In this post, we list where to go for the best views of New York City, from on land and water as well as from the sky. NYC is one of those cities that has a skyline that demands to be photographed. This post is about finding places where you can get panoramic views of Manhattan’s skyline including its iconic skyscrapers, bridges, and harbor. If you want to enjoy a stunning view with a nice cocktail or beer, there are many rooftop bars with stunning views. Read our post 10 RooftopBars with Skyline Views of Manhattan as well as our definitive guide on things to do in NYC.
View of Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
You can enjoy great views of the Manhattan skyline by visiting the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (image below). The Promenade has benches, is never very crowded and is an amazing place to relax and take in the beautiful views. You can reach the Promenade by subway or car. Click here for directions to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade from your starting point. You can also get to the Promenade by walking over the Brooklyn Bridge, something you should have on your “must-do” list. Just below this picture is information about the amazing views from the bridge.
View from the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge has so many amazing aspects. You are walking in a piece of New York City history, the bridge itself is a beautiful piece of architecture but what is so special is the 360 degree view of the New York Harbor. You will have spectacular views of Manhattan from the southern tip up to midtown Manhattan and beyond. You will see the skyline of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg in the distance. You can even see the Statue of Liberty although she looks about 5 inches tall from the bridge. For more information, click here for our guide to Walking the Brooklyn Bridge.
Below is an embeded Google 360 view from the Brooklyn Bridge.
View from the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn Bridge Park
You can also get a great view of Lower and Midtown Manhattan from the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Both views are included in our 3-hour Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour as well as our shorter Brooklyn Heights Tour. Click here for directions to the Fulton Ferry Landing. You can also take the East River Ferry (see below) which stops right in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Another terrific location for a view of Manhattan’s midtown skyline is from Long Island City in Queens. From the Long Island City Promenade you can view the east side of Manhattan and this is the best spot in New York City to get a full panoramic view. Getting there is very easy. Click here for directions to the Long Island City promenade. Free Tours by Foot doesn’t offer a tour in that takes in this view, so you will have to do it on your own. If you do head over to Long Island City up can find two of the best pizzerias in the city! See our post on The Best Pizza in New York City by Neighborhood.
That’s right, New Jersey, in particular, Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken. New Jersey enjoys arguably the best view of the west side of Manhattan, from almost top to bottom, as you can see the entire island from Battery Park to Washington Heights (shown the picture at the top of this post).
Getting to the neighborhoods of Hoboken, Jersey City and Weehawken isn’t very difficult. These areas of New Jersey are connected to Manhattan by their own subway system known as the PATH train. You can take the PATH subway train from Midtown at 33rd and 23rd Streets, or from SoHo at 14th Street, or from Greenwich Village at 9th and Christopher Streets. If you have a pay-as-you-go MetroCard, you can use your card on the PATH system. Otherwise, you will need to add enough money for two rides. For more information, check out the PATH website.
Tip: Visit Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken. Click here for map and directions.
View of Lower Manhattan, Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn from the Staten Island Ferry
To see the other side of Lower Manhattan and to get some views of the Statue of Liberty, take the Staten Island Ferry on a trip to Staten Island and back. You will share the boat with commuters and other visitors. Most ferries have outside seating areas, which is great for taking pictures and enjoying the breeze. Below is a video on using the Staten Island Ferry including views you can expect. You can read more at our in-depth guide on how to take the Staten Island Ferry.
How do I ride the Staten Island Ferry?
It’s free! The Whitehall Terminal (map), where the ferries take off, is located on the southern tip of Lower Manhattan. You can take the 1 train to Whitehall Street or the 4, 5 trains to Bowling Green and walk south along Battery Park. Depending on the day and time, the ferry operates on a 30-minute or 60-minute schedule (see the schedule here). Be sure to arrive 10 minutes early to stand in line to take the ferry. Each ride will take 25 minutes. When you arrive in Staten Island you have to get off the ferry and walk across the terminal to get back on the boat and ride back to Manhattan. No worries, there will be a flow of people to do the same as you, just follow them.
Views of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Queens and Midtown Manhattan from the East River Ferry
The East River Ferry connects Lower Manhattan to Midtown Manhattan with stops at several points in Brooklyn and one in Long Island City in Queens. It’s a great scenic alternative to taking the subway, and gives you incredible views of both Lower and Midtown Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn (including the view from UNDER the Brooklyn Bridge! Unlike the Staten Island Ferry, the East River ferry is not free, but a single ride is just $2.75 per person, the same as a subway ride. Check our East River Ferry post for more details.
Views of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn from the Governors Island Ferry and Governors Island
Governors Island offers a unique view of the southern tip of Lower Manhattan, New Jersey, as well as Brooklyn all at once. The island is located just 7 minutes away from Lower Manhattan via ferry. The island is only open during the summer, between May and September on weekends and holidays between 10am-7pm. Not only is the view from the Governors Island Ferry amazing, but once on the island, you’ll have the chance to take pictures on stable land and not from a moving boat!
The island is vehicle-free and is a recreational park popular with locals for biking, picnicking and escaping the hustle and bustle of New York City. One of our favorite spots is the Water Taxi Beach, that offers great views and also has a small beer garden. Further, you may visit exhibitions as well as family-friendly events on the island. Check out the Governors Island Event Calendar. To learn all about Governors Island, see our in-depth post Things to Do on Governors Island which also has directions on how to get there with the ferry.
Views from Boat Tours and Cruises
There are a many different cruises and boat tours that circle Manhattan giving you fantastic views of the island from different perspectives. There are a lot of choices available and it can seems a little overwhelming so we’ve compiled all the information on the different types of cruises and tours offered by the most popular companies.
To help decide if a boat tour or cruise is right for you, read our post Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?
Take the Roosevelt Island Tram
The Roosevelt Island Tram is a fun way to get a view of Manhattan and New York from a unique vantage point. The tram connects Midtown Manhattan at 2nd Ave and 60th St. with Roosevelt Island. Roosevelt Island is in middle of the East River, between Manhattan and Queens. Although the ride on the tram is about 4 minutes, these may be the most exciting 4 minutes of your visit to New York! The video below will give you a feel for what you will see.
The tram runs from 6am till 2am on Sundays through Thursdays and from 6am till 3:30am on Fridays and Saturdays. Click here for a Roosevelt Island self-guided tour as well as directions using the tram, which happens to take MetroCards which is a nice convenience.
Visit a Skyscraper Observation Deck
More likely than not, you planned on visiting at least one of the three famous observation decks at the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock or One World Trade Center (the Freedom Tower). All three of these decks offer unbelievable views for miles around. The hard part is knowing which one to visit. You can certainly go to all three for three very different perspectives. But if you can only afford one, check out our post Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, or One World Trade Center Observatory? You will find comparisons in cost, experience and how to find discounts as well. Whichever one you decide to see, you will have unforgettable views of the many skylines of New York City!
Take a helicopter ride
There is nothing like a bird’s eye view of New York City from a helicopter. We know that helicopter tours can be expensive and figuring out which one offers the best value can be difficult.
In our post Helicopter Tours over New York we’ve analyzed which New York helicopter tour is best – both quality and value wise. We also share some tips for finding discounts for helicopter rides.