Riding some of these elevators may have you holding your breath with anticipation — or closing your eyes. From transparent walls and jaw-dropping vantages to don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it speeds, the coolest elevators in the world use technology and incredible design to achieve things we didn’t think were possible. We’re so impressed, we’ve compiled this list of the most unbelievable elevators you will find.
Why? Because here at SnapCab, we’re obsessed with making elevators better. These elevator styles, designs, shapes, quirks and innovations can change the way we think of the elevator experience. These lifts climb to the top of the weirdest and craziest — yet most delightful — elevators we’ve ever laid eyes on. How many would you ride? Let’s dive in.
Unusual Elevators in North and South America
North America is the first stop on our tour of the weirdest but most unique elevators around the world.
1. Gateway Arch: St. Louis, Missouri
The Gateway Arch is the iconic attraction in St. Louis. Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River, the Arch has drawn over 135 million visitors (between 3-4 million a year) since its opening in 1963 for spectacular views both on and off the ground.
Visitors who make their way to the Arch’s observation peak get there in signature elevator style. Guests make the 4.5-minute climb sitting in five-person “pods,” which resemble more of a spaceship’s command center than an elevator’s cab. These pods’ fully enclosed snow-white walls and polished glass doors sit inside a complex rotating mechanical system that threads through the majority of the Arch’s interior, with each pod rotating nearly 155 degrees before completing the lift.
2. The Luxor’s Inclinators: Las Vegas, Nevada
The Luxor Las Vegas is one of The Strip’s premier hotels and casinos. With a theme dedicated to Ancient Egypt, the Luxor is unmistakable from any other building in the city’s glistening neon epicenter — in part because of its elevator system transporting guests up its 350-foot pyramid structure.
The Luxor’s Inclinators, as they’re called, are aptly named. Passengers are carried up a 39-degree incline skirting the perimeter of the hotel and casino atrium, which is so large, it’s said you can park over nine full-sized jumbo jet planes within. Lines to ride the Inclinators are also rumored to grow so long, the hotel had to install a Nile River-style boat ride to entertain impatient guests.
3. Oregon City Municipal Elevator: Oregon City, Oregon
Oregon City’s urban planners shared an odd vision when they originally built the town across two distinct topographical regions — the lower half winding along the banks of the Willamette River, and the upper half sprinkled across its surrounding basalt cliffs.
To make foot travel between the regions easier, the city installed the first-ever outdoor municipal elevator. Passengers today can hop on Oregon City’s famous circular elevator for a 15-second ride up and down the 13-foot structure, complete with a 360-degree observation deck windows revealing pine tree-sprinkled views.
4. Maritime Museum Birdcage Elevator: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Victoria, British Columbia’s Maritime Museum elevator is the oldest operating birdcage lift in the entire North American continent. The museum takes great care to pay homage to the once-popular birdcage lift style, maintaining core stylistic features like its metallic latticework frame and ornate gold trim and accents.
A glowing crystal chandelier hangs from the elevator’s ceiling, lighting the view for passengers as they peer out into their surroundings during lifts and descents. Guests on the surrounding staircase can also look in.
5. Elevador Lacerda: Bahia, Brazil – South America
Keeping the municipal lift tradition alive is the Elevador Lacerda, located in the Salvador neighborhood of oceanside city Bahia, Brazil. Known for its opulent art deco aesthetics as well as for being the country’s first elevator, which is still operational today, Lacerda takes people between Bahia’s mountainous upper district and its seaside lower.
For tourists, Elevador Lacerda is a peek into Brazilian architectural history. Both the interior and exterior decorations of the 236-foot elevator passage carry traces of its 20th-century Art Deco restoration popular throughout Brazil, with wrought-iron frames, rectangular geometric forms and a truly breathtaking view of Bahia’s historic port.
Fascinating Elevators in Asia
Our list of the strangest, most unique elevators in the world next takes us to Asia.
1. Lotte World Tower: Seoul, South Korea
While it faces steep competition, the Lotte World Tower is Seoul’s tallest building and the fifth-tallest in the world. It also houses the world’s fastest elevator.
It’s so fast, in fact, that it carries guests from the skyscraper’s ground floor to the 121st in just over a minute. Once there, visitors can experience the world’s tallest glass-bottom observation deck — but only if they’re brave enough. The transparent deck adds another cutting-edge detail to this modern, fascinating and award-winning South Korean elevator that must be seen to be believed.
2. Bailong Elevator: Wulingyuan Region, Zhangjiajie National Park, China
Getting to the Bailong Elevator in mountainous Zhangjiajie, China, might be a bit of a trek — but one worth the trouble. Considered the tallest and heaviest outdoor elevator in the world, Bailong Elevator treats riders to once-in-a-lifetime views of the Wulingyuan scenic area’s sprawling quartzite pillars, a group of sandstone-based rock formations creating massive vertical pillars and steep ravines unlike anything else on earth.
“Bailong” translates into “hundred dragons.” And indeed, you’ll feel like you’re soaring on one as you lift up the 1,000-foot glass encasing to the observation deck, where you’ll stand amidst the quartzite spires to enjoy one of the most breathtaking views in the country.
3. Umeda Hankyu Building Elevator: Osaka, Japan
At first glance, the Umeda Hankyu Building’s elevator system may look like any other elevator or lift found in offices around the world. Yet you can’t miss one key detail — its massive size.
The Umeda Hankyu Elevator is an 11.15- by 9.2-foot enclosure — and there are five of them. Each has the capacity to carry 80 passengers or lift nearly 5 tons of cargo. With sleek stainless interiors and backwall accent mirrors similar to our Corporate II and elevator interior designs, this fascinatingly huge elevator can feel more spacious than some people’s first apartment.
4. Burj Khalifa Elevator: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai builds things that are bigger, bolder and more glamorous than anything else around the globe. Indeed, the city’s famed
Dubai builds things that are bigger, bolder and more glamorous than anything else around the globe. Indeed, the city’s famed Burj Khalifa building is currently the tallest in the world (2,717 feet, 163 floors) and the iconic feature of the city’s desert oasis landscape, reaching the sky by day and lit up into a kaleidoscope of colors by night.
Of course, the world’s tallest building needs one of the world’s most impressive and awesome elevator designs. Whisking visitors at 40 miles per hour, the elevator has an ornate light show passengers see as they climb to the clouds.
5. Taipei 101 Elevator: Taipei, Taiwan
Known as the “Ferrari” of elevators, the Taipei 101 elevator system travels with speed and style. Yet it’s not only the fact this 67-unit elevator system moves at 1,010 meters per minute or that it takes less than 40 seconds to go from the ground floor to the building’s 89th that sets it apart No, the Taipei 101’s real elevator appeal includes its glitzy design, a mix of rich mahogany wood paneling with silver and glass accents.
Elevator cab interiors are also coordinated to match the building’s lighting system, which changes depending on the day of the week. Visit Monday through Wednesday for a warm color palette like gold and red, or stop by on the weekend for cooling shades of blue, violet and magenta.
Weirdest and Craziest Elevators in Europe
Europe boasts some of the most interesting, unique elevator systems and designs on our planet, many of which are tourist destinations in and of themselves.
1. Hammetschwand Lift: Bürgenstock, Switzerland
Don’t be surprised if you’re inspired to take up yodeling after traversing the 501-foot elevator stationed at the banks of picturesque Lake Lucerne. Designed to resemble a space-bound rocket ship, the Hammetschwand Lift carries guests along the sides of Lake Lucerne’s mountains up to its unique cliffside vantage.
Guests experience views of the nearby Bernese Alps as well as the Mythen, Rigi and Pilatus mountain ranges. And since the elevator was built with transparent glass walls, guests can soak in an unimpeded, snowcapped view. Just don’t forget your winter coat!
2. AquaDom: Berlin, Germany
The AquaDom is one of the most famous — and quite possibly one of the most unusual — elevators in the entire world. Located in the Radisson Blu Hotel in the heart of Berlin, the elevator resides in the middle of an 82-foot-tall aquarium tank. The AquaDom elevator contains clear reinforced glass walls allowing guests to watch 50 different species of fish in the 1,500 fish habitat. If they time it right, guests may even spot one of the hotel’s four scuba diving-certified staff feeding the tank’s marine occupants.
3. Santa Justa Lift: Lisbon, Portugal
Baroque architecture and stunning Lisbon views are just two things passengers experience when riding the Santa Justa. Fashioned from iron casings as strong as they are visually stunning, the Santa Justa portals passengers between Lisbon’s upper and lower neighborhoods, awarding them one of the best views of the entire cityscape, all against its signature gothic elevator backdrop.
4. Paternoster Elevators: Germany, United Kingdom and Other Parts of Europe
No list of the strangest elevators in the world would be complete without mentioning the Paternosters. Found today in several European countries, including Germany and the U.K., the Paternoster elevators consist of small, single-person cabs that move slowly in one continuous loop. Guests step on or step off at their desired floor — no opening, closing or holding doors required. In fact, the Paternoster Elevators contain no buttons at all.
Guests riding Paternoster elevators are treated to a quirky glimpse of what many thought futuristic elevator designs would be. Needless to say, it didn’t quite turn out that way.
5. Trampe Bicycle Lift/Cyclocable: Trondheim, Norway
Trondheim, Norway, boasts what many consider the world’s only public bicycle elevator. Developed in the early ’90s to promote commuter biking throughout the hilly city, the Trampe Lift was renamed the Cyclocable after a renovation in 2013.
Operating around 3 mph, the lift gives cyclists a break from the city’s steep, rolling topography, taking them up a 426-foot hill in the Trondheim streets of Brubakken and Gamle Bybro. The Cyclocable represents a functional public utility treasured by Trondheim residents and visitors alike.
Coolest Elevators in Oceania
We head down under on the last but not least stop of our global unique elevator tour, visiting some awesomely strange, strangely awesome lifts in Australian and New Zealand.
1. Sky Tower Elevator: Auckland, New Zealand
Stay clear of the Sky Tower elevator if you’re afraid of heights. The city’s famous observation lift is a transparent elevator, complete with glass walls, glass ceilings and — yes — a transparent glass floor not for the faint of heart.
Passengers who travel more than 600 feet up in Sky Tower’s elevator are treated to panoramic views of New Zealand’s largest city, including mountain peaks and ranges hugging the town — many of which are still active volcanos.
The Sky Tower Elevator is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Auckland. And if the transparent elevator ride doesn’t satisfy your inner thrill seeker, you’re in luck. Sky Tower also maintains a bungee jumping service from a heart-pounding 629-foot platform not far from where elevator riders disembark.
2. QT Hotel: Sydney, Australia
There are a number of elements that make the QT Hotel’s elevator in Sydney, Australia, a unique destination. Decorated to match the hotel’s eclectic, contemporary aesthetic, textured black elevator walls fuse bold colors and patterns to complement the building’s overall feel, rather than merely moving people to and from their rooms. The elevator even has multi-colored lighting trim, shifting color schemes throughout the day.
Yet that’s not all. QT Hotel’s elevators are also musically interactive. Designed with built-in passenger sensors, the elevator changes its soundtrack depending on how many passengers are inside — and has a little fun along the way. For example, solo riders are greeted by Frank Sinatra’s “All Alone,” while pairs could hear Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On” or “Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers. The elevator even has parting greetings for guests as they walk off, including “Terminator” catchphrase “hasta la vista, baby” or an ominous Darth Vader stating he finds “your lack of faith disturbing” when you depart.
For a hotel whose staff are called “curators of chaos,” both the musical and aesthetic touches make this elevator ride one of the most unique on the list.
Unique Elevator Designs to Catch Eyes and Grab Attention
Interested in renovating your building’s apartment? Looking for unique, innovative and memorable designs or styles that reflect your business’s brand and showcase its true personality? You don’t have to pull all the stops like the elevators on this list.
Contact SnapCab to discuss your options. We’re a leader in elevator interior design and customized paneling systems with industry-recognized customer service and continuing support. Let’s see what unique commercial elevators we can design for you.