Humans have always been fascinated by tall structures, and in this post, you’ll discover the complete history of the tallest buildings in the world.
From ancient temples and pyramids to modern skyscrapers and famous towers, Art Facts has created an overview of the tallest buildings in history.
Please note, this list contains all the tallest, man-made, and freestanding structures on land, which is different than a list containing just buildings.
Let’s take a chronological look at structures that were once the tallest in the world!
22. Göbekli Tepe
- Period: 10,000 – 8000 B.C.
- Height: 18 feet / 5-6 Meters
The Göbekli Tepe was the first temple of humankind and was constructed in the Southeastern Anatolia region of Turkey. The temple was part of a major complex that consisted of about 200 pillars in about 20 circles.
Each pillar has a height of up to 6 meters (18 feet), which means it was the highest building in the world in this period of history.
21. Tower of Jericho
- Period: 8000 – 4000 B.C.
- Height: 28 feet / 8.5 meters
The Tower of Jericho was discovered after British archaeologist John Garstang was digging for what he believed to be the “Wall of Jericho,” a structure described in the Book of Joshua in the Bible.
The Tower of Jericho was a stone structure built against this wall, which was one of the first fortified city walls in history, making the Tower of Jericho one of the first stone monuments in history as well.
20. White Temple of Uruk
- Period: 4000 – 2650 B.C.
- Height: 40 feet / 13 meters
The White Temple in Uruk, modern-day Iraq, was built on top of a Ziggurat, a raised area on which buildings were constructed that was common in Ancient Mesopotamia.
Uruk was one of the first cities in the world and is the place that the first writing was discovered. It was home to the tallest building in the world as it stood majestically on the Ziggurat of Uruk, towering above the city walls and visible from a great distance.
19. Pyramid of Djoser
- Period: 2650 – 2610 B.C.
- Height: 203 feet – 62 meters
The Pyramid of Djoser is the first Egyptian pyramid on the list of tallest buildings in history, and it’s known to be a “Step pyramid” which contains 6 tiers.
The Pyramid was built as part of the Saqqara Necropolis for the Pharaoh Djoser, just northwest of the city of Memphis. It’s considered to be the first large-scale cut stone project in history.
18. Meidum Pyramid
- Period: 2610 – 2605 B.C.
- Height: 307 feet / 93.5 meters
Meidum Pyramid is part of an archaeological site of the same name and is believed to be only the second pyramid that was ever constructed.
On top of that, it was the first-ever pyramid to be constructed with a straight side as well, as opposed to the step pyramid design. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold the record of the tallest building in the world for too long because it partially collapsed shortly after it was completed which reduced its size to just 213 feet / 65 meters.
17. Bent Pyramid
- Period: 2606 – 2600 B.C.
- Height: 332 feet / 101.5 meters
The Bent Pyramid is located at the royal necropolis of Dahshur, approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Egyptian capital Caïro. It’s the first structure in history to cross the 100 meters height mark.
The pyramid got its name because the angle at which it rises at the bottom is 54 degrees, while the top section of the pyramid (starting at a height of 47 meters) rises at a smaller angle of just 43 degrees. This gives it a bent appearance.
16. Red Pyramid
- Period: 2600 – 2560 B.C.
- Height: 481 feet / 146 meters
The Red Pyramid is another Pyramid at the Dahshur Necropolis near Caïro and is the largest of the 3 that are located there. It’s also the third-largest pyramid in Egypt.
It got its name because it was constructed using limestone stones that have a red shine to them. It wasn’t red when it was constructed though because it used to be covered in white Tura limestone.
15. Great Pyramid of Giza
- Period: 2560 B.C. – 1311 A.D.
- Height: 481 feet – 146.7 meters
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the epitome of pyramids in the world. It’s considered to be one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world and received a spot of honor in the New 7 wonders of the world list as well because it’s the only ancient monument that still stands.
At the moment, the pyramid has eroded to a height of about 455 feet (138.8 meters) but remains as impressive as ever. One of the most remarkable facts about this amazing ancient monument is that we wouldn’t be able to construct it with modern equipment if we wanted to!
14. Lincoln Cathedral
- Period: 1311 A.D. – 1549 A.D.
- Height: 525 feet – 160 Meters
The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln is a fascinating church in Lincoln, England. Its construction started way early in the year 1072 but the building didn’t top out until 1311.
The height is measured based on the spire which unfortunately collapsed during a storm in the year 1549. The height of the tower at the moment is only 272 feet – 83 meters, but it sued to be the tallest building in the world for 238 years.
13. St. Mary’s Church in Stralsund
- Period: 1549 – 1569
- Height: 495 feet – 151 meters
The St. Mary’s Church in Stralsund, northern Germany, is another church that had a high spire that got destroyed because of a storm. In 1647, lightning struck the 495 feet – 151 meters high spire. The current spire is 341 feet – 104 meters high.
It’s the only building that actually held the record of the tallest building in the world twice. It was surpassed by Beauvais Cathedral in 1573 but regained the record when the spire of that church collapsed as well.
12. Beauvais Cathedral
- Period: 1569 – 1573
- Height: 502 feet – 153 meters
Beauvais Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church in the town of Beauvais in northern France. It held the record of the tallest building in the world for exactly 4 years until the spire collapsed in the year 1573.
After this event, it wasn’t structurally changed anymore and this pretty remarkable Gothic church only stands 159 feet – 48.5 meters tall.
11. Strasbourg Cathedral
- Period: 1647 – 1874
- Height: 483 feet – 142 meters
Strasbourg Cathedral is a Catholic church in the city of Strasbourg in eastern France. The construction started back in 1015 and was completed in the year 1439. The church still has the same height today as the moment it was completed.
It held the record of being the tallest building in the world because the spires of previous churches had collapsed and because the Great Pyramid of Giza had eroded to a height of just 456 feet – 139 meters, which made the Strasbourg Cathedral just a bit higher.
10. St. Nikolai in Hamburg
- Period: 1874 – 1876
- Height: 483 feet – 147 meters
The St. Nicholas Church in Hamburg was constructed in the 14th century but completely burned down by a fire in 1842. It was completely rebuilt and completed in the year 1874 when it became the tallest building in the world at that time.
This Gothic Revival church suffered majorly in the Hamburg Bombing in World War II, and only a few things remained intact. Remarkably, the tower including its spire still stood, which means the church remains just as high today as when it was completed in 1874.
9. Cathédrale Notre Dame in Rouen
- Period: 1876 – 1880
- Height: 495 feet – 151 meters
The Cathédrale Notre Dame is a church in the western city of Rouen in Normandy, France. Rouen used to be one of the largest and most prosperous cities in medieval Europe and the construction of the cathedral started way back in 1030.
The original spire was built in the Renaissance style but was destroyed by lightning in the year 1822. The Neo-Gothic spire that was built to replace it made Rouen Cathedral the tallest building in the world for 4 years.
8. Cologne Cathedral
- Period: 1880 – 1884
- Height: 515 feet – 157 meters
The Cologne Cathedral, also referred to as the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter or simply the “Dom,” is a Gothic Style church in the eastern city of Cologne, Germany, of which construction started in the year 1248.
Remarkably, the cathedral was only completed on August 14, 1880, after a construction period of 632 years! It became the tallest building in the world and held this title for 4 years. It’s now a very popular tourist attraction that is visited by on average 20,000 people every single day.
7. Washington Monument
- Period: 1884 – 1889
- Height: 555 feet – 169 meters
The Washington Monument is an obelisk located in the National Mall in Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. It’s located right between the Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial.
The monument commemorates George Washington, the first president of the United States and it was completed in the year 1884.
6. Eiffel Tower
- Period: 1889 – 1930
- Height: 986 feet – 300 meters
It’s arguably one of the most iconic structures ever created, and it used to be the tallest building in the world for an extended period of time (41 years to be exact). The Eiffel Tower in Paris is one of the few structures in the world that have defined a city as it did.
The original height of the Eiffel Tower in Paris was 986 feet and it was the first building in history to surpass the 300-meter mark. In the 1950s, a telecommunications tower was added on top of the tower which brought the current height to 1,063 feet – 324 meters.
5. Chrysler Building
- Period: 1930 – 1931
- Height: 1,046 feet – 319 meters
The Chrysler Building in New York City was an active participant in the “race to the sky” which erupted in the 1920s in the United States. It ended up winning, but only briefly because it was surpassed the following year after merely 11 months.
The Chrysler Building remains one of the most iconic skyscrapers ever constructed and keeps on defining the New York Skyline. This early skyscraper also remains the tallest brick building in the world with a steel framework up until today.
4. Empire State Building
- Period: 1931 – 1967
- Height: 1,250 feet – 381 meters
If the Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic structures ever created, then the Empire State Building in New York City has to be one of the most iconic skyscrapers ever created. It’s the ultimate winner of the race to the sky, which was abruptly ended by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
It surpassed the Chrysler Building just 11 months after it was completed, and remained the tallest building in the world for 36 years. It was the first building ever to have over 100 floors as well.
3. Ostankino Tower in Moscow
- Period: 1967 – 1975
- Height: 1,762 feet – 540.2 meters
The Ostankino Tower in Moscow is a radio and television tower in the Russian Capital. It was the first-ever building in the world to surpass the 500-meter mark.
It remains the tallest structure in Europe up until today and held the record of being the tallest building in the world for a total of 8 years. It was named after the district it was built in and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution.
2. CN Tower in Toronto
- Period: 1975 – 2007
- Height: 1,815 feet – 553 meters
A similar structure was constructed in Ontario, Canada, in the 1970s. The CN Tower in Toronto would eventually surpass the height of the tower in Moscow to become the tallest building in the world for 32 years.
The CN Tower, which is located in Downtown Toronto, also serves as a tourist attraction because it has an observation deck. It was also declared to be one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World and remains the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere until today.
1. Burj Khalifa
- Period: 2007 – Now
- Height: 2,722 feet – 829.8 meters
A lot can be said about the race to the sky of the 1920s in New York, but that’s nothing compared to the race which is going on today. The Burj Khalifa is not just the tallest building in the world today, but it also blew all of the other structures out of the water!
This remarkable building, which is located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, holds the record of being the tallest building since 2007.
Will taller buildings be constructed?
It’s hard to imagine taller buildings than the Burj Khalifa being constructed, right? Well, better think again, because there’s more to come!
At least 2 new skyscrapers will surpass the current tallest building in the world in the near and distant future:
- Jeddah Tower – Ongoing construction – Over 1,000 meters
- Sky Mile Tower – Planning phase – Over 1 mile!