The world’s biggest fountains are not just decorative embellishments in urban landscapes, they’re jaw-droppingly beautiful examples of the perfect confluence of science, artistry, engineering, and vision.
From the Latin fons, meaning spring or water source, fountains have been used for thousands of years. Historically, they were utilitarian, linked to springs or aqueducts to supply towns and villages with clean water for drinking, cleaning and bathing. Until the late 1800s, fountains relied on the force of gravity, requiring a water source higher than the fountain itself to generate the water’s upward trajectory or jetting motion.
Today, the biggest water fountain in the world marries the aesthetics of sculpture and light design with the staggering technical complexity of hydraulics, pneumatics, and sophisticated control systems.
Let’s take an invigorating dive into the power and poetry of the contenders vying for the title of largest fountain in the world.
For the purposes of this article, we’re rating the biggest fountains in the world by the height of the tallest jets. And of course no article about the world’s biggest fountain is complete without a special mention of the most famous fountain in the world. Read right to the end to discover where it is.
Fountains of Bellagio
Location: Las Vegas, USA | Water height: 140 metres | Completed: 1998
One of America’s most photographed tourist sites, the aquatic awesomeness at the Bellagio resort on the Las Vegas Strip isn’t the largest fountain in the world, but it was the planet’s largest fountain show until 2009 when the Dubai Fountain opened. The $40 million Bellagio fountains sit on the 830 million litre, 8.5-acre artificial lake in front of the hotel and uses over 1,200 nozzles and almost 4,800 white lights. The show is choreographed to music from 183 speakers mounted into nearby lampposts.
Location: Geneva, Switzerland | Water height: 140 metres | Completed: 1951
The current iteration of the Jet d’Eau was installed in 1951 in a submerged pumping station. It sits at the confluence of Lake Geneva and the river Rhône and it’s often said that, as one of the biggest fountains in the world, it’s visible to air passengers flying over the city at 10,000 metres. Almost five hundred litres of water per second are pumped out of the ten centimetre nozzle, while at any time there’s around 6,800 litres of water in the air.
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates | Water height: 152.4 metres | Completed: 2009
The $218 million Dubai Fountain is a contender for the biggest water fountain in the world. It sits on the artificial 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake in Dubai and is made up of two long arcs and five different-sized circles, encompassing over 6,500 lights. It can shoot around 83,000 litres of water in the air at a time and the water display is accompanied by classical and contemporary Arabian and world music.
Location: Illinois, USA | Water height: 192 metres | Completed: 1995
The Gateway Geyser is the second-largest water fountain in the world and sits in the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park in Illinois, just a few metres over the state line from the world-famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The fountain operates with the help of two 800-horsepower pumps which can propel more than 28,000 litres of water per minute into the air. The ejected water reaches a speed of 273 km/h and ascends to a maximum height of 192 metres, matching that of the neighbouring arch.
King Fahd’s Fountain
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia | Water height: 260 metres | Completed: 1985
Donated by and named for Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the former King of Saudi Arabia, King Fahd’s Fountain is the world’s biggest fountain. Using saltwater from the Red Sea, the jets are visible all over the city of Jeddah. The water reaches the astonishing speed of 375 km/h. At any one time, the airborne mass of water can exceed sixteen tonnes and the base of the fountain is designed around a traditional Arabian incense burner known as a mabkhara.
The Most Famous Fountain in the World
In a city full of magnificent landmarks, Rome’s Trevi Fountain may not be the largest water fountain in the world, but it’s arguably the most famous and one of the most beautiful.
At the junction of three roads (tre vie), the Trevi Fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi and finished by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762. Rome’s largest Baroque fountain is 23.5 metres high and 49.1 metres wide, and it’s traditional for visitors to throw a coin into the fountain with the right hand over the left shoulder to ensure they will return to the Eternal City. An estimated €1.4 million ends up in the fountain each year and the money is used to fund a supermarket for the city’s poor.