The best NYC tours and walks

Get the most out of your visit with our guide to the best tours in NYC, from sightseeing buses to popular walks
The High Line
Photograph: Courtesy The High Line
By Annalise Mantz and Time Out New York contributors |
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Whether you’re in the Big Apple for a week or a weekend, this selection of the best NYC tours and walks will help you make the most of your visit. From guided tours around the best New York attractions to bike tours of parks in NYC, there’s something for everyone. History buffs can take in the city's architecture, while culture vultures can be guided through the the top art museums in NYC. A few of these tours even offer behind-the-scenes access to usually off-limits spaces; what some might call secret New York. Whatever you're looking for, this list of the best tours in NYC has you covered.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do outside in NYC

Best NYC tours and walks

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Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
Photograph: Courtesy Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

The quintessential city tour of all tours, hop-on hop-off's get some major props for ease, accessibility and price. Map-reading and subway-taking not your strong suit? No worries—even the most directionally-challenged traveler can enjoy a Big Bus Tours, condensing a sightseeing fest including thirty landmarks into one trip. Be sure to watch out for famous points of interest as you go with the aid of a live tour guide (and go-to know-it-all about New York attractions). And if something catches your eye? Just hop off—simple. Choose from routes running in downtown, uptown, Harlem and Brooklyn and get from Wall Street’s Charging Bull statue to the green meadows of Central Park with ease. 

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Best New York tourist attractions: Central Park
Photograph: Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Small Group Central Park Bike Tour

You’ll cover much more of Central Park’s 843 acres of meadows, woods and ponds on a bike than you ever could on foot. Meet up with the guide from Central Park Tours Inc. to pick out your wheels for the day, then set off from the south end of the park. You’ll spy iconic landmarks, plus a few lesser-known gems. And since the tour is always capped at just eight people, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to ask questions along the way. (Oh, and you know, fitness, too).

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Statue of Liberty
Photograph: Shutterstock

Circle Line: New York Landmarks Cruise

For a grand view of the New York skyline, you can’t beat the top deck of a Circle Line cruise. The boat sets sail down the Hudson River to get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty before rounding Battery Park and heading for the Brooklyn Bridge. It goes without saying that you’ll want to bring your camera along for the ride. 

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One World Observatory
Photograph: Dibrova

9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero Walking Tour

Head to Ground Zero in the Financial District and pay your respects to those that lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks at the site where the World Trade Center once stood. This guided tour from City Tales Sightseeing includes stops at the Fireman’s Memorial, twin reflecting pools, One World Observatory and St. Paul’s Chapel.

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Scenic running routes in NYC
Photograph: Shutterstock

Brooklyn Bridge Bike Tour

Boasting some of the most jaw-droppingly spectacular views in the city, the Brooklyn Bridge is a beacon for snap-happy tourists. But don't let your only experience of this stunning structure and its incredible views be through the view finder of your camera. Put the gadgets down and take a bike ride across the bridge to really soak up the scenery. This 'Bike and Roll' tour takes about three hours, running at a leisurely pace with plenty of time for photo stops.

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Photograph: Wendy Connett

EmptyMet Tour

In 2017, a record-setting 7 million people visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art's three locations. It would, then, be a slight understatement to call the galleries “crowded.” If you'd like to take in the museum's world-class collection of masterpieces in a little more peace and quiet, sign up for this exclusive tour that lets you visit the museum's Fifth Avenue location before opening time. Stand in suitable silence in front of the spectacular "Temple of Dendur" and have the freedom to take in El Greco’s masterful “View of Toledo”; without having to jostle for a spot and feeling like it's time to move on. This tour comes with a hefty price tag, but it's a rare behind-the-scenes look at the city’s most encyclopedic art museum that is worth every single penny.

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7
The High Line
Photograph: Shutterstock

High Line and Chelsea Walking Tour

What started life as an unremarkable elevated railway is now famous across the world and one of New York's most photogenic landmarks. The High Line is a public park, rotating art gallery and perennial tourist attraction stretched, as the name suggests, high over the bustling city streets below. Take a two-hour walking tour hosted by New York Tour 1 to explore the full span of this green oasis and take in the architecture and unique history of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Make sure you save some time to shop in Chelsea Market afterwards!

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Grand Central
Photograph: Shutterstock

Small Group Walking Tour of New York City Architecture

Times Square, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, Tudor City: all these world-famous architectural landmarks share space on Manhattan's 42nd Street. On this three-hour tour of Midtown, you’ll wander the much-storied thoroughfare with a local expert. Take in the sites and spot examples of Art Deco, Beaux Arts and International Style architecture and learn how each style ties into the city’s history.

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Battery Park
Photograph: Lauren Foy

Tip of Manhattan Bike Tour

With the exceptions of Wall Street and the National September 11 Memorial, somehow the area south of 14th Street seems to miss mass tourist attention. Don't skip this part of town, though, as it's the epicentre of downtown cool. Explore Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side and the Financial District on this three-hour bike ride around the southern tip of Manhattan.

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American Museum of Natural History
Photograph: Courtesy Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock.com

Renegade Tour of the American Museum of Natural History

With over 1.6 million square feet of exhibition space, navigating the American Museum of Natural History on your own can feel like a bewildering task. That’s where this high energy, unconventional tour comes in. In only two hours, you’ll be whisked round the highlights, get a crash course in biology and even discover some of the museum’s secrets. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Get Up and Ride
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Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
Photograph: Courtesy Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
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Photograph: Courtesy Viator
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