The skyline of a city is like its fingerprint; no two skylines are identical.
It is shaped by the manmade structures, such as buildings, bridges, skyscrapers, and other feats of engineering, as well as the natural features of the city.
Whether appreciated during the day as a sprawling urban jungle or at night as a galaxy of lights, here are the best skylines in the US based on aesthetics, recognizable buildings, and the beauty of the surrounding environment.
My Picks for the Best Skylines in the US
Obviously this list of best skylines in the US has been calculated using only the most rigorous and scientific standards known to man.
It is definitely not a list picked in a completely arbitrary and random order with my own home city at number 1.
So, the best skyline in the US is…
1. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
My home city?! At number one!? How could this have happened!
Located where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers meet, Pittsburgh was historically known for its steel but is now transformed into a hub for health care, education, and technology.
Notable buildings downtown include US Steel Tower, BNY Mellon Center, One PPG Place, Fifth Avenue Place, and the Gulf Tower.
The Allegheny County Courthouse isn’t as tall as the others but its classic architecture is a good landmark.
Best viewed from: Grandview Overlook, and basically various outlooks on the Mount Washington neighborhood or from within PNC Park
2. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is widely recognized as having one of the best skylines in the world, especially when viewed from across Lake Michigan.
The Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) with its two antennas was once the tallest skyscraper in the world and now the eighth tallest structure in the world.
Meanwhile, the Trump Tower, the Aon Center, and the John Hancock Center tower over the other buildings, forming a well-balanced view that’s distinctly Chicago.
Exploring Chicago? Here are the best things to do in the city.
Best viewed from: Lake Michigan from the East, either from Adler Planetarium or Navy Pier
3. St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch is a dead giveaway that you’re looking at the St. Louis skyline. Standing at 630 feet above the ground, it’s the world’s tallest arch and the tallest building in Missouri.
Gaze at the One Metropolitan Square off to the right as well, standing out amongst a cluster of buildings and playing off the Mississippi River in the foreground.
Best viewed from: Malcolm W Martin Memorial Park, East Saint Louis, Illinois
4. Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu’s skyline is often overlooked by the ones in the mainland because it doesn’t have super-tall skyscrapers or even buildings with unique architecture.
But the hotels, vacation condos, office buildings, and low-rise apartments against the backdrop of the Diamond Head crater and the deep blue Pacific Ocean on the foreground make up one spectacular view.
If you’re going to Honolulu anyway, here are the best places to visit in Hawaii, including the best ones in Honolulu.
Best viewed from: Almost anywhere along Waikiki Beach; also on Magic Island Lagoon, Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, Tantalus Lookout
5. Anchorage, Alaska
Another often-overlooked skyline is the Anchorage skyline.
The Robert B. Atwood Building, Conoco-Phillips Building, and the Anchorage Marriott are just some of the buildings that stand out among the other low-rise buildings in Anchorage, with the snowcapped Chugach Mountains in the background.
Best viewed from: Earthquake Park
6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The largest city in Pennsylvania boasts of a beautiful skyline, with seven buildings taller than 700 feet against the backdrop of both classic and modern buildings.
Skyscrapers that stand out include the Comcast Technology Center and Comcast Center, One and Two Liberty Center, BNY Mellon Center, Three Logan Square, FMC Tower.
The Philadelphia City Hall is not as tall as the others, but it’s still an imposing presence in the city.
Best viewed from: One Liberty Observation Deck, City Hall Tower Observation Deck, Philadelphia Museum of Art (you’ll know this from the movie Rocky), Benjamin Franklin Bridge, South Street Bridge
7. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is one of America’s oldest cities and is easily recognizable by its 19th-century brick houses, cobbled streets, and traditional street lamps.
But its Financial District and Back Bay neighborhoods feature plenty of skyscrapers and high-rises that make up an impressive skyline.
Notable buildings include the John Hancock Tower, the Prudential Tower, the Millennium Tower, and the Four Seasons Hotel.
Best viewed from: Boston Harbor, Piers Park, Skywalk Observatory, Longfellow Bridge
8. Los Angeles, California
Known around the world as the home of Hollywood, Los Angeles is the second-most populous city in the US.
Downtown Los Angeles is home to a cluster of skyscrapers that isn’t very high or architecturally unique but superimposed on the background of San Gabriel Mountains, particularly Mount Baldy, and you get an exceptionally majestic skyline.
Notable structures include the Wilshire Grand Center (the tallest building in California), US Bank Tower, Aon Center, and Two California Plaza.
Want to get away from downtown LA? Why not visit Venice Beach and Santa Monica?
Best viewed from: Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
9. San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California is a cultural melting pot, one of the world’s most liveable cities, and has one of the best skylines in the US.
The Salesforce Tower, Transamerica Pyramid, as well as other skyscrapers such as 181 Fremont, 555 California Street, 345 California Center, and the Millennium Tower stand out amongst the various other buildings in the financial district.
All this set on a beautiful natural environment. If LA has the mountains as a backdrop, San Francisco has the hills in its background and San Francisco Bay in its foreground.
Best viewed from: Twin Peaks Summit, Treasure Island, Alcatraz Island
10. Las Vegas, Nevada
Gambling, good food, and world-class entertainment are all hallmarks of Las Vegas, known as Sin City.
The lights and skyline of South Las Vegas Boulevard, also known as the Las Vegas strip, are some of the most recognizable in the world.
The most recognizable landmarks on the Strip include the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, the Bellagio, the Palazzo, the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Caesar’s Palace, the pyramid at the Luxor, the High Roller Observation Wheel, and the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris Las Vegas.
Best viewed from: The Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay, Top of the World Restaurant at The STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod, Skybar at Waldorf Astoria, High Roller Observation Wheel at the LINQ Hotel + Experience
11. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is the most populous city in the Pacific Northwest, known as the birthplace of grunge and the home of Amazon and Boeing.
The Seattle skyline is one of the most recognized skylines in the US because of the distinctive Space Needle.
Aside from the Space Needle, the distinctive buildings include the Columbia Center, 1201 Third Avenue, Two Union Square, Seattle Municipal Tower, and the F5 Tower.
View the skyline from Kerry Park, and you’ll see the skyscrapers and the Space Needle with Mount Rainier in the background.
When you view the skyline from the water, through the Bainbridge Island Ferry, the skyline has Puget Sound in the foreground.
Best viewed from: Kerry Park, Bainbridge Island Ferry
12. New York City, New York
Come on, did you really think I’d leave NYC off of this list? I already told you this list was in no particular order!
As one of the most recognizable, iconic, and gorgeous ones, New York City has one of the best skylines in the US.
More specifically, the Manhattan skyline features plenty of iconic buildings. The Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler building, the Bank of America Tower, One57 and 40 Wall Street are among the most recognizable buildings in the Manhattan skyline.
Best viewed from: Liberty State Park in Jersey City, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Staten Island Ferry
Do you agree with our list of the best skylines in the US?
Do you think your city should have made the list? Or do you disagree with an entry?
Yell at me in the comments below!