The world’s top 20 city skylines

CNN  — 

If you’re a regular CNN reader you’ll know we love the inner workings of city life.

Rowdy food courts, thumping nightclubs, a tranquil art gallery … these things are the lifeblood of any major metropolis. But sometimes you have to step back to appreciate things from afar.

We’ve put together 20 of what we think are the most beautiful city skylines in the world. Some of humanity’s most impressive engineering triumphs can be seen here, and with their fellow buildings create an effect that is aesthetically on a par with anything nature has to offer, we think.

Of course, lists are subjective. But we tried to make subjectivity a science. For this list of the world’s top 20 skylines, we used the following criteria:

Iconic: A skyline is a city’s profile view. It is made iconic by one or two stand-out pieces of architecture. But a skyline is not just a single structure; it is how these iconic structures are set in the context of the rest of the city to create a recognizable silhouette against the sky, creating the picture-perfect vista. A point is awarded for each iconic piece of architecture. Bridges were not counted, but may score under Beauty.

Height: Size may not be everything, but it does impress. You only have to look at the continual battle being fought globally by cities for the title of world’s tallest building. For this, I’ve used Egbert Gramsbergen and Paul Kazmierczak’s The World’s Best Skylines list, which ranks skylines by the sum height of all buildings taller than 90 meters. A five-point scale is used here, with points awarded according to where the city ranks among the 100. No points are awarded if the city does not appear on the list.

Beauty: It’s no surprise that water features prominently among the cities on this list. Cities naturally form around rivers and coasts and those that are built against this backdrop have a natural advantage. But nature can also be transplanted into an urban setting. Think of the skyline shaped by lower Manhattan’s High Line. Beauty is also a city’s ability to continuously strike a balance between old and new, its history and its future, its capacity to reinvent itself allowing it to be at once timeless and relevant. Beauty also provides a wonderful backdrop to its inhabitants’ lifestyle. A maximum of 10 points awarded here, with a bonus point awarded if the city appears on Forbes’ list of World’s Most Beautiful Cities.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2010. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.