Where to get the Best View of the New York City Skyline

Where do you get the best view of the New York City (NYC) Skyline?  That is a question you do not want to go to New York City without knowing the answer.  One of the best views is on display in today’s guest image from Samantha Gonzales.

Top of the rock observation deck

Samantha made the above image from the Top of the Rock observation deck.  Samantha said she woke up early on a Sunday morning, February 26, 2017, and headed straight to the Top of the Rock to get the shot before the clouds completely massed over the skyline.  Surprisingly, Samantha was able to make this image with just her iPhone 6 and edited it in Lightroom.

I love this view of the New York City Skyline because it has some very prominent buildings, but also shows a view that makes the city look like it stretches on forever only to be broken by the river leading into the horizon.  I think the river adds a bit of interest and breaks the pattern of buildings nicely.

The Top of the Rock is on the 10th highest building in New York City, the GE Building.  It offers multi-tiered decks offering 360 degree views so you can capture any view you want, and it is great for both sunset and sunrise.

8 runner ups for the best view of NYC

Empire State Building

The tallest and most iconic building in New York City has observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors.  Being so high up means this view is going to give you the furthest view, seeing all of New York City and even to New Jersey on a clear day.  The biggest problem with this location is that you cannot have the Empire State Building in your frame, which is a big loss.  It would be like shooting the Seattle skyline without the Space Needle.  You can still get an awesome image, but it will be missing something iconic.

The view restaurant

The View restaurant is located in the Marriot Marquis hotel.  The restaurant is on the 48th floor and slowly rotates 360 degrees each hour.  Because of this, it is not going to be the best place to take photographs as you won’t be able to do long exposures and you will be in a restaurant so it is not great for  setting up much gear obviously.  But if you want a great view with fancy food, this is your place.

From the water

New York City is surrounded by water and there are many boat tours or ever ferries that will get you out in the water so you can get a great view of the city.  This view is great because it is a bottom-up view that shows the scale of the buildings and can offer some more interest in the foreground.

Long Island City/Queens

The view from the tip of Long Island City is hard to beat.  It offers a gorgeous view of the New York City skyline, prominently featuring the famous Chrysler and Empire State buildings.  There’s also the river and the bridge in the foreground that offer you a lot to work with to create a truly impressive image.


Technically, you can get the best view of New York City from the sky.  This may not be the best for a photographer though.  Most helicopter tours cost a lot of money and only last 15 minutes.  That is not a lot of time to find and frame up a good composition.  You also loose the opportunity for long exposures.

Governor’s Island

Governor’s Island is another location where you can shoot from ground (or water) level to get a great perspective of the city.  The old Coast Guard site offers a long promenade with great shooting locations.  It is also one of the view spots where you can also get a great image of the Statue of Liberty.

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a fantastic place to shoot the skyline because of how creative you can be.  The options are all over as you can include the river or parts of the bridge to add great foreground and create a much more unique and artistic image.

Fort Tryon Park

Fort Tryon Park is the highest natural point in Manhattan.  From what I can see, the skyline views are not as spectacular, but you can see Manhattan and you get the bonus of having great natural scenery all around.  You can also visit the Cloisters at the Park for some great images as well.

samantha gonzales

Samantha is a fellow traveler based out of Atlanta, Georgia.  You can see more of her work on Instagram, @samanthangonzales.


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