How To Get Skyscrapers in Cities: Skylines (Zone Level-Up Guide)

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With the exception of several very tall unique buildings, skyscrapers and highrises aren’t something that you can directly build in Cities: Skylines. Instead, they “grow” when your high-density residential, commercial, or office zones reach their maximum level (5 for commercial and residential, 3 for office).

Upgrading your residential, commercial, and office buildings to their max levels involves doing the following:

  • Making sure basic utilities are available
  • Providing plenty of services
  • Educating the citizens
  • Keep away any polluting or noisy buildings
  • Raising land value with parks and nicer roads

Note: European-themed maps don’t allow skyscrapers to grow. (The buildings can still reach the same max levels but they won’t be visually as tall.) You can see which theme each map uses on the new game screen (circled below):

 
Maps with the European theme won’t be able to grow skyscrapers / Cities: Skylines
Maps with the European theme won’t be able to grow skyscrapers.
 
This cluster of highrises is just a residential zone with level 5 buildings / Cities: Skylines
This cluster of highrises is just a residential zone with level 5 buildings. Hovering your cursor over the level progress bar will also tell you what that building needs in order to upgrade.
 

Task #1: Make Sure Basic Services Are Available

For your zoned buildings to level up, they absolutely must have their basic needs met.

This means electricity, water, and sewage must all be working properly.

 
Buildings won’t be able to upgrade if basic services like water, sewage, and electricity are lacking / Cities: Skylines
Buildings won’t be able to upgrade if basic services like water, sewage, and electricity are lacking.
 

Task #2: Provide Plenty of Services

A big part of leveling up your buildings is providing them with different services.

Here’s a rundown of the services you’ll need your zones to be covered by, and the most basic building for each:

Service Building Milestone to Unlock Build Cost (₡)
Fire Fire house Worthy Village ₡12,000
Police Police station Worthy Village ₡12,000
Healthcare Medical clinic Little Hamlet ₡10,000
Deathcare Cemetery
or Crematorium
Boom Town
Big City
₡8,000
₡25,000
 
Problems like fire, high crime rate, sickness, or the presence of a dead person prevent a building from being upgraded, so make sure they’re well covered by the necessary services / Cities: Skylines
Problems like fire, high crime rate, sickness, or the presence of a dead person prevent a building from being upgraded, so make sure they’re well covered by the necessary services.
 

As you progress through the milestones and have more money in your coffers, you can opt to build fire stations, police headquarters and hospitals.

These provide the same services with a much larger area of coverage and with larger fleets of service vehicles.

On top of your basic medical clinics, health boosting facilities like eldercare and child care help as well.

Public transport options like bus routes and metro lines also boost your citizens’ happiness and improve their access to parks and educational facilities.

 

Task #3: Educate Your Citizens

Educating citizens goes a long way in leveling up your buildings.

 
The level progress bar will inform you if the building needs its residents to gain more education / Cities: Skylines
The level progress bar will inform you if the building needs its residents to gain more education.
 

Residential zones benefit directly from having access to nearby schools and universities, and from their residents becoming educated.

Meanwhile, commercial and office zones require a certain number of educated (elementary), well-educated (high school), and highly educated (university) workers to fill jobs. This is especially true the more they level up.

Tip: Commercial and office zones won’t be able to upgrade if they’re understaffed.

Try to make sure residences have access to all levels of education (elementary, high school, and university), as well as libraries. Make sure there is sufficient student capacity in the city.

 
The education view lets you see your city’s total student capacity for elementary, high school, and university, as well as the visitor capacity for libraries / Cities: Skylines
The education view lets you see your city’s total student capacity for elementary, high school, and university, as well as the visitor capacity for libraries.
 

Take note that your citizens will need time to go to school and graduate. So in some cases it may take a while, after placing these educational facilities, before you can reap its benefits in terms of building levels.

 

Task #4: Distance Your Polluting or Noisy Buildings

Having any polluting or overly noisy buildings nearby will prevent zoned buildings from leveling up, because the pollution/noise will lower the land value (in fact your residents may complain if it gets bad enough).

You can check the land value by clicking the dollar sign on the info view toolbar.

 
In this area, the residential areas on the right are kept some distance away from the low-land value industrial zones in the left and middle / Cities: Skylines
In this area, the residential areas on the right are kept some distance away from the low-land value industrial zones in the left and middle.
 

Garbage facilities, industry zones, and oil or coal power plants produce noise and pollution that lower land value.

Some attractions also lower the land value purely because of noise.

 
The Mall of Moderation, a unique building, lowers land value and produces a lot of noise, so keep it away from your residences / Cities: Skylines
The Mall of Moderation, a unique building, lowers land value and produces a lot of noise, so keep it away from your residences.
 

Task #5: Raise Land Value with Parks & Decorative Roads

You can actually raise your land value by making the place more beautiful.

 
You want to see a bright green color when checking your residential zones’ land value / Cities: Skylines
You want to see a bright green color when checking your residential zones’ land value. Here it’s kept high by plenty of parks (including a custom Parklife one).
 

Parks and plazas are a reliable way to boost land value. Custom park areas made with the Parklife DLC count toward this as well.

Using road types with trees and grass also increases land value, so use those if you can afford it.

 
This road type with decorative trees adds to the land value around it / Cities: Skylines
This road type with decorative trees adds to the land value around it.
 

Bonus Tip: How To Unlock & Construct Tall Unique Buildings

If you really want a standout skyscraper in your city without having to wait for the zoned ones to grow, you may want to look at unlocking certain unique buildings instead.

These can be a challenge to unlock, as well as fairly pricey, but they add a lot of visual interest to your city!

Unique Building Level Milestone to Unlock Build Cost (₡) Unlock Requirement
Transport tower 2 Tiny Town ₡60,000 1,000 weekly public transport passengers
Colossal Order Offices 3 Boom Town ₡70,000 Education at ₡20,000/week for 10 weeks
Observation Tower 5 Big Town ₡120,000 300 weekly tourist visits
High interest tower 5 Big Town ₡125,000 Have ₡2,000 in debt
Sea-and-sky scraper 6 Small City ₡20,000 Build a Cargo Harbor and Passenger Harbor
 
The Transport Tower / Cities: Skylines
The Transport Tower
 
The Observation Tower / Cities: Skylines
The Observation Tower
 
The High Interest Tower / Cities: Skylines
The High Interest Tower
 
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Liz Villegas

Liz is a writer and photographer with a love for building and strategy games. Her spare time is often split between lifting, reading, drawing, annoying her dog Mr. Porky Butt, and squinting at stat tables on the wiki pages of whatever game she's currently playing.