When you think of iconic skylines in the United States, Houston might not immediately come to mind — but it should. This city is a hotspot for architectural marvels and a wide array of things to do in Houston, reflecting its growth into an urban oasis. There are arenas, museums, and HQs galore, many operating in buildings dreamed up by globally revered firms.
Houston's Rise to the Sky
Today, it’s a popular spot for locals and visitors to explore the special ways that history, innovation, and artistry converge. Soaring above the rest like our flying acrobats are the city's skyscrapers — some of the most notable buildings in the city and the country.
1. JPMorgan Chase Tower
If your travel itinerary includes the tallest building in Houston, you’ll need to add the JPMorgan Chase Tower to your list of must-see sights. Clocking in at an impressive 1,002 feet tall, this hefty skyscraper is both the tallest building in the city and in Texas. It's also the tallest five-sided building in the world.
Although it stands at 74 stories now, the original plans for the tower allowed for 80. That was scrapped when the FAA expressed concerns about how airplanes might clear those top floors. The building also extends underground. It’s part of the Houston Downtown Tunnel System, a subterranean network of passages that take pedestrians around a 25-block area.
For those visiting the downtown office tower (either by rising from out of the ground like a ninja turtle or arriving by car or bus), there’s plenty to see and do. Grab souvenirs from the 22,000-square-foot retail space. Or if you know a tenant with special access, sneak a peek from the sky lobby observation deck on the 60th floor.
2. Wells Fargo Plaza
The second-tallest building in the highest-buildings-in-Houston hierarchy (after the Chase building), the 992-foot-tall Wells Fargo Plaza is the tallest all-glass building in the entire Western Hemisphere.
Like the JPMorgan Chase Tower, this ode to modern ingenuity was built in two directions. It stands a whopping 71 floors high and offers four stories below street level, including access to the famed Houston tunnels.
The Wells Fargo Plaza is mostly homes and amenities, with tenants referring to it by its address, 1000 Louisiana Street. That said, the sky lobbies (there are two, on the mid-30th and high 50th floors) are open to the public.
From those towering windows, you can see huge swaths of the city, including parts of Minute Maid Park, retired steam engine cars from the Southern Pacific, and the Fulbright Tower. Over the years, Plaza suites have also been home to important businesses and political representatives, including the Consulate-General of Switzerland in Houston.
3. Williams Tower
Prolific real estate developer Gerald D. Hines was the leading light behind the construction of the Williams Tower. When the building opened in 1983 (known then as the Transco Tower), its 902-foot height morphed the Houston skyline. It also has 1.4 million square feet of office space, drawing Quanta Services, Valaris Limited, and the Consulate General of Denmark.
Interestingly, the building was designed as two buildings stacked on top of each other. Each section has its own elevators and lobbies, with the lower 40 floors taken up primarily by Williams Companies and the rest open to a mix of tenants. Anyone who wants to visit the 49th through 64th floors has to take an elevator to the 51st floor and transfer.
At night, a 7,000-watt beacon on the tower’s roof shines 40 miles in every direction across Houston. When you see that, you know exactly where you are and which direction you need to go to reach the heart of the city.
Elevate your Houston Stay!
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4. TC Energy Center
With a current height of 780 feet, the TC Energy Center may not be the tallest building in Houston, but it's definitely among the most recognizable. Johnson/Burgee Architects took inspiration from Dutch canal houses to create a skyscraper with three staggered setbacks with matching gabled rooflines and spires.
The effect is a modern building echoing European craftsmanship and charm, recreating a hint of The Netherlands in the middle of Texas. The continental theme continues inside, where visitors can board one of 32 wood-paneled elevators.
Tenant spaces are commercial, with companies such as Mayer Brown and, of course, TC Energy on board for the long haul. Employees have the benefit of a bit of cultural exposure, thanks to an art gallery in the lobby, plus gourmet coffee shops, boutiques, and full-service banking.
5. Heritage Plaza
In fifth place on our list of the tallest Houston buildings sits the 53-floor, 762-foot-tall Heritage Plaza. Completed in early 1987, the building was the last skyscraper added to the downtown Houston skyline before economic difficulties scuttled other planned real estate and oil ventures.
That poor timing also made it difficult for the owners to find tenants for the 1.1 million square feet of leasable space. It wasn’t until 1989 that Texaco finally moved in, taking up about half the building. Over the years, EOG Resource and Deloitte & Touche have also made Heritage Plaza their home base, the latter snatching up 10 floors.
Like the TC Energy Center, Heritage Plaza is easy to spot, thanks to some of its architectural features. There’s no boring flat or perfectly symmetrical roof here. Instead, Houston-based architects M. Nasr & Partners took artistic cues from ancient Mayan pyramids.
You can see the influence in the way the straight lines of the building turn into geometrical steps near the crown, the slabs of granite forming a modern Yucatan-style pyramid in the Lone Star State.
Inside, visitors are treated to a food court, a lobby with a multilevel marble waterfall, and a state-of-the-art fitness center. The building is close to Buffalo Bayou Park, a prime spot for those interested in hiking in Houston, as well as enjoying a lunchtime jog or post-workday picnic.
6. 609 Main at Texas
When a Yankee architect came to Bayou City in 2014, it marked the beginning of construction on 609 Main at Texas. Connecticut-based firm Pickard Chilton created a 48-story, 752-foot-tall trophy office tower with an unmistakable diamond shape.
Unending fields of glass and brushed-steel accents offer superior visibility. Tenants eager to look out can gawk at the skyline and passersby can peer inside every space to see what stories are being created inside.
Both retail and office spaces abound, with tenants such as Royal Bank of Canada, Herrington & Sutcliffe, EnVen Energy, White & Case, and Hogan Lovells all on the roster at one point or another.
Those tenants bask in the glow of amenities, such as an adaptable 300-person conference center and event space, a giant fitness facility, lobby-level coffee and bistro outlets, and dueling rooftop gardens.
7. Enterprise Plaza
When Hines completed Enterprise Plaza, its 55 stories and 750 feet scored the skyscraper the tallest spot in Houston. That title lasted just 2 years. Then, the JPMorgan Chase Tower burst onto the scene and eclipsed the architectural competition.
Enterprise Plaza is still an integral part of the Houston skyline, in no small part because of the tenants that come to work here every day. Big names, such as Enbridge, Enterprise Products, and Credit Suisse, are inside this pink-hued edifice. You can thank the Spanish Rose granite and rosy glass windows for that stand-out coloring.
8. CenterPoint Energy Plaza
CenterPoint Energy Tower is one of the oldest skyscrapers in Houston. Builders completed the original building in 1974, standing at 651 feet tall. A later 90-foot extension added during a 1996 facelift gave the tower a bit more oomph.
This architectural version of putting lifts in your shoes was an attempt to come out from the literal shadow of the competition. The owners even added a five-story circle-shaped canopy in 1995 to juice the numbers. This resulted in a building that appears to have a spaceship landing or taking off from the top.
One of the best tidbits about the current tower is that its former name, Houston Industries Plaza, was chosen as part of a competition. Other entries offered up by employees included Kilowatt Tower, Houston Rocket Socket, Fortress Gump, and The Tower of Power.
9. Texas Tower
Hines has contributed yet another footprint to Houston’s skyline with the 47-story, 735-foot-tall Texas Tower. This building is a relative newbie, as it was added in 2021, taking over space once occupied by the Houston Chronicle.
Architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli created a “vertical campus” that juts skyward from a dramatic lobby. It includes public gardens on the 12th floor, refreshment outlets, and a well-thought-out fitness center.
The exterior of the building is a standout, with rectangular sections cantilevered out over the rest of the facade like popouts on an RV or camper. Those sections are pockets of pure genius that make room for internal staircases, atriums, and communal gathering spots, all flooded with natural light.
10. 1600 Smith Street
Cullen Center Plaza. Continental Center I. 1600 Smith Street. A building by any other name will still smell like commercial success — and that’s exactly what 1600 Smith Street is. The one-time Continental Airlines headquarters is the brainchild of Morris Architects. The firm designed this 732-foot-tall building in the early 1980s, with construction completed in 1984.
Locals know the building as the skyscraper with the blue hat. For years, the bright blue Continental Logo shone from 1600 Smith Street’s roof every night after dusk. Movie fans may also feel a flash of recognition, even if they’ve never been to Houston. That’s because 1600 Smith Street had a supporting role in RoboCop 2.
11. Fulbright Tower
The downtown Houston Center encompasses a cluster of buildings, including the LyondellBasell Tower (aka 1 Houston Center), 2 Houston Center, and 3 Houston Center, which is currently known as Fulbright Tower. The Fulbright Tower, which is 52 stories and 725 feet tall, was first built in the early ‘80s, when it was known as the Gulf Tower and then the Chevron Tower.
The footprint of the building is so large that the site is sometimes called a “city within a city.” It’s an apt nickname for a structure that boasts 4.5 million feet of office space, skybridge networks, and tunnel access. It also has the only shopping mall in downtown Houston.
There are 10 hotels within walking distance, as well as other key city attractions, such as the Minute Maid Park, the Toyota Center, George R. Brown Convention Center, and Discovery Green.
12. One Shell Plaza
One Shell Plaza joins the list of buildings that had the “tallest in Houston” title stolen by newer construction. When OSP was first erected in 1971, it towered over existing sites at a lofty 50 stories and 715 feet. Add the antenna and the building was exactly 1,000 feet tall.
Of course, that status wouldn’t last, but the building is still part of Houston's history and remains an important part of the commercial fabric of the city — especially after a 1994 renovation that modernized the lighting, elevators, and accessibility.
And as for that antenna, it wasn’t just for show. It also generated signals that supported some of Houston’s biggest FM stations, providing the soundtrack for thousands of locals looking to bop along with their favorite tunes while they lived, worked, and played.
The Sky's the Limit: Houston's Tallest Buildings and Skyscrapers
Not all the tallest buildings in Houston have public entry, but their grandeur is just a glimpse of the Houston architecture that can be admired throughout the city. Between your jaunts to Heritage Plaza and 609 Main at Texas, take time to let your creative side escape with one of our thrilling shows.
From thrilling acrobatics to groundbreaking special effects, these are the stories and visuals that will make you feel like you’re part of something truly huge.