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TOP-5 Observation Decks in New York City (Best Views in Manhattan!)

TOP-5  Observation Decks in New York City (Best Views in Manhattan!)

New York City offers some of the most stunning urban views in the world. From iconic buildings to modern skyscrapers, Manhattan has several amazing observation decks that give you easy access to breathtaking panoramic views of NYC and beyond!

No visit to New York would be complete without enjoying elevated city views from one of its skyscrapers! But which viewing platforms are best and where should you visit to experience the beauty and grandeur of the Big Apple from above?

On our recent 7-day visit to New York, we visited all the best skyscrapers and observation decks in Manhattan. Despite their proximity, each offers distinct experiences and unique views. Frankly, every single one of them is worth a visit for different reasons! On the other hand, the tickets aren’t cheap, and if you are only in NYC for a day or two, you won’t have time for all of them…

So how do you decide where to go?

Below is our guide to New York’s best observation decks, what makes them unique, and our honest opinion on each. This should give you a better idea of what to expect and help you decide which skyscraper/s to visit based on your interests. Find out!

Our favorites are #1 – for the best views, #3 – because you really can’t skip it, and #5 – for the overall experience. But we really enjoyed #2 and #4 too…

PRO TIP: No matter which observation deck you choose, book your tickets online in advance. This ensures you can visit at your preferred date and time and saves you time during busy periods. We used GetYourGuide, which is simpler than booking on individual sites. The price you see includes all taxes, and most tickets can be canceled or amended up to 24 hours in advance, offering flexibility if your plans change.

Best observation decks in Manhattan, New York City, USA

Here are – in random order – the best observation decks in NYC:

1. Top of The Rock


  • Height: 67th to 70th floors/ 850 feet (260 meters).
  • Views: By far the best view of the Empire State Building and Central Park, plus a stunning close view of Midtown Manhattan.
  • Time needed: 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • Tickets: We booked timed tickets on GetYourGuide and could go in without any wait. Top of The Rock is also one of the top experiences you can visit with the New York CityPASS.

The Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is one of the best observation decks in New York. As far as Manhattan views go, you really can’t beat it!

Its unique location in the heart of Manhattan and several open-air observation decks on different levels offer unobstructed views right in the middle of Manhattan.

From the Top of The Rock, you can have a great view of all the other skyscrapers with the best viewing platforms: the Empire State Building right in front of you, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt to the left, Edge to the right, and One World in the far distance (see the featured image at the very top of this article).

Top of the Rock is not as high as other viewing platforms in New York but that’s exactly what makes it unique. You are surrounded by so many tall buildings and since they are much closer to you, it feels as if you are truly in the middle of it all.

TIP: This is where the iconic photograph “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” was taken in 1932. It shows construction workers casually eating lunch while seated on a steel beam high above the city streets, with their feet dangling in the air. For an extra fee, you can sit on a beam and recreate this photo if you like!

What we think: Top of the Rock is a prime spot for viewing and photographing the heart of New York City. If you are looking for the best views of the most iconic Manhattan buildings, this is the place to be!

Top of The Rock - best viewing platform in New York City
Top of The Rock – see also the featured image for the views to the other side!

2. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt


  • Height: 93rd floor/ 1,070 feet (325 meters).
  • Views: Good views of the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Central Park and Hudson River in the distance. Central Manhattan under your feet.
  • Time needed: 1.5 – 2 hours (because it’s so busy!). Once inside, you can stay as long as you like. However, once you leave one level, you are not allowed to go back.
  • Tickets: We booked late afternoon tickets on GetYourGuide (and stayed until sunset). Sunset tickets are usually only available on the official website and are more expensive.

Known for its modern design, reflective floors and ceilings, and unique photo opportunities, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is the most visited observation deck in New York.

In addition to breathtaking views, a visit here is also a multi-sensory art experience that you won’t find anywhere else in New York. Built relatively recently and opened in 2020, SUMMIT was clearly designed with a modern visitor in mind. It offers unparalleled Instagrammable photo opportunities (and that is also the main reason why it is so popular).

What we think: SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a unique attraction that lives up to the hype and is absolutely worth visiting. However, it’s extremely busy and most people seem to come for the gram – looking more at their own images on their phones and cameras than around them.

We came here late in the afternoon and stayed until after sunset. It was very nice, but I think it would have been much more enjoyable in the morning or late at night, without the biggest crowds. To me, it felt like the most touristy and least authentic of all observation deck experiences in New York, a victim of its own success.

The views are nice, but purely for that, Top of The Rock is a bit more special. On the other hand, it’s very glamorous and I can see how a visit here could be absolutely incredible with fewer people around. AND it would be a huge improvement if they would let you roam freely between different levels instead of forcing you to a one-way visit for no good reason.

New York city views from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.

3. Empire State Building


  • Height: 86th floor/1,050 feet (320 meters). For an additional fee, 102nd floor/1,250 feet (381 meters).
  • Views: Unparalleled views of Midtown Manhattan and wide surroundings. The views from the 102nd floor are absolutely dazzling!
  • Time needed: 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • Tickets: We booked timed tickets here and visited first thing in the morning. Standard tickets are also included with New York CityPASS which also gives you a bonus same-night admission for nighttime views.

The Empire State Building needs no introduction. One of the most famous buildings in the world and the most iconic skyscraper in NYC, it offers a classic New York experience with its historic Art Deco design and unbeatable views.

The Empire State Building has been the setting for countless movie scenes, from the heartwarming ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ to the thrilling ‘King Kong’, to mention just a few. It’s one of those legendary places that you just have to visit when in New York!

What we think: The Empire State Building is so iconic that it deserves a very high place on any NYC bucket list! As far as the views go, I would rank it right after the Top of The Rock. In addition, the views from the 102nd floor are by far the most dazzling in all of Manhattan.

PRO TIP: Upgrade your ticket to include the 102nd floor. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes, it’s more than worth it!

Views from the Empire State Building - best observation decks in New York
Empire State Building.

4. One World Observatory


  • Height: 100- 102nd floors/ up to 1,268 feet (386 meters).
  • Views: Best views of the Hudson River. Panoramic views of the entire Manhattan, but also Brooklyn, New Jersey, and the Statue of Liberty.
  • Time needed: 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • Tickets: You can choose between standard timed-entry tickets, priority tickets, flexible tickets, late-night tickets, etc. If you have more time, consider a guided tour as well! See all the ticket options here.

One World Observatory is the viewing platform located at the top of the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center. It is currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

The building stands close to the Hudson River, almost at the tip of Lower Manhattan. So the vantage point is really unique and not comparable to any of the other viewing decks on this list which are all located in Midtown Manhattan. In addition, the entire observation deck is located really high, 100th to 102nd floors.

A visit here offers a truly unforgettable experience combining dazzling views with immersive multimedia. The journey to the top begins with a 47-second elevator ride featuring a time-lapse video of New York’s evolution. You are then treated to an audiovisual experience at the See Forever® Theater that culminates with the most remarkable view of the NYC skyline. That first glimpse will take your breath away! Just WOW!

Good to know: This is the only observation deck in this selection that is entirely indoors and has no outdoor terrace. But at this location and this height, it’s not a disadvantage in any way. Quite on the contrary; you can enjoy the best 360° views without having to worry about the weather or the wind.

What we think: The panoramic views of New York City and beyond from One World Observatory are unparalleled. Plus, the symbolic significance of One World Trade Center makes it absolutely worth visiting!

Views from One World Observatory - best viewpoints in NYC
Sunset views from One World Observatory.

5. Edge


  • Height: 100th floor/ 1,100 feet (335 meters).
  • Views: Unobstructed views of the Hudson River and a unique vantage point of the entire Manhattan skyline. You can even see the Statue of Liberty – far in the distance.
  • Time needed: 1 hour.
  • Tickets: We booked standard tickets on GetYourGuide and could enter without any wait. However, sometimes it gets so busy that even timed ticket holders might have to wait for half an hour or even longer. To avoid this, you can opt for express tickets that guarantee priority entrance.

The highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, Edge provides a thrilling experience. You can stand on the glass floor and watch the streets 100 floors below. The viewing platform also has angled glass walls giving you a feeling of floating above the city.

TIP: If you are not afraid of heights and are looking for something unique to do in New York, check out their City Climb Skyscraping Experience! This is the highest open-air building ascent in the world and not for the faint-hearted, but wow, just wow!

What we think: We loved the Edge!!! The views are stunning and they have by far the best outdoor viewing platform in all of Manhattan. Get a drink from the bar, install yourself on the Skyline Seats, and enjoy unobstructed views looking over the top of glass panels. For us, this was the most relaxing of all observation deck experiences in Manhattan. Sometimes, it’s not just about the views or photo opportunities; it’s about the unforgettable experience of simply being there and savoring the moment.

Views from the Edge observation deck in Manhattan NYC
Views from the Edge.

Best Time to Visit New York’s Observation Decks

Sunset is the prime time to visit NYC’s observation decks for the best light and photography. Arriving 1-1.5 hours before sunset and staying for about an hour after gives you both daytime and night views.

However, it’s also the busiest time and some places charge extra for entry during this period. For fewer crowds, visit in the morning – early afternoon, or late evening after sunset.

Good to know: Most observation decks are least busy about 2-3 hours after the opening time.

Most NYC viewing platforms offer 360° views, providing great photo opportunities in all directions at any time. So I would choose a time that fits your itinerary best — views are stunning day and night and even on cloudy days!

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt at sunset - best observation decks in New York City
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt at sunset.


All the best observation decks in NYC are located in Manhattan. 4 out of 5 are located rather close to each other, in Midtown Manhattan. Only One World Observatory is further away from the others, in Lower Manhattan.

There is no better way to give you a good idea of where everything is than the picture below.

I took it from the Top of The Rock at Rockefeller Center and it shows very clearly all the best skyscrapers you can visit in Manhattan in one photo.

NYC best skyscrapers and observation decks to visit

Final thoughts – which observation deck should you visit?

Unless you are a travel writer on a quest to find the best views in New York or have at least a week in the city, there is really no need to visit all of these. If you still can’t decide which of the viewing platforms to visit in NYC, here are some final thoughts:

  • On a quick first visit and with limited time, choose either the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building. They are both historic – and iconic – skyscrapers located in central Manhattan offering some of the best vantage points. Plus, these buildings are surrounded by many other landmarks and must-see attractions, so it’s very easy to incorporate a visit here into any NYC itinerary (and see a lot in a short time!).
  • If you are looking for a real wow factor, you can’t go wrong with SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. Its location is somewhat similar to that of the Empire State State (although less in the center), offering pretty amazing views. Plus, you have all those cool photo opportunities to impress your family and friends.
  • If you are visiting in the warm season and want to spend more time enjoying amazing views from a sky-high outdoor terrace, choose Edge.
  • If you are visiting New York City during a busy season, holiday weekends, etc., and are worried about the crowds, consider One World Observatory. It’s modern and spacious and feels the least crowded of all observation decks in Manhattan. Plus, the elevators are really fast and everything is well organized. It’s also one of the best options for those who prefer to stay entirely indoors.

This sums up our guide to the best observation decks in New York City. As you can see, each of these viewing platforms offers different vantage points and unique experiences, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

Have a great time exploring the Big Apple!

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Best viewing platforms and observation decks in NYC, USA

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