Burj Khalifa – Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Atlas Obscura

Dubai doesn’t try to imitate major metropolises like Paris, Los Angeles, or Tokyo, but instead has pioneered its own brand of super luxury. No structure better represents that ethos than Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, located in the heart of downtown Dubai.

Constructing a 2,716-foot-tall building was no simple feat. Some 12,000 laborers could be found working on the structure at any time throughout the six years of assembly, and specialized cranes had to be built to complete the very top spire. 

The building was inspired by the spider lily, a regional desert flower, as well as traditional Islamic architecture. The lobby and public spaces are all adorned with fine art and sculpture which reflect Middle Eastern landscape and culture.

Burj Khalifa was conceived as a “vertical city,” and is designed to offer everything its residents could possibly need or want within its 163 floors. Armani Hotel Dubai and Armani Residences, designed by Giorgio Armani himself, take up 18 lower floors. The rest of the 145 floors are occupied by apartments, office space, lounges (each of which has its own bespoke scent), libraries, gyms, restaurants, health spas, pools and observation decks.

The highest decks offer a view of the Dubai Fountain, along with a piped-in soundtrack to score the experience. That’s not to mention the palm court, lakeside promenade, forest groves, gardens, and playground that comprise the ground area. At night, the glass facade is illuminated by individually programmed strobe lights. 

The incredible height of the building has even had a religious impact. Because the sunset occurs later above the 80th floor, Muslim clerics have dictated that the Ramadan fast must be broken three minutes later on the top floors than on the lower ones.

Burj Khalifa had its moment of Hollywood fame in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, in which Tom Cruise dangled from the side of the glass building. A 2014 fashion show mimicked this stunt with aerialists descending to the runway by “walking” down the side of the building.  

Many record-holding architectural structures inspire controversy over which one has earned the superlative, but this is not the case with Burj Khalifa. It actually holds seven world records in total: the tallest building in the world, tallest freestanding structure in the world, highest outdoor observation deck in the world, highest number of stories in the world, highest occupied floor in the world, elevator with the longest travel distance in the world, and tallest service elevator in the world. 

Know Before You Go

The Burj Khalifa is located in downtown Dubai, beside the Dubai Mall. Booking tickets ahead of time is recommended and prices differ for different times of the day. The top observation deck can be quite windy, so be prepared for that. By metro, the closest station is are Burj Khalifa Station. From this station you can walk approximately 10 minutes, or take the F13 bus to the Dubai Mall Bus Stop.