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Spectrum » Travel

Posted at: Jan 7, 2018, 1:34 AM; last updated: Jan 7, 2018, 1:34 AM (IST)

Vertical limits

Tourists make a beeline to climb up the tallest towers of the world for a bird’s eye view of the cities

Sujoy Dhar

Before Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York were reduced by terrorist planes to a plume of mushroom smoke sucking in its vortex nearly 3,000 human lives and countless dreams of the dead and living left behind, it was the biggest tourist attraction of the Big Apple. Tourists would stand in a queue for hours to climb to the top. They would spend $13 and often three hours in a queue to see New York from the Top of the World observation deck on the 107th floor. The WTC towers are gone but there are several others standing tall across the world. No visit to Dubai, Toronto, Chicago, Taipei or Paris is complete without a climb to the top of the sky kissing towers and their observation decks in these cities. 

Eiffel Tower, Paris

“Come and discover the Eiffel Tower: the only trip to the top of its kind in Europe, one where emotions carry you away,” says the website of Eiffel Tower.

Well, while towers and tall buildings have come up across the world in the past many decades surpassing the height of Eiffel Tower (324 m or 1,063 ft), a ride to the top of the tower is truly where emotions carry you away. 

The views from the tower are breathtaking needless to say but riding this wrought-iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris (named after its genius engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed it) is indeed a whole series of emotions. 

Eiffel Tower when it was built from 1887 to 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair drew criticism from France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design. But it went on to be the global cultural icon of France and visitors to Paris stand in long queues for their “Been There Done That Moment” at the most-visited paid monument in the world.

And you may not want to miss the sight and experience of the Eiffel Tower in evening when it is adorned with its golden covering and sparkles for five minutes every hour on the hour, while its beacon shines over Paris. 

Willis Tower, Chicago

Now if you love heights and want a bird’s eye-view of Chicago and the vastness of Lake Michigan, do not miss climbing to the top of this bustling community of business, tourism and culture that is Willis Tower (earlier known as Sears Tower), which is much more than one of North America’s tallest buildings.

Tens of thousands of visitors enjoy the sweeping view of the skyscraper city, Lake Michigan and Chicago River from its top Skydeck. Once you reach the top of this black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass building, you can step out onto The Ledge, a collection of glass boxes that extend over 4 feet out from the side of the building, giving you the opportunity to stare over 1,300 feet straight down.

Willis Tower is home to more than 100 corporate houses. This iconic building is the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, encompassing more than 4.5 million square feet, including its Skydeck and 103rd floor glass viewing platform, The Ledge, attracting more than 1.7 million visitors every year. A thrilling experience for visitors since 1974, it is chilling indeed to stand on the top and see the city where Dhoom 3 was shot.

And yes, South Asians have a reason to be proud of this tower. Dhaka-born and Kolkata-educated Fazlur Rahman Khan, the architect who was known as “the Einstein of structural engineering”, had designed this building.

Willis Tower (then Sears) was completed in 1973 and building it was an engineering challenge that he overcame. At the tower you can see a sculpture of Khan which was unveiled in 1998 as a tribute to his contribution to architecture.

Tokyo Tower, Tokyo

This is one tower that was built way back in 1958. Indian cinegoers of the 1960s might remember a rollicking Joy Mukherjee serenading Asha Parekh in the 1966 movie Love in Tokyo against its backdrop, or even the final fight sequence in a helicopter hovering over Tokyo capturing this tower.

  So this one is for a perfect bird’s eye-view of Tokyo from the 150m Main Observatory or the 250m Special Observatory — the two viewing platforms. 

You have “Cafe La Tour” and “Club333 Stage” on the first floor of the Main Observatory. Here, you can just enjoy some beverages while gaping at skyscraper-infested Tokyo. You can also enjoy live music as a magnificent Tokyo night unfolds outside. And yes not to be missed is the thrill of standing on the glass floor called “Lookdown Window.”

Painted white and international orange, Tokyo Tower when built was a communications-cum-observation tower with a height of 332.9 m (1,092 ft) so that radio waves could be sent out to a large region of the Japanese capital.

Taipei 101, Taipei

Taipei 101 is the iconic skyscraper in Taiwan’s capital and many of us have seen this tower all lit up during the New Year celebrations every year, and it is a must climb if you are in Taipei.

Fireworks are launched from the lower to the upper sections of the Taipei 101 tower from pitch darkness. The dazzling fireworks show at Taipei 101 has been the climax of New Year Eve’s countdown parties in Taipei since the skyscraper was completed in 2004.

Taipei 101 is ranked first on the list of world’s 10 toughest buildings, as determined by Popular Mechanics. The BBC also named it one of the world’s eight most beautiful skyscrapers.

The Taipei 101 Observatory’s elevators are Guinness Record-breaking high-speed pressurised elevators in 2004, with a speed of 1010 m per minute. It takes only 37 seconds to reach the 89th floor. On this floor 89F Indoor Observatory offers a commanding view of the city and Taipei Basin at all directions. 

The Observatory is equipped with high-power binoculars, drinks bar, image services and souvenir shops. If you are lucky, you can also have a view of Taipei from the 91F Outdoor Observatory, which is only open on certain occasions and weather permitting.  

CN Tower, Toronto

If in Toronto and you give riding to the top of CN Tower a miss, then you would miss something for sure. While the tower is famous for challenging you to try the scary EdgeWalk atop 116 storeys, it is also a must-visit to enjoy a meal at  360 The Restaurant or just enjoy a sweeping view of Toronto and Lake Ontario or just watch turboprop planes landing at the  Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport  on the Toronto Islands.  A tourist can ride to the LookOut Level at 1,136 feet in just 58 seconds in one of the many glass-fronted elevators or ride further up to Sky Pod at a thrilling 1,465ft height.

It is one of the highest observation platforms in the world with a unique and spectacular view like no other. Visitors board a separate elevator on the LookOut Level to travel through the core of the Tower — an incredible 33 additional storeys higher to SkyPod, featuring interpretive exhibits. Here you can learn what happens when the Tower is struck by lightning or watch a pendulum to see how the Tower moves in the wind!

But CN Tower is really famous for EdgeWalk, the most thrilling attraction  and the first of its kind in North America. It is the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk on a 5 ft (1.5 m) wide ledge encircling the top of the Tower’s main pod. Trained EdgeWalk guides encourage participants to push their personal limits, allowing them to lean back over Toronto with nothing but air and breathtaking views of Lake Ontario beneath them.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

“World’s tallest building. A living wonder. Stunning work of art. Incomparable feat of engineering.” This is how Burj Khalifa promotes itself as the tallest tower of the world. 

It is truly an iconic symbol of the amazing and prosperous Middle East now.

Well, many cinegoers can recall Tom Cruise’s death-defying stunt in the film Mission Impossible IV in Dubai, shot on top of Burj Khalifa at 2,717 feet. An adrenaline junkie that this Hollywood actor is, many of his admirers would be tempted to ride to the top of Burj Khalifa by the world’s fastest double deck elevators, cruising at 10m/s.

And once on the top, take a closer look at the world below through avant-garde, high-powered telescopes. You can also step out onto the public outdoor observation terrace overlooking the ever-growing skyline. At 456 m, Level 125 offers a spacious deck tastefully decorated in Arabic mashrabiya for stunning 360-degree views.

At more than 828 m (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 storeys, Burj Khalifa holds the following records: It is the tallest building in the world, the tallest free-standing structure in the world with highest number of storeys in the world and boasting of the highest occupied floor in the world. The elevator with the longest travel distance in the world is also the tallest service elevator in the world.

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