9 Best Places with Breathtaking Views in New York City

Laurence Norah is one half of the travel blogging couple Laurence and Jessica Norah, who run three websites to help you travel the world and take better photos doing so. Find out more

Breathtaking views are synonymous with New York City: after all, those skyscrapers mean some excellent viewpoints of that epic skyline. From the tallest skyscrapers to river cruises and even some unexpected locations, the city is filled with excellent viewpoints of that iconic NYC skyline.

Heading to the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Centre are surefire ways to get your fix, but there’s a whole lot more to see if you know where to look. Manhattan is always a good place to start, but this guide also ventures further afield to showcase some of the very best sights of NYC. 

Getting the most beautiful vista doesn’t have to cost a fortune or require forward planning either: this guide to breathtaking views of New York City includes plenty of places to drink it all in. Or at the other end of the spectrum, you could even take to the sky in a helicopter…

The best skyscrapers for incredible views over New York City

Empire State Building

View from Empire State Building (photo by Laurence Norah)

Price: From $48

Where: 20 W 34th Street, New York, NY 10001
Insider Tip: There are three observation decks, but head to the 86th floor for the very best view

One of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the Empire State building is more than just something nice to look at, it’s something nice to look from. This 102-story building in midtown Manhattan was for a long time the tallest building in the world, and still boasts some of the best views over New York. Three observation decks are the best place to cop an eyeful, but there are also a number of exhibits you’ll pass through on your way to the top. Here you’ll learn all about the construction of the building, its present-day use, its role in popular culture, and more.

Our favorite floor is the 86th floor where you’ll find the outdoor observatory. From here, you can go to every side of the building to get incredible views of both uptown Manhattan and Central Park, as well as to downtown Manhattan, and even the other boroughs. On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles. 

There are a number of options for tickets for the Empire State Building, including the most popular standard entry ticket, the AM/PM ticket, the sunrise experience ticket and the VIP guided tour, and each one is as good as the last. It’s also included on many of New York’s more popular city passes, such as the New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass.

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Rockefeller Center

View from Rockefeller Center (photo by Laurence Norah)

Price: From $43.55

Where: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
Insider Tip: The observation deck is open-topped, so make sure you bring a jumper

If you want your views of New York City to include the Empire State Building’s elegant silhouette, head to Top of the Rock, a viewing platform at the top of the Rockefeller Center instead. 

The Rockefeller Center actually consists of 19 buildings, including popular attractions like the Radio City Music Hall, the Rockefeller Plaza, and a large underground shopping concourse. However, for the best view, you’ll be heading to the Top of the Rock observation deck which is found at the top of the 30 Rockefeller Plaza building.

As well as the Empire State Building, you’ll have an incredible view of Central Park and the rest of Midtown Manhattan. Being open-topped, it also feels a bit more like you’re really standing on top of the city. 

It’s best to book tickets for Top of the Rock Observation in advance, but they’re also included on the New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass. 

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The Edge

Price: From $43.55

Where: 30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001
Insider tip: Go here for views straight down the Hudson River, and a unique perspective of Manhattan

If you like your views of New York City to include an adrenaline rush, then the 100-story-high Edge Observation Deck on the western side of Midtown Manhattan should be on your itinerary.

The Edge can be found at 30 Hudson Yards, and the observation deck is unique because it juts out over the street below. The glass walls are also angled outwards, so you can feel like you’re leaning over the edge. There’s also a rather thrilling glass floor, for those of you brave enough to walk over “nothing”, 100 stories above street level.

The views are some of the best you’ll find in New York. You can see straight down the Hudson River from this location, and you get excellent views of Midtown Manhattan as well as the rest of the island and the surrounding boroughs.

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One World Trade Center and Observatory

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Price: From $39

Where: 285 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10007
Insider Tip: Make a day of it and team views with exploring a significant part of New York’s recent history

As the tallest building in New York and the whole of the Western Hemisphere, One World Trade Center (also known as the Freedom Tower) is the place to go for unbeatable views of downtown Manhattan. On the 102nd floor, the One World Observatory gives spectacular 360-degree views of Lower Manhattan and across the Hudson River to Jersey City. 

There’s also a virtual glass floor experience, known as the Sky Portal, which uses high-definition cameras to project real-time images underneath the floor, giving the impression of walking on a glass floor high above the city streets.

Of course, a visit to One World Trade Center is about more than ticking off a view: this area of Manhattan is home to a number of attractions that are well worth a visit, from the poignant September 11 Memorial and Museum to bustling Wall Street. It’s also the place to catch a cruise to visit the Statue of Liberty.

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Other unique ways to see the New York City skyline

Helicopter Ride

Helicopter view

Price: From $190

Where: Various locations
Insider Tip: Book in advance to avoid disappointment

Going up very tall buildings is one of the best ways to get amazing views of New York, but their biggest disadvantage is their stationary position. 

To get that all-encompassing perspective over one of the world’s most talked-about cities, you can head to the top of multiple skyscrapers. But for an option that’s truly breathtaking, book a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride over the rooftops. 

These rides are available with various durations and will give you a real bird’s-eye view from a perspective that even One World Trade Center can’t provide. A helicopter ride is also a lot of fun, and definitely a unique way to get a great view of the city. Fasten your seat belts…

Boat cruise

NYC Boat Cruise

Price: Free!

Where: Various locations
Insider Tip: Combine it with a trip to Staten Island for a full day out

If a helicopter ride is a little out of budget (or maybe you don’t like heights), then a boat cruise might be the one for you. These will give you a completely different perspective on the city you can’t get anywhere else. There are several companies that offer sightseeing boat cruises, including some options that include a meal, just in case you want to make a whole experience of it. 

That being said, our favorite views of the city were from either the trip to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty, or from on board one of the relatively inexpensive city ferry services (including the one to Staten Island). These both offer excellent city views, particularly of the downtown Manhattan skyline. 

As you are likely to be visiting the Statue of Liberty, treating the boat ride over as a sightseeing cruise will save you some money. The ferry, on the other hand, is an excellent way to get around some of the main sights of the city.

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Queens Museum

Queens Museum (photo by Laurence Norah)

Price: Free

Where: Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Building, Queens, NY 11368
Insider Tip: This is the place to get a truly unique view of New York City

For something more off the beaten path that not many visitors get to see, head to the Queens Museum.  Found in Flushing Meadows in the borough of Queens, it’s easy to reach by public transport from Manhattan, and is well worth the visit for its unique perspective on New York City. 

We’re actually cheating here: instead of coming face-to-face with the city skyline, you’ll be able to immersive yourself in the museum’s incredible permanent exhibition titled “Panorama of the City of New York”. Originally created for the 1963 World’s Fair, this is a 9,335-square-foot model of the entire city and includes every building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs.

You can walk all around the installation and get an incredible sense of the scale of the city. You can even watch tiny planes taking off and landing at the model of LaGuardia Airport, and if that isn’t a draw we don’t know what is. 

Gantry Plaza State Park

Price: Free!

Where: 4-09 47th Rd, Queens, NY 10007
Insider tip: This is a great spot for a picnic, so bring snacks

Another excellent free option popular with locals is the Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, Queens. This is found on the east side of the East River, directly opposite Midtown Manhattan, and is a great place to come for excellent skyline views.

It’s easy to get here by ferry or subway, and alongside lovely views of the skyline, you’ll also find art installations, regular live music performances and lots of recreational opportunities.

See the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park

Manhattan Skyline (Photo by Laurence Norah)

Price: Free

Where: 334 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Insider Tip: Come at sunset to see the real show

Another one of our favorite locations to get a free view of the New York City skyline is Brooklyn Bridge Park. Perched just over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, it can easily be reached on foot via bicycle, or by ferry. 

The view from Brooklyn Bridge Park looks across the East River with the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan directly in front of you. Sunset is particularly magical, as the sun sets behind the downtown skyscrapers — but if you can’t make it then, it’s a beautiful spot all day long.

Laurence Norah is one half of the travel blogging couple Laurence and Jessica Norah, who run three websites to help you travel the world and take better photos doing so. Laurence loves New York City and has visited many times over the years. One of his favorite views is from the rooftop of the Empire State building. Check out his guide to visiting the Empire State Building for his insights into visiting, as well as
his guide to spending 2 days in New York.