When we visit faraway places, we feel compelled to go into the city’s most iconic or tallest building to see the view. But if you’re seeing the city from the top of the most important building in the skyline, it will be missing from your view.
Sure, the vista is often worthwhile for other reasons. But if what you’re really looking for is a great view of the skyline, you may want to skip these sights and go elsewhere.
The Space Needle
The Space Needle is the most iconic structure in the Seattle skyline. Though a visit to the observation deck does give you a good bird’s eye view of downtown Seattle, you’ll definitely miss out on the best city view. So skip the lines and the $22 price of admission and go check out a stunning view that includes the Space Needle.
Do instead: Kerry Park
Kerry Park sits on a hill in Queen Anne, giving you a spectacular view of the Seattle Skyline, including its signature flying saucer. On a clear day, you’ll also get a good view of Mount Rainier. Unlike the Needle itself, the park is free, and you can’t beat free.
The Eiffel Tower
Not only is the Eiffel Tower the most famous structure in Paris, it’s probably the most famous in the whole world. And of all the sights on this list, this one has the most disappointing view of them all. Why? Because you’re in Paris and the Eiffel Tower is not in it! If you have time to spare, it’s interesting to see the inside of the awe-inspiring metal structure. But if you’re looking for the most beautiful view of Paris, you won’t find it here.
Do instead: The Arc de Triomphe or Montparnasse Tower
Visiting the Arc de Triomphe has two advantages. The first is that it’s an important sight in Paris in and of itself. But aside from that, it offers one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower along with the Champs-Elysees that stretches all the way to the business district beneath the Arc. It costs only 12 Euro to climb and it’s open late, so you can catch the view during the day or after night falls.
Another option is the Montparnasse Tower. The observation deck costs 15 Euro to visit but offers a great panoramic view of the city. It’s a little farther from the Eiffel Tower, giving you a slightly different perspective from the Arc.
The second tallest building in the United States and one of the most popular attractions in Chicago is Willis Tower (but let’s be real… it’s the Sears Tower). The Sky Deck, which includes the now-famous ledge that allows you to stand on glass and try not to vomit as you look down, is certainly a fantastic stop in any Chicago itinerary. So I don’t necessarily recommend skipping Willis Tower altogether, but the best view of the Chicago skyline is from a lower vantage point.
Do instead: Grant Park
Maybe it’s because of my fond memories of Lollapalooza, but my favorite skyline view of Chicago will always be from Grant Park. The park is large enough to give you plenty of open space to appreciate the skyscrapers all around you. From the park you can see Willis Tower standing tall among other Chicago skyscrapers.
But to see a more complete view of the skyline, you’ll have to take a boat out on Lake Michigan. Or do the next best thing, go to parts of the city that are on the lake like the Navy Pier and Adler Planetarium.
The Empire State Building/One World Trade Center
One of the most recognizable skylines in the world is the New York City skyline. And there are many observation decks in Manhattan that capitalize on the dense landscape of skyscrapers. Before the completion of the One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building was the go-to observation deck in New York. For a long time, it was the tallest building in the world, after all.
That is, until the One World Trade Center was completed. Now the tallest building in the US, it has become one of the most popular spots to get a view of the city. And given its height, it’s a spectacular sight to see. But of course, your view will be partial in every direction. The only way to get a good view of the entire island of Manhattan is to leave it.
Do instead: Literally any rooftop in Brooklyn
Come on, doesn’t everybody have some friends that share a co-op in Williamsburg? I’m only partially joking. But you can go pretty much anywhere across the East River to enjoy a fantastic sight of the Manhattan skyline in all its glory, including the dazzling One World Trade Center building that now stands where the Twin Towers used to be.
In the event that you don’t, in fact, have awesome hipster friends living in Brooklyn, you can check out the view from any waterfront park like Pebble Beach in the Brooklyn Bridge Park or East River State Park. You can also enjoy the view over a cocktail at a rooftop bar like The Ides or a nice meal at the ultra-fancy River Café.
A jaw-dropping view… I’ll drink to that.