What is the Tallest Building in the World?
I took the above photo by dangling my camera 1,825 feet above Dubai through an open slot in the guardrail of the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa. Yeep! If there’s a slight blur to the picture, chalk it up to my trembling hand, and the gusts of wind from being so freakishly high up. That tower does not disappoint!
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is a Must-See
If you travel to the United Emirates, as I did when I was 5 months pregnant with our second child, there is a magnetic draw to the Burj Khalifa. Within 24 hours of landing, I was racing across the desert highway to ogle the famed tower for myself. In fact, during the week I spent in the UAE, I returned to the Burj Khalifa four different times, each visit awed anew.
Going UP the Tallest Building in the World
It wasn’t until my last day in Dubai, however, that I finally summited the building. Getting up the Burj Khalifa is no small feat due to long lines, so I recommend planning ahead to snag your spot.
Tools like the Dubai Go Card and Viator Tours (click to see) are great for grabbing discount tickets before you arrive to “At the Top,” the luxe Burj Khalifa observation complex “experience.”
The Elevator Up the Burj Khalifa…
I chuckled when I read on the Burj Khalifa website that they call the observation decks a “sky experience,” but indeed, an experience is what it is, from start to finish.
On the first elevator up, projections of other towering global structures race along the walls, until all of them melt away, and you’re actually standing in the first welcome lounge of the world’s tallest building.
Views of Dubai from the Tallest Building
Between floors 125 and 148, the Burj Khalifa offers multiple platforms from which to gaze down at the city far below, some indoors and some outside.
One of my favorite features was the machine pictured next, which shows what existed in that swath of land over time. Spoiler: it all used to be DESERT! How astounding that the megapolis of Dubai could be created upon sand.
How to Get Good Photos at the Burj Khalifa
My first tip for photographers planning a Burj Khalifa climb: The best photos of the ground below are to be found by sticking the snout of your camera through the open slots of the outdoor observation decks. See the slots between the horizontal rails, below? Use them if you dare!
My second photography tip is to be mindful of light when attempting a picture with a person in the foreground. Because of the brightness of the Dubai sun against the observation decks, most angles will get you a silhouette, which can be artsy if that’s what you want (experiment with those shots!).
However, you’ll also crave some pictures with an actual visible face, and for those you’ll need a combination of hunting for the right beam of light, and, if possible, shooting in RAW format so that if you edit the photos later (ex: with Lightroom), the shadows can be turned down so the person’s pretty face can emerge.
A final photo tip: That aqua-colored lagoon pictured above comes out really well in photos (no offense to the tan symphony of the dessert-building combo on the other sides), so make sure to get a bunch of shots in that direction! Oh, and at night, that pool turns into a dancing, spouting fountain light show, which is free to watch from the back entrance of the Dubai Mall.
Facts About the World’s Tallest Building
Now for some astounding facts about the Burj Khalifa. The building, which opened in 2010, is 2,722 feet tall counting both its 163 floors and the antenna, and looks like a flower when viewed from above (isn’t that awesome?) because its base is Y-shaped, and each section of floors adds additional “petals.”
The style of architecture is called “Neo-Futurism,” which I’d never heard of before, but now am highly intrigued about. I felt the design went very well with the fashion of my maternity dresses!
Note: Some links here are affiliates that provide a commission upon purchase at no extra cost to you.
The Armani Hotel, Dubai
Next fact: Regular tourists cannot enter the lower floors of the Burj Khalifa because a highly exclusive hotel takes up the lower section of the tower: the Armani Hotel. Can you imagine telling people you’re staying there? “Oh, no big deal… just sleeping in the tallest building in the world.”
Click this link to see reviews and pricing for the Armani Hotel on Hotels.com, and its jaw-dropping listing on the Booking.com accommodations platform.
How Much Did the Burj Khalifa Cost to Build?
The Burj Khalifa cost an estimated $1.5 BILLION dollars to build. Think that’s a lot? It’s only half the cost of the second most expensive hotel in the world, Emirates Palace which I visited in nearby Abu Dhabi!
Spiderman Climbed Dubai’s Tallest Building?!
Here are two more tidbits before you mosey on your merry way. On New Years of 2016, the (affiliate link) hotel across the fountain from the Burj Khalifa (visible in many of these photos) was engulfed in a giant fire, but miraculously has bounced back from that calamity and is receiving rave reviews once again.
And finally, if you’re wondering if anyone has ever climbed the outside of the world’s tallest building, the answer is YES: A man known as “French Spiderman” climbed from the bottom to the top of the Burj Khalifa in 6 hours in March of 2011. Zowie!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this sky-high tour of the world’s tallest tower! Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you been to the Burj Khalifa? Would you like to visit? Do share!
See more architecture and art inspiration around the world!
I was a guest of Dubai Tourism for this escapade, but all opinions and camera-dangling views are my own. Some links in this article are affiliates which support this site at no additional cost to you. Happy travels!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!
Thursday 12th of March 2020
I am saving this post! I was supposed to go to Dubai next week but, with all that's happening, I had to postpone. I am saving your tips for when I finally go, thank you!
Friday 13th of March 2020
You will love it when you are able to see it!
Thursday 23rd of May 2019
I love your picture of The Burj Khalifa light show at night. It is gigantic. I feel wonderful and thrilled at the same time. Thanks for your blog. Ryan- 7 from Kuala Lumpur
Friday 24th of May 2019
Thanks for your sweet comment, Ryan! I hope to visit Kuala Lumpur myself someday.
Sunday 17th of December 2017
Nice article, Lillie. I’m felt like i was there - except for the sun and sand and wind at the top. What beautiful descriptions of what surely is a beautiful country.
Monday 18th of December 2017
Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Diana!
Monday 21st of August 2017
Real life sim city! It was such a cool feature to be able to see what the space looked like before any of the buildings were there!
Michelle Dela Cerna
Saturday 29th of July 2017
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and some thoughts of Dubai, very detailed and well written! I would like to commend the Author of this Blog for sharing us an interesting idea. Keep it up a good job!!