Need a quick break? Anyone who’s made it all the way up a mountain peak knows how little everyday life matters once you see it all from above. If craggy cliffs sound like too much effort (or simply too far away), why not risk a look closer to home: More and more cities offer stunning spots for one-of-a-kind bird’s eye views. Read on to discover five urban destinations with breathtaking vistas.

THEKRANE – a crane for Copenhagen

Sleep fifteen meters above the harbor, enjoy a view of the bridge connecting Denmark and Sweden across the Öresund from your shower – these are just two of the highlights guests of the recently opened THEKRANE “one-room hotel” can expect. Constructed back in 1944, the decommissioned crane was recently converted to spec by architect Mads Møller (Arcgency) for Klaus Kastbjerg who pushes the development of Copenhagen’s thriving Nordhavn district.

THEKRANE “one-room hotel” in Copenhagen
One-room hotel THEKRANE above the harbor of Copenhagen.
Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

The majestic crane has been towering over the harbor since this summer, without concealing its industrial coal-related heritage. On the contrary: Mads Møller decided to underscore this legacy by opting for plenty of black, leading to “hundreds of shades of black” in the final design, according to the architect.

The minimalist exterior is complemented by an interior flecked with Scandinavian design, from Kvadrat textiles to Bang & Olufsen designer speakers. There’s even a bespoke craft beer available at the minibar – the perfect brew for kicking back on a comfortable chaise longue in the former crane cab to enjoy the spectacular view.

Interior of the One-room hotel THEKRANE
Stylish minimalist interior inside the decommissioned crane.
Photo: Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

The Peckham Observatory – high art for London

Anyone looking for a great vantage point of London’s cityscape could trek to hotel behemoth The Shard or the towering London Eye – Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel at 135 meters – but those looking for a more laid-back view of the Thames’ metropolitan skyline, served with a generous side of art, should opt for the Peckham Observatory instead.

A relaxed hang-out spot, the roof of this multi-story parking facility in the capital’s southeast has been a secret gem this year. The space was redesigned by Oliver Cooke and Francis Fawcett for the art and architecture platform Bold Tendencies.

The very best view can be found on a wooden floor platform with green steel railings. Below, a blue box containing a shop and information hub awaits intrepid visitors. And for added brownie points, the project engaged local suppliers to realize this landmark low-budget project, found just a stone’s throw from Peckham Rye Station. Have a look!

Skyline of London
A laid-back view of the Thames’ skyline.
Photo: Quintin Lake
Viewing Point: The Peckham Observatory
The Peckham Observatory from above.
Photo: Peter Landers Photography

Gardens by the Bay – super trees in Singapore

While you could have spots like THEKRANE entirely to yourself – but for a very steep fee – and while many bold architectural (pipe) dreams stay just that, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay have it all: affordable access and fantastic views. Sure, you’ll have to share this unique space with others, but you’re likely to forget all that once you’re ambling along the 128-meter stretch of OCBC Skyway – a cool 22 meters above the ground.

Incidentally, Gardens by the Bay is a long-term project designed to make the Asian city state more sustainable: Eleven of its so-called “super trees,” artificial structures doubling as vertical gardens, are equipped with photovoltaics.

Organic waste helps to generate power and reclaimed rain water is used for irrigation. And while this might not be the perfect spot for a retreat from urban life, it definitely offers imposing views of a future that splices nature and technology in urban surroundings.

Vertical Gardens in the Gardens by the Bay
A sustainable solution for Singapore.
Photo: Gardens by the Bay
artificial structures doubling as vertical gardens
“Super trees” at Gardens by the Bay.
Photo: Gardens by the Bay

Central Park Tower – a needle for New York City

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir – or simply Central Park Reservoir to those in the know – is a decommissioned water storage facility best-known for the approx. 1.5-mile jogging trail circling the site. Iconic movies and TV series like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Marathon Man,” “Sex & the City,” and “Gossip Girl” have already immortalized the reservoir, rechristened in 1994 to honor the former First Lady.

Yet if everything goes according to plans drawn up by the DFA architectural firm, this footage could soon have historical value. Their 217-meter Central Park Tower would entirely transform the area – not only in visual terms. According to the visionary blueprints, a dedicated filtration system could purify the 12-meter-deep waters, while an integrated wind turbine could generate the required power.

Clearly designed with its surroundings in mind, the planned tower will also ensure minimal extra shading for surrounding buildings and the entire project could be realized within just six months. Naturally, there’s also a 360-degree panoramic walk at the top.

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
A visionary filtration system for Central Park.
Image: DFA, Founder: Laith Sayigh
Viewing point with a 360º panorama
360º panorama above The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
Image: DFA, Founder: Laith Sayigh

Botanic Center – green visions of Brussels

More visionary plans can be found on the website of Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut. Here, futuristic structures and curvy objects twist their way up into the sky, akin to the latest sci-fi movie set.

Yet all the designs on display have one vital thing in common: They are suffused with an infectious belief in the power of green architecture and the relevance of sustainable buildings. In his unbridled enthusiasm, Callebaut doesn’t even shy away from visions of a city constructed from algae, plastic waste, and 3D printed shapes. Its location: just off the Rio de Janeiro coastline.

For a slightly more realistic sample of his talents, check out his design for the Brussels Botanic Center. Originally erected in 1977, this building adjacent to the city’s Botanical Gardens consists of 274 identical concrete modules, which Callebaut plans to spruce up and revitalize with plenty of green. On top of it all, his luscious “chrysalis” platform of wood and steel would treat visitors to an incredible view and atmosphere.

vision of a building with a green facade
Vincent Callebaut’s latest green architecture plan.
Image: Vincent Callebaut Architectures
green facade of the Brussels Botanic Center
An amazing spruce-up of the Brussels Botanic Center.
Image: Vincent Callebaut Architectures