Elevators may seem like mundane, everyday contraptions that silently serve us in our daily urban lives. However, throughout the world, there are elevators that stand out not just for their functionality, but for their history, design, and the stories that surround them. In this post, we journey across the globe to discover some of the most iconic and fascinating elevators that have left an indelible mark on the world of architecture and engineering.

1. Eiffel Tower Elevators, Paris

The Eiffel Tower, an emblem of Paris, was constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Its elevators were a marvel in their time, and even today, they stand as a testament to engineering prowess. The original hydraulic elevators by Roux, Combaluzier & Lepape have since been replaced, but the journey to the top remains an iconic experience.

2. Bailong Elevator, China

Situated within the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in Zhangjiajie, the Bailong Elevator is the world’s tallest outdoor lift. It scales a whopping 326 meters up a cliffside, providing breathtaking views of the natural quartz and sandstone pillars that inspired the floating mountains in the movie ‘Avatar’. Its name translates to “Hundred Dragons Elevator”, and it can transport visitors to the top in just under two minutes.

3. Hammetschwand Lift, Switzerland

Europe’s highest exterior elevator, the Hammetschwand Lift, offers panoramic views of Lake Lucerne and the Alps. Built over a century ago, this elevator is attached to the side of the Bürgenstock mountain and whisks passengers up 153 meters in less than a minute.

4. Santa Justa Lift, Portugal

In the heart of Lisbon stands the Santa Justa Lift, an ornate neo-gothic elevator built in the early 1900s. Originally powered by steam, it connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo. Beyond its practicality, it’s a beloved landmark of the city and offers a splendid view of the Lisbon skyline.

5. The Gateway Arch Tram, USA

St. Louis, Missouri, boasts the iconic Gateway Arch, symbolizing the westward expansion of the United States. The journey to the top is made unique by its tram system. These egg-shaped compartments rotate as they ascend, ensuring passengers remain upright throughout the trip. At the apex, visitors are treated to expansive views of the Mississippi River and the city below.

6. Aqueduct Elevator, Germany

The Niederfinow Boat Lift is an impressive piece of engineering located in Brandenburg, Germany. Rather than carrying people, this elevator transports ships over the Oder-Havel Canal. Built in the 1930s, it’s one of the oldest working boat lifts in Europe and showcases the intersection of engineering with waterways.


Elevators, far from being mere tools of convenience, have stories to tell. They are witnesses to history, marvels of engineering, and sometimes, breathtaking works of art. As we step into one, it’s worth pondering the stories that surround these vertical travelers and the views they offer – both literal and metaphorical.

Note: If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of these magnificent elevators, Urban Elevator recommends prioritizing safety and following any guidelines or protocols set by the elevator operators.