Perhaps the most common backdrop for opening scenes of movies for the past several decades, the Manhattan skyline is New York City's shining beacon, designed to impress and inspire. From historical fixtures like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building to One World Trade Center, the man-made masterpiece dazzles at any time of day and from any vantage point in the NYC area.
From land, water, and air, there are plenty of ways to admire the Manhattan skyline. Take a cruise on the Hudson River, East River, or New York Harbor for views of the city skyline and other landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge, an activity that provides the chance to see the skyline at your own pace. For aerial views, head to the top of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building, or One World Observatory, or opt for a helicopter tour for a VIP-style experience in the Big Apple.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The skyline is broken into two notable sections—Midtown Manhattan and Lower Manhattan.
- The walk from One World Trade Center to the Empire State Building is about three miles (five kilometers).
- If you want to visit a skyscraper observatory such as that at the Empire State Building, consider a skip-the-line ticket to avoid the typically long wait.
- For water views without booking a cruise, hop on the free Staten Island Ferry.
When to Get There
Consider the time of day for your viewing based on what you're looking for. If you want great photos, avoid the middle of the day, when the sun is high; for a romantic atmosphere, opt for a dinner cruise or nighttime stroll. Go during the holidays for the chance to admire the skyline in the snow and see the landmark buildings decked out in seasonal decorations.
Famous Buildings in the Manhattan Skyline
The 102-story Empire State Building is possibly the most iconic piece of architecture on the planet, built in 1931 in Art Deco style. The Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center offer more Art Deco examples, while the Time Warner Center, 4 Times Square, and One World Trade Center (aka Freedom Tower) feature modern architecture.