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The 10 best skyscrapers in New York City

Checkout the historic landmarks, innovative designs and brand-new skyscrapers in our city’s skyline

By Tolly Wright

Whether you’re appreciating one of the city’s best views or visiting some of the great attractions chances are you’ve been awe-struck by these buildings which stand out from the usual towers that crowd the stunning skyline. Unlike most New Yorkers, these icons don’t mind if you stare, so go ahead and look up all you want.

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Photograph: Laura Gallant

10. 30 Rockefeller Center

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As the home of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) since construction completed in 1933, no other skyscraper has been more associated with show business. Whether you're passing through its storied halls on the way to see Saturday Night Live, looking at sites like the Empire State Building and Central Park from the open-air observation deck or appreciating the austere Art Deco design as it reflects the lights from the annual Rockefeller Center christmas tree, it’s hard to imagine New York without it.

9. 56 Leonard

Though still under construction, the nearly complete tower has captured the city’s attention with its Jenga-like appearance. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the 60-story apartment building is the tallest in Tribeca and breaks away from the uniform-sleek towers that dominate the city’s recent additions with the zigzaggy pattern that appears to place each apartment unit individually on top of the other. Many of the apartments have already been purchased, so if you have some money—okay, a lot of money—better buy one while you still can.

Chrysler Building
Photograph: Laura Gallant

8. Chrysler Building

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Though it may have only held the title for tallest in the world for a mere 11 months (from May 1930 until the Empire State Building was completed in April 1931), its Art Deco design has kept the city’s attention. For generations New Yorkers and visitors have loved the distinctly American gargoyles—replicas of radiator caps from a 1920’s Chrysler on the 31st floor and steel eagle gargoyles on the 61st floor—but the real show stopper is the terraced crown with it’s stainless-steel arches that look like sunbursts when the building is lit at night.

7. Empire State Building

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When the Art Deco skyscraper opened in 1931, it was not only a triumph for New York—the Empire State that its name alludes to—but also American engineering. At 102-stories and 1,454 feet tall (including the antenna) the landmark was the tallest building in the world until it was surpassed by the World Trade Center’s north building in 1970. The views from the open-air observation deck, the highest in the city, give you a new understanding of King Kong’s motivation for climbing.


6. Flatiron Building

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Sure, at 22-stories high, it’s not the tallest on this list, but the historic landmark looms large in Gotham all the same. Before construction was completed in 1902, people feared that a building so thin would topple over, but the wedge-shaped structure not only has withstood more than a century of use, a name change (it was originally called the Fuller Building) and critical disdain from the New York Times and the Municipal Art Society, but is so well known and beloved that its neighborhood is now known as the Flatiron District.

Hearst Tower
Photograph: Laura Gallant

5. Hearst Tower

It is only fitting that the home to some of the country’s biggest magazines (Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, etc.) has its own story to tell. The six-story base of the 46-story Hearst Corporation headquarters was built in 1928, but because of the Great Depression, the skyscraper was not completed. That is, it went unfinished until a stunning and unusual modern design, using a triangular pattern for the steel frame, was built above the cast-stone building in the early aughts. Considering the accolades and awards for design it received upon completion in 2006, it was worth the nearly 80-year wait.

The New York Times Building
Photograph: Laura Gallant

4. New York Times Building

Print may be dying, but the esteemed newspaper's headquarters is alive with a bright future. Designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and completed in 2007, this modern giant—the fifth tallest in the city—is trumpeted for its environmentally conscious features. The biggest innovation is the high-rise curtain walls with ceramic sunscreen, which uses a system of special glass and ceramic tubes to control the amount of light hitting the walls and coming inside.

One World Trade Center
Photograph: Jennifer Arnow

3. One World Trade Center

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As the tallest building in the United States and the Western Hemisphere, the 1,776-footer (including the antenna) is nothing short of impressive. The tower was completed in 2013 after years of planning and controversy on the best options for the address following 9/11. Today it is both one of the most environmentally friendly skyscrapers and safest, with reinforced-concrete walls and additional stairwells for fire safety.

Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/photohenning

2. One57

In New York, there are luxury apartments and then there are buildings with more than a billion dollars in sales. Built in 2014, this sky-blue tower has found few friends in the architectural community, but the critic’s disdain for the garish design has not deterred wealthy folks looking to spend a few dozen million. Last year, the building became home to the most expensive residence ever sold in New York when a partial duplex on its penthouse 89th and 90th floors sold for a reported $100,471,452.77.

Photograph: Laura Gallant

1. Woolworth Building

The Neo-Gothic former tallest building in the world (1913 to 1930) was once known as “The Cathedral of Commerce,” and it is easy to see why. The tiered crown on the building, with it’s sharp angles, is like an elongated version of Europe’s famous grand churches, and the details of the lobby—marble, vaulted ceilings, stained glass lights, bronze fittings, intricate mosaics and murals—are enough for anyone to put their faith in money.

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