While the Middle East boasts several of the world’s tallest buildings, East Asia is also home to an impressive selection of skyscrapers for visitors to marvel at as they reach for the sky.

Mankind’s fascination with tall buildings is nothing new. From Egypt’s pyramids to Mexico’s ancient Mayan ruins, the evidence for man’s stretch for the skies dates back thousands of years.

However, thanks to the advancement of modern science and technology, the race for the skies has reached new heights, with the majority of the world’s leading structures spread across Asia. In fact, of the world’s ten tallest buildings, nine are in Asia. While Dubai’s Burj Khalifa rocks the top spot as the world’s tallest building, the race for the sky is not yet over, with a handful of new buildings in Asia just a short way behind. For travellers exploring the delights of the continent, East Asia’s soaring mega-structures are not to be missed.

Towering Twins

Opened in 1999, the shimmering silver towers that dominate the Kuala Lumpur skyline are a spectacular sight to behold, both from afar and up close. Measuring in at 1,483 feet, the Petronas Towers were designed by Argentine-American architect César Pelli, and are connected by the world’s highest two-storey sky bridge on the 41st/42nd floors of the 88-storey towers. A trip to the towers should be at the top of your KL travel itinerary, although it’s worth arriving early as queues for the towers tend to get long even before 9am when the first group of visitors travel to the top. Views of the city are splendid, and the exhibition at the top of the towers also offers visitors an interesting take on the construction of the stupendous structures.

Nam San Style

Also known as North Seoul Tower, Nam San Tower makes the most of its lofty position atop a mountain in the middle of the South Korean capital to offer spectacular views. Perched atop the 774 foot tower are several restaurants and even a beer garden for visitors to enjoy as they take in vistas of the city. Views are fantastic whenever you visit, although visitors that come at sunset are treated to a dazzling spectacle as Seoul transforms from a hazy daytime metropolis to a dazzling blanket of stars, spread out at the foot of Nam San mountain. Visitors at the base of the tower are also treated to an entertaining light show projected onto the side of the structure; on the hour, every hour.

The Gateway to Hong Kong

Nestled in the city’s West Kowloon district, Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre is the eighth-tallest building on the planet. Sitting pretty at 1,588 feet, the International Commerce Centre forms a colossal gateway to Victoria Harbour with Two International Finance Centre -the world’s 20th-tallest skyscraper -on the opposite side. While most of the building is comprised of offices, it is also home to the world’s highest swimming pool and bar, which can both be found on the 118th floor. The Sky 100 Hong Kong Observation Deck is the place to be for keen photographers seeking to capture the city panorama, although the building also made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest light and sound show on a single building.

Old Meets New

Inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, Taipei 101 is a fine example of the magic that happens when modern technology meets time-honoured style and design. Soaring at an impressive height of 1,667 feet, Taipei 101 is situated in the city’s Xinyi district. The 106-floor building comprises an indoor observation deck, while visitors that fancy doing a bit of shopping can head to one of the building’s swanky malls, or even the food court in the basement. This iconic mega-structure has also earned a place in the record books as the world’s tallest eco-friendly structure, and is designed to withstand typhoon winds of up to 216km/h.

The Giant of Shanghai

For visitors on a quest to check the world’s tallest buildings off their travel bucket list, China’s Shanghai Tower claimed the runner-up spot upon completion this year. The tower’s iconic corkscrew shape was designed to twist wind away from the building. By the time you read this, the building’s official unveiling should have taken place, making its numerous entertainment venues, restaurants, retail outlets and sky decks open to the public. However, if Shanghai Tower doesn’t sate your appetite for great heights, the city’s World Financial Centre also measures up at an impressive 1,614 feet and is the world’s seventh-tallest skyscraper. The building boasts three observation decks, with the transparent glass floor on the top Sky Walk offering the most in terms of ‘wow’ factor.


Top Tips

  • If it’s natural points of elevation you’re after, Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak is a must-visit. Feel your heart in your mouth as you take the 45-degree Peak Tram, or better yet, take the explorer’s route and hike 1.7km from the city’s Central District.
  • Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh might not be known for its skyscrapers, but that doesn’t mean the city can’t treat you to a spectacular sunset view. Visit the Foreign Correspondent Club on Sisowath Quay (Riverside) at sunset for top notch views of the Tonlé Sap flowing into the Mekong. Sit on the other side of the bar for resplendent views of the palace roof, glowing golden in the sunset.
  • If your Ringgits are burning a hole in your pocket, KLCC -home to Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers -is also home to the city’s swankiest malls. Make a beeline here for your Burberry, Chanel and Calvin Klein.
  • Getting the cable car up the mountain to North Seoul Tower is half the fun. However, if dangling over Nam San mountain in a metal and glass box doesn’t float your boat, you can take the yellow bus from outside Exit 2 at Chungmuro subway station.
  • Lofty heights mean great photo opportunities. Keen photographers may even want to try out some time lapse photos to capture the constant buzz of each of these bustling Asian metropolises. Simply set your camera on a long exposure of roughly five seconds to capture some wonderful keepsake images.

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Rebecca Foster
Rebecca has travelled extensively in America, Europe and Asia and worked as an English teacher in Thailand and South Korea. She has also contributed to several publications in the UK and Asia and enjoys hiking, yoga and taekwondo whilst on her travels.