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21 Best Views In NYC For Free (From A Local!)

By Jessie Festa & Charlotte Dow. This guide to amazing New York City views contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Looking for the best views in NYC for free? 

Believe it or not, some of the best vistas in New York City don’t involve sipping overpriced cocktails at exclusive rooftop bars or hanging out the side of a helicopter.

You can take in some amazing sights — and snap those all-important shots for Instagram — for just the cost of a subway swipe.

As local New Yorkers, we’ve scoped out some of the best viewpoints in NYC that will save your wallet and liven up your Insta grid. Keep reading to explore some of the most beautiful places in NY!

One final tip before we dive into the experience:

Grab my free Ultimate Travel Planning Kit — which also includes a Google Map of this scenic New York City itinerary.

Add the map to your phone to have it ready to go!

Need help capturing the best views in NYC — with you in the photos? Book one of our Private Photo Journeys, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. You can also step up your Instagram game with an NYC Influencer Shoot or preserve cherished memories on a Professional NYC Photoshoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.


21 Best Views in NYC for FREE!

Table of Contents

The Best Views In Manhattan

Take in the sights of Central Park at Belvedere Castle. Image via Marley White / NYC & Company.

1. Take in a royal view of Central Park at Belvedere Castle

Why is NYC so popular? For one, it’s home to the famous Central Park!

If you’re looking for free and cheap things to do in NYC, Central Park is full of complimentary experiences and attractions, including Belvedere Castle, which features a visitor’s center and observation deck with incredible views of the Ramble and Turtle Pond.

Looking to have an unforgettable NYC picnic?

Lay out a blanket in front of Turtle Pond, where from the small grassy lawn you have a front-row view of Belvedere Castle and its reflection on a tranquil pond.

The view from East River Park is one of Manhattan’s hidden gems. Photo via Tony Hisgett.

2. Stop for photos under the Williamsburg Bridge at East River Park on the Lower East Side

While you’re there, head further up the East River Greenway to Stuyvesant Cove and take in great views of Manhattan’s East Side and the Empire State Building.

Pro tip:

East River Park on the Brooklyn side of the East River also boasts incredible views, as you can see here on Instagram

The Shops at Columbus Circle are always decked out for the holidays. Image via Jim Pennucci.

3. Pair Central Park views with luxury shopping at the Shops at Columbus Circle

Visiting Manhattan in the winter or on a rainy day in NYC and want a great view of Central Park without having to step outside?

Head to the Shops at Columbus Circle — one of the top Upper West Side attractions — and check out the famous traffic circle and great views of the park from their floor-to-ceiling windows.

The high-end shopping and dining destination also makes for a great respite from the nearby Times Square crowds — and gives you a chance to shop for New York City souvenirs!

The High Line at Night. Image via Lauri Väin.

4. Explore the best NYC views for free within numerous Manhattan neighborhoods along The High Line

Journey from Meatpacking to Midtown (or vice versa) along The High Line, an elevated greenway built on a former railroad line along Manhattan’s West Side. Visiting is one of the top things to do in Manhattan, and here’s why:

The park’s location makes it the perfect spot for scenic hiking in NYC as well as sunset photos, and if you’re visiting later in the year it’s also a top spot for winter photos in NYC.


The stops along the way are conveniently located near popular West Side attractions like Chelsea Market and Hudson Yards. These are both top attractions whether you’re exploring in a group or are looking for fun things to do in NYC by yourself, and are musts whether you’re in NYC for 4 days or just a few hours.

Bethesda Terrace is a popular meeting spot in Central Park, and an even better spot for photos. Image via Central Park Conservancy

5. Visit New York’s favorite angel at Bethesda Terrace

This iconic New York landmark is one of the best Central Park photo spots and is located in the heart of the park, near the 72nd Street entrances. 

You’ll see this attraction in many NYC itineraries, and for good reason.

Here you’ll find great views of the historic Bethesda Fountain, Central Park Lake (and its many rowboats), and the famous Boathouse Restaurant — one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in NYC!

Get here early in the day for the best photos, as this popular meeting spot attracts big crowds in the warmer months.

The outdoor exhibition space at the Whitney is the perfect place to take in the Manhattan skyline. Photo via Andrew Moore.

6. Get cultured while taking in great views of the Meatpacking District during the Whitney Museum’s Pay-What-You-Wish Night

Every Friday from 7pm to 9:30pm, NYC’s Whitney Museum removes its usual $25 price tag and allows visitors to pay any price they’d like. 

Aside from several floors of iconic American Art, the museum is also home to a large outdoor exhibition space with some of the best views downtown.

Bonus for parents and young travelers:

Admission is always free for visitors under 18!

The iconic ceiling of Grand Central’s Main Concourse is not to be missed. Photo via Natalie Maguire.

7. Go stargazing at Grand Central Terminal

The constellation mural atop the Terminal’s Main Concourse is one of the most iconic sights in New York City.

Honestly, in my opinion, it’s one of the most unique things to see in NYC.

Additionally, it is just one reason the entire building is a playground for history buffs and fans of the Beaux-Arts architecture style, not to mention a popular place for NYC architectural tours.


It’s one of the best places to take pictures in New York City, so bring your camera!

grand central terminal tour
Private Photo Journey guests enjoying the beauty of Grand Central Terminal.

As you can see above, Grand Central Terminal is also a popular stop along a Private Photo Journey

When there, don’t miss the stunning view of the Chrysler Building out front.

To view it, stand across the street from the Grand Central Terminal entrance, at Pershing Square, and look east. 

The Oculus has quickly become one of the hottest attractions in New York City. Photo via Bex Walton.

8. For a look into the future, head downtown to the Westfield World Trade Center

Here you’ll find the home of the Oculus, NYC’s otherworldly-looking $4 billion train station. 

The sky-high white beams running through the length of the concourse are a truly incredible sight, making it one of Manhattan’s newest must-see attractions.

Interesting note: 

There is much debate between locals about what the Oculus resembles, though it’s meant to represent a dove in flight, according to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

things to do in long island city
Views from the Roosevelt Island Tram. Photo via Jessie on a Journey.

9. Take the tram over to Roosevelt Island for amazing aerial views of the East River & Manhattan

Talk about cool non-touristy things to do in NYC!

Once you step off the tram, head south to Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park for a unique perspective of the city from the middle of the East River. It’s definitely Insta-worthy. 

While the view is free, you’ll need to use a swipe of your Metrocard to get to the island. 

nyc views from governors island
Cheers-ing at Island Oyster on Govenors Island in NYC. Photo via Jessie on a Journey.

10. See the best views in NYC for free from a distance on Governors Island

Is New York City an island? No, but it is home to many of them, like the fun-filled Governors Island!

Governors Island is an epic summer day trip from NYC, though technically it is part of the borough of Manhattan. 

Still, from nowhere on the island of Manhattan can you get New York City skyline views like this, particularly of Lower Manhattan. 

Additionally, Governors Island is an oasis of gorgeous open spaces, playgrounds, and local art. You absolutely won’t want to miss the view of the Statue of Liberty from Picnic Point. 

The ferry costs $3 round-trip for anyone 12 and over, but the park itself and many of its attractions are totally free.

Need help capturing the best views in New York — with you in the photos? Book one of our Private Photo Journeys, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

The Best Views In Brooklyn

manhattan skyline from the brooklyn bridge
Manhattan skyline views from the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo taken on a Private Photo Journey by NYC Photo Journeys.

11. Walk across the historic Brooklyn Bridge for great panoramic views of both Manhattan & Brooklyn

Looking for an incredible NYC skyline photo?

The Brooklyn Bridge, one of the top attractions in Brooklyn, features a pedestrian walkway so you can safely cross while taking in arguably the best view of NYC.

There are several points along the way to rest and get the perfect shots for Instagram. And if you’re looking for the best views in NYC at night, the Brooklyn Bridge could definitely win that award.

Another reason the Brooklyn Bridge is so special is that it’s a feminist icon, completed in 1883 thanks to the extreme dedication of a woman named Emily Warren Roebling. She was actually the first to cross the bridge in a carriage — while holding a rooster for good luck! 


The Brooklyn Bridge is an extremely popular stop on NYC Photo Journeys’ Private Photo Journeys as well as their Influencer Shoots. It’s also a top sight on many NYC skyline tours and cruises.

brooklyn bridge park view of manhattan
View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo taken on a Private Photo Journey.

12. Head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the best view of the NYC skyline, Brooklyn Bridge & Manhattan Bridge

Talk about a trifecta of NYC views! 

Actually, if you’re crossing the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn the park is a less-than-10-minute walk from the bridge exit. Absolutely worth it for that quintessential New York view!

The park’s rocky shoreline is a gorgeous spot for a photoshoot — there’s even a small beach — making it a popular location for New York-themed engagement and wedding photos. It’s also one of the best Brooklyn Bridge photo spots in NYC.

And just like the Brooklyn Bridge, it’s a popular spot for NYC Photo Journeys’ experiences, as you can see above and on Instagram @nycphototour.

Pro tip:

Walking the Manhattan Bridge also awards spectacular views, especially if you want to see the Brooklyn Bridge in its entirety from afar.

dumbo brooklyn view
View of the Manhattan Bridge and Empire State Building from DUMBO. Photo taken on an Influencer Shoot by NYC Photo Journeys.

13. Stroll DUMBO for the perfect Empire State Building photo

This may be the most Instagrammed spot in Brooklyn, and it’s easy to see why. 

Just off Brooklyn Bridge Park, the DUMBO Waterfront area is home to classic views of the Manhattan Bridge and one of the few remaining areas in New York City with cobblestone streets.

You’ll recognize this neighborhood’s historic streets from such films as The French Connection, American Gangster, and The Dark Knight Rises.

domino park brooklyn
Newlyweds taking in Manhattan views from Domino Park in Brooklyn. Photo taken on a City Hall Wedding Photo Shoot by NYC Photo Journeys.

14. See the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn at Williamsburg’s new Domino Park

Once the site of the Domino Sugar Refinery, the new Domino Park in Williamsburg features splendid views of the East River, Manhattan Skyline, and Williamsburg Bridge.

Be sure to run through the fountains and fog bridge to cool down during the hot summer months.


Along with exploring other nearby waterfront parks, there are many quirky things to do in Williamsburg that can enhance a visit. 

Take a trip back in time with a visit to Coney Island. Image via Brittany Petronella/NYC & Company.

15. Soak up some sun at Coney Island, home to one of the country’s most iconic boardwalks & beaches

Easily accessible by subway, this beach boasts incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Additionally, enjoy photo ops with historic attractions such as the Cyclone Roller Coaster, the original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs stand, and the Parachute Jump.

Pro tip:

It’s also home to one of NYC’s best pizza joints, Totonno’s, open since 1924.

What makes Totonno’s special is that it is one of the few pizzerias in New York City that can use a coal-fired brick oven.

You’ll find lots of history along with some great views in Green-Wood Cemetery. Image via Michaela Simoncini.

16. Take a stroll through historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Park Slope

Here you’ll find the final resting places of famous New Yorkers such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Leonard Bernstein, and Horace Greeley.

Don’t worry:

It’s not all spooky.

The cemetery also acts as an arboretum and features great views of the Manhattan skyline from its many hills.

Need help capturing the best views of New York City — with you in the photos? Book one of our Private Photo Journeys, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. You can also step up your Instagram game with an NYC Influencer Shoot or preserve cherished memories on a Professional NYC Photoshoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

The Best Views In Queens

things to do in long island city
Gantry Plaza State Park Plaza views. Photo via Jessie on a Journey.

17. Check out the best view of Manhattan from Queens in Long Island City

Want to see the beauty of the Manhattan skyline from Queens?

Home to the Pepsi-Cola sign — a New York state landmark as of 2016 — Gantry Plaza State Park has some of the best views of Midtown Manhattan from Queens.

It’s also a perfect spot for shots of the United Nations Secretariat Building and the Empire State Building.


There are numerous fun things to do in Long Island City, so allot time to spend the day, and maybe even a night or two. You’ll undoubtedly encounter even more beautiful views in NYC during your stay.  

Chill out and get a unique view of the city in Astoria Park. Image via Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company.

18. Get great views of the Triborough & Hell Gate Bridges at Astoria Park

Astoria Park — one of the most beautiful places in New York with acres of open space and great views of the Manhattan skyline — is also home to one of the city’s largest public pools, free to visit every day in the summer.

If you visit during summer, it’s also one of the best places in NYC to see a complimentary Fourth of July fireworks show. 

The Best NYC Views From The Water

The State Island Ferry is one of the best free attractions NYC has to offer. Image via Christopher Postlewaite/NYC & Company.

19. Take a (totally free!) ride between Lower Manhattan & Staten Island on the Staten Island Ferry

Not only does the ferry provide an amazing view of Manhattan from the water, but it also sails close to the Statue of Liberty, offering perhaps the best view in NYC.

This gives passengers an opportunity to get amazing shots of this symbol of freedom — without having to spend a dime!

Pro tip:

Before you get on the ferry you can purchase wine and beer from shops in Whitehall Terminal, where the ferry departments from Lower Manhattan, to bring on board for a cruise-like experience.

Need help capturing the best photos of your NYC adventure? Book one of our Private Photo Journeys, a walking tour that includes photos of your group to keep. You can also step up your Instagram game with an NYC Influencer Shoot or preserve cherished memories on a Professional NYC Photoshoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.

The Best NYC Views From Jersey City

Head over to New Jersey for one of the best views of New York City. Photo via Wilson Rivera.

20. Explore Exchange Place in Jersey City for great views of the Hudson River & Manhattan’s West Side

Just a short journey on the PATH train from Manhattan, the area is home to great shops, dining, and public art installations away from the New York City crowds.


You can use your Metrocard to swipe in on the PATH, too!

liberty state park jersey city
See Manhattan from the other side of the Hudson at Liberty State Park. Photo via Jessie on a Journey.

21. Get great (free!) views of the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island from Liberty State Park

Located further down the waterfront in Jersey City, Liberty State Park features views of all the big NYC landmarks — the Empire State Building, One World Trade, the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty and more.

Actually, Ellis Island is so close you feel like you can almost reach out the touch it. 

Along with being the embarkation point for Statue of Liberty tours from New Jersey, the park is also home to the abandoned Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal. Built in 1889 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s a must-see for history buffs.

Best Views NYC FAQs

Q) How can I get a good view of NYC for free?

Some of the best views of NYC can be found in Central Park from Belvedere Castle, along the High Line, Roosevelt Island, Brooklyn Bridge, and Brooklyn Bridge Park – just to name a few!

Q) Where is the best view of the NYC skyline?

Some of the best free views in NYC of the skyline are from Governor’s Island, Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Domino Park in Williamsburg, and Green-Wood Cemetery in Park Slope.

Q) Where is the best free view in Central Park?

The view from Belvedere Castle is, in my opinion, the best free view in Central Park as you’re treated to incredible views of The Ramble and Turtle Pond.

Q) What is the best free viewing deck in NYC?

Many of the observation decks in NYC do require an entry fee but Belvedere Castle in Central Park has a beautiful viewing deck that offers some of the best free views in NYC, overlooking The Ramble and Turtle Pond.

The Best Views In New York City – Tours & Experiences

After saving money with the above free experiences, spend on one of the following Insta-worthy NYC experiences:

Best Hotels In New York

Looking to stay overnight in NYC?

There are so many photo-worthy hotels, like NoMo SoHo, the Williamsburg Hotel, and The Ludlow.

Click here for a full list of New York City hotels!

Prefer self-contained stays? 

You can also use this map to search for unique local rentals. It’s currently set to Times Square, but you can easily change it to your desired NYC neighborhood:

Like the idea of hotel living? There are also many live-in hotels in NYC that offer extended stays.

New York City Travel Insurance

When visiting New York City — or anywhere else in the world — it’s wise to get travel insurance.

One of the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country.

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks.

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Click here to grab your FREE Ultimate Travel Planning Kit! It also includes a Google Map of this scenic NYC itinerary.

What are some of your favorite views in New York City for free?

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Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

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