Thrilling Elevator Rides To Take Across the Globe

The heartstopping Bailong lift in Hunan, China, the world’s tallest outdoor lift, is built into the side of a quartzite rockface
The heartstopping Bailong lift in Hunan, China, the world’s tallest outdoor lift, is built into the side of a quartzite rockface | © Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sadie Whitelocks
2 June 2020

From plummeting 229m (750ft) below the earth’s surface in New Mexico to catching a ride in China in a lift with a top speed of 77kph (47mph) – Culture Trip rounds up the wackiest elevators around the world that promise to ‘elevate’ your travel experience.

If you’re into disco, then visit Amsterdam for a nightclub-themed ride up to your hotel room, but if you’re scared of heights, then you might want to skip the Bailong lift in China. It’s the world’s highest outdoor lift, with glass panels so passengers can admire the vertigo-inducing views. Zoom down to see where you can take the most exhilarating elevator rides, which make skipping from floor to floor a little more fun.

AquaDom at Radisson Blu Hotel Berlin

4.3/5 (1324 Reviews)
The AquaDom at Radisson Blu Hotel, Berlin, Germany
© EmmePi Travel / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a swim with the fish while you ride the elevator in the atrium of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Berlin’s city centre. The impressive cylindrical glass lift provides 360-degree views of 1,500 aquatic residents, contained within the world’s largest free-standing aquarium. Measuring 25m (82ft) in height and 11.5m (37.7ft) in diameter, the cylinder holds 1m litres of salt water. The glass-floored lift travels at a speed of 0.30m (1ft) per second through the underwater world and can hold a maximum of 30 people.

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Burj Khalifa

Map View
Burj Khalifa and fountains on the Burj Khalifa Lake. Image shot 06/2016. Exact date unknown.
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
The Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, smashes several records. It’s the world’s tallest building at more than 828m (2,717ft), and is also home to the world’s tallest service elevator. The shaft in the central core rises 504m (1,654ft) – more than the lift rise at the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan (448m, 1,469ft) and almost 1.5 times as high as the lift in the Empire State Building in New York (381m, 1,250ft). The hotel has a mind-boggling 57 elevators, one of which takes visitors from the lobby to the observation deck on the 124th floor, in 60 seconds, with a top speed of 10m (33ft) per second.


Architectural Landmark
Map View
Beijing, China's Hunan Province. 24th Jan, 2019. Maintenance workers check the operating status of the 326-meter Bailong Elevator, the world's highest outdoor elevator, at the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in Zhangjiajie, central China's Hunan Province, Jan. 24,
© Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo

The incredible Bailong elevator, in Hunan, China, holds the record for being the world’s tallest outdoor lift. At 326m (1,070ft), this mechanical marvel inside the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park offers incredible views over massive karst monolith rock formations. Passengers start the journey in an underground shaft, before the glass elevator emerges above ground, sliding up the side of a tree-lined quartzite cliff. Open to the public since May 2002, the lift has three double-deck elevators and it takes 1 min 32 secs to reach the top.

Luxor Las Vegas

Resort, Budget Hotel, Casino Hotel
3.8/5 (21135 Reviews)
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Check in desk inside Luxor hotel.
© mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
From $33 Per night per room
Visit the Luxor Las Vegas and take a rather unusual ride in a sloping elevator – no, you haven’t had one drink too many. The famous pyramid construction of the 30-storey resort means the elevators travel on an incline of 39 degrees. Unfortunately, there are no windows inside the carpeted carriages, so passengers can’t see as they steadily loom above one of the largest atriums in the world at the core of the hotel. The “inclinators”, as they are called, were installed in 1993 and are located in each corner of the structure.
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Falkirk Wheel

Map View
The Falkirk Wheel boat lift on the Union Canal, Falkirk, Scotland.
© John McKenna / Alamy Stock Photo
Sail to new heights on the Falkirk Wheel in central Scotland. This cunning contraption is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. It opened in 2002 as part of the ambitious £84.5m Millennium Link project to rejoin the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. A staircase of 11 locks once linked the waterways and took nearly a day to transit, but these were dismantled in 1933. For years, engineers looked at ways of connecting the two waterways, and in 1999, work started on the Falkirk Wheel. Parts were constructed in Derbyshire, before being transported to Falkirk in 35 lorryloads, where they were bolted back together and craned into position. The finished product stands 35m (115ft), and the wheel only uses 1.5kWh of energy to turn, the same amount of energy to boil eight household kettles.

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  • Gateway Arch

    Map View
    Downtown St Louis, MO with the Old Courthouse and the Gateway Arch at sunrise
    © Andriy Kravchenko / Alamy Stock Photo
    For a mind-bending ride, mosey over to the 192m (630ft) Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri. To transport visitors to the top of this landmark curved steel structure, designer Dick Bowser came up with an idea that married the elevator and Ferris wheel principle. Since its completion in 1965, this unique elevator-tram has taken millions of visitors to an observation area at the top, where you get sweeping vistas stretching 30mi (49km) to the east and west. Each of the 16 cylindrical carriages in the neofuturistic lift holds five seated passengers, and the journey skywards takes four minutes.

    Rosewood Guangzhou

    Map View

    For a taste of the high life, visit Guangzhou, China, where, in September 2019, Rosewood Hotel Group opened the tallest five-star hotel in the world. It occupies the top 39 floors of the 108-storey CTF Finance Centre (the seventh-tallest building in the world). Rosewood Guangzhou soars 530m (1,740ft) high and boasts the world’s fastest elevator, travelling at 75.6kph (47 mph). The lifts are simple in design, with red panelled walls and wooden flooring. The sky-high hotel is also home to private residences, restaurants, a spa and a swimming pool.

    Hammetschwand Lift

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    Hammetschwand Elevator (153 m, highest exterior elevator of Europe), Buergenstock (1128 m), Buergenstock, Canton Nidwalden, Swit
    © Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

    At a dizzying height of 1,132m (3,714ft), the Hammetschwand Lift in Bürgenstock, Switzerland, is the highest outdoor lift in Europe, and its glass walls giving you unrivalled views of Lake Lucerne and the surrounding mountainous landscape. The elevator whisks passengers up 153m (501ft) in less than one minute. The pioneering contraption, enclosed within a metal lattice tower, was built in 1905 by the hotel and railway businessman Franz Josef Bucher. At the time, it took three minutes to reach the top, and the lift carriages were constructed from wood and zinc. In 1935, the elevator was upgraded, using a lighter metal, and capacity increased from eight passengers to 12.

    Carlsbad Caverns

    Park, Theater
    Map View
    Plummet to new depths with a ride in one of four elevators at New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns National Park. They hold 16 passengers each and journey 228m (750ft) below the earth’s surface – 1.5 times the height of the Washington Monument. The elevators open into the attraction’s underground cafeteria, and from there, visitors can explore the limestone caves and otherworldly rock formations. The ride takes 1 minute at a speed of 14kph (9mph). Dynamite was used to blast the first lift shaft in 1931, and due to the increase in visitor numbers by the 1950s, a second shaft was created. A pair of larger elevators began operating in 1955, and during the 1970s, all four were overhauled. Maintenance is regularly carried out, and following an incident in 2018, a new rescue system is now in place.

    Sir Adam Hotel

    Boutique Hotel
    4.7/5 (588 Reviews)

    No advice needed at the music-themed Sir Adam Hotel in Amsterdam – apart from pack your dancing shoes. Each of the hotel’s four lifts leaves a lasting impression. First, grab a free glass of bubbly at reception, then jive your way over to lift C. Decked out with a glittering disco ball, hip-shaking playlist and light-up disco dancefloor, this funktastic lift is perfect to get you in the mood if you’re on your way into town – but maybe best skipped if you’re nursing a sore head the next day.

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    These recommendations were updated on June 2, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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