12 Elevators You Need to See to Believe
When it comes to elevators, function usually trumps form and the ride is utterly forgettable. Not so with these lifts—some look like they belong in sci-fi thrillers, others could be theme park attractions, but a trip on any one of them will earn you a lifetime of bragging rights.
Lake Lucerne, Switzerland
It looks like a rocket ready to blast off into the unknown, but the Hammetschwand Lift offers far more colorful vistas than anything you could find in the emptiness of outer space. The elevator opened in 1905 as an addition to the Bürgenstock Resort and its birds-eye views of the rugged Alps and Lucerne's blue waters have been wowing visitors ever since. The years have done nothing to diminish its impact—the 499-foot, 48-second ride is still the tallest outdoor lift in Europe. And while the structure's spiderweb latticework might seem precarious, the engineers behind the project clearly knew what they were doing because the lift has stood the test of time. Today, modern cars traverse the distance at a brisk speed of 10 feet per second, making this hotel elevator a legitimate thrill ride. Ready for liftoff?
How to ride: The lift shuts down for the winter months, so plan your visit between mid-May and mid-October. It stays open late on Saturdays in summer, making it the perfect venue for enjoying a sunset. Bürgenstock Resort, Obbürgen, 011-41/612-9090, buergenstock.ch, tickets are $14 for adults, $7 for children 6-16.
There is no better way to take in the sights of Stockholm than a ride along the Ericsson Globe. Gondolas attached to a track run along to the exterior of this spherical structure (361 feet in diameter). The glass lifts trace a twenty-minute curve to the very top of the orb and back down, giving visitors a constantly evolving panorama of the city's skyline. The only downside is that it doesn't give you a view of the Globe itself; the clean, white structure dotted with porthole windows is one of Stockholm's most striking landmarks.
How to ride: There are only two gondolas for the popular ride, so reserve your spot online in advance to ensure a seat. 2 Globentorget, 011-46/771-811-000, globearenas.se, tickets are $22 for adults, $15 for children 3-12.
The Lloyd's of London building on Lime Street was designed inside out, thrilling passersby with massive piping curving around the exterior. The twelve glass elevators are outside as well, gliding smoothly up the side of the building. They might not be the fastest or the tallest, but for these lifts, it's all about the view. The Thames River is only a quarter mile away and some of London's other eminent sights—including the spire at St. Paul's from one side of the building, and the celebrated Gherkin from another—are even closer, making a 30-second trip up those crystal pods is one of the best ways to savor the city.
How to ride: This one will be the hardest to check off the list: Lloyd's lifts are only open to employees and official visitors and security is tight. But don't give up hope. The building is usually included in London's annual Open House, when the public gets free access and tours to places normally off-limits. One Lime St., 011-44/20-7327-1000, lloyds.com, free during London's Open House, September 20 and 21, 2014.
Tearing along at almost forty miles per hour, the tower's lifts reach the 89th-floor observatory in just 37 seconds, leaving riders well over a thousand feet above the city. From this viewpoint, every corner of the sprawling metropolis is tiny by sheer distance. Parks, temples, and even other skyscrapers and distant mountains are practically Lilliputian. And the journey is only half over—the stomach-dropping return trip is just as thrilling.
How to Ride: The ticket office is found on the tower's fifth floor. Tickets are only sold on-site, so be prepared to wait in line. 7 Hsin Yi Rd., Sec. 5, 011-866/2-8101-8899, www.taipei-101.com.tw, tickets are $13 for adults, $12.35 for children under 12.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Don't call it an elevator. The Luxor's "inclinators" transport guests up the side of the hotel's iconic pyramid at a sharp 39-degree angle. Unlike others on this list, the cars lack observation windows, and they can't compete with other famed elevators in height (they only span 30 floors). But like so much of Las Vegas, the inclinators are all about standing apart from the crowd. There are also great views from the top floors of the faux Egyptian universe below, especially at night, when the decadent lights of the lobby flash to life.