What Are the 5 Tallest Buildings in the World?

We look through the five tallest buildings in the world, from Burj Khalifa in Dubai to the nearly complete Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur.

Feb 16, 2023By Rosie Lesso, MA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine Art

what are the tallest buildings in the world


Many buildings throughout the history of architecture have claimed the title of the tallest building in the world, from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, both in New York. But the “race to the sky” is a hot competition which is steadily being overtaken by ever more adventurous building enterprises as the materials and possibilities for engineering become ever more advanced and sophisticated. We take a look at the top 5 tallest buildings the world has to offer, and the incredible feats of engineering that made building them possible. As you can see, they exist in locations around the world, and date from 2010 onwards.


1. Burj Khalifa (2,717 feet)

burj khalifa dubai tallest building
Burj Khalifa in Dubai


At an incredible height of 2,717 feet, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, is without a doubt the tallest recorded building in the world. Amazingly, it is twice the height of the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world in 1930, less than 100 years ago. The colossal tower has 163 floors, along with restaurants, apartments, business suites and the tallest elevator shaft in the world, for those brave enough to ride to the top. The building was designed by the Chicago based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). 


2. Merdeka 118 (2,220 feet)

tallest buildings merdeka 118 kuala lumpur
Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia


The almost-completed Merdeka 118 is the second tallest building in the world, and the tallest building in South East Asia. It towers 2,220 feet into the sky, overlooking the city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Once opened, visitors will be able to climb to the very top of the building’s spire. Designed by the Australian architects Fender Katsalidis alongside the local architectural firm RSP Architects Sdn Bhd, the building is set to officially open in mid to late 2023. The name Merkeda means Independence Day in Malaysian, while it will have 118 floors in total. 


3. Shanghai Tower (2,073 feet)

tallest building shanghai tower china
Shanghai Tower in China

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Set in Shanghai, China, Shanghai Tower is now the third tallest building in the world, measuring 2,073 feet. Completed in 2015, the impressive structure took nearly 20 years to complete after several funding issues arose during its construction. It was designed by the American architectural firm Gensler, who won the Architectural Design of the year award for the tower in 2016. The tower has one of the world’s fastest elevators, which travels at 20.5 meters per second, whizzing visitors up to the top of the building’s incredible 128 floors. While Burj Khalifa is the tallest construct in the world, Shanghai Tower has the tallest number of usable floors inside. 


4. Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower (1,972 feet)

abraj-al bait clock tower mecca saudi arabia
The Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia


Abraj Al-Bait Clock Tower is in the heart of the city Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It was designed by the Lebanese architectural firm Dar Al-Handasah, and completed in 2012, after six years of construction work. This building is a whopping 1,972 feet high, making it the fourth tallest building in the entire world as of 2023. However, it also contains some world-topping stats – Abraj Al-Bait’s clock face is the biggest in the world, at 43 meters in circumference, while the building’s entire floor area is bigger than any other man-made construction.


5. Ping An International Finance Centre (1,966 feet)

ping an finance centre shenzhen
The Ping An International Finance Centre, Shenzhen


Ping An International Finance Centre holds some significant records: it is the tallest building in Shenzhen, the second tallest building in China, and the fifth tallest building in the world, measuring 1,966 feet high. New York architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates completed the building’s striking infrastructure, while another New York design firm, Thornton Tomasetti, designed the building’s structure, made from a composite of stainless steel and glass.

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By Rosie LessoMA Contemporary Art Theory, BA Fine ArtRosie is a contributing writer and artist based in Scotland. She has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly, and Scottish Art News, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can really enrich our experience of art.