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The best views in NYC

For the best views in NYC, head up or out to rooftop bars, skyscrapers or the water

Written by
Tolly Wright
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The New York City skyline is iconic, and also ever-changing. Famous buildings like the Empire State, Chrysler and Flatiron still stand tall next to newer icons like One World Trade Center, the ICA building and the Spiral. Simply strolling the streets of New York, you’ll take in plenty of amazing views. But to get a better picture of the city, the best views in NYC are from up or out — whether atop a tall building, up in the sky, or out on the water. Taking in the view just might be one of the best things to do in NYC.

The many incredible rooftop bars in New York offer spectacular views paired with tasty cocktails and bites. Other views can be had from atop the many beautiful buildings and towering skyscrapers in the city. Or for a more unique perspective, try viewing the skyline from the water, perhaps from a kayak (but save it for summer)? Our list of magical views in NYC will allow you to see the city in a new light. Check them out on your own, or visit a few with your special someone for a unique date option.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best New York attractions

Best views in NYC

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Financial District

Crowds have clamored for the chance to ride the high-speed elevators to floors 100 through 102 of One World Trade Center. While it might seem a bit like a cheesy tourist attraction, there’s nothing that can compare to the panoramic views more than 1,250 feet above the city’s streets. Budget time to stay for a meal—the observatory serves three different dining options and all that “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing will leave you hungry.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Central Park

Tucked away in Central Park this whimsical Victorian Folly—a beautiful structure without a true purpose—was designed by Calvert Vaux, one of the park’s architects, in 1865. From its two balconies you’ll have the best views of the park’s most popular spots including the Delacorte Theater, the Great Lawn, Turtle Pond and the Ramble. For a closer look at Mother Nature’s handiwork, peer into the telescopes and microscopes provided by the Henry Luce Nature Observatory or borrow a pair of binoculars to start looking for birds and critters.

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Manhattan

The 19th-century feat of engineering is itself a sight to behold. Appreciate the beautiful craftsmanship of the suspension bridge and expansive views of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the harbor along the landmark’s walkway. Some folks will tell you that you haven’t really lived in New York until you’ve walked or biked the 1.1 miles at sunrise, and with the way the sun hits the metal and reflects off the water, we couldn’t agree more.

  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Midtown East

Summit One Vanderbilt sits atop One Vanderbilt, a 1,401-foot-high skyscraper. After a trip through a mirrored hallway with its own immersive elements, take an elevator up to the 91st floor, where you're 1,000 feet over the streets and sidewalks of NYC. Kenzo Digital has created a totally mirrored infinity room called "Air" that reflects the sky and city views over and over, making you feel like you're walking in the sky or on another plane of existence. Looking above you and below you in this two-story space, you see your reflection repeating forever.

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  • Attractions
  • Midtown West

The highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere is right here at Hudson Yards. The bird's-eye attraction is well worth a visit—that is, if you’re not afraid of heights. The building’s outdoor terrace takes you 65-feet into the sky making it the highest public balcony in NYC. The deck not only features panoramic views of our city’s skyline, but a killer vantage point below. Brave souls can stand on a large, see-through glass floor and wave to passerby 1,100 feet beneath.

  • Attractions
  • Monuments and memorials
  • Midtown West

The most famous of the city’s observation decks deserves the hype. Brave the throngs of romantics and picture-crazy tourists feast eyes on the view that has left people in awe since the 1930s. If New York’s cityscape doesn’t affect you, the crisp breeze on the 86-story-high open-air deck certainly will.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Long Island City

The 12-acres of waterside greenery, playgrounds and courts in this Long Island City park are made all the more glorious by the East River and the famous skyscrapers rising west of the gentle waves. Visit at sunset when the yellow, pink and orange skies blend together behind those beacons of modernity and watch the lights switch on at the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.

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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Greenwood

Travel through the rolling, sacred grounds where thousands of New York’s residents have found their eternal resting place to the highest natural point in Brooklyn, Battle Hill. On this Revolutionary War site, where many early Americans fought for independence, a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, appears to be waving at the Statue of Liberty, who is visible in the distance. When you see it, remember it’s okay to feel a bit patriotic.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Chelsea

Walking along the abandoned elevated train tracks of the High Line not only gives you stunning sight-lines of lower Manhattan and midtown, but also lets you become part of the city’s skyline. Feel the pulse of the city high above the trendy Meatpacking District, Chelsea streets and the area’s mixture of historic buildings and new developments—even more so if the guests at the adjacent Standard Hotel choose to leave their blinds open during a midday rendezvous.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Central Park

By all accounts, the Met is easy on the eyes—amazing architecture and design filled with one of finest art collections in the Western hemisphere—but you don’t have to know anything about antiquities or aesthetics to understand the wow-factor of the roof garden. Down refreshing cocktails as you sip up the glory of Central Park and the Upper East Side below.

  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Financial District

Every day thousands of commuters get to soak in New York’s most iconic sites without spending a dime. Whether you have business in Richmond County or just want to get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty, hop on board this vessel and head straight to the deck for a breath of the Hudson River and dazzling views of Lower Manhattan, Liberty Island, Ellis Island and Governors Island.

Looking for a view and a drink?

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