For more than 10 years we’ve been running the web, many visitors, despite having a couple of plans for people who are going to spend a week’s vacation or four or five days in New York, keep asking me about what to see in New York and what the main sites are in this city. I usually send them to my article with the map of tourist sites in New York, which shows the location of more than 60 sites, and I recommend you download our app, Destination New York, where you have more than 100 points of interest, but by trying to close this question today I will tell you, in this article updated in 2019, the 20 sites you have to see in New York before leaving. Like all lists, it is very subjective but I will try to be as objective as possible and leave all the possibilities and preferences….
The 20 must-see sites
1. Bryant Park
We started with downtown Manhattan and my favorite New York park, Bryant Park. Sitting here any time of the year is a delight, and you can always enjoy all kinds of activities: There’s a carousel for the kids, tables and chairs to sit down for coffee or lunch, an ice rink in winter and a summer movie theater. Its location, two steps from Times Square and the Rockefeller Center, makes it a good place to rest for a while after such a long walk.
2. Times Square
Continuing with the essential ones, we arrive at Times Square, probably the most famous crossroads in the world, but it is always avoided if possible by the New Yorkers, due to the agglomerations that are organized. A spectacle of neons, screens and colored lights that has its greatest splendor during the night, it is essential to sit on the stairs and enjoy the night view for a while.
3. Empire State
Certainly one of New York’s most iconic buildings and one of the city’s best-known sights, the Empire State Building was until recently the tallest building in the city. From its observatory you have a good view of all of New York.
4. Madison Square Garden
A temple for all types of music and sports, Madison Square Garden is located very close to the Empire State and just above New York’s main train station, Penn Station, although unfortunately for a short time, the plans to expand the station will make this site disappear in the coming years. This is where the mythical New York Knicks of the NBA play, and I recommend you go and watch an NBA basketball game if it coincides with the season (from late October to mid-April approximately).
5. Top of the Rock
In the Top of the Rock we find what is possibly the most iconic view of the Big Apple: on one side Central Park at our feet and on the other the Empire State in the middle and all around New York. To go up to the viewpoint, I suggest you do it a little before sunset, so you can enjoy the view of Manhattan day and night.
The Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA, is one of the best museums of modern art in the world, definitely if you like this type of art it is a must-visit. It has a large collection of Picasso, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh,…
7. Roosevelt Island tram
For the price of a subway ride we can go on a cable car that crosses the river to Roosevelt Island, in the middle of the East River, and that allows us to get a beautiful view of Manhattan, and yes, it is the Spiderman cable car that is about to fall, thank goodness that Spiderman came to hold it in time 🙂
8. Central Park
New York’s most famous park is well worth a visit, although it is so large that it will be difficult to see everything in one day. For this purpose, we have two articles on our website, one that tells you what to see on a day in Central Park and another in which you discover the park on a bike tour to try to help you to plan your visit.
9. The Metropolitan Museum
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) is definitely one of the best art museums in the world, and a must-see on your trip to New York. Its collection of paintings, Egyptian, European, American art, …. is simply spectacular, and in summer from its terrace offers a beautiful view of the city. With your ticket you can also visit The Cloisters, located in the far north of Harlem and with an interesting exhibition of medieval art.
10. American Museum of Natural History
Another of the city’s most famous museums, and one of the best natural science museums in the world, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is also very famous for the movies, especially for One Night at the Museum. Its collection of dinosaur fossils is simply spectacular, and the rest of the collection is no less, you’ ll certainly be there at least one morning that will pass quickly.
11. 9/11 Museum and Memorial
It is worth a visit to the Memorial and Museum of September 11, the place where the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001 took place. The museum is not suitable for everyone, there are people who have a hard time seeing all the memories, but certainly worth a visit to the square and the memorial they made to the victims, an oasis of peace in the madness of Financial District.
12. One World Observatory
At the top of the building that replaced the Twin Towers, we find the One World Observatory, the highest observatory in the city and the highest in the United States. From it, we get a beautiful view of all Brooklyn, the bay and New York in the background, certainly a complementary view to the one we get from the Empire State or the Top of the Rock.
13. Wall Street
The New York Stock Exchange is probably one of its best-known buildings, and we find it very close to the 9/11 memorial and museum. Unfortunately, the Wall Street Stock Exchange, which is actually called the New York Stock Exchange, cannot be visited, so we will have to settle for the view we get from the steps of Federal Hall, the place where George Washington took possession as president of the United States of America, and which is now a tourist office where we can find all kinds of brochures, plans and maps.
14. Statue of Liberty
Although there are many ways to see the Statue of Liberty, the Ferry to Staten Island is the cheapest way to see it, as it is free, and after a walk around the bay it will take us to Staten Island, passing very close to the Statue of Liberty. In our article How to go to see the Statue of Liberty? we give you other ways to see Lady Liberty and all the tricks to get the best pictures of one of the icons of the Big Apple.
15. Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is, for sure, the best-known and most photographed bridge in New York, and it is the bridge that connects the Brooklyn neighborhood with Manhattan. Crossing it while listening to Frank Sinatra’s song New York New York is one of the things I usually do when I’m in New York, and before crossing back to Manhattan we have an area where we can eat some of the best pizzas in New York.
16. Greenwich Village
This is New York’s most rotten neighborhood, where all the music movements of the 1970s were born: people like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads or the Ramones started here. Although it has lost much of its spirit, it is still worth going to this neighborhood for dinner or a drink. It has great jazz clubs, like the Blue Note or the Village Vanguard, places with live music, like the Cafe Wha? and in it we find an icon of the Sex in New York series: The cupcakes of the Magnolia pastry shop. Here’s a guide to the best places to go for a drink in New York.
17. Chelsea Market y la High Line
At Chelsea Market we find the incredible transformation of an old Nabisco factory, where the famous Oreo biscuits were invented, into a spectacular market. It is definitely worth stopping and seeing it on our way through the High Line, which is the transformation into a park of the old train tracks that went from this industrial area to the Penn Station junction. Winner of several awards, recently is quite saturated, but still worth going into them and cross between the buildings watching the views of New York.
18. Flatiron Building
Located at Madison Square Park, is one of my favorite skyscrapers in New York and one of the first to be built. Its name comes from its shape, triangular as if it were a iron, which is given by the location of the building, right at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway.
19. Grand Central Terminal
Another must is New York Central Station (Grand Central Terminal), one of the most beautiful train stations in the world and that we know by a thousand films. Just next door is the spectacular Chrysler building, which is not open to visitors.
Last but not least, we ended our list with a visit to the Harlem neighborhood, probably one of the most mythical places in New York. Many people make this visit on a Sunday, to coincide with one of their well-known gospel masses, but to do that you must have time to spend between 2 and 3 hours at mass and be in the neighborhood all morning. I usually prefer to go during the week, so you can see more of the “real” life of the neighborhood. Here I leave you a visit to Harlem to know it.
Other essential points for those who were already in New York
For those who are on their second visit to the city, or for those who have more time, have visited the previous recommendations and don’t know what to do in New York, I would certainly like to suggest other extra points of interest that may not have visited yet. These are as follows:
21. Four Freedoms Park
A park on Roosevelt Island in honor of President Roosevelt with beautiful views of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is well worth a visit after going by cable car, except on Tuesdays when it is closed.
22. St Patrick’s Cathedral
Located right next to the Rockefeller Center, it is the largest Catholic church in New York.
23. Columbia University
Located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood, Columbia University is New York’s most famous and prestigious university and home to more than 90 Nobel laureates.
24. Federal Hall
Right next to the New York Stock Exchange, this is where the first U.S. Congress was held and where George Washington took possession as the president of the United States. The statue of Washington seems to control the Stock Exchange from the heights.
25. Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air and Space
If you like aeronautics, there is no question that this museum is an essential part of your visit to Manhattan. Located on a 75-year-old aircraft carrier, the Intrepid Museum of Sea, Air and Space has a good collection of fighter planes and a space shuttle inside.
26. Whitney Museum of American Art
The building alone is a marvel, designed by Renzo Piano. Inside the Whitney Museum of American Art we find an excellent collection of American modern art, which highlights Hopper’s painting, and excellent views of Manhattan.
27. Barclays Center
This is the most modern stadium in the city, where the NBA Brooklyn Nets play. The best pop/rock concerts in town are usually held here, with permission from the Madison Square Garden.
28. Brooklyn Museum and Botanical Garden
If you like Egyptian art, the Brooklyn Museum is a must-see in the city. In addition, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, which is right next door, is very nice, and one of the quietest spots in New York.
29. Coney Island
It is the beach of New York and can be reached by metro, so if during the summer you want to take a splash in the Atlantic is where you will have to go. Here you’ll also find Luna Park, the famous amusement park featured in movies such as Big, the Aquarium, Nathan’s and his famous hot dogs and Cyclone, a wooden roller coaster with over 85 years of history.
30. Gantry Plaza
One of the best views of New York is the one we find at Gantry Plaza State Park, a park that I have seen growing from only a small open area where the piers were located until now, which occupies the entire front of Queens. I love to sit in one of their seats and wait for the sunset while you enjoy a fantastic view of all of Manhattan.
What to see in New York? The map
I hope you liked our list of sites that we think you should see in your visit, I look forward to your comments and suggestions through the contact form. Here we leave you a map with all the sites located, so that you can guide better: