No one should travel to New York without seeing the city from one of the countless vantage points. From a bird’s eye view the skyline of New York looks completely different. From below the skyscrapers look menacing, but from above New York seems really magical and elegant .
Top of the Rock, Empire State Building or One World Observatory? Where do you have the most beautiful ones? Views over New York and where should you go if you only have time for one viewpoint? We tell you about our experiences and also give you an insider tip at the end of the blog article.
1. The Most Beautiful Observation Decks in New York City The three most famous observation decks in New York are without a doubt the following:
Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center)Empire State BuildingOne World Observatory We have visited all three viewpoints (sometimes several times) and therefore first of all present the advantages and disadvantages from our point of view in detail. There is a short, summarized overview in the following chapter.
Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) The Top of the Rock viewing deck is located on one of the 19 skyscrapers of the Rockefeller Center and is therefore very centrally located in the middle of Manhattan. Many believe that the best view of New York is from the Top of the Rock, and there is a reason for that.
The view from the Top of the Rock The Top of the Rock extends over three Floors: From 67., 47. and 70. Floor you can enjoy a view over New York City in all directions. While you’re in 47. and 69. Floors are separated by panes of glass several meters high from the view (not covered, but outdoors, mind you!), the view from the highest (and smallest) floor is unclouded. Because there is often confusion here: Your ticket is valid for all floors.
The big advantage of the view from the Top of the Rock is, that you have the Empire State Building prominently in view. Since the Empire State Building is still one of the most beautiful skyscrapers in New York City in our opinion, the view is of course unique. However, you are quite far away from the Financial District, which is also very spectacular with the One World Trade Center.
Look to the north you in the direction of Central Park. However: The once clear view is gradually being literally obstructed by new skyscrapers. While we were still very enthusiastic about the view of Central Park on our first visit, this time unfortunately we were left with a little melancholy and disappointment.
Sunset at the Top of the Rock This is undoubtedly the most popular time to visit the Top of the Rock during sunset. It was like that a few years ago when we first enjoyed the view from Rockefeller Center, and it hasn’t changed to this day. However, the number of visitors has changed. It felt like it was multiplied.
If you come at sunset, you have to reckon with the fact that you can only take limited good photos. For example, when we visited in November, the top floor (the one without a pane of glass) was under siege an hour before sunset – it was impossible to get through, as you can see in the photo.
We are still of the opinion that the light mood is so magical and for us there was no question that we would like to come at this time. The change between sunshine and the glittering skyline at night is simply wonderful to look at. Keep in mind that this time of day is only worthwhile if the weather is right. If the sky is cloudy, it is better to choose another day or come during the day when it is less crowded. So it’s worth checking the weather before buying your tickets for Top of the Rock.
Entrance fees / Tickets Regular entry to the Top of the Rock currently costs (as of December 2018) meager 40 dollars. Sunset tickets cost about dollars extra. Access is clocked about every 5 minutes. This means that your ticket is always valid for a specific time. Now, in principle, you can simply go to the ticket counter and buy the next possible ticket. However, you will almost certainly have to bridge time until your timeslot is up and you can take the lift up. It is therefore advisable to buy the ticket in advance via the official website. With this ticket you can easily go directly to the lift at the appropriate time and go up.
If you have one of the many New York passes owns, entry to the Top of the Rock is included. With our pass, the Sightseeing Pass, we didn’t have to pay any extra for the sunset ticket either. But that doesn’t mean that you can take the lift straight up. Again, you have to queue (there is a special queue for “pass holders”). And here, too, you will receive a ticket for the next free timeslot. If you’re on a tight schedule, then we recommend picking up your ticket ahead of time like we did. The day before we got the ticket for the next day (for the sunset) with our Sightseeing Pass.
Entrance: at 67th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
Opening times: daily from 8 a.m. to midnight
A few more tips for visiting the Top of the Rock Once you have your ticket (with a timeslot!) you don’t have to stress yourself any more: you don’t have to be at the lift much earlier than the time stated on your ticket. Because there is practically no waiting area and you will be sent away until your time slot is due.Calculate yours Overall, there is not too much time for a visit to the Top of The Rock: From the time that is noted on your ticket, it takes a good while again 20 Minutes until you’re really at the top. You have to go through security checks and you will be shown a short film.Once you’re up there, you can you stay as long as you want.Tripods are forbidden. Empire State Building Despite the increasing popularity of the Top of the Rock, the observation deck of the Empire State Buildings still very busy. The Empire State Building has long been the tallest building in New York City, and for a time the tallest in the world. We think the skyscraper is beautiful to look at with its symmetrical perfection. Of course, that’s of little use if you’re standing on top of the building itself.
The view from the Empire State Building The Central Observation Deck of the Empire State Building is located in the 86. Floor. It is considered the tallest open terrace in New York City. Which brings us to the next point: the patio is outdoors. However, a grille prevents an unclouded panoramic view. You can easily take pictures past it with your camera (even with a large lens), but the terrace is rather unsuitable for beautiful portraits. The Empire State Building also accommodates a second visitor level, which is in 101. floor. This platform is located inside (behind glass) and costs approx. in addition to the entrance ticket. Dollar surcharge. We have now heard from several sources that a visit to this floor is hardly worthwhile and have therefore decided against it.
You can also enjoy a view from the Empire State Building in all four directions. You can take a leisurely stroll along the viewing platform on all sides. It didn’t seem that crowded during our visit – but it has to be said that we weren’t up there at sunset or during one of the main travel times. Since the Empire State Building is further south than the Top of the Rock, you also get a nice view of the Financial District – albeit from a distance. We think it’s really great that you can see the top of the Chrysler Building so beautifully from the Empire State Building. In our eyes, the Chrysler Building is the most beautiful skyscraper in Manhattan.
Entrance fees / Tickets The standard entry to the viewpoint on the 86. Floor of the Empire State Building currently costs (as of December 2018) about 40 dollars. (There are minor price adjustments depending on the season.) For the higher floor ( Floor) comes in Surcharge of approx. 16 Dollars added .
You can buy your ticket in advance via the website. This will save you the hassle of waiting at the ticket counter. However: With the standard ticket, there is usually no waiting at all, because every visitor has to go through security checks and there are almost always waiting times in front of the lift. We already had a ticket in advance and had to queuing for minutes before we were finally allowed upstairs. It will certainly take longer at peak times or during the main travel season. The only way to avoid these queues is with the VIP Express Pass, which is a lot more expensive. However, we have already read that one in the high season, even with this ticket, you can’t always avoid waiting.
Entrance: 16 West th Street (no longer on 5th Avenue)
Opening times: daily 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.
You can buy your ticket here in advance
Standard Pass Empire State Building (without waiting at the ticket office)
VIP Express Pass Empire State Building (without waiting at ticket counter, security check and elevator)
A few more tips for visiting the Empire State Building Be careful when buying tickets, because many fall for supposed express tickets that only mean waiting at the ticket scarf ter spare. Even with the many different New York City passes, you usually don’t save yourself waiting in front of security checks and elevators! (It’s okay if you know that in advance, but don’t expect any nasty surprises.)To avoid the wait as much as possible, you can of course either buy the express ticket or come as early as possible in the morning. Between 8 and The clock should be relatively quiet.Tripods are prohibited. One World Observatory The viewing platform of the One World Trade Center dances a bit out of line. The skyscraper is currently the tallest building in the western hemisphere. Its viewing platform, the so-called One World Observatory, is therefore significantly higher than the other two, but is not outdoors.
The view from One World Observatory One World Observatory extends over three floors: From the 101., 70. and 102. On the 1st floor, New York City is literally at your feet. It’s a bit of a paradox: because the skyscraper is so immensely tall, you’re not as close to the action from the One World Observatory as you are at the other two vantage points. In addition, the viewing platform is completely inside behind fairly thick glass panes . So you don’t hear anything from the city, which gives the whole thing a completely different feeling.
New York City looks a bit like a toy city from the One World Observatory, which is also incredibly exciting see is. We found the view of the Financial District particularly great. In our opinion, the view towards Midtown Manhattan is less spectacular. Unfortunately, the Empire State Building and Co are very far away.
As soon as you enter the building, you notice that the One World Observatory is the newest of all viewing platforms. The whole experience is, shall we call it, quite Americanized. The lift ride alone is spectacularly staged – not to mention the next item on the program. Let yourself be surprised, we don’t want to reveal too much.
Admission prices / Tickets The Standard Ticket (“General Admission”) costs a little more than 40 Dollars (as of December 2018). Note that you always buy this ticket for a specific time. If you have not already bought a ticket online in advance, you will receive a ticket for the next available timeslot at the ticket counter. The same applies to the numerous New York passes: With our pass (New York Sightseeing Pass) we received a ticket for the next timeslot at the cash desk.
Entrance: Corner of West Street and Vesey Street
Opening hours: depending on the season 8/9 to 21/16 Clock
You can buy your ticket here in advance
One World Observatory (without waiting at ticket counter)
One World Observatory (without waiting at ticket counter, security check and elevator)
A few more tips for visiting the One World Observatory If you are already in the area, then definitely equip also the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial Museum a visit. It’s right next to it – you can even see the layout of the former World Trade Center from One World Observatory. It’s also worth jumping into the so-called Oculus, the new, futuristic train station.The Lift ride has it all: It only takes 50 seconds, but you can’t stop looking. So be careful right from the start.Tripods are forbidden. (If you have one with you – like we did – you have to hand it in and then pick it up again.) 2. Comparison: Advantages and Disadvantages of the NYC Viewpoints at a Glance For a better overview we have listed the advantages and disadvantages From our point of view summarized again in the table. Incidentally, the price of the viewing platforms hardly differs, with the exception that the Top of the Rock is the only platform that requires an additional entrance fee for the sunset.
Top of the RockEmpire State BuildingOne World Observatory View / Photograph+ indoor and outdoor
+ The highest (and smallest) floor is the most popular, as there is no obstacle (no glass, no lattice) separating you from the view.
~ Two floors outside are equipped with high safety glass. However, you can hold the camera well through the slits.
+ Indoor and outdoor area
~ The outdoor terrace is surrounded by a trellis through which you can although the camera can be held well, this makes beautiful portrait shots impossible. – Indoor use only, no outdoor use.
– Unfortunately, the thick glass panes make it a bit difficult to take photos. We had trouble taking photos without reflections. Outlook + Legendary view of the Empire State Building.
+ The only one of the three viewing platforms from which you can see Central Park well. However, the view towards Central Park is gradually being built up.
~ Almost 260 meters the lowest of the three viewing platforms. + View of the top of the Chrysler Building and also of the Flatiron Building.
+ Nice view towards the Financial District and One World Trade Center, but from quite a distance.
– Since you are standing on top of the Empire State Building, you unfortunately cannot see this beautiful skyscraper yourself. + Great view of the Financial District.
+ View of the Statue of Liberty.
~ Very high up, so you’re a bit further away from “the action”.
~ You are relatively far away from Midtown Manhattan (Empire State Building etc.). Top of the Rock or Empire State Building – which is better? It is really difficult for us to give a general answer to this question. If you absolutely want to see the legendary view of the skyline including the Empire State Building with your own eyes, then there is no way around the Top of the Rock. If that’s not so much a must, then we can also highly recommend the Empire State Building. However, we tend to recommend the Top of the Rock because the view of the Empire State Building is simply unique.
Only time for a vantage point? We are often asked t: “If I only have time for one viewpoint – which one should I visit?”” Our well-intentioned advice would actually be to plan a little more time in New York City. New York from above is something very special and we absolutely love this bird’s eye view. But if you really only want to visit one viewing terrace, then we recommend the Top of the Rock. In our opinion, it offers the best overall package.
3. Insider tip: “The Crown” – cocktails with a view of the skyline New York has a confusingly large number of additional viewing terraces. Although the three mentioned are of course the most famous, it is worth venturing into unfamiliar territory. Whereby “unknown” is also relative, because many rooftop bars in the city are also very popular and frequented.
But if you happen to be in If you want to enjoy a quiet drink with a view, then we have a tip for you: The Crown Rooftop on the last floor of our wonderful hotel, the Hotel 50 Bowery (more on that in a moment). The bar is not only stylish, but also offers a great view of the Manhattan skyline. Throughout our stay, the rooftop bar was never crowded. Even if the weather is bad you can enjoy the view from inside, but the real gem is the outdoor terrace.
Address: 50 Bowery, New York, NY
Prices: rather upscale, cocktails cost approx. 19 Dollars
4. Our hotel tip with a view: Hotel 67 Bowery And while we’re at it, we must of course also mention our hotel: The Hotel 50 Bowery. From our room we had a brilliant view over the driveway of the Manhattan Bridge. At first we were a bit sad that we didn’t see the skyline, but you can see it from the rooftop anyway Bar and so we could – thanks to jet lag – watch the sun rise every day. Incidentally, we chose the “City View” category. So if you want to be sure that you have a view of the skyline, you should check with the hotel.
You can book the hotel here: Hotel 50 Bowery
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us! Have you been to New York City before and do you have any other vantage point tips? Have you perhaps visited another viewing platform? What do you think is the most beautiful view of New York City? Tell us about your experiences in the comments – we look forward to it!