the shard
© Jacob Riglin

The ten best viewing platforms in the world

Got a head for heights? Get these high-altitude attractions on your travel hitlist

Time Out in association with The View from The Shard
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Fun though it can be exploring a new place on foot, sometimes the best way to take stock of your surroundings and plan the rest of your visit is to get way up high. Thankfully, from lanky skyscrapers and purpose-built observation towers to natural precipices and adrenaline-charged experiences, the world is full of brilliant places to leave the ground behind. Here are our ten favourite.

view from the shard
view from the shard

The View from the Shard, London

Surely no city looks more handsome from above than the ever-evolving patchwork of old and new that is London. It makes sense, then, that the best place to check it out is from the tallest building in Western Europe, The Shard. Just getting to the top – in lifts that zoom up at six metres per second – is an experience in itself.

Then, of course, there’s the view: from the Tower of London to Canary Wharf, The Shard’s lofty position allows a unique perspective of them all. This is no simple turn-up-and-gawp experience, though. The three-floor platform is kitted out with digital telescopes, and there’s also the option to pimp your trip with a glass of champagne, or a number of other premium add-ons. It’s a view worth toasting, after all.

eiffel tower
eiffel tower

Eiffel Tower, Paris

There’s something distinctly Parisian about a structure that exists purely for aesthetic appeal. Despite being over 120 years old, the Eiffel Tower is still the tallest structure in Paris, and the view from the top is still the city’s best. If it’s your first time in the city, a visit to the 276-metre-high observation deck is practically the law, which explains why around 7 million people a year do so.

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tokyo skytree
tokyo skytree

Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo

There are two ways to fully appreciate the immense urban sprawl of Tokyo – drive from one side to the other (in which case, pack supplies), or pay a visit to Skytree, the city’s tallest tower and the second-tallest freestanding structure in the world. The tower houses two separate viewing platforms, located 350 metres and 450 metres from the ground – time your visit in the evening for a dramatic Mt Fuji sunset.

The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building, New York City

The art-deco giant that is the Empire State Building enjoyed a 39-year stint as the tallest building in the world. These days it’s only the third tallest in New York City, but it still delivers the best view of America’s buzziest metropolis. Its position on central Fifth Avenue, on the southern edge of Midtown means few NYC icons escape its gaze, and on a clear day you can see into four neighbouring states. Well, you wouldn’t expect anything less of a building that’s so tall it has its own zip code, would you?

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BridgeClimb, Sydney
BridgeClimb, Sydney

BridgeClimb, Sydney

Reckon all those lifts and railings are for wimps? Get thee to Sydney, where the whole checking-out-a-city-from-a-great-height thing has been given an adrenaline-pumping new dimension. You’ll need to don a special suit and harness, obviously, but your reward from the 134 metre-high summit is a truly unique vantage point over a Sydney Harbour and its Opera House. And, of course, a once-in-a-lifetime selfie opportunity.

Fernsehturm, Berlin
Fernsehturm, Berlin

Fernsehturm, Berlin

Londoners aren’t the only ones who like to give creative nicknames to their skyscrapers – among the affectionate handles Berliners have attached to the tallest structure in their city are ‘The Toothpick’ and ‘Telespargel’ (meaning ‘TV asparagus’). Those who are feeling strong can take the 986 steps up to the top (don’t worry, there are lifts too), where the best place to take in the view is at a window-side seat in the revolving restaurant. Just remember to pay your date some attention as the sun sets and the city starts to twinkle, yeah?

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At the Top, Burj Khalifa, Dubai
At the Top, Burj Khalifa, Dubai

At the Top, Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Well, we could hardly leave out the tallest building in the world, could we? At 555 metres, this is the world’s highest observation deck, situated across the 124th, 125th and 148th floors of the gleaming tower that pokes out of the desert like a giant needle. Dubai may be one of the most modern cities on Earth, but the experience here is angled toward the area’s heritage as much as its present, with high-tech telescopes virtually transporting visitors back to a time when the surrounding cityscape was just a few sticks in the sand.

EdgeWalk, CN Tower, Toronto
EdgeWalk, CN Tower, Toronto

EdgeWalk, CN Tower, Toronto

The CN Tower’s Glass Floor viewing deck is terrifying enough (the clue’s in the name), but in 2011 Canada’s tallest structure raised the stakes with EdgeWalk, in which visitors are tethered to a rail and led on a casual stroll along the roof of the tower’s restaurant, 356 metres in the air. We’d say ‘don’t look down’, but that’s sort of the whole point.

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Glacier Skywalk, Jasper
Glacier Skywalk, Jasper

Glacier Skywalk, Jasper

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a golden eagle? Your best bet of finding out is a trip to this glass archway in the Canadian Rockies, which puts you 280 metres above the majestic Sunwapta valley. From here, your entire field of vision is filled with nature at its prettiest, from snow-capped peaks and chunks of glacier on the horizon to the mountain goats, birds and other wildlife that call the valley below home.

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik
Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik

The Icelandic capital’s striking 1940s church isn’t just for admiring from the outside – head to the top (don’t worry, there’s a lift) and you’re in for a treat. Sure, the summit is only 75 metres up (this is Iceland, not Dubai), but the view is like the opening credits of a Scandinavian crime drama: a quaint, modest cityscape of brightly coloured houses and, on a clear day, the snowy-peaked Mt Esja looming in the distance.

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