Anyone visiting New York City can’t keep their eyes off the stunning skyscrapers in New York City. The urge to stare at New York City skyscrapers is something that most New Yorkers fight – except for except people like Dianne L. Durante, who shared with us her favorite places to find the best views in New York City for free. Some of the best views of the New York skyline are actually seen from outside New York City, however don’t worry, there’s a map of the best viewpoints that you can download at the end.
Want fabulous views of the New York City skyline? From within Manhattan it’s harder to get a great view of the New York City skyline, however you’ll find lots of great spots to view the skyline just across the water that are publicly accessible, easy to reach, and safe. You’ll find a map of these viewpoints of the Manhattan skyline at the bottom. To get there, we recommend using the New York City public transportation and the Citimapper app for up-to-the-minute information on public transportation.
A word of warning: always be aware of your surroundings, including New Yorkers who are rushing to and from their jobs. Check the walking distances and be smart about your stamina. Once you’re on the pedestrian walkway of the Triboro Bridge, for example, you have no choice but to finish walking to one end or the other.
Index of the best views in NYC
- Waterfront in DUMBO
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Brooklyn waterfront
- Gantry Plaza State Park
- Randall’s Island
- Roosevelt Island
- Triboro Bridge
- Staten Island Ferry
- Jersey City
Best places to view the skyline in Brooklyn
The waterfront in DUMBO
The area “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass,” running from Brooklyn Bridge Park north and east to John Street Park, has a public walkway with terrific views of the Statue of Liberty, the Financial District, and the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges.
Head to the fourth floor of the new Empire States complex at Water and Main for fabulous shots of the skyline. The Empire Stores Complex is one of the last remaining brick storehouses along the East River dating back to the post civil war period. (Wanderlustingk editor Karen loves the view below by Jane’s Carousel.)
Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway
Everybody takes pictures of the New York skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge, and there’s a good reason for that! Walk from Brooklyn towards Manhattan for views of the Financial District, with Roebling’s bridge (dedicated in 1883) as a focal point.
Note: The Manhattan Bridge (completed in 1909) has similar views, but the pedestrian walkway is bracketed by cyclone fencing – a problem if you have a camera with a huge lens. On the other hand, if you’re into early-20th-century industrial design, it’s worth the walk to take photos of the bridge itself.
South and North Side
The Brooklyn waterfront from South 9th Street (Schaefer Landing) to Bushwick Inlet Park (North 10th Street) has views that stretch from the north end of the Financial District up to Midtown. Every year the pedestrian walkway along the East River extends further, but you may still have to detour to Kent Avenue at some points.
Like the Manhattan Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge (completed 1903) has a pedestrian walkway that’s enclosed by metal mesh, so the best pics from it are of the bridge itself.
Best places to view the NYC skyline in Queens
Gantry Plaza State Park
The walkway in this waterfront park runs from 46th to 54th Avenues, and is still expanding north and south. Get fantastic shots of the skyline from the Financial District north to the Queensboro Bridge, including some great angles on the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. If you’re in town for Manhattanhenge (May or July), you can capture the sun setting in line with 42nd Street from this park.
The park is named after two huge gantries that were once used to hoist freight on and off ships. The refurbished gantries make great frames for the skyline. One of the most iconic landmarks of Long Island City is the Pepsi-Cola sign, which stood on top of Pepsi-Cola’s plant that existed along the East River until 1999. Although the plant is gone, we’ll always have the sign, now a New York City landmark.
Best places to view the NYC skyline in Manhattan
Roosevelt Island (technically the borough of Manhattan!)
Walk the western side of its two-mile length for great views across the East River to Manhattan, from the Williamsburg Bridge all the way north to Upper East Side. Four Freedoms Park has the best views of Midtown.
The south end has distant views of Roosevelt Island and Midtown. Bonus: you can get great photos of the elegant arch of the Hell Gate Bridge, a railroad bridge connecting Queens and Randall’s Island.
From Randall’s Island, you can reach the pedestrian walkway of the Triboro (a.k.a. the Robert F. Kennedy) Bridge. The walkway is on the north side of the Bridge, away from Manhattan, but if you’ve got a powerful zoom and are willing to work with the bridge’s architecture, it’s worth the trek. And you can get another photo of the Hell Gate Bridge.
From many places in Central Park, including the Sheep Meadow (near Tavern on the Green) and the Great Lawn, you can get great shots south toward Midtown. Interestingly sheep actually grazed in Sheep Meadow when 1934 until they were moved to Prospect Park.
The Highline, a new addition to New York’s parks, was used for transporting industrial goods around the factories in the meatpacking district. From here, you’ll enjoy elevated views of New York’s skyline along a leafy green area.
The best places for NYC views from Staten Island
From the Staten Island Ferry, you can get great shots of the Financial District from the south and east. You can also snap a fair number of bridges: the Verrazzano, Bayonne, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and (if you squint) Williamsburg.
While you’re in the Manhattan terminal of the Staten Island Ferry, don’t miss the terrific views from the second level: southwest to the Statue of Liberty, north into the heart of the Financial District, east towards the Brooklyn Bridge.
A lesser-known ferry, the New York Waterways Ferry to Red Hook, leaves from Pier 11 (at the east end of Wall Street) and passes the Financial District.
Best places to view the NYC skyline in New Jersey
Weehawken is a commuter hub in New Jersey with stunning views of the New York City skyline, especially Midtown. A New York Waterways Ferry to Port Imperial runs from the terminal at West 39th Street. On the trip, watch for great shots of Midtown West and the Upper West Side.
At the top of the steep hill near the Hudson River in Weehawken, Hamilton Park offers great views of the West Side from the 90s south to the Financial District. (Yes, that Hamilton: the park is near the site of the 1804 duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.)
The New York Waterways Ferry from West 39th Street to Lincoln Harbor drops you at yet another waterfront walkway. The Chart House Restaurant, with its distinctive lighthouse, has terrific views of the skyline from the 90s south to the Financial District – especially the massive construction at Hudson Yards. Go at dusk and catch the view from the bar or the deck, or linger over dinner.
Pier A Park is a great place to get a photo of a cruise ship blocking out the skyline as it sets sail from the piers in the West 50s. As housing prices in New York have skyrocketed, Hoboken has thrived as an alternative to the expensive bars in Manhattan and you’ll find many great places to sit out with a beer!
From the heights on the east side of the Stevens Institute (on the water at the east end of 8th St.), you’ll get views from the Upper West Side south to the Financial District. Flag and cannon optional.
Jersey City, just south of Hoboken, has a wonderful waterfront promenade that’s just across from the Financial District. Jersey City served as a key location in the Revolutionary War battle and now is a now a favorite city among Jersey commuters. Be sure to visit Liberty State Park for the best views!
Sunrise, sunset: Tips for taking photos of the NYC skyline
For shots at dawn and dusk, plan to be at your chosen location half an hour before sunrise and half an hour after sunset. This is the “blue hour,” when the sky and the skyline are about equally bright. At that time of day, most cameras can capture both elements, making for great photos.
Take sunrise shots of Manhattan from the east side (Brooklyn and Queens), so you can catch the sun glittering on the skyscrapers. Take sunset shots of Manhattan from the west side (New Jersey), as the last rays of the sun catch the skyscrapers and the first lights come on. Of course, if you’ve got the time, you can get spectacular shots of sunrise from New Jersey or sunset from Brooklyn, too!
Have you found this guide to the best free views in New York City helpful? Please let me know your other favorites!
You can share your photos of the New York City skyline with Dianne and me by tagging us on Instagram or Twitter.
Twitter: @NYCsculpture @wanderlustingk
Instagram: @DianneDurante @wanderlustingk
For more New York City tips, click for insider tips for New York City, tips for taking the New York City subway, a New Yorker’s 5 day itinerary for New York, a packing list for New York City, New York City on a budget, and tips for visiting New York City for Christmas.
About Dianne L. Durante, my guest poster
Map of the best viewpoints of the NYC skyline
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