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The best Manhattan attractions

From the Statue of Liberty to the High Line, these are the best Manhattan attractions in NYC

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If you’re planning on making a visit to New York City, it would be ridiculous not to start with Manhattan and its attractions. Though in point of fact neither the biggest borough (that’s Queens!) nor the most densely-populated (that’s Brooklyn!), it is the center of the city: historically, geographically and culturally. Dominated by some of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers, here you’ll find globally famous attractions like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Central Park. You’ve got some of the best restaurants in New York. And all the biggest and best Broadway shows are here because Broadway is literally in Manhattan. Whether you’re just visiting the Big Apple for the weekend or you’re a lifelong New Yorker looking for something new to do, these attractions in Manhattan are essential additions to your bucket list.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best New York attractions

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Best Manhattan attractions

  • Attractions
  • Monuments and memorials
  • Midtown West

Finished in 1931 at the height of the Great Depression, this 1,454-foot Art Deco skyscraper was the tallest building in the world for almost four decades, and has long stood as a symbol of American innovation and ambition. Still looming large as ever in New York’s skyline (where it’s still the seventh-tallest building), the Empire State remains one of the most visited attractions in the city. With so many clamouring for the chance to take an elevator ride to the open air observation deck on the 86th floor, it’s best to arrive early, between 8am and noon, for a chance to take in those awe-inspiring panoramic views.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

Surely the world’s most famous public park, the still startlingly enormous Central Park is one of the most beloved attractions in New York City, and iconic fixture of numerous films, TV shows and songs. It’s surprisingly easy to forget you’re in Manhattan once you penetrate the idyllic, 843-acre plot, which was first brought to life in the mid-nineteenth century by urban visionaries Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. Their thoughtful design reflects a harmonious balance of scenic elements that lives on today: pastoral (the open, picnic-ready lawn of the Sheep Meadow), formal (the liner, tree-lined Mall) and picturesque (the densely wooded paths of the Ramble).

Rent a bike in Central Park.

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  • Attractions
  • Monuments and memorials
  • Liberty Island

In a city where almost everything is iconic, Lady Liberty could just edge it as the icon of icons – certainly where tourists are concerned (New Yorkers famously avoid it like the plague). Our tip is to avoid the foam-crown-sporting masses and prebook a combo cruise-and-tour ticket. A climb to the crown – and why wouldn’t you? – affords a panoramic view of New York Harbor and the chance to see the literal nuts and bolts of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s creation, which was given to the people of America by the people of France in 1886. We thoroughly recommend stopping in the museum on Liberty Island, if only to marvel at the initial ambivalence of 19th-century New Yorkers when they were asked to fund the construction of the pedestal. 

  • Attractions
  • Towers and viewpoints
  • Financial District

The current tallest building in the United State, the One World Observatory at World Trade Center lets visitors experience panoramic views of NYC on levels 100, 101 and 102. The tour begins with a thrilling trip in the Sky Pod elevators (some of the fastest in the world) which lead to a two-minute video presentation of gorgeous city images on floor 102. Check out City Pulse on the 100th floor, which shows HD videos featuring notable NYC landmarks and neighborhoods. Then it’s time to brave the Sky Portal, where a 14-foot wide circular disc gives you a view of real-time, high-definition footage of the streets below.

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Occupying 13 acres of Central Park, the Met, which opened in 1880, is impressive in terms both of quality and scale: there are some two million items in its permanent collection, from classical antiquity to modern American design. Added in 1895 by McKim, Mead and White, the neoclassical facade is daunting. But despite its grandeur and vastness, the museum is surprisingly easy to negotiate, particularly if you come early on a weekday and avoid the crowds.

  • Attractions
  • Civic buildings
  • Midtown East

If you want to call this magnificent pinnacle of Art Deco architecture NYC’s most eye-popping skyscraper then we’re not going to argue with you. Triangle-shaped windows in its crown are lined with lights, creating a beautiful effect come nighttime. Oozing a moneyed sophistication oft identified with old New York, you can’t actually go up it as a tourist – it’s still in use as offices – but the go-ahead has been given for a new observation deck, and in the meantime the magnificent art deco lobby is open to the public.

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Though it’s spawned many imitators, there’s something uniquely New York about this wonderful aerial walk, built on an abandoned railway track, an ultra-smart move in footage-starved Manhattan. What we like best is how the pathway rises above the city while keeping you rooted in urban life: where else can you walk through a field of wildflowers as cabs zip along the street beneath you?

Tour the High Line, Chelsea, and the Meatpacking District.

  • Theater

When it’s running at full capacity – understandably, things have been pretty patchy since March 2020 – then more than 13 million locals and tourists take in Broadway shows every year. Most of NYC’s 41 Broadway venues – that is to say, professional theaters with a capacity of over 500 – are located in the Theater District. Roughly speaking, that’s 41st Street to 52nd Street between Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue. Each season brings a new wave of megamusicals, plays and star-driven revivals. Tickets don’t tend to be cheap – although discounts are often available – but you would be crazy to leave New York City without taking in one of the season's best shows.

Get spooked on a haunted Broadway theater tour.

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On the former site of the Twin Towers, stand North America’s largest man-made waterfalls. Designed by Michael Arad, its twin reflecting pools bear the names of the 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks, and serve as a solemn reminder of all that was lost on both September 11, 2001 and the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. For those who wish to learn more about the events, the museum offers first-hand accounts of survivors, picture and video footage of the attacks and recovered objects such as a wrecked recovery vehicle and the 30-foot National 9/11 Flag.

  • Things to do
  • Midtown West

Built by the fabulously wealthy businessmen John D Rockefeller, the construction of this enormous complex employed over 40,000 workers over nine years. Nowadays, more than 350,000 visitors make their way to the historic landmark every year, starting early in the morning with folks hoping to spot celebrities or appear in the background of the Today Show. Always in demand is the NBC studio tour, which covers the network’s history and sites in 30 Rock. The busiest time to visit, of course, is December when the enormous, 70-foot Christmas Tree stands proud above the plaza ice rink. 

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