10 Impressive Elevators That Will Take You to the Top of the World (and Blow Your Mind Along the Way)

Going (way) up?

Elevators can be awkward. Tight and constricting, we often want to get out of the metal boxes as soon as we step into them. But sometimes, just sometimes, they gift us with an amazing view or remind us just how fast technology is advancing; it’s those times when elevators can be quite marvelous. We’ve rounded up a few memorable ones that hit that note and make the ride from floor-to-floor quite enjoyable.

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WHERE: Berlin, Germany

Located in the lobby of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin, this transparent elevator is part of a spectacular piece of architecture that opened in 2004. What makes it impressive? Well, it’s the largest freestanding aquarium in the world, according to the hotel’s website. The cylindrical structure measures 82 feet and cost a cool (!) 12.8 million euros to build. As they ride up and down in the 260,000 gallons of water, visitors can view more than 1,500 tropical fish from at least 50 different species.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International
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Rising Tide Bar

WHERE: Royal Caribbean Cruises

Another aquarium-inspired pick, this fun elevator can be found on all Royal Caribbean Oasis Class ships. In a deft marketing touch, the company insists that you call it “a wet elevator.” The Rising Tide Bar moves smoothly from the Royal Promenade deck to the Central Park deck at a very slow pace so that guests can take time to sip drinks (and not feel seasick). Reportedly the only bar-elevator at sea or on land, this luxurious lift isn’t quite as transparent as the first entry on this list, but it does sport glass barriers and lacks a roof. On it, you’ll find about 40 tons of bar, which, of course, means there’s an age restriction for boarding: guests must be at least 18 for cruises from such international destinations as South America and New Zealand, and 21 for trips from North America.

PHOTO: Alexander Strauch/Shutterstock
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Bailong Elevator

WHERE: China

Otherwise known as Hundred Dragons elevator—which is actually three lifts in total—this stunner spans 1,070 feet, or the entire height of a cliffside in China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Also, the tallest glass elevators in the world, each lift can hold up to 50 people and can climb the entire cliff in just one minute and 32 seconds. The $20 million architectural wonder opened to the public in 2002 and offers truly stunning mountain views.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Burj Khalifa
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The Burj Khalifa’s Double-Decker Elevators

WHERE: Dubai

Sporting the world’s fastest double-decker elevators, a ride between any one of the Burj Khalifa’s floors is sure to be something to write home about. The elevators can store 12-14 people and, according to developer OTIS’s website, “they reach the observation decks on floors 124 and 125 in just 60 seconds, traveling at 10 meters per second.” In total, the building contains 57 elevators (not all are double-decker). As the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, naturally it holds a couple of elevator-related records: world’s longest travel distance by elevator (1,654 feet) and highest elevator installation.

PHOTO: Harvepino/iStock
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The Elevators at the Eiffel Tower

WHERE: France

Remarkably, two of the original lifts are still in service on the Eiffel Tower, which opened in 1889! Okay, okay, yes they have been renovated but that’s still very impressive considering their combined distance traveled annually is equal to two and a half times around the world. In total, the wrought-iron landmark has six lifts and in peak tourist season, visitors can reportedly wait up to three hours in line for one of the five tourist lifts—each elevator does around 100 trips per day. If you’re not willing to wait for the view, you can always opt to climb the 674 stairs to the second floor. We should mention though, to get to the first level, any lift you’ll take runs along the leg of the tower. Yes, that means you’re taking a diagonal lift. Just how many places can you do that in? Toss in an iconic view and you have an elevator ride for the ages.

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The Elevators at Sky Tower

WHERE: New Zealand

There’s plenty to see at this telecommunications/observation tower in Auckland, New Zealand, which has four elevators and any one of them can get you to the top of the 196-meter building in 40 seconds. You may want to close your eyes, though, if you’re a noted vertigo-sufferer—the glass-fronted lifts also come complete with glass floors; a ride on any one of them could be likened to that of a theme park offering, as you get the feeling you’re falling down, down, down…

PHOTO: 471024651/Dreamstime
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The Elevators in the Mercedes Benz Museum

WHERE: Germany

“Sleek,” “retro,” “metal time machines,” and “straight out of a Bond film” are perhaps a few words visitors to the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, might use to describe the eye-popping lifts located in the building’s central hall. While they may not be as much of an “event” as some of the other lifts on this list, they’re too unique to not include. The stylistic choice isn’t completely random though, as the team behind the building’s design imagined the atrium to echo that of a car engine. From the ground floor, it takes about 30 seconds to reach the museum’s top level; fast and futuristic!

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Falkirk Wheel

WHERE: Scotland

The only rotating boat lift in the world, The Falkirk Wheel is a must-see attraction if you’re visiting Scotland. Located in the town of Falkirk, the lift opened in 2002 and sees more than 500,000 visitors each year. According to the Scottish Canals website, the lift’s design is said to have been inspired by “a Celtic double-headed spear, a vast turning propeller of a Clydebank built ship, the ribcage of a whale and the spine of a fish.” The mechanism—which was opened by Her Majesty, The Queen!—connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal and has a height equivalent to that of eight double-decker buses stacked together.

PHOTO: Isaac Mok/Shutterstock
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The Lift at SkyView

WHERE: Sweden

A Stockholm landmark that takes you to another Stockholm landmark, this spherical elevator (there are two of them, actually) departs every 10 minutes to take visitors to the top of the world’s largest spherical building—the Ericsson Globe—which stands at about 430 feet above sea level and provides an unparalleled view of the city of Stockholm. The entire visit, which 160,000 people made in the first year of the attraction’s opening in 2010, takes anywhere from 20-30 minutes to complete. The Globe itself houses an indoor arena for such events as hockey games and concerts and can accommodate approximately 16,000 people. The elevators, which run on tracks on the side of the Globe, can each house 16 people.

PHOTO: Eva Bocek/Shutterstock
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The Hammetschwand Lift

WHERE: Switzerland

When you look up the definition of “picturesque” in the dictionary, you’ll find The Hammetschwand Lift. The highest exterior elevator in all of Europe, this thing clocks in at around 500 feet high and looks like something out of a storybook when laid against the serene backdrop of a blue sky. However, acrophobes might be a little discouraged as it initially looks slim (and almost rickety), tucked into the side of a mountain. But rest assured, the Lift has steadily and safely carried tourists looking for views of Lucerne since 1905. Visitors can ride to the top and then take advantage of one of the many hiking paths to make it back down to Bürgenstock, its base.