Of course, it’s impossible to count out New York City, and not because of the business towers of Lower Manhattan or the neon lights of Times Square. The skyline of Manhattan is something that begs to be seen from within; to sit in Bryant Park, a stone’s throw away from the spectacular New York Public Library and the famous Grand Central Terminal, and gaze up at the American Standard Building — a marvel of 1920s design with its bold black façades and golden accents. Or to walk through Central Park, enjoying a breath of fresh air in one of the world’s busiest cities while bordered by the beautiful apartments of both the Upper East and Upper West Side.
Across the Atlantic, there are too many majestic skylines to name. And while justified to sing the praises of London, the profile of Edinburgh, Scotland, deserves attention. It gives “skyline” a whole new meaning, as its Old Town is elevated over the rest of the city and situated on the remains of an extinct volcanic ridge, its cliffs carved by ancient glaciation. Emerging from Waverley Station beneath the grand clock of the Balmoral, travellers will glimpse the gothic contours of Edinburgh’s skyline across the Princes Street Gardens. To the north, the “New Town” sports its own striking skyline, with its grey, elegant street grids showcasing neoclassical and Georgian architecture. To the east, more basaltic edifices loom over the city — the monumental Calton Hill, and the exquisite Holyrood Park.
Moving toward Central Europe, it’s difficult to think of a cityscape more distinctive than Prague. Visitors only need to walk along the Vltava River to see an array of spectacular structures, and tiered above them on the western hills are Prague Castle and numerous historic churches. From the vantage of the castle, the skyline transforms into a collage of reddish rooftops that seem to come straight out of a fairy tale. Warsaw too presents a stunning panorama. Modest, Soviet-style tenements verge on historic heritage buildings, behind which a modern skyline is visible, dominated by the Palace of Culture and Science — a timeless masterpiece that alludes to the country’s dynamic past, while also modelled after American art deco.
To appreciate the skylines of some of the world’s most ultramodern metropolises, it’s good to go to Asia. Fans of urban landscapes usually note Tokyo among their favourite skylines, but Kuala Lumpur also makes many “top 10s” where skylines are concerned. The Petronas Twin Towers are recognized the world over not only for their height, or their otherworldly lustre, but also their interesting shape. The structures and their floor plans are inspired by the Rub el Hizb, a sacred Islamic symbol, and is therefore a reference to Malaysia’s state religion. Nearby, the massive KL Tower also makes for a noteworthy landmark.
Though technically an independent city-state, Singapore is very close to the Malay Peninsula and is yet another futuristic metropolis — its Marina Bay in particular. Viewed all together, the various buildings look like something out of science fiction: the Gardens by the Bay, the Helix Bridge, the Marina Bay Sands, and the Esplanade are all examples of how the world’s wealthiest cosmopolitan cities may look many years from now.
And coming full circle around the globe, there’s no grander fusion of urban and natural geography than the West Coast of North America. Driving along the highway as it flows through downtown Seattle, it’s impossible not to feel drawn into the dynamic vibe of the city. Its skyline features the iconic Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and a snow-capped Mount Rainier in the background.
Across the border, Vancouver is juxtaposed against the North Shore Mountains — and has long limited the heights of new buildings so that everyone can enjoy the view. It ironically has more natural “skyscrapers” than even the most ambitious cities.
For in-depth metropolitan photo essays, explore our City Limitless series…
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Written by Dillon Ramsey
Headline image © Tourism Vancouver