New York City’s skyline is one of the most beautiful and impressive in the world.
The Manhattan skyline is home to the tallest building in the United States and the most photographed building in the world, the Empire State Building.
With so many superlatives, it’s no wonder that there are no shortage of cool observation decks in Manhattan with epic views.
But there are also many under-the-radar places for a great view of the New York skyline!
Because Manhattan is an island, there are incredible views of the Manhattan skyline just about everywhere: in Brooklyn, Queens, and even in neighboring New Jersey!
Here are some of our favorites.
The Best Views of New York City in Manhattan
On a Helicopter Tour
Contributed by Mark and Kristen of Where Are Those Morgans?
New York City is home to arguably the most iconic urban landscape on the planet. You can soak up epic NYC skyline views from several famous vantage points, such as Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
But imagine if you could see every single one of the best skyline views NYC has to offer in just 20 minutes?
That’s where a luxury NYC helicopter tour comes in to swoop and glide over Manhattan, the Hudson River and all of its most revered landmarks.
The catch? Taking a helicopter tour over Manhattan is going to absorb a huge chunk of your NYC travel budget. But it is worth eating the expense, particularly if you only have 1 or 2 days in the city.
You can choose flight time, flight route and even whether to fly with doors on or off based on various price points.
Flights begin at around US$ 140 per person but that’s just a basic tour. Factor in more like US$ 250 – 400 each if you want the full experience.
Tours take off and land in both New Jersey (Kearny, Linden) and Lower Manhattan (Pier 6) throughout the day but advanced reservations are recommended due to high volume ‘walk in’ demand creating long lines.
You can fly over the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, One World Observatory and Downtown Manhattan, Empire State Building, Times Square, Edge at Hudson Yards, Central Park and even as far north as Yankees Stadium.
Photography can be challenging from a bumpy helicopter so be sure to crank up your shutter speed to at least 1/4000s for best image quality.
If you’re looking for one of the very best things to do in New York City, take a bucket list helicopter tour right over the top of the entire city!
Metropolitan Museum of Art Rooftop
Contributed by James Ian from Travel Collecting
One of my all-time favorite views in New York City is from the rooftop terrace of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met).
The terrace occupies the southwest corner of the museum and has incredible views over the treetops of Central Park, and of the historic apartment buildings along Fifth Avenue and the towers of Midtown. You can see the Plaza hotel and the new super narrow skyscrapers along and near Central Park South perfectly framing the park.
The rooftop is one of the Met’s best-kept secrets. Access to the rooftop terrace is included in the museum’s admission fee, which is $25 for adults unless you are a local resident. The terrace is only open in the summer months. During this time, there is an art installation that changes each year.
There is also the Cantor Roof Garden Bar on the terrace, and you can get a glass of sangria and a snack while you enjoy the views. (This is temporarily closed in 2021 due to Covid). There are some benches, but seating is quite limited, so I recommend getting there early to secure a spot.
To get to the terrace, there is one elevator in the American Decorative Arts section on the first floor. It goes express to the fourth floor, and from there you walk up to the fifth floor. The museum is currently open Thursday to Monday, 10 am–5 pm.
Contributed by Isabella of Boundless Roads
New York City is one of the most photogenic cities in the world and you can find amazing views of NYC from literally every corner, and even in museums!
If you are into art you may want to explore the Whitney Museum where you can enjoy not only the most unique contemporary art expositions but also catch some incredible views from its terraces.
On every floor of the museum you have the chance to get out on the terrace and see New York from a different angle, but the best one is obviously on the top floor with an almost 360° of the city including the Hudson River and the brand new Little Island with its manicured gardens and pathways, which is one of the most instagrammable places in NYC.
You can also have a glimpse of the start of the popular Highline, another great viewpoint, the majestic skyscrapers that populate the city, and the gorgeous rooftop terraces.
The Whitney Museum is located at the north end of Greenwich Village, one of the most historical areas of NYC that you cannot miss even if you are visiting NYC for a short time, so that it can definitely fit in your New York itinerary.
The entrance of the Museum is $25 but if you manage to go on a Thursday, you can make your own offer which can be as little as $1. In any case, it’s completely worth the price both for the incredible views and the unique artworks. Make sure you pick a sunny day though!
New Museum of Contemporary Art
Contributed by Kenny of Knycx Journeying
The New Museum of Contemporary Art is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan within the vibrant Soho area, was established 40 years ago and dedicated to showcasing works of the up-and-coming international contemporary artists, hence the name “new”.
The museum originally operated on Hudson Street; The current museum building opened in 2007, and it is a sleek and modern white architecture, standing amongst the iconic red brick buildings and flea markets in the neighborhood. Now, the museum has an important and influential legacy and mission to keep breaking new ground.
The Sky Room is on the 7th floor of the museum with floor-to-ceiling windows and a terrace, offering an obstructed view of Soho, and a panoramic view of the dramatic skyline from Midtown to lower Manhattan. It is one of the few locations in the area that offers such a wide-angle from both indoor and outdoor.
The room is opened to the public unless it was booked for a private event. The general admission to the museum and Sky Room is US$18 for an adult with a discount for senior visitors, students, and disabilities. New York Pass holders enjoy free access.
The Best Views of New York City from Brooklyn
Time Out Market Rooftop
Contributed by Megan of Your Brooklyn Guide
If you’re looking for the best skyline views in New York City one of the best places to go to is the neighborhood of DUMBO in Brooklyn.
DUMBO is home to prime waterfront real estate along the East River which provides some of the best views of Lower Manhattan and the skyline, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Brooklyn Bridge which can be enjoyed along the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront here, but the best view is actually from the top floor of Empire Stores at Time Out Market New York.
Situated inside a former industrious warehouse is one of the most exciting food market halls in the city including a lower floor full of food options and the 5th floor which offers a few more eateries, a bar, and an outdoor terrace where you can sit and eat or just come for the sweeping views!
From this prime location you can get photos and views of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the NYC city skyline, and Brooklyn Bridge Park below including the whimsical Jane’s Carousel with the East River.
This is an especially great spot during sunset and if you happen to be here early morning or late at night you can access the outdoor terrace using the outdoor staircase even when Time Out Market isn’t open.
The nearest subway stations are York Street (F line) and High Street ( A/C lines). You can also take the NY Ferry to the DUMBO stop or even walk across either the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge.
Contributed by Rachel of Rachel’s Ruminations
The Brooklyn Bridge is a popular tourist destination in New York City; tourists throng the walkway of this elegant bridge. That’s part of why the Manhattan Bridge is actually a better choice, both for views and for comfort.
Both bridges connect Manhattan to Brooklyn, not very far apart from each other. The Manhattan Bridge isn’t as pretty, but it’s also not nearly as crowded.
From the Manhattan Bridge, as you listen to the subway cars roar by right next to you, you’ll get the best view of the older and prettier Brooklyn Bridge, with its Gothic Revival arches made of stone.
And the city skyline beyond it isn’t blocked by parts of the bridge, as it is from the Brooklyn Bridge.
A metal suspension bridge, the Manhattan Bridge was completed in 1909. A second level was added to it in 1922, and two separate paths – one for pedestrians and one for cyclists – were added in the early 2000s.
That means that, unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, you won’t be risking your life sharing a path with New York cyclists in a hurry or wobbly tourists admiring the views.
Walking both bridges is also possible, of course. It is probably wisest to do the Brooklyn Bridge early in the morning before the crowds gather, then take the Manhattan Bridge for the return trip. Both are free to cross. Bring water and sun lotion if it’s a warm day.
The nearest subway stations in Manhattan are Grand Street (B and D trains), East Broadway (F) and Canal Street (4, 6, J, Z, N, Q, R, W). In Brooklyn, the nearest station is York Street (F train).
To learn more about both bridges, read about walking across the Manhattan Bridge & the Brooklyn Bridge.
Contributed by Martha at May Cause Wanderlust
Westlight is a rooftop cocktail bar in Brooklyn, from which you can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of Manhattan.
It is on the 22nd floor of the luxury William Vale hotel in Williamsburg and the bar is run by Chef Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo Hospitality Group.
It offers a delicious selection of small plates and appetizers inspired by street food all around the world and the cocktail menu is inventive and full of personality. The design of the bar is an elegant mix of modern and classic.
However, the star attraction is the sweeping view from the terrace. From here, you can see most of midtown Manhattan, easily picking out the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. At night, especially, it is a mesmerising, sparkling spectacle.
You’ll find Westlight at 111 N 12th St, Brooklyn, which is a ten minute walk from both Bedford Avenue (L train) and Nassau Avenue (G train). There are also buses which stop nearby (B32, B62, M14-A-SBS and M9).
Like many popular bars, it gets busy, so you it is a good idea to reserve a table in advance. You can book indoors or on the terrace. If you can only get a table inside – and even if it is freezing cold – make sure you spend some time out on the terrace to marvel at the view!
The Skyline Drive-In
Contributed by Shannon of Traveling Teacher Girl
The Skyline Drive-In is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and offers amazing views of the East River and east side of Manhattan.
Skyline Drive-In is the only drive-in cinema that offers a view of the Manhattan skyline (hence where it got its name- Skyline Drive-In).
You can either drive in and watch a movie from your car, or you can walk in and use their available seating. They show movies 7 days a week year-round.
Tickets cost approximately $55 per vehicle if you drive-in or $22 per seat if you walk in. They have typical movie theater snacks for sale such as popcorn, candy, and soda. You can also bring in food from one of the many great restaurants nearby such as Paulie Gee’s Slice Shop or Jungle Cafe.
Be sure to arrive early in order to secure a spot closest to the screen. If you are driving in with your car be sure to allow time for typical NYC/Brooklyn traffic driving in New York City. If you are walking in, you can get to the neighborhood of Greenpoint by subway via the G train or by NYC ferry.
There are several great spots to take photos here. The first is to take a photo from your car or seat with a view of the movie screen and the Manhattan Skyline behind it. You can also walk closer to the shore of the East River and grab a photo with an uninterrupted view of the Manhattan Skyline.
The Edge Park
Contributed by Isabella of Boundless Roads
Designed by W Architecture, The Edge Park was built in 2011, to recuperate an ugly industrial area and turn it into a beautiful waterfront park for the citizens of New York and visitors alike.
Located in the heart of Brooklyn, in the trendy Williamsburg, The Edge Park is a spectacular space where people enjoy hanging out, jogging, sunbathing, or taking their dogs for runs, in the dedicated area.
The idea was to turn an inaccessible area into an enjoyable space, ensuring that the tower buildings were not obstructing the spectacular views of the East River and Manhattan but on the contrary, becoming connecting elements with the iconic skyline.
The mission was definitely accomplished and the area has become a lively trendy space, very much appreciated by the locals, especially in the spring and summer when people love to hang out, gathering with friends, or enjoying a nice book while sunbathing on the manicured grass or on the benches.
If you get to the end of the pier you can admire a spectacular image of the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building towering over the city.
To get to Edge Park from Manhattan you can get Subway Line L and get off at Bedford Avenue station, and then walk 5 minutes, or if you are coming from Queens, bus B62 is the best way to get some sightseeing before reaching your destination.
If you are traveling in the summer make sure you add a swimsuit to your NYC packing list, in case you want to join the local vibe for some sunbathing!
The Best Views of New York City from Queens
Hunter’s Point South Park
Contributed by Polly Witker of Polly Goes
Hunter’s Point South Park is a true hidden gem for anyone wanting to take in fabulous views of Midtown East in a relaxed setting!
Situated directly across the East River from 34th street at the westernmost edge of Queens, Hunter’s Point Park is a prime spot to see landmarks like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.
The park has plenty of seating areas, a grassy area for reading or relaxing, and a recreational space for sports like soccer or volleyball.
The iconic and Instagrammable Pepsi-Cola sign is also nearby at Gantry Plaza! LIC Landing is a casual, to-go cafe onsite with coffee and snacks.
One of the best parts about taking in the views of the NYC skyline from Hunter’s Point South Park is that it’s completely free!
Getting there is easy: by subway you can take the 7 train just one stop from Grand Central to Vernon Blvd – Jackson Avenue. Or take the NYC Ferry which stops right at Hunter’s Point.
The Best Views of NYC from New York Harbor
Contributed by Megan of Your Brooklyn Guide
One of the most under-the-radar spots for best views in New York City is located in the New York Harbor between Lower Manhattan and South Brooklyn at Governors Island.
Governors Island is a former military base that was active from the Revolutionary War until 1996. Since then, the space has been converted to a public playground open only from the months of May through the end of October.
You can rent bikes here or bring your own, picnic, eat, sway in hammocks, and wander around the art exhibits and former military housing on the island.
The best part though has to be climbing ‘The Hills’ where you get one of the best unobstructed views of the Statue of Liberty in one direction and breathtaking views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and World Trade Center in the other direction.
There are several vantage points around Governors Island that make it one of the best spots to catch a great view in the city not to mention plenty of things to do that you can spend as little as an hour or two to spending the night at their luxury glamping resort.
Getting to Governors Island is also cheap, you just have to pay your round trip ferry ticket which is a whopping $3 for adults, or if you want to save some cash you can come on the weekends before noon for FREE!
The ferries operate from the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan 7 days a week or Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Basin in Red Hook on Saturdays and Sundays only.
Staten Island Ferry
Contributed by James Ian from Parks Collecting
One of the best views of New York City is the view of Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry.
The bright orange ferries are an integral part of the New York City experience. The first ferry started all the way back in 1817. In more recent years, they have featured in countless movies and TV shows, including the iconic opening scene in the classic 80’s movie Working Girl.
The Staten Island ferry leaves from its own terminal, Whitehall Terminal, at the southern tip of Manhattan near Battery Park. Getting there is easy by subway. The South Ferry Station (1 train) and Whitehall Street-South Ferry station (R and W trains) are just outside the ferry terminal.
The 25-minute trip to the St George terminal on Staten Island goes right past Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty. It provides breathtaking views of the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan, including the World Trade Center. Stand at the back for the best views. You slowly see the island of Manhattan receding as you inch further away.
One of the best things about this is that the ferry is completely free! There are no tickets – so beware of scammers trying to sell you tickets.
When you arrive in Staten Island, you can spend the day exploring some of the sites of Staten Island (there is a historic village and some great beaches), or pop back on the next boat to Manhattan. If you decide to head straight back, you will need to get off and then get back on the next boat leaving – you can’t stay onboard the same ferry.
Stand near the front to get the same view in reverse, this time with lower Manhattan slowly getting bigger and closer. You will also get great shots of the Statue of Liberty on the left as you pass right by.
Statue of Liberty Pedestal
Contributed by Darcy Vierow of planreadygo.com
The Statue of Liberty National Monument is a top visitor site in New York City. And while many come to see the statue itself, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to take in the amazing view of Lower Manhattan from the top of the statue pedestal.
From the pedestal you can see iconic Manhattan buildings such as One World Trade Center/Freedom Tower, the Empire State Building and 432 Park Avenue (one of the tallest residential buildings in the world).
The only way to get to the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island is to purchase tickets through Statue Cruises, the official vendor for statue pedestal reservations and ferry transportation to the island. Make sure you select the ticket with pedestal access, which costs approximately $20. A pedestal reserve ticket also includes access to the Statue of Liberty grounds and museum as well as Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.
You can choose to take the Statue Cruises ferry from either Battery Park in Lower Manhattan or from Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Visitors are strongly encouraged to book their pedestal reservations well in advance as reservations are required for entry.
Because the stone pedestal is approximately half of the height of the whole monument (and roughly the same height as a 10-story building), there are quite a few steps to climb to reach the top. Wheelchair access is available by using an elevator from the lobby, but the outdoor area at the top of the pedestal is not wheelchair accessible.
The Best Views of NYC from New Jersey
Contributed by Sean of LivingOutLau
If you want the best views of New York City, your first instinct might be to go straight to Manhattan, get on the tallest skyscraper, and just look out at the view!
But ironically, that doesn’t give the best view of NYC because you are standing on what you want to look at. If you want the NYC best views, you don’t stay in NYC, you want to stay across from NYC so you can take in the extensive views.
Consequently, the best place to view NYC is from the Exchange Place waterfront in Downtown Jersey City, New Jersey!
Located directly across the Huson River from Tribeca, the waterfront at Exchange Place offers visitors spectacular views of some of the skyscrapers in Tribeca, Wall St, and Battery Park.
The One World Trade Center is unquestionably the one that will immediately catch your attention, as it is the tallest building in the United States.
If you are staying in NYC, there are two ways to get to Exchange Place. The easiest method is to take the PATH, which is a train system that connects New Jersey with Manhattan.
Alternatively, you can take the ferry from Battery Park, Brookfield Place Terminal (adjacent to the One World Trade Center), or Midtown to Paulus Hook, which is the ferry terminal at Exchange Place.
Though it might be a strange thing to do in NYC to visit New Jersey (especially if you have a short trip), you will not regret visiting Exchange Place for its views. If you have the opportunity, pick nighttime to visit as the skyscrapers illuminate the Manhattan skyline at night!