Today, skyscrapers are growing taller thanks to design innovations that have allowed engineers to build to almost limitless heights. But bigger doesn't always mean better. Some of the coolest looking skyscrapers arose during the mid to late 20th century. Here is a list of 10 of the most eye-catching skyscrapers completed before year 2000 that are worth a visit.
1. Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE
Sitting on a man-made island, this 1053-foot-tall hotel is nothing short of spectacular both inside and out. It was completed in 1999 with the help of 9,000 tons of steel and 3,000 contractors and companies. The inside features 24-carat gold leaf, marble floors and walls and a waterfall. At night, the exterior lights up in a variety of colors. The only way to get inside without paying for a room, which start about $1000 a night, is to book a table at one of the hotel's restaurants, where you can drop as much as that on a meal.
2. Empire State Building, New York, U.S.
The 103-story skyscraper cost almost $41 million to build (including the land) and took just over a year to complete. Since its completion in 1931, the Empire State Building held the title for the world's tallest building for more than 40 years. Over the years it has gone through a few renovations, including a recent eco-friendly one in which the tower refurbished each of its 6,514 windows to improve insulation. But the building, with its iconic Art Deco style, remains one of New York City's top tourists attractions and offers some of the best views of Manhattan.
3. Commerzbank Tower, Frankfurt, Germany
At 850 feet tall (from base to antenna), the Commerzbank tower is currently the tallest building in Germany. It was completed in 1997 and features nine interior gardens that spiral around its perimeter. Visitors can take a guided tour in the Commerzbank tower, where they'll learn more about the architecture of the building and its gardens.
4. Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong
Completed in 1990, the Bank of China Tower reaches a magnificent height of 1,209 feet. Architects designed the building to mimic the growth and stature of bamboo. Each of the tower’s four sections represents different stages of growth and symbolizes vitality. Visitors can check out the city's spectacular views from the small observation deck on the 43rd floor, or can simply go into the bank's first floor to see the building's enormous atrium.
5. Scotia Plaza, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Covered in Napoleon red granite and standing 902 feet tall, Scotia Plaza is a striking sight to see. Construction on the tower concluded in 1989 and today, the building serves as the international headquarters for the Bank of Nova Scotia. Tourist can walk in the lobby and check out the 11-foot mural of a waterfall in the lobby, the largest indoor mural in Canada.
6. Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, U.S.
Completed in 1972, architects designed the Transamerica Pyramid with San Francisco’s shadow restrictions in mind. Although the pyramid stands 850 feet tall, it casts a smaller shadow than most skyscrapers due to its triangular shape. The two panels built onto the sides of the pyramid serve as elevator shafts for floors above the 29th, since elevators cannot run at the angle of the pyramid. Tourists can only access the first floor lobby (the spectacular views of the city can only be seen by the tenants), but it's worth seeing this unique building up close.
7. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia
Moscow State University, one of the oldest and largest universities in Russia, has a student population of 40,000. Founded in 1775 its central tower, which stretches 36 stories high, is the focal point of the campus. It was completed in 1953 and is still fully operating. Visitors catch a glimpse of at Moscow's panoramic views from the tower, walk along the spacious gardens and walkways and tour the massive complex.
8. Willis Tower, Chicago, U.S.
From base to antenna, the Willis Tower (formerly named the Sears Tower) measures 1729 feet tall. Construction completed in 1973, three years after it began, and today the tower ranks as the tallest building in the U.S. It primarily serves as office space, but also features restaurants, a bank, hair salon, fitness center and observation deck that is open to the public.
9. Wisma 46, Jakarta, Indonesia
Also known as the BNI City Tower, Wisma 46 is currently the tallest building in Indonesia, standing 859 feet tall. Completed in 1996, this office building features six high-speed elevators in each of its three zones as well as retail shops and restaurants.
10. 85 Sky Tower, Taiwan
Also known as Tuntex Sky Tower or Kaohsiung 85 Building, builders used 58,000 tons of reinforced steel to construct this 85-story skyscraper. Completed in 1997, it measures 859 feet from the base to the roof and consists of offices, shopping centers, movie theatres, restaurants and a hotel.