The Empire State Building is a notable skyscraper on the Manhattan skyline, and any Big Apple aficionado can pick out this building from afar. Sometimes called “the World’s Most Famous Building,” the historically monumental and iconic structure is one that appears on many “must-do” and “must-see” lists for visits to New York City. The 4th-tallest building in New York City and the 43rd tallest building in the world (at time of writing), the Empire State Building has even been confirmed as the most photographed building in the world, according to one 2011 Cornell University study.

However, even if you’re not a fan of all things NYC, and even if you haven't spotted this iconic building in classic films and NYC-set shows like Sleepless in Seattle and Gossip Girl, you can still enjoy a visit to the Empire State Building. Anyone with an affinity for history, architecture or great views will find aspects of the building to appreciate.

Empire State Building in New York - one of the highlights of 13 Best Things to Do in New York and 10 Movie Locations in New York (Read all about New York here)

What are the highlights of the Empire State Building?

There’s a lot to see and do during a visit to the Empire State Building, especially since the building’s visitor experience received a facelift in 2019.

You can visit 2 onsite observation decks after a brief elevator ride from the ground floor. The main deck on the 86th floor offers you 360-degree views of a handful of the city’s most notable landmarks, including Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge. The 2nd deck sits on the 102nd floor, giving you gorgeous views out to 80 miles. Both of the observation decks require tickets to enter.

There are 2 exhibit spaces, on the 2nd and 80th floors, which you automatically receive access to when you purchase an observation deck ticket. Exhibits cover a range of topics, including the building’s history, current status and sustainability efforts, points of interest you can see from the observation decks, the building’s original elevators (a modern marvel in their heyday) and the building’s spot in pop culture.

A brief history of the Empire State Building

The site of the Empire State Building once belonged to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel – which you can now visit at its “new” location – but was sold in 1928. The standing building was then demolished to make way for the Empire State Building. A construction challenge like none other at the time, the building would be the very first in the entire world to exceed 100 storeys. Despite this challenge, the building progressed quickly, climbing ever upward at a rate of 4.5 stories per week and finishing up with only 1 year and 45 days of construction.

The 102-storey building opened in 1931 to great fanfare and presidential appearances. Even then, the building was a top tourist attraction, at which visitors could pay $0.10 to visit the top and take in the sights.

Good to know about the Empire State Building

You can purchase observation deck tickets online ahead of your visit to the Empire State Building and receive access both to the deck of your choosing and all exhibits (as well as free Wi-Fi access). It’s possible to book special experiences at the building, including behind-the-scenes tours and early-morning access to the observation decks to watch the sunrise. Beyond the exhibits and decks, you’ll also find shopping and dining within the building.

Given the building’s central location, it’s relatively easy to walk to from nearly anywhere in Manhattan; public transportation is also available. The Empire State Building is open 365 days per year and, for most visitors, a visit only lasts a few hours at most. The building is least busy in the evening hours, so it’s better to time your visit for after dinner to avoid the crowds. This makes it convenient to pair a stop by the building with other nearby attractions, such as The Chrysler Building and Bryant Park.

Empire State Building in New York

Location: 20 West 29th Street, New York, NY 10001, USA

Open: Daily from 11 am to 10 pm

Phone: +1 212-736-3100

Holly Riddle | Contributing Writer