11 Iconic Sites and Landmarks to Visit in New York City

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New York City is one of the most recognizable and vibrant cities in the United States (and the world!) 

Portrayed in numerous movies and TV shows showcasing its famous sites and iconic landmarks, the buzz and culture of this city are electric.

Like a moth to a flame, the city of big lights draws millions of tourists every year. For anyone who is looking to get a taste of the Big Apple, I have to say this city is pretty sweet!

A place full of opportunities, diversity and history, there are tons of sites to tour and no shortage of energy and excitement! The 24-hour life in a city that never sleeps serves as the perfect playground for any visitor.

So put on your best pair of walking shoes, and get ready to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle that is NYC! Here are 11 must see Iconic Sites and Landmarks in New York City!

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic buildings in NYC. Almost anyone can point it out in the city’s skyline, and it is by far one of my favorite attractions in New York.

Take a tour to the top of the tower and stand outside on the observation deck. You will see expanding views of the city that seem to stretch for miles. I suggest purchasing a ticket at sunset. It’s truly a stunning scene. You can get tickets in advance here.

If you’re afraid of heights, do not look down! The Empire State Building is 102 stories tall, and it used to be the tallest building in the world before the World Trade Center was built!

But regardless of whether you are afraid of heights or not, the Empire State Building is definitely an NYC landmark that you should include on your visit.

Empire State Building by Christian Ladewig from Unsplash

Brooklyn Bridge 

A stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge should be a part of anyone’s New York experience.

This photogenic bridge is famous for its engineering and construction, being the first of its kind to use steel cable for wire.

With huge granite towers and its scenic location right on the Hudson River, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most photogenic attractions in New York City, with some of the best views in town.

No matter where you stand on the bridge, there are plenty of gorgeous views of the New York Harbour and the city’s five boroughs.

The pedestrian walkway is about 1.1 mile (or 1.6 kilometers) from one end to the other. If you choose to walk across the bridge, just be prepared to deal with cyclists, runners and lots of selfie sticks!

Whether you walk, bike, or run across it, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best (and free) places to visit in NYC! And if you’re keen to keep exploring, there are plenty of great places to visit in Brooklyn as well.

Brooklyn Bridge by Robert Bye from Unsplash

The Statue of Liberty 

She is beauty. She is grace. She is miss United States. Okay, maybe the Statue of Liberty was never entered into a Miss World Pageant, but she is one of the most popular attractions in New York City!

This iconic statue was originally a gift from France to the United States, commemorating the alliance between the two countries during the American Revolution. Today, Lady Liberty stands as a powerful symbol of freedom, democracy and hope for new arrivals into the United States of America.

Be sure to purchase a ticket here that provides transportation and access to go inside her crown. You can catch the ferry at Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan.

PS: A cool fact about the Statue of Liberty I learned is the seven rays on her crown represent the seven continents!

Statue of Liberty by Richard Iwaki from Unsplash

Central Park 

Looking to catch a break from the hustle and bustle of New York City’s streets? Central Park offers the perfect escape.

It’s pretty neat to know that there is an 843 acre patch of green grass and nature that spans 51 blocks in the concrete jungle. There’s no shortage of activities to do and see in Central Park. You can go to the zoo, row a boat on the lake, or ride the carosuel. In the winter there is ice skating and in the summer, many outdoor concerts and music events taking place.

Guided tours of Central Park are available, or you can stroll on your own through the park’s several walking paths. You will stumble upon many playful statues and famous landmarks – including the Strawberry Fields Memorial (which is dedicated to the former Beatles member, John Lennon) or the Alice in Wonderland bronze sculpture.

One of my favorite things to do on a beautiful sunny day in Central Park is to have a picnic.

When I lived in New York, my friends and I loved going to the Whole Foods nearby at Columbus Circle to grab some lunch. We would take our food and a bottle of wine to enjoy it in the park! Try this for yourself and you’ll see exactly why this park is one of the top attractions to visit in NYC.

Central Park by Harry Gillen

Times Square 

Often called the “Crossroads of the World,” hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the globe flock to Times Square every year, with usually half a million people lining the streets to watch the iconic ball drop on New Year’s Eve!

As home to the largest LED display in the world, the gleaming displays and colorful advertisements of Times Square are sure to be enchanting to any visitor. In fact, the lights here are so large and bright, I have even seen them from the plane when flying over NYC!

In Times Square, you will find bars, restaurants, museums, street performers and theaters. Some of the places I recommend checking out are the M&M Factory, Hershey’s Chocolate World, and brunch at Lillian’s Victoria restaurant!

Touristy as it may be, a visit to Times Square cannot be missed when visiting New York City.

Time’s Square by Cris Tagupa from Unsplash

St. Patrick’s Cathedral 

For tourists who love history and architecture, I suggest adding St. Patrick’s Cathedral to your New York City itinerary.

Since 1879, this massive church has spanned one entire block of 5th Avenue. Even if you aren’t religious, the incredible architecture inside is truly stunning, and well worth a visit.

The impressive height of the ceilings, the brilliantly colorful stained glass windows, and the imposing marble columns make St. Patrick’s Cathedral one of a kind.

Guided tours are offered, but when I went with my family, we simply sat and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. Whether you opt for a tour, or explore on your own, this gorgeous cathedral is a must-visit NYC attraction to add to your list.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral by Joseph Barrientos from Unsplash

Bryant Park 

Bryant Park is only a few blocks away from Times Square, but it is an inviting resting spot away from the chaos of the city, for locals and tourists alike.

This is one of my favorite parks to visit in New York City, and a great place to relax.

The lush green lawns are perfect for a picnic or to catch some rays during the summer. The park even offers free movie nights as part of its exciting event calendar.

During the winter, the park transforms into a winter village equipped with holiday shops and an ice skating rink! 

No matter the season, you really get a sense of community at Bryant Park. It’s a wonderful little urban oasis amidst the concrete jungle, and a must-visit attraction in NYC.

Bryant Park by Krisztina Papp from Unsplash

The World Trade Center 

The World Trade Center is one of the most moving sights to see in New York City. 

This area was once home to the Twin Towers, which dominated the New York skyline for decades, but were destroyed September 11th, 2001 when two hijacked planes crashed into the buildings.

Now rebuilt, it’s possible for visitors to come to the complex, which is home to several thought-provoking displays, from remaining pieces of the original Twin Towers to beautiful Memorial Pools, which offer a space for quietness and reflection.

While here, you can also visit the museum and learn about the events leading up to the attack, the events of the attack and the ongoing aftermath. It’s a somber site, but I found it to be a very poignant tribute to this chapter of our nation’s history.

The One World Trade Center is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center Complex. Standing at 1,776 ft (541.3 m), this stunning marvel of architecture has the unique distinction of being the tallest building in the entire Western Hemisphere. You can even enjoy the amazing view from the top by booking a ticket here.

World Trade Center Memorial Pool by Julien DI MAJO from Unsplash

Rockefeller Center and Top of Rock Observation Deck 

Rockefeller Center is probably most famous for its iconic Christmas tree lighting every holiday season, but honestly, it is a popular tourist attraction in New York City to visit any time of the year.

Practically a mini city all on its own, there are a ton of shops and restaurants in the underground space of the complex. Year round, you can admire the greenery and florals of the Channel Gardens, and in the winter, you can enjoy the light displays and beautiful angel decorations, or even go ice skating on a rink beneath the famous Christmas tree.

NOTE: No visit to the Rockefeller Center is complete without heading up to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The view from the top is incredible! It is a great location to take a 360 degree scenic view of the New York skyline, and possibly even better than the view from the Empire State Building (since you get to actually see the Empire State Building from this spot). You can book your tickets here.

Rockefeller Plaza by Juan Pablo Mascanfroni from Unsplash

Radio City Music Hall 

Radio City Music Hall is a legendary venue located in the heart of New York City.

Here, you’ll find year round concerts and performances, one of the most famous being the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City’s Rockettes. This show is NYC’s annual holiday celebration! Featuring more than 140 performers (from singers and dancers to musicians and ice skaters), this 90 minute musical is a wonderful show and I highly recommend seeing it at least once during the holiday season!

Of course, there is more than just the musical component to Radio City Music Hall. If you don’t have the time to attend a show, you can book a ticket for a 75 min guided tour. This tour takes you behind the scenes of the beautiful theater/music hall, and the back stage areas.

It’s really neat to learn the history of the great stage and see the architecture of the building, so if that interests you, you can book the experience here.

Truly, a visit to Radio City Music Hall is definitely worth doing as part of your trip to New York City, so be sure to add it to your list.

Radio City Music Hall by Steve Harvey from Unsplash

Grand Central Station 

Grand Central Station is one of the most visited destinations in New York City.

… and trust me, it is a lot more than just a train station that serves as a commuter rail for New York’s metropolitan area. Grand Central is packed with restaurants, bars, shopping, and culture… and it’s a very fun place to people watch, so why not sip on a cup of coffee and admire the rush and flow of people hurrying throughout the terminal?

Speaking of the main terminal, don’t forget to look up! The ceiling here is a gorgeous piece of art showcasing constellations and zodiac symbols lit up with LED lights. It’s definitely worth a look and photo.

All that said, my favorite part of Grand Central Station is the Whispering Gallery. Here, you will see people with their faces pressed up in the corner, speaking to the wall.

As crazy as it looks, you have to try it yourself. Whisper into the wall and the person standing at the opposite wall diagonally from you can hear you and vice versa. The architecture of the gallery can transmit sound from corner to corner as if you were having a conversation with your friend right in front of you. It’s a cool trick to learn a little bit about accoustics, and very fun to do as part of your visit to Grand Central Station! 

Grand Central Station by Stephen H from Unsplash

Did we forget any of your favorite places to visit in New York City? 

Let us know and leave any comments if there are any more iconic sites or landmarks that you would add to our list! 

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