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19 Most Iconic New York Buildings

Updated: June 13, 2023

This post is about NYC's 19 most popular skyscrapers, with tips on how to visit them if possible. We also list the free tours that we offer that cover each building.


THE TOP 19 NYC SKYSCRAPERS AND FAMOUS BUILDINGS

This list is in geographical order. We begin in Lower Manhattan and work our way north up the island of Manhattan.

Here is a link to the map if you would like to follow along.

For some of the skyscrapers, we include rankings in NYC, the U.S., and the world. Rankings included are from June 2023.


One World Trade Center

Originally called the Freedom Tower, (there was a controversy over the naming rights) it stands at 1,776 ft. (540 m), in honor of the year of the American Declaration of Independence.

It is the tallest building in both New York City and the United States, and the 7th-tallest building in the world.

The views from the observation deck, One World Observatory, are breathtaking. The elevator ride that climbs 1,250 feet (381 m) in less than 60 seconds is a thrilling experience.

If you aren't sure if One World Observatory is the right observation deck for you, read our post comparing all of NYC's observation decks.

One World Trade Center is located in Lower Manhattan and can be seen on several of our walking tours, including our audio tours of Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center. 


30 Hudson Yards

This striking, 1,296 feet tall (395 m) is located in the Hudson Yards complex in Chelsea on the west side of Manhattan. It sits just north of the High Line park.

At 103 floors, 30 Hudson Yards is the 6th-tallest building in NYC and the 8th-tallest in the U.S. and 47th in the world.

On the 100th floor of this commercial building is Edge, the spectacular triangular observation deck that juts out from the building.  

Read about getting tickets to Edge and City Climb at Edge where you can scale the outside of the building! 

30 hudson yards

The architect of this neo-futuristic style gem is Bill Pedersen of the firm Kohn Pedersen Fox. Construction on 30 Hudson Yards started in October 2014. 

Since its completion in 2019, 30 Hudson Yards has become a stand-out building in the NYC skyline. 


One Vanderbilt

This 1,401 ft.( 427m ) 93-story supertall skyscraper is at E. 42nd Street and Vanderbilt, just next to Grand Central Terminal.  

Opened in 2020, it's the 4th tallest building in NYC, the 5th-tallest in the U.S. and the 27th-tallest in the world It’s not just tall. The building is so large in length and width, it takes up an entire city block! 

One Vanderbilt is home to SUMMIT, one of New York City’s observation decks. The deck is a wrap-around much more than a deck with stunning views.

SUMMIT is an entire experience with immersive art, an outdoor wrap-around terrace on the south and west sides of the building and for adrenaline junkies, glass boxes that jut out from the building that offer views of the street below from 1,063 feet (324 meters) in the air!

Find out more about SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Tickets and Discounts.


Empire State Building

Probably the most famous skyscraper in the world, this Art-Deco tower is called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

It was the tallest building in the world from 1931-1970 and is currently the 22nd tallest building in the world, the 4th tallest in the United States, and the 7th tallest in New York City.

At a magnificent 103 stories, it stands at a total of 1,454 feet (443 m), including the antenna spire, with a roof height of 1,250 feet (380 m).

This is the building King Kong scaled in both the classic 1933 film as well as the 2005 remake.

The Empire State Building underwent a $550 million renovation in 2010, including over $100 million to make it more energy-efficient (something it badly needed).

It was awarded a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating in September 2011.

Find out about visiting the top of the Empire State Building.


The Chrysler Building

This Art-Deco beauty, at 405 Lexington Avenue, rises to 1,046 ft. (318.9 m), and truly is one of New York City’s greatest sites.

It's the 20th tallest building in the United States, and the 12th tallest in New York City, with 77 floors and 32 elevators (made by the famous Otis Elevator Company).

Though the Chrysler Building had an observation deck until 1945, the top is no longer open to the public. But the lobby, which features a gorgeous mural on the ceiling and the city's first digital clock, is a must-see.

In 1930, this iconic skyscraper outdid 40 Wall Street for the world’s tallest building when its developers pushed the spire through the airshaft.

However, the Empire State Building surpassed the Chrysler Building as the world’s tallest skyscraper, just 11 months later.

We visit the Chrysler Building on our Midtown Manhattan and Grand Central Station tours, both of which are available as GPS-enabled audio tours.


30 Rockefeller Center

Officially named the GE Building and also known as the RCA Building, this sky-high edifice features an observation deck, Top of the Rock, with spectacular panoramic views.

Rising to a mere 850 ft. (259.1 m), this tower has 70 floors and 60 elevators. 30 Rock is the 65th tallest building in the United States and the 32nd tallest in New York City.

It is part of John D, Rockefeller’s Rockefeller Center, which was built in the 1930s.  

30 Rock has been home to NBC Studios since 1933 and its lobby once featured Diego Rivera’s controversial mural “Man at the Crossroads.”

We visit 30 Rock on our Midtown Manhattan tour, which is available as GPS-enabled audio tour.


And after reading this post, see which tv shows the roughly 170k members of our NYC Travel Tips Facebook group say are their favorite skyscrapers in NYC and join the conversation.

The group is made up of locals, regular visitors to NYC, and those just getting to know the city.

There's no need to join to read the recommendations.


Woolworth Building 

Seen frequently in movies, the Woolworth Building was the tallest building in the world from 1913-1930.

Designed by Cass Gilbert, super-starchitect of the day, this neo-Gothic beauty, with its 57 floors and 34 elevators, rises to 792 ft. (241 m) and is the 44th tallest in New York City.

A central figure in the great skyscraper race of the early 20th Century, it was dubbed the "Cathedral of Commerce."

It had an observation deck until 1941 as well as high-speed elevators, which were state-of-the-art at the time.

It was sold by the Woolworth Company in 1998 for $155 million.

A significant portion of the tenants is residents. The price to live there? You guessed right: High.  

You could also take a tour of the Woolworth Building. Like the previously mentioned buildings, this building is a stop on all of our Lower Manhattan tours


Hotel Theresa 

This landmarked building on the corner of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard was the tallest in Harlem when it was built in 1913. 

It stands 13 stories-- incredibly short by today’s standards!! But the hotel’s claim to fame is not its height but its role in African-American culture and history. 

It was Harlem’s ‘first great hotel’ with 300 rooms and one of the first hotels in New York City that welcomed black guests. 

Hotel Theresa came to be called the ‘Waldorf of Harlem’ ( a reference to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Midtown Manhattan) and was a mecca for New York’s (and America’s) black elite.

Prominent political and cultural figures stayed here, like Malcolm X. When Fidel Castro came to 

New York to speak at the United Nations, he chose to stay at the Hotel Theresa.
Our pay-what-you-like Harlem Walking Tour passes by this historically significant building.


United Nations Secretariat Building

At 505’ feet tall, the United Nations Building at East 42nd Street is far from being an NYC skyscraper. But it is one of the most recognizable buildings on the New York City skyline.

The building may not be tall in stature but it is one of the most significant, and famous, buildings in the world. It opened in 1952 to house the newly formed United Nations. 

Its architects were masters of modern architecture, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, and Wallace Harrison. 

Designed in the “International Style”, it has the world's first glass-and-steel curtain wall - what appears to be an all-glass building. 

Find out more about Tours of the United Nations Building.


One Columbus Circle

Opened in 2004 as the Time Warner Center, One Columbus Circle has twin 750 ft (230 m) tall towers each with 55 floors of commercial and residential space.

As the name suggests, it’s located at Columbus Circle, a landmark monument at the intersection of Broadway, West 59th Street, and Central Park. 

Incidentally, Columbus Circle was featured in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters. Find out about other Ghostbusters locations here.

At the base of the building are The Shops at Columbus Circle, a shopping mall that during the holiday season is home to one of NYC’s famous Christmas markets.


Gehry New York

This is Los Angeles’ architect Frank Gehry's first skyscraper. It is located at 8 Spruce Street in the Financial District.

This gleaming 76-story tower, "clad in a rumpled stainless-steel skin”, according to a review in the NY Times, has just about 900 units, all for rent (very unusual for a high rise in NYC to be all residential).

It ranks 29th in New York City. The tower stands on a six-story public elementary school.

Gehry's tower can be seen on all of our Lower Manhattan tours and can be viewed as you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn side. 


The Flatiron Building 

Standing at 285 ft. (86.9 m), this 21-floor icon is located on a triangular-shaped area, bounded by Fifth Avenue, Broadway, as well as East 22nd and 23rd Street. 

By 1892, New York City's building regulations no longer required the use of masonry for fireproofing.

Thus, it began the use of the steel-skeleton design; JP. Morgan’s American Bridge Company in Pennsylvania supplied the steel.

The Flatiron Building is called ‘Flatiron’ because it looks like a flat cast-iron clothing iron! Though it was the largest of its kind, it was not the first.

Before the Flatiron, other triangular-shaped buildings such as The Maryland Inn (1782), the Gooderham Building in Toronto (1892), and the English-American Building in Atlanta (1897) were erected.

The surrounding area is known as the Flatiron District, named after the building, of course, and we visit the area outside of the building on our Midtown Manhattan Night Tour.

Read more about the Flatiron Building.


One57

One57 is a 75-story, 1,005 ft skyscraper at 157 West 57th Street, the street now referred to as Billionaires’ Row on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

It is mainly residential, with 92 condominium units. On the first 25 floors, there is a luxury Park Hyatt Hotel with 210 rooms. 

When it was completed in 2015, One57 was the tallest residential building in New York City. 

At the time, it broke the record for the highest price ever paid for a single residence in NYC -- a staggering $100.47 million, bought by multi-billionaire Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell, Inc. 

But prices have fallen since it was completed, to the dismay of original buyers looking to sell now. As of June 2023, a 5-bedroom penthouse on the 88th floor costs $37 million.

Looking for something a bit less? A one-bedroom apartment on the 35th floor goes for $3.2 million.


432 Park Avenue

At 1,396 feet tall, the residential 432 Park Avenue is one of the latest super slim, super tall, skyscrapers in NYC. 

Situated between 56th and 57th Streets, it is the 5th tallest building in NYC and was the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere until Central Park Tower was erected (see below).

It’s not just super tall, it’s also one of the most luxurious condominium buildings, with views north, south, east and west! 

The condos feature 10-foot by 10-foot windows, private elevator landings, and heated bathroom floors. Some bathrooms have views of Central Park! 

A 6-bedroom, 9-bathroom apartment on the 96th floor will set you back $130 million. Owners can purchase a climate-controlled wine cellar for just… $320,000.


Central Park Tower

Located at 217 West 57th Street, this addition to Billionaire's Row is 1,550 feet tall (472m). It is currently the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere.

There are 179 condominiums at sky-high prices. In March 2023, the 12,557-square-foot penthouse duplex was listed at $175 million. 

If you can spend a little more, get the penthouse triplex for $250 million! 

For those on a budget, there’s a 320,000-square-foot, seven-story Nordstroms for some shopping!

From the highest floors of Central Park Tower, one can see three states, five boroughs, and all eight of the city's major suspension bridges

On a clear day, Bear Mountain in the Appalachians can be seen (just as this building can be seen from the mountaintop!) 


40 Wall Street

This 71-floor tower, also known as the Trump Building, was originally called the Bank of Manhattan Building.

At 927 feet (283 m), it is the 23rd tallest in New York City, the 25th tallest in the United States, and, for just a few days in 1930, the tallest in the world.

The Woolworth Building had held the title of the world’s tallest building since 1913, but the race was on between the 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Buildings to see which would be crowned the new height champ of all buildings.

The 40 Wall Street opened in April of 1930, as the new world champion of skyscraper height.

However, just four days later, the Chrysler Building developers ordered the spire, which had been concealed in the air shaft, to be pushed upward, making the Chrysler Building the world's tallest.

But not for long. The Empire State Building opened nine months later and was the world's tallest until 1972. 

Our Lower Manhattan Visit New York Tour gets you right in front of 40 Wall Street. Donald Trump's The Apprentice is filmed here.  

40 Wall Street is located in Lower Manhattan and can be seen on several of our walking tours, including our audio tour of Lower Manhattan.

We also have a self-guided tour of NYC buildings erected by Donald, the world's smartest and most prolific developer, who has only built the most beautiful structures the world has ever seen. 


Metropolitan Life Tower

Not to be confused with the MetLife Building at Grand Central Terminal, the MetLife Tower faces Madison Square Park, a 6.2-acre public park in Manhattan, located at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street, near the Flatiron Building.  

The tower stands at 700 ft. (213 m) and has 50 floors. Inspired by the Campanile in Venice, Italy, it is the 77th-tallest building in NYC.

This landmark structure features clocks on all four sides of its tower. Each clock face has a diameter of about 27 ft. (8 m); each number is four feet (1.2 m) tall.

In 2002, a state-of-the-art night lighting system, very similar to the one in the Empire State Building, was added.

The colors of the lights alternate in accordance with important events and holidays.

The gleaming dome at the top signifies "eternal light” and shines even after the rest of the building goes dark for the night.  

We visit the area outside of the building on our Midtown Manhattan Night Tour


New York Life Building

This 33-story Cass Gilbert classic, the last of his great skyscrapers, is in the Gothic Revival tradition and stands at 615 ft. (187.5 m).

The headquarters for the New York Life Insurance Company is housed here. 

It's ranked outside of the top 100 tallest buildings in New York City, but it ranks high in its beauty and unique contribution to the skyline

The gold pyramid at the pinnacle consists of 25,000 gold-leaf tiles!

For more about Cass Gilbert click here.

Something interesting about Madison Square Park: The world-famous sports arena, Madison Square Garden, currently located at 34th Street and 7th Avenue,  was located just northeast of the park from (1878-1925).

The famous architect, Stanford White, was murdered on its rooftop garden in 1906 and in 1842, one of the first professional baseball teams, the New York Knickerbockers, played here.

We visit the area outside of the building on our Midtown Manhattan Night Tour


Trump TowerTrump Tower

This 58-story skyscraper is the central headquarters for The Trump Organization (now run by Donald Trump's children). 

It is located at 721 5th Avenue between 56th and 57th Street. Trump Tower was the location of the "You're Fired” boardroom for NBC's The Apprentice.  

It was completed in 1983 and is a mix of apartments, offices, and stores.

There are several things to see and do here so you might want to look at our post on visiting Trump Tower in New York City.

Check out our walking tours and join us to see these buildings up close!

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: June 13th, 2023
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