These structures that give a city its shape also hint at the culture therein; whether a mark of a booming economy, a cultural centrr, or a towering nod to luxury. As buildings have climbed higher into the sky, their shapes have become synonymous with the land they're built on and tell stories we want to remember. Similarly, the departure of an iconic building—whether the World Trade Center towers or Chicago's Morrison Hotel—takes a piece of city history with it.
If you love skylines and quizzes, this slideshow was made for you. Stacker identified 25 iconic skylines and curated photos that first give a hint as to the destination’s location—think of it as a view through a keyhole, after which we’ll unlock its identity with a full picture of the city.
Some of the skylines have appeared in famous movies like “Skyfall” and “The Dark Knight.” Others have been around since ancient times and feature castles, cathedrals, and dazzling domes. While some cities are dotted with sweeping skyscrapers amid streets brimming with buildings, other skylines pay homage to the wonders of nature. A few of the skylines fuse nature with modern buildings, while others combine ancient edifices with lush landscapes.
Whether you have seen the following cities personally or in travel books, this slideshow serves as a reminder of all the wonder surrounding us in the world—and is filled with worthy additions to any must-visit bucket list.
The skyline of this European city includes Brunelleschi's famous dome. Visitors often climb the 463 stairs to view the breathtaking panoramic view of the city.
Answer: Florence, Italy
The skyline of Florence is most recognizable for its red terracotta roof tiles and cathedral including the famous Il Duomo. Construction of the stunning edifice created by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi began in 1420 and was completed in 1436.
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This city’s skyline includes the world’s tallest building. And it’s not only the tallest—it also has the largest number of stories in the world.
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Answer: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The previous aerial view of Dubai features decorations surrounding the city’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper. Dubai’s skyline is instantly recognizable because of Burj Khalifa’s formidable height, and it also includes the serpentine Cayan Tower and the Museum of the Future. The $1 billion Za'abeel project, which will look like a capital “H” and include a 228-meter horizontal steel bridge called "The Link,” is slated to open in 2021 and will add a new dimension to the skyline.
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This tower is one of its parent city’s tallest structures, as well as its most famous landmark.
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Shanghai’s iconic skyline is often photographed from the popular tourist spot “the Bund.” The contemporary Chinese skyline brims with skyscrapers, including a famous trio in the financial district (the Jin Mao, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and the Shanghai Tower), as well as the Pearl Tower.
Christ the Redeemer welcomes people to explore this famous South American city resplendent with natural beauty.
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Answer: Rio de Janeiro
While Christ the Redeemer is a landmark often seen in the skyline of Rio, the view from Sugarloaf Mountain highlights the magnificent geography of the land. This year’s New Year’s Eve celebration will feature a light show across the city’s skyline.
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This aerial perspective offers a unique view of the commercial and residential buildings in this crowded city. The signature skyline is lauded for its skyscrapers amid natural beauty.
Answer: Hong Kong
The Hong Kong skyline is perhaps best seen from Victoria Peak. The juxtaposition of the natural beauty from this vantage point, paired with the towering skyscrapers, makes Hong Kong’s skyline a great backdrop for blockbuster movies like the appropriately named “Skyscraper.”
This iconic bridge that runs across the River Thames is a landmark of this European city. The bridge has two towers that are connected by a pair of walkways.
The Shard affords stunning views of London. Here you can see the Tower Bridge, the winding turns of the Thames, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, St. Paul's Cathedral, and most likely the city’s signature cloudy skies. Big Ben, the London Eye, the Palace of Westminster, and the Gherkin are often seen in skyline photos of London.
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Do you know what city the children are looking at from the observation deck of the 108-storey Willis Tower? More than one million people visit this observation deck each year.
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Can you recognize this city skyline in its various shades of black, white and grey? The mosque may be a giveaway to people familiar with the city, but it’s not the symbol that many people associate with it.
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This photo shows a view of the Pyramids of Giza on the southwestern outskirts of the Egyptian capital. For many, the pyramids are synonymous with Egypt and its history.
This opera house is not what one typically thinks of when picturing this skyline. Think fjords and the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, and you can guess the identity of this harbour city.
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Answer: Oslo, Norway
This photo illuminates modern buildings in Oslo. Could their beautiful reflection be from the northern lights? The buildings pictured here represent some of the more recent construction in the neighbourhood of Bjorvika.
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CN Tower, Roy Thompson Hall, and several skyscrapers dot the skyline of this metropolis. The two highrises bookending the scene create the perfect frame.
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The long skyline and full moon behind the CN Tower perfectly encapsulate Toronto. A city brimming with architectural gems, its CN Tower is the image people conjure when they think of Toronto’s skyline.
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The aerial walkway of the Gardens by the Bay's Supertree Grove is suspended over this futurist city. Its skyline has changed significantly over the last decade.
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This aerial photo shows the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Singapore Flyer. Singapore’s skyline is a beautiful blend of old and new, combining colonial buildings and shophouses with sweeping skyscrapers. The skyline showcases a dynamic landscape that added modern buildings and lush greenery over the last decade.
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The Roppongi Hills complex is the perfect perch to snap a selfie with this city’s skyline. Although the skyline seems disorderly, its evolution has had to adhere to strict rules.
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A couple breaks their fast during the holy month of Ramadan on a hill overlooking this city’s skyline.
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Answer: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Kuala Lumpur skyline is architecturally eclectic, including modern and postmodern styles, as well as Asian and Malay Islamic. The most recognizable buildings are the Petronas Twin Towers, which resemble rockets.
This photo of the city’s skyline was taken from the Space Needle. The 605-foot observation tower is a favourite spot from which to view the city’s skyline and surrounding nature.
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Seattle’s skyline is a favorite image for photos, souvenirs and calendars. Perhaps its defining element is the Space Needle. Tourists from around the globe visit its observation deck for a panoramic view of the Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains—or share a meal at its revolving restaurant.
This monument to the country’s revolution is illuminated in the evening sky of the capital city. The city was founded by Hernán Cortés in 1521 and is the New World’s oldest city of European origin.
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Answer: Mexico City
The aerial view of Mexico City showcases how the ancient city is dotted with modern buildings. The Torre Latinamericana is the skyline’s most iconic element, akin to the Empire State Building in New York City. The 44-storey skyscraper’s observation deck is the perfect perch to view Mexico City.
The Blue Mosque is a defining feature of this Middle Eastern city’s skyline. Among its myriad treasures, the mosque has six minarets and a ceiling lined with 20,000 blue tiles.
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Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Mosque basks in the light of morning and the setting of the full moon. Gilded mosques and palatial peaks have made the skyline the perfect backdrop for movies including “Taken 2,” “Skyfall” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.”
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People familiar with this European city will recognize Charles Bridge shimmering at sunrise. The famous bridge crosses the Vltava River and is protected by three towers.
The view of and from Charles Bridge in Prague is a must-see for tourists visiting the beautiful European city. Known as the “city of a thousand spires,” Prague’s gothic skyline is dotted with dramatic vistas of ancient churches and towers. A great way to see the city skyline is to take the funicular to the top of Petřín, a mini-doppelganger of the Eiffel Tower.
Anyone who has taken a cruise along the River Danube will recognize this city’s dazzling Parliament Building. The Danube cuts through the centre of the city whose name is a fusion of the twin cities on its banks.
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Answer: Budapest, Hungary
Your perspective of the skyline of Budapest would depend on whether you are looking at Buda or Pest. A cruise along the Danube would allow you to see both, and highlights include the Hungarian Parliament Building, Castle Hill, Széchenyi Chain Bridge and St. Stephen's Basilica.
St. Peter’s Basilica gives a huge hint to this European city’s identity. Cathedrals, piazzas, and ancient edifices fill in the dots to reveal the city the women in the photo are viewing.
Answer: Vatican City
Since ancient times, Rome has been known as the city built on seven hills, so its skyline is quite complex. Vatican City, a country to itself within the city, embodies the spirit of this magical city. Views from Rome’s Gianicolo Hill include St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo, and the Altare alla Patria.
Wonder where this blue skyscraper towers over the landscape? Located in the Xinyi District of the city, it resides amid lively shopping malls and a financial district.
Answer: Taipei, Taiwan
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The Lion of St. Mark and the belltower of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute are familiar to frequent visitors of this iconic European city, famous for its gondolas and canals.
Answer: Venice, Italy
There are 417 bridges in Venice, so it’s no surprise to imagine bridges as a major part of the skyline of the famous floating city. The Grand Canal offers a magical view of the city’s palaces, grand hotels, and churches.
If you know where St. Stephen’s Cathedral is located, you may have guessed the name of this elegant European city. The skyline isn’t dotted with skyscrapers, as there was a ban on highrise buildings until 1992.
In the larger landscape, you can see that there are not many skyscrapers in the skyline of Vienna. Most of the city’s taller buildings were constructed in the 21st century.
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The church’s illumination by the city’s northern lights should make naming this city easy. Only about 340,000 people live in this city where nature abounds.
Answer: Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavík has a beautiful skyline dominated by Hallgrímskirkja,a Lutheran church. The church fits nicely into the serene and natural landscape. The capital city’s laidback skyline is quite different from the waterfalls, ice caves, and glaciers one associates with Iceland.
If the telescope was pointed at this city’s famous tower, you would instantly identify the destination. Looking through this particular lens, one sees a lovely view of the River Seine.
While you won’t find skyscrapers in the City of Light’s skyline, you will find a lot to look at, depending on where you stand. Tourists flock to the top of the Eiffel Tower to view the Seine and the city’s west side. Prior to the devastating fires in 2019, the belltowers of Notre Dame were a great spot to see the highlights of Paris, including the Seine, the dome of Val de Grace, Montmartre & Sacre-Coeur, the Pantheon, and La Defense.
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A woman is seen at sunrise running with her dog in front of a section of skyline in this city located on the East Coast of the United States. The skyline is dotted with iconic monuments and buildings, including One World Trade Center in the city’s financial district.
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Answer: New York
Here, we see a crescent moon setting behind an eastside view of Manhattan and its illuminated Empire State Building in New York City. Other iconic elements of New York’s skyline are the Statue of Liberty and the Chrysler Building.