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.

This post may contain affliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases (if applicable).

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
  • Highline
  • Staten Island Ferry
  • Weehawken
  • Hoboken
  • Jersey City

Best places to view the skyline in Brooklyn

The waterfront in DUMBO

View of Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn. Read where to find the best views in New York City for free! #travel #Brooklyn #NYC #Manhattan #NewYork

Brooklyn Bridge and the Financial District, taken near the Manhattan Bridge

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.

View of Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan from Brooklyn's Empire Store Complex. Read where to get the best free views of New York City! #travel #NewYork #NYC

Brooklyn Bridge and the Financial District, taken on the fourth level of Empire Stores

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.

READ
How to ride the NYC subway: Essential subway tips by a New Yorker

Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway

View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge. Read where to visit in New York City for the best free views of Manhattan's skyline! #travel #NYC #Brooklyn

Financial District, taken from the Brooklyn Bridge

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.

View of Manhattan skyline at sunset. Read where to see the best free views of New York City! #travel #NYC #NewYork #Brooklyn #Manhattan

14th St. through the 50s at sunset, taken at the East River State Park at North 8th St.

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.

READ
20 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting New York by a New Yorker

Best places to view the NYC skyline in Queens

Gantry Plaza State Park

Photo of Pepsi Cola Sign in Long Island City and view of Manhattan from Long Island City. Read where to visit in New York for the best views! #NYC #Travel #NewYork #Queens

Midtown including the Citibank Building, with the Pepsi-Cola sign at 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.

View of the United Nations and Empire State Building from Queens. Read where to find the best free views of Manhattan's skyline in New York City from Queens! #travel #NYC #QUeens #Manhattan

New York City skyline view from Gantry Park Long Island City Queens by Photo by demerzel21 / bigstockphoto.com

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.

Photo of Gantry Plaza State Park, one of the best places to visit for views of Manhattan's skyline for free! #travel #NYC #NewYork #Queens

Midtown (including the Empire State Building) framed by a gantry, at Gantry Plaza State Park

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.

READ
Insider Tips for NYC on a Budget by a New Yorker
Photo of Manhattan skyline from Roosevelt Island in New York City. Get the best free views of Manhattan! #travel #Manhattan #NewYork #NYC

Manhattan in the 40s (including the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings), taken from Roosevelt Island

Randall’s Island

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.

Photo from RFK Bridge of sunset views of Manhattan's skyline! #travel #skyline #NYC #NewYork

Manhattan at sunset, taken from the Triboro (RFK) Bridge

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.

View from the Triboro Bridge that connects Queens to Randall's Island. #travel #Queens #NYC #NewYork

Hell Gate Bridge (connecting Queens to Randall’s Island), taken from the Triboro Bridge

Central Park 

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.

View of the Alice Statue in Central park with views of the Manhattan skyline. #travel #Manhattan #NYC

Jose de Creeft’s Alice in Wonderland and Central Park South.

The Highline 

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.

READ
First Time Guide to New York City 5 Day Itinerary by a native New Yorker
The Highline has some of the best views in New York City! Read about 11 other places to get epic views of Manhattan! #travel #Manhattan #NYC #NewYork

Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/bigstockphoto.com

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.

View of the New York City skyline from the Staten Island Ferry! Read where to find the best free views of New York City! #travel #NYC #NewYorkCity #Manhattan

Lower Manhattan, taken from the Staten Island Ferry

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.

View of the Statue of Liberty from Staten Island Ferry. Read how to get the best free views in New York City! #travel #NYC #NewYork

Statue of Liberty, taken from the Staten Island Ferry

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

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.

View of the Financial District from Weehawken New Jersey. Read where to view Manhattan from New Jersey! #travel #Jersey #NYC

West Side (50s) to the Financial District, with Hudson Yards roughly in the center, taken from Hamilton Park in Weehawken.

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.)

READ
What to wear in New York City: A New York City Packing List for all seasons

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.

Free View of New York City Skyline from Weehawken. Read insider tips on the best places to visit in New York CIty (and Jersey) for views!

Hudson Yards (West 34th) north to Columbus Circle, taken from the Chart House

Hoboken

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!

View of New York from Hoboken, New Jersey. Read where to find the best views in New York! #travel #Jersey #NJ #NYC

Cruise ship sailing down an icy Hudson River, taken from Hoboken

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.  

View of the Stevens Institute in Hoboken New Jersey with views of Manhattan from New Jersey! #travel #jersey #NYC

Financial District, taken from the Stevens Institute, Hoboken

Jersey City

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!

View of Liberty State Park in Jersey. Click for the best views in New York of the Manhattan skyline! #Jersey #NYC

The Financial District, taken from Jersey City

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 subwaya 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

Dianne L. Durante (DianneDuranteWriter.com) is an independent scholar, writer, and lecturer who focuses on art history and history. Recent projects include *Central Park: The Early Years*, three volumes on Alexander Hamilton, *Innovators in Sculpture* (5,000 years of art in two hours), and a video guide app by Guides Who Know. Want wonderful art delivered weekly to your inbox? Members of the free Sunday Recommendations list receive three art-related suggestions every week. For more goodies, check out Dianne’s Patreon page. 

Map of the best viewpoints of the NYC skyline

Share this post!