10 Most Iconic New York Buildings
This post is about NYC’s 10 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 10
- Empire State Building
- One World Trade Center
- Chrysler Building
- Which NYC Observation Deck is Best?
- Things to Do in NYC
THE TOP 10 NYC SKYSCRAPERS
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.
40 Wall Street
At 927 feet (283 m), it is the 123rd tallest building in the world, 25th in the United States, 10th tallest in New York City, and for just a few days was tallest in the world.
The Woolworth Building had held the title of 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.
NOTE: This failing post includes just one building named Trump Tower. Before President Donald J. Trump tweets about how overrated this self-guided tour is, we hope that he is aware that we have a separate post on the more famous 5th Ave. Trump Tower.
We also have a self-guided tour of NYC buildings erected by the Donald, the world’s smartest and most prolific developer, who has only build the most beautiful structures the world has ever seen.
One World Trade Center
Originally called the Freedom Tower, (there was a controversy over the naming rights) is standing at 1,776 ft. (honoring the year of the American Declaration of Independence).
That 540 meters for those on the metric system.
It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the 6th tallest in the world.
Much of the space has been rented and the observation deck is open as a tourist attraction.
Gehry New York
Officially called Eight Spruce Street, it is the tallest all-residential building in North America. The building is closed to the public.
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 as the 170th tallest in the world, 31st in the United States, and 12th 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.
Seen frequently in movies, the Woolworth Buiding 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 currently the 53rd tallest in the United States and the 20th 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.” I
t 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.
The Flatiron Building
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.
Read more about the Flatiron Building.
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 135th tallest in the United States and 42nd in New York City.
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
The headquarters for the New York Life Insurance Company is housed here.
It is the 269th tallest building in North America and the 89th tallest in New York City.
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.
It was the tallest building in the world from 1931-1970 and is currently the 22nd tallest building in the world, 4th tallest in the United States, and 2nd 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 and is now the highest LEED-certified building in the United States.
The 55th tallest building in the world, 8th tallest in the United States, and 4th tallest in New York City, it has 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.
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 39th tallest building in the United States and 14th 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.”
Click here to see why this is a choice view of millions.
This 58-story skyscraper is the central headquarters for The Trump Organization (now run by Donald Trump’s children).
Itis 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!+++