As a local New Yorker, I have made my rounds all across the city over the years. Some of my favorite locations are where I can get the best views of New York City and its famous skyline.
Whether it is in Manhattan, across the East River in Queens or Brooklyn, or even out in New Jersey, the views are endless. Each spot has different angles, different buildings, and different landscapes that come into view.
This guide will go through the 20 locations where you can find the best free views of New York City. If you are just visiting as a tourist or if you are a local New Yorker like myself, this list of locations is sure to help you out.
1) Views of New York City Overview
The Manhattan skyline is one of, if not the most iconic skylines in the world. There is a mix of old and new buildings that scatter the city from north to south. The skyline has always been consistently changing through the years with new high-rises going up in all corners of the city. If you look at skyline photos from ten years ago vs. today, you will see plenty of differences throughout.
Taking in the views of the skyline is possible from all over NYC. You will see on this list that there are locations in different boroughs and even different states! Each viewpoint area will give you something a bit different and have you seeing a new kind of perspective of the city.
This guide will be dedicated to the best FREE views of New York City. That means you won’t find mentions of observatories like the One World Observatory, Empire State Building, The Edge, One Vanderbilt, or Top of the Rock here. Each place on the list will be absolutely free to visit and enjoy.
Some of these free views will be dedicated skyline views, while others may be more geared towards elevated bridges, walkways, & streets. The list will give you a little bit of everything to enjoy.
In addition, some of the locations I will be mentioning (for example Central Park), will have many different locations within the park itself to enjoy the views. In these situations, I will not just say “Central Park” but rather also give you exact spots in the park, where the views are best.
→ Visit these New York views as part of a longer New York Itinerary that takes you around the city
With that all said, let’s dive into some of the best views of NYC!
2) Map of NYC Views
To get you better oriented with where all these different viewpoint locations are, I have pinpointed them all down on the map below.
Throughout the remainder of this guide, I will be going into more detail about each one of these viewpoints to better prepare you for your visit to NYC.
3) List of Free NYC Views
The rest of this guide will be focused on each one of these 20 different view spots. I will give a short recap of what to expect and how to go about your time at each one, in addition to some photos.
Hudson River Park Greenway
The Hudson River Park greenway extends from Battery Park in the south up to 59th Street in the north. All along the way, there will be some pathways that hug the Hudson River. Along these paths you can run, bike, or walk the Hudson and take in some beautiful views throughout.
While you can really get great views all the way through, the lower strip of the Hudson River Park, is where you can really get the best views of downtown Manhattan. These views really come into play just south of Chelsea Piers, and then basically all the way down to Battery Park itself.
Read More: Check out the guide to the Hudson River Park
Another great viewpoint along the way here, further north, is right in front of Hudson Yards and the Vessel. Here you can see the brand-new construction of this area of the city, with its huge glasses towers in each direction and the Vessel out in front.
Also, along the park you will find many piers that make their way further into the Hudson River. Many of these piers offer great views of Manhattan, and I will be speaking about three of them next.
Pier 26 Tide Deck
The Pier 26 Tide Deck is one of the closest piers to downtown Manhattan and is located just prior to the end of Hudson River Park. At Pier 26 you will find a City Vineyard at the base of the pier, if you want to have a meal or drink with a view.
Further along the deck will be walkways, benches, a soccer court, and finally a tide deck at the end of the pier. Here you will also find some relaxing swinging chairs and lawn chairs to sit down in and enjoy the view of downtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and uptown towards Hudson Yards & The Edge.
Read More: Pier 26 at Hudson River Park
Pier 34 Walkway
An often-ignored pier of Hudson River Park is Pier 34. That is because it isn’t much of a pier. You won’t find a park or anything like that along the pier. Instead it will just be a walking path to a dead end (where the Holland Tunnel ventilation shaft is located).
But along this walkway, in my opinion, are some of the best unobstructed views of the downtown NYC skyline. There is no structure blocking the view out in front of you and it is far away enough from downtown to get a wholistic view in.
Lining the pathway, you will also find several benches that you can sit down at along the way.
One of the more unique attractions along the Hudson River is Little Island. Opened in 2021, Little Island is a manmade island full of park areas, walking paths, viewpoints, and even an amphitheater.
In addition to all of the above, there are also three different elevated lookout spots on Little Island. Here you will get some different views depending on where you are. Whether it is views of Little Island itself, downtown Manhattan, or even the Empire State Building, Little Island has them all.
Little Island can get quite busy on nice days and during the weekends, so if you want to avoid the crowds, I would advise heading on over earlier in the day.
Read More: Check out the guide to Little Island
Pier 57 Rooftop Park
The last Hudson River Park pier that I will mention here is the Pier 57 Rooftop Park opened in 2022. The park is the largest public rooftop park in NYC at 80,000 square feet!
At Pier 57 you will find two levels of outdoor space, with multiple grassy areas, benches, and plenty of views. It is the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon in NYC overlooking the Hudson.
What I love about the rooftop park is that it is quite elevated compared to other viewpoints along the river. Due to this, you will have the chance to have a perched-up view of the southern end of Hudson River Park, Little Island, and the rest of the piers lining the river.
While those were just three piers along the Hudson, there are many more along the way too that offer great views if you happen to walk down any of them.
Read More: Check out the guide to the Pier 57 Rooftop Park
East River Greenway
Let’s now move from the Hudson and to the East River. Similar to the Hudson River, there is also a walkway that lines the East River, where you can get some different views of NYC.
The East River Greenway runs from 120th Street in the north down to Battery Park in the south. Along the way though (between 60th Street and 34th Street), the greenway gets interrupted and can be connected by walking through the city streets.
The best views in my opinion are on the lower half of the greenway, south of 34th Street. Here you will come across views of the Empire State Building, World Trade Center, and three famous bridges – Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.
On the map, I have pinpointed a couple different spots. One of these views is along John V Lindsay East River Park, near the baseball fields and running track. The views looking down towards the Williamsburg bridge is a great one.
Further down the pathway, you will pass by the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Between the two you will get a great vantage point with the two in view.
Read More: Check out the guide to the East River Greenway
In addition to the views along the pathway, there are also some piers to visit as well that offer great views. I will talk about two of the top ones in the next sections.
Just north of the Manhattan Bridge you will find the Pier 35 & 36 area. On the southern end of the pier there is the perfect lookout point overlooking the bridges, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Along the perimeter of the pier you will find seats and tables, where you can sit back and relax at. I have actually brought my laptop here and worked from the pier on multiple occasions. It is just a very relaxing place to be in the city.
In addition, there are shaded swinging chairs, a lawn area, and even a Mussel beach on the pier.
Pier 17 is the main pier at the South Street Seaport. The Seaport area is a great place to spend a day exploring. Whether it is visiting the museum, checking out the market, or just wandering the cobble stone streets.
The highlight of the area though is the renovated Pier 17 facility. Here you will find restaurants, viewpoints, and a roof deck to explore.
All along the perimeter of the pier you will find benches and seating areas with the best views of the Brooklyn Bridge you can ask for. It is probably the best place in Manhattan to take in those Brooklyn Bridge views.
In addition, you can also head up to the rooftop for an elevated view of the river. On the roof deck you will find The Greens, which offers a rooftop dining experience. In the summer months, you will also find a concert series at the location.
Read More: Check out the guide to the South Street Seaport
Now that you have some insight on the bridges from the East River Greenway and piers, how about the views from the bridges themselves.
The Williamsburg Bridge connects Williamsburg in Brooklyn with the Lower East Side in Manhattan. Instead of taking the train between the two, why not opt for the walk across.
I will say the views will be better walking into Manhattan as you have the skyline out in front of you. In addition, there is a spot along the walkway, where you can get some unique views of the subway tracks that make their way across the river.
Read More: Check out the guide to the Williamsburg Bridge Walk
The second bridge walk here is the Manhattan Bridge. The walk across the Manhattan Bridge is one of the more underrated bridge walks in my opinion. During a walk across you will get unobstructed views of the Brooklyn Bridge, downtown Manhattan, and even the Statue of Liberty out in the distance.
While I will say the walking experience on the Brooklyn Bridge is better overall, the views from the Manhattan Bridge are some of my favorite.
I have spent a few evenings making the walk across for sunset, and taking in the view from the eastern side of the walkway. Check out one of my favorite shots from that experience.
Read More: Check out the guide to the Manhattan Bridge Walk
Lastly, we have the Brooklyn Bridge – the most iconic of bridges in NYC. The walk across the bridge is a must do activity during your time in the city. Unlike the previous two bridges mentioned, where the walkway is off to the side, the Brooklyn Bridge walkway is right in the middle of the bridge.
Walking through the suspension cables with the city skyline sprawled out in front of you, is truly an experience to enjoy.
During a walk across you are sure to also get views of the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, the Manhattan Bridge, and more of the NYC skyline.
This is another bridge where I would recommend taking the walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan so you can have the city views out in front of you.
Read More: Check out the guide to the Brooklyn Bridge Walk
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Bridge Park makes up over one mile of river front walkways and parks all along the Dumbo waterfront. All throughout the park, you will find some of the best free views of NYC.
While the entirety of the area is called Brooklyn Bridge Park, you will find smaller parks & piers located throughout that make up the larger overall park:
→ Starting on the northern end is John Street Park, and here is the only part of the park that is north of the Manhattan Bridge.
→ Just below John Street Park on the other side of the Manhattan Bridge is the famous Pebble Beach – another perfect spot to take in a sunset from. Moving down from there is Empire Fulton Ferry and the famous Jane’s Carousel.
→ Across the street from the Jane’s Carousel / Pebble Beach area you will find the Timeout Market. This isn’t just a market though. Head up to the rooftop for an elevated view of the skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
→ After crossing under the Brooklyn Bridge, you will be welcomed to 5 different piers (and a small beach) with various activities/attractions on each one. Everything including sports facilities, art displays, open fields, a marina, and plenty of views line these piers.
While you certainly don’t need to visit each one, feel free to walk across a couple of them to enjoy those New York City views with the Brooklyn Bridge off to the side. I really enjoyed the view all along Pier 1 (which is more of just a walkway), and the Old Pier 1 viewpoint marked on the map.
In addition, there is a bridge connecting the park with Brooklyn Heights, called the Squibb Bridge. This is another great photo op spot to enjoy along the way to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Read More: Check out the guide to Brooklyn Bridge Park
Bonus: check out the famous Manhattan Bridge View Spot, that perfectly aligns the cobble stone streets with the bridge and the Empire State Building
A visit to New York is not complete without taking a stroll through Central Park. This 843 acre park is located right in the middle of the bustling city. It makes for the perfect place to enjoy a day during a trip to NYC.
While there are plenty of things to do in Central Park, one of my favorite activities is just taking in the views of New York City from different places within the park.
Below are just a short list of my favorite spots in the park to take in those NYC views. Learn more about these and plenty more in the guide to the best Central Park views.
The Reservoir: as you walk along the north/northeast part of the Reservoir, you will take in the some of the best views of the NYC skyline you can ask for. Along the way you will be able to see the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, The Edge, One Vanderbilt, and even the World Trade Center.
Read More: Check out the guide to the Central Park Reservoir
Conservatory Water: located right in front of the famous Alice in Wonderland statue is the Conservatory Water. Here is a nice relaxing part of the park to enjoy, where you will get some great views of the skyline out back.
Dene Summerhouse: just south of the Conservatory Water area is the Dene Summerhouse. This is a small wooden gazebo perched up on rock overlooking the park all around and the skyline up above.
Hernshead Rocks: The Lake is one of the more popular locations in the park. Whether you are heading to the Bow Bridge, taking a boat out on the water, or just walking along the shores. On the northwest corner of the lake you will find the Hernshead Rocks, which offer great views of the lake itself with the skyline out in the background.
Oak Bridge: if you are heading into the Ramble, you may be walking across the Oak Bridge. Here is yet another great photo spot that is located just behind the Hernshead Rocks. After crossing over the Bow Bridge, you can then explore the winding trails of the Ramble.
Belvedere Castle: the highest structure in Central Park is the Belvedere Castle. So, as you may imagine, from the top you will get some great views of the park itself. You not only can enjoy the area around the castle, but you also can head on up to a couple outdoor areas within the castle itself. You will have views of the Turtle Pond down below with the Great Lawn out behind it.
Great Lawn: this is one of the largest open areas of Central Park filled with baseball fields throughout. It also makes for a great photo spot as you get the trees of Central Park in the foreground and the skyline out behind it. Head to the northern end of the Great Lawn to get some of the best views in the area!
The Pond Lookout: lastly on the list is the lookout rock overlooking the Pond. If you enter Central Park from the southeast corner, you will see a large rock that you can climb up. From up top you will take in some great views of the Pond, Gapstow Bridge, and the skyline out back.
The High Line
Next up is the High Line. Here you will find a 1.5-mile revamped elevated pathway that has been built on the old railroad tracks. You can enter from either Gansevoort Street in the south or 30th Street in the north (by Hudson Yards).
Throughout the pathway you will find trees, plants, sculptures, artwork, and plenty of views to go around. Whether it is views of the High Line itself, views of the NYC streets, or of Hudson Yards, you will find them all during a walk along it.
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is one of the more happening spots in the city as it is at the heart of Greenwich Village and the New York University campus.
Here you will find the Washington Square Arch and fountain surrounded by benches, lawns, and lots of local entertainment. Depending on where you are in the park, you will also have some views.
Looking northbound at the arch, you should get some great shots of the fountain, arch, and even Empire State Building in the frame. Looking southbound and you should get a shot of the World Trade Center.
So, whether or not you are going there for the views, you are sure to enjoy your time there.
Union Square is another great little park that is one of the main hubs of the city. While the walk through the park is nice and enjoyable, I am going to mention a couple places to take in the view from above.
On the southern side of the park, is the Burlington Coat Factory Store. If you head to the top floor and then make your way to the far end of the front of the store, you will be welcomed to a great viewpoint of the park down below with the Empire State Building out back.
On the northern side of the park is a Barnes and Noble. Same deal here – if you head up to the top floor and towards the windows, you will get the alternate view. Both of these are great options to take in some lesser known views.
At the very tip of Manhattan, you will find Battery Park (also known as just The Battery). If you are walking along the East River or Hudson River, you can continue the walk down to the tip of the city.
Here you will find some of the best views of the Statue of Liberty sitting out in the water. I have been there several times during sunset, when at certain times of the year, the sun sets directly behind the statue.
Close by is the World Trade Center, 9/11 Museum and Memorial Pools, Brookfield Place, and Wall Street, if you would like to see other places nearby.
Note: you can also head on the nearby Staten Island Ferry to take in the view from the boat. The ride across is also free!
Read More: Check out the guide to the Statue of Liberty Viewpoint in Battery Park
Situated in the East River between Manhattan and Queens is Roosevelt Island. What makes the island even that more unique though is that you can actually take a tram from Manhattan.
While the tram ride is just a few minutes long, the views from the tram itself are fantastic to take in. Whether it is the views of the 59th Street Bridge, the East River, or the NYC skyline, you will get a little bit of everything there.
Once you are on the island, I would recommend walking all along the western promenade, which will give you some great views of the city. You can then head to the southern tip of island at Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park for even more views.
Hunter’s Point South Park
Just across the river in Queens you will find the Hunter’s Point South Park, part of the larger Gantry Plaza State Park. This is one of the best spots to get north to south views of the NYC skyline from Queens.
You can see a whole array of the top skyscrapers in the city, from the World Trade Center to the Empire State Building and plenty in between.
Head there in April when the famous Yoshino Cherry Blossoms are blooming for some even more scenic photos.
Liberty State Park
Last but not least on the list is Liberty State Park. Unlike the rest of the locations mentioned, this viewpoint spot is actually in New Jersey, across the Hudson River.
Getting there is super easy as you can actually take the ferry from Battery Park right to Liberty State Park. Once there you can walk all along the riverfront pathway that connects the old Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal in the north down to the Flag Plaza in the south.
Throughout the walkway you will get views of the entire Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and even the Brooklyn Bridge out in the distance. When it comes to variety, it is tough to beat the view from here.
A couple of my favorite view spots are at the Empty Sky Memorial, the bridge right in front of Ellis Island (note this is not a visitor’s entrance), and the Flag Plaza.
4) Recap of NYC Views
So, to recap everything, below is a clean list of the 20 views of New York City that are mentioned in this guide. Just remember, some of these spots have multiple locations to visit, where the views may be a bit different depending on where you are.
1) Hudson River Park Greenway
2) Pier 26 Tide Deck
3) Pier 34 Walkway
4) Little Island
5) Pier 57 Rooftop Park
6) East River Greenway
7) Pier 35
8) Pier 17
9) Williamsburg Bridge
10) Manhattan Bridge
11) Brooklyn Bridge
12) Brooklyn Bridge Park
13) Central Park
14) The High Line
15) Washington Square Park
16) Union Square
17) Battery Park
18) Roosevelt Island
19) Hunter’s Point South Park
20) Liberty State Park
→ Be sure to check out some of the other best photo spots in NYC during a visit to the city
5) Where to Stay in Manhattan
There are so many different neighborhoods to choose from when visiting Manhattan. Below are some of my top choices for a few of my recommended locations in the city:
Chelsea: If you are looking to be well situated between uptown, midtown, and downtown, then Chelsea can be a great option for you. You have highlights such as the Highline, Chelsea Market, the Vessel, and the Hudson River right nearby.
And if you are looking to head to Central Park uptown or the World Trade Center area further downtown, then you are just a quick subway ride away. Recommended Chelsea hotels:
Midtown: Right in the middle of the action is the midtown area, where you have the one and only Times Square, and all Broadway shows right at your doorstep.
You are also within walking distance to the southern end of Central Park. Almost all subway lines connect at Times Square so getting around should not be an issue. Recommended Midtown hotels:
Tribeca: If you are trying to stay in downtown Manhattan, then I would recommend looking into the Tribeca area. Staying here and you will be just a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center area, 9/11 Memorial Pools & Museum, the Brooklyn Bridge and the hop on point for the Statue of Liberty.
While Central Park is a bit further away, you should still be able to reach it in about 30 minutes by subway. Recommended Tribeca Hotels:
» Check out this helpful guide that talks all about the best places to stay in New York during a visit
That about wraps up a guide to the 20 best free views of NYC. If you have any questions or comments about any of the views, be sure to add them in below.
Also, be sure to check out the rest of the New York itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!