The most beautiful views in New York

New York is enormous! The huge scale of New York is particularly stunning from the many lookout points of the city. We’ll show you the best views in New York from above and the nicest viewing points to see the New York skyline.

When you walk through the urban canyons of New York, the city seems hectic and crazy.

It looks totally different from one of the many lookout points in New York. New York suddenly seems really neat and structured then.

We definitely suggest seeing multiple viewing points in New York because it’ll let you see the city again in a new light.

There are four famous viewing points in New York: Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory and Edge.

In this article, we’ll tell you about which of these scenic views are most worthwhile and what you have to know about visiting.

We’ll also show you a few other lesser-known scenic viewpoints and the best places to take in the skyline of New York.

Also read our other articles: our 22 best attractions and highlights and our suggested itinerary for 1 week in New York for beginners.

Also take a look at our other articles on New York

Top of the Rock

The top of the Rock is the observation platform at Rockefeller Center. Let us start by saying that the Top of the Rock is our favorite when it comes to discovering New York from above.

View and info

Out of the four famous lookout points, the Top of the Rock is the furthest north. It’s located in Midtown on 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.

It’s particularly nice that the two observation decks are open and on the highest level there isn’t even a glass panel separating you from the view of the city.

To the North you have a great view of Central Park, which sprawls between the canyon of buildings.

Some new skyscrapers are currently being raised between Rockefeller Center and Central Park though, so this view probably won’t last for much longer.

To the South, the Top of the Rock offers the best view of the Empire State Building that you can get in New York.

The open viewing platform is relatively large in comparison to the Empire State Building and spans across two levels.

Tickets and visit

We definitely suggest that you buy your tickets in advance. That way you can simply bypass the line at the ticket counter. We booked our tickets very easily ahead of time online. Admission costs 34 euros per person.

When booking, you’ll need to choose a time when you’d like to go up the Top of the Rock. It’s especially popular around the time of sunset.

If you’d also like to go up at sunset, you should buy your tickets a good time in advance. Otherwise, you can just book a time for before sunset and stay up a little longer.

The view from Top of the Rock at sunset is indeed really great when it’s not cloudy. But it’s also the most crowded then on the observation deck. So everything has its advantages and disadvantages.

To the tickets for Top of the Rock

Our tip: the Top of the Rock is also included in all five available New York passes. If you’d like to visit a lot of attractions, one of these discount passes could be worthwhile for you. To find out more, read our article New York pass comparison: which pass should you get?

 

Top of the rock
From the topmost platform of the Top of the Rock, you have an uninhibited view of the city – without glass window panes.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is an icon and is among the best known buildings of the world. From its opening in 1931 until 1972, the Empire was the tallest building in the world.

View and info

The Empire State Building has two viewing terraces. The main observation deck, known from so many films, is found on the 86th story. There’s a second, very small platform on the 102nd story, which you have to pay an additional price of $20 once there to visit.

In our opinion though, it’s not worth it, since glass windows separate you from the view there.

The view on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building is excellent though. You can take really good photos through the fence here and don’t have any annoying glass panels in the way.

Tickets and visit

The Empire State Building continues to enchant and attract visitors. The lines at the Empire State Building seemed particularly long to us in comparison to the other viewing platforms.

You can bypass the line at the ticket counter when you buy your ticket online beforehand. Admission costs 32 euros.

It unfortunately isn’t possible to get away with no waiting at all, since you still have to go through security and will also need a little patience at the elevators.

To the tickets for the Empire State Building

A visit to the Empire State Building is also included in all five of the New York passes. With the New York City Pass, you can even go up the Empire twice in one day, so you can marvel at the view once by day and then again at night.

Top of the Rock
The view on Downtown from the Empire State Building.
Empire State Building
The Empire State Building – photographed from the helicopter. You can find out more about our helicopter ride here.

One World Observatory

At 541 meters high, the One World Trade Center is the tallest building in North America. Converted, by the way, the height is exactly 1,776 feet, which is symbolic of the year that the USA was founded.

We don’t think that the One World Trade Center turned out too nicely. The old Twin Towers looked more distinctive in the New York Skyline and more majestic.

View and info

The observation decks of the One World Trade Center are found at the top and span across multiple levels from the 101st to the 105th floor.

All of the viewing platforms are behind glass panels, which unfortunately makes taking photos a little difficult. Overall, the view from One World Observatory was less impressive to us than the view from Top of the Rock and from the Empire State Building.

The visit on the observation deck unfortunately first starts with a small sales pitch for a multimedia guide. It’s a little annoying, but there’s no way to avoid it.

Tickets and visit

Like with all popular viewpoints in New York, you should also buy your tickets in advance in this case. Admission costs the equivalent of 29.50 euros ($34).

To the tickets for the One World Observatory

Our tip: we strongly suggest combining your visit to the observation deck with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The memorial is located in the outdoor area at the site of the former Twin Towers. The museum is found in the basement of the World Trade Center and is really well done. Admission to the museum costs 21.50 euros ($26) and there are often long lines at the ticket counter here as well. So we’d recommend that you buy these tickets in advance too.

Tickets for the 9/11 Museum

Admission to the One World Observatory is also included in the New York Sightseeing Pass and the Freestyle Pass. Admission to the 9/11 Museum is part of all five discount passes for New York. You can find out which of these passes is best for you here: our New York pass comparison.

One World Trade Center
The view on Midtown from the One World Trade Center.
one-world-trade-center-observatory
This is what the viewing platform at One World Trade Center looks like.

Edge

In Hudson Yards, in the west of Manhattan, 15 new skyscrapers have been built in recent years. Among them is “30 Hudson Yards,” where the “Edge” viewing platform is found between its 100th and 101st floors.

View and Info

At a height of 332 meters, the Edge is the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. It finally opened on March 11, 2020.

The deck juts out 20 meters from the building and is completely made of glass, so you can also look 100 stories down through the floor. During clear days, you can see up to 120 kilometers away from this vantage point into the states of New Jersey and New York.

And as if that all wasn’t thrilling enough, the engineers also built the glass walls at a slight angle outwards, so visitors can practically lean over Manhattan.

Tickets and visit

The timed-entry tickets cost $36, while the Flex Pass tickets, with which you can go up at any time on a specific day, cost $56.

You can get tickets for the Edge here.

Alternatively, you can visit the Edge as part of a guided tour through Rockefeller Center and the Hudson Yards:

To the tour through Rockefeller Center, Hudson Yards, and to the Edge

The platform is also included in the New York Sightseeing Pass, by the way. However, you have to reserve your ticket for the Edge separately, which you should do as early as possible.

Edge New York
The viewing platform is the highest in the Western Hemisphere.

Taking a helicopter over New York

Seeing New York from above is something really special and we just couldn’t get enough of it. We wanted more! Since we already visited all of the observation platforms though, only a helicopter ride remained. Woohoo!

Flying over New York with a helicopter tops every lookout point and is an unforgettable experience.

Could it be something for you too? You can book the standard helicopter ride here.

You’re just like us and love to take extraordinary photos? Book the Aerial Photography Flight here.

You don’t mind spending a little more for the most special experience? Take a look at this private helicopter tour to see New York from above by night.

New York from above
Our helicopter tour over New York.

Rooftop bars in New York

Amazing views are of course not only offered by the classic New York scenic viewpoints, but also by the many rooftop bars. There are a ton of these in New York.

Many hotels in New York have rooftop bars for their guests, some of which are also open to the public.

We went for a drink at the rooftop bar of the 50 Bowery Hotel, which is in the Bowery district on the border with Chinatown.

The view was phenomenal, the rooftop bar was really cozy and there is no dress code.

The drink prices in these kinds of bars are of course always a little steep, but a beer in a prime location has its price.

Our readers and a New Yorker also recommended the following rooftop bars:

The Heights at the Arlo Nomad Hotel
Top of the Strand on the 21st floor of the Marriott Vacation Club Pulse
Cloud Social Rooftop Bar
The Press Lounge in the Kimpton Ink48 Hotel
Refinery Rooftop at the Refinery Hotel
230 Fifth Rooftop Lounge
Brass Monkey
Salon de Ning at the Peninsula Hotel

Hotel 50 Bowery Rooftop
Rooftop on the 50 Bowery Hotel

Views of the skyline

The great views of New York aren’t only found from up above. You should definitely also see Manhattan’s skyline from the water or from the other side of the river.

There are different possibilities for this, which we’d like to quickly tell you about in this section.

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn

One of the nicest vista points of Manhattan is found at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The lookout point is located very close to the Brooklyn Bridge, so you can easily do both at the same time. The best known spot for a skyline photo of Manhattan is here: take a look on Google Maps.

During sunset, the view of the southern end of Manhattan is simply phenomenal. There’s a whole row of great lookout points along the East River. So it’s worth going on a little tour here.

Brooklyn Bridge ParkView on Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

View of Manhattan from New Jersey

The view from the other direction is almost as beautiful as from Brooklyn. New Jersey is on the opposite side of the Hudson River and is a real insider tip, especially for early risers.
Because you look towards the East from Jersey to Manhattan, the sun rises right behind the skyline.
View of Manhattan from a ferry

For us, seeing Manhattan from the water is simply part of a perfect New York trip. There are numerous ferries that connect Manhattan with the other parts of the city that offer good views, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Staten Island Ferry

Our favorite is the view from the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry is free, since it’s primarily used to bring commuters from Staten Island to Manhattan and back.
During peak times, between 6:00 am and 9:30 am and between 3:30 pm and 8:00 pm, the ferry departs every 15 to 20 minutes.

Outside of these times and on the weekend, it departs every 30 minutes. The journey lasts around 25 minutes. It leaves from Whitehall Pier on the southern tip of Manhattan.

We suggest taking the ferry outside of rush hour, since it often gets really full then.

In Staten Island, all passengers have to get off. It unfortunately isn’t possible to stay directly on the boat for the return trip.

Cruises with the Circle Line

The boat rides with the Circle Line are also worth recommending. These are classic tourist boats that go once around Manhattan and take a lap around the Statue of Liberty.

There are different routes. Our favorite is the 90 minute highlight tour and the night cruise.

You can book the boat cruise here

The boat tours are also included in most of the New York passes. You can find out which of these passes could be worth it for you in our article New York pass comparison.

Our summary

That was just a whole lot of information, so here’s another quick summary of what we can really recommend and what, in our opinion, is not an absolute must:

Top of the Rock: best observation platform in New York
Empire State Building: also great views, but often very crowded
One World Observatory: you don’t absolutely have to do it
Helicopter ride: it’s completely insane, but of course not cheap entertainment
Rooftop bars: they’re really nice, but also not an absolute must
Skyline: the view from Brooklyn is a total highlight. New Jersey is something more for photographers.
Boat ride: the Staten Island Ferry is free and offers a great view. You can do the tourist cruises with the Circle Line, but you don’t have to.

Which view in New York is your favorite? Do you know another great lookout point that we don’t know about yet? Do you have questions or suggestions? We look forward to your comments!