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15 Best New York City Architectural Tours By Walking, Boat & Plane

By Jessie Festa & Dale P. This guide to the top architecture tours in NYC contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Looking to book the best New York City architectural tours?

Then you’re in the right place!

New York City has some of the most iconic architecture of any city in the world.

An architecture tour in NYC is one of the best ways to explore some of the most famous buildings in the city while learning more about their history and significance.

New York’s best-known architectural style is Art Deco, which can be seen in iconic skyscrapers like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

That being said, the city is also known for the elegant Beaux-Arts architecture of Grand Central Terminal, the New York Public Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the Gothic Revival style of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Woolworth Building, among many other architectural styles.

These styles and more can be explored during an architecture tour in New York City. Led by a licensed sightseeing guide, you’ll discover New York City’s skyline like never before, learning the history and context behind some of the city’s most famous landmarks.

Whether you take an NYC architecture boat tour or experience an architecture walking tour in NYC, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot and gain a new perspective on this iconic city.

Discover NYC’s Best Architecture & Attractions [Free Guide]

But first, before we dive into our list of top New York City architectural tours, we invite you to grab a copy of Jessie’s NYC Top Picks From A Local Guide. The printable PDF guide takes you beyond the popular attractions to uncover a more local and lesser-known side of New York City.

free guide to NYC architecture and attractions
Click here to grab my free PDF New York City travel guide!

Just a few highlights from the guide include:

  • Unique restaurants and bars for creative food and drink fare
  • Where to take in epic NYC architecture and skyline views
  • Ways to get off-the-beaten-track to discover a side of the city many tourists miss

On that note, keep reading to dive into the top architectural tours in New York City.

Best New York City Architectural Tours On Foot

woman posing in front of the Manhattan skyline in DUMBO on a New York City architectural tour
Get one-of-a-kind mementos on a private photo and NYC architecture tour. Photo via NYC Photo Journeys.

1. Private Photo Tour with NYC Architecture Views

Looking for an architecture walking tour of NYC that also includes photos? Then this experience, which is hosted by Jessie’s company NYC Photo Journeys, is for you!

Part tour, part photoshoot, you can choose between a list of carefully curated itineraries or opt to have something custom created just for you.

Best of all, you’ll leave the session with interesting stories as well as gorgeous photos of your group to keep.

If you’re specifically interested in NYC building tours, SoHo – Brooklyn Bridge – DUMBO is one recommended route that combines the beauty of SoHo’s cast-iron architecture, the skyline views of DUMBO, and the engineering marvel that is the Brooklyn Bridge — which was the first suspension bridge to use steel for its cable wire when it opened in 1833.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

The Manhattan skyline from above with a view of the Chrysler Building
The Manhattan skyline. Photo via Eddie Bugajewski/Unsplash.

2. Manhattan Architecture Photography Tour

For amateur photographers looking to perfect their craft, this New York City architectural tour is a great way to explore the city’s landmarks and capture some amazing shots at the same time.

Led by a professional photographer, this experience takes you on foot through Manhattan to visit architectural gems like Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, and the New York Public Library.

Along the way, you’ll learn expert tips from your guide for snapping the best photos of these landmarks.

You’ll leave this top tour in New York City with a better understanding of NYC architecture and some great photos of your own.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

NYC's iconic Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building is an architectural icon in NYC. Photo via Cayetano Gil/Unsplash.

3. Flatiron Food, Architecture & History Tour

The Flatiron District is one of the most eye-catching neighborhoods in New York, anchored by the iconic Flatiron Building and Union Square.

This New York architecture tour is also perfect for foodies because, in addition to learning about the Flatiron Building and surrounding architecture, you’ll savor some of the best food the area has to offer.

You’ll be able to sample delicious New York pizza, try a famous Reuben sandwich, chow down on grilled cheese, and caffeinate with coffee and pastries at a local bakery.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

seeing the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center on an NYC architecture walking tour
The Empire State Building is a famous Art Deco building. Photo via Aaron Burson/Unsplash.

4. Art Deco & Architecture Midtown Landmarks Tour

This Art Deco tour in NYC will take you to some of the most iconic buildings in Midtown Manhattan that exemplify the Art Deco style, which flourished in New York during the 1920s and 1930s.

On this walking tour, you’ll make stops at the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Chanin Building, the Fred F. French Building, Rockefeller Center, and more.

Not only will you get up close and personal with the exteriors of these buildings, but this tour also includes many indoor stops, allowing you to really take in all of the Art Deco details.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

cityscape view of NYC's Tribeca neighborhood, including the famous Jenga building
Tribeca is home to a lot of interesting architecture. Photo: Sebastiaan Stam via Pexels.

5. Tribeca Architecture & History Walking Tour

On this Manhattan architecture tour, you’ll discover the downtown neighborhood of Tribeca and its many architectural gems.

With over 300 years of history, Tribeca is one of New York City’s oldest neighborhoods.

It’s also one of its priciest, known for its ultra-luxury apartment buildings where many celebrities live.

Led by a knowledgeable guide, this excursion will take you to famous neighborhood landmarks — from the firehouse featured in the Ghostbusters movie to the striking “Jenga Building” at 56 Leonard Street.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

seeing the Atlas Statue at Rockefeller Center on a New York City architectural tour
Explore iconic architecture at Rockefeller Center. Photo via Jessie Festa.

6. Rockefeller Center Architecture & Art Walking Tour

Rockefeller Center is one of the most visited places in New York City, with millions of visitors coming every winter to gawk at the enormous Christmas tree erected in the central plaza of the complex.

Although Rockefeller Center is synonymous with Christmas in NYC, many people don’t know much else about the fascinating history of this attraction, which is anchored by the iconic Art Deco tower of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

On this NYC architecture tour, you’ll learn more about Rockefeller Center and the murals, sculptures, bas-reliefs, and other decorative features that adorn it.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

walking through Grand Central Terminal during an architecture tour of New York City
Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Photo via Ahmer Kalam/Unsplash.

7. Secrets Of Grand Central Walking Tour

Grand Central Terminal is a grand Beaux-Arts train station in Manhattan that more than 750,000 people pass through daily.

However, few commuters and visitors take the time to stop and appreciate the details of this train station, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.

Luckily, that all changes for those who choose to book this tour, which lets its guests in on some of the site’s top secrets.

Moreover, the experience covers the intriguing history of Grand Central, from its heyday to its decline to its modern-day restored state.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

view of the landmarked Empire State Building as seen from the High Line in Manhattan
The High Line in Chelsea, Manhattan. Photo via Max Harlynking/Unsplash.

8. Chelsea Architecture & Art Tour with Award Winning NYC Guide

On this architecture tour of NYC, you’ll explore one of Manhattan’s coolest and most dynamic neighborhoods: Chelsea.

This walking tour covers notable works of architecture from famous “starchitects” like Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, and Zaha Hadid.

Led by a knowledgeable local guide, you’ll have the chance to explore the neighborhood on foot, including a walk on the High Line, a former elevated train track turned into a park.

You’ll also pop into several art galleries that the neighborhood of Chelsea is known for to experience the latest exhibits.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

woman posing on the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York’s most famous landmarks. Photo via Jessie Festa.

9. Secrets Of The Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour

If you’re looking for a Brooklyn architecture walking tour, this is a great option.

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most striking architectural icons in New York City, and no visit to the city would be complete without taking its beauty.

On this unique tour, you’ll learn about its history, including lesser-known facts and little-known stories.

Not only that, but you’ll have opportunities to photograph this NYC architectural marvel from an array of perspectives.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

Gilded Age mansion with yellow taxis out front on the Upper East Side of New York City
A Gilded Age mansion on the Upper East Side. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

10. Fifth Avenue Gilded Age Mansions Tour

This is one of the best architecture tours in New York City that showcases the opulence of the Gilded Age that occurred during the late 19th century.

On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Fifth Avenue was known as “Millionaire’s Row” for the wealthy families who lived in extravagant mansions lining the street across from Central Park.

This walking tour explores some of the most iconic Gilded Age mansions that still exist today, and covers the fascinating history and outrageous stories of the families who called them home.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

seeing the Flatiron Building on a self-guided Iconic Architecture of NYC tour
See the Flatiron Building on a self-guided Iconic Architecture of NYC scavenger hunt. Photo via Kai Pilger/Pexels.

11. Iconic Architecture NYC: “Secrets of the Skyline” Exploration Game

If you’re looking for an NYC architecture tour that is self-guided, this is a great one to check out.

As you solve puzzles on your phone, the scavenger hunt-style game unlocks your next clue — leading you to some of New York City’s most iconic buildings.

You’ll discover landmark structures like the Flatiron Building, lesser-known spots like the Moxy Hotel, and the impressive works of architect Zaha Hadid on this self-guided NYC architecture tour.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

NYC subway leaving the train station
Explore the history of NYC underground. Photo via Jenna Day/Unsplash.

12. NYC’s Underground Subway Tour

One of the most unique New York architecture tours to book is this subway excursion that takes you underground to discover the history of the local subway system.

You’ll see remnants of the Pneumatic Transit System — the precursor to the current subway — and will even ride a subway train through the abandoned City Hall Station with your knowledgeable local guide.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

Best New York City Architectural Tours By Boat

Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor with the NYC skyline in the background
Sail around New York on an architecture cruise. Photo via Akhil Pawar/Unsplash.

13. Statue of Liberty & Skyline Sightseeing Cruise

An architecture boat tour in NYC is one of the best ways to take in the city’s stunning architecture.

On this scenic excursion in particular, you’ll be able to discover Manhattan’s skyline from a new vantage point.

Sip an included drink as you sail down the Hudson River and through New York Harbor, taking in views of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge from the solarium or open-air deck of your boat.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

view of the landmarked NYC Brooklyn Bridge above the East River
The Brooklyn Bridge. Photo via Alexander Rotker/Unsplash.

14. Manhattan Architecture Yacht Cruise

Looking for unforgettable Manhattan skyline tours? You’ll love this top pick!

This is another great architecture cruise in NYC that is perfect for anyone who wants to gain an in-depth understanding of the city’s architecture.

Led by an American Institute of Architects-certified guide, the AINY Around Manhattan architecture cruise will take you past some of New York’s most famous buildings.

On this AIA boat tour in NYC, you’ll travel on a 1920s-style yacht as you learn about New York City’s architectural wonders.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

Best New York City Architectural Tours By Helicopter

feet dangling out of a helicopter architectural tour of New York City with a view of the Statue of Liberty below
Get a bird’s eye view of NYC architecture on a helicopter tour. Photo via Florian Wehde/Unsplash.

15. New York Helicopter Tour: Manhattan, Brooklyn & Staten Island

One of the best architecture tours in NYC you can take if you’re looking for a truly unforgettable experience is a helicopter tour.

Unlike regular NY architecture tours, this top-rated excursion lets you see New York from a unique vantage point: the sky!

You’ll fly high above the city on your helicopter tour, where you’ll be able to spot the spires of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, and more — as well as see New York landmarks like Central Park from above.

➡️ Click here for more information and to book.

Tips For Choosing A New York City Architectural Tour

When deciding which NY architectural tour to book, consider:

Your budget. New York City architectural tours vary greatly in terms of price. If you’re on an extreme budget, opt for a self-guided tour (like this one). Or, if you have a bit more money to spend, you might choose one of the many boat tours or helicopter tours that can introduce you to NYC’s architecture.

Your interests. Are you looking for an in-depth tour focused on learning about NYC architecture, or more of a laid-back excursion with great views? Consider this before booking.

Your preferred mode of transport. Do you like walking, boat, or helicopter tours? Or, maybe you’d prefer to peruse New York City limo tours that showcase the beauty of NYC? Pinpointing this can help you decide which architectural tour of New York is best for you.

Specific NYC buildings you want to learn about. Many people visiting NYC have a favorite local landmark, whether that is the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Flatiron Building, One World Trade Center, Grand Central Terminal, or, our personal favorite, the Chrysler Building. These gorgeous buildings are some of the main reasons why NYC is so popular, too.

Of course, there are also non-touristy places in NYC where you can learn about lesser-known architectural gems, too.

For instance, did you know that SoHo is home to the world’s largest collection of full and partial cast-iron buildings in the world? That’s definitely something worth exploring on an architecture tour of New York City!

Belvedere Castle in Central Park at sunset
Exploring NYC architecture in Central Park on a warm summer day. Photo via Jessie Festa.

Best Time To Book An Architecture Tour In New York City

There really is no wrong time to head out on an NYC architectural tour, as excursions run year-round. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing when to book:

To enjoy the best temperatures on a New York City architectural tour, book in fall. It isn’t as rainy as spring or summer, and the weather is often mild and sunny. Plus, the city is wrapped in a warm glow from the changing foliage, which can make for extra beautiful shots when photographing NYC’s iconic buildings.

Wondering where to take the best photos in New York City? Head to Central Park, where you can get skyline views from spots like the Gapstow Bridge, Bow Bridge, and the Great Lawn with the colorful fall foliage in the foreground.

Additionally, if you want to avoid the crowds, the first three weeks of November tend be quieter, with mild weather making the outdoors enjoyable.

After that, the holiday season brings a huge influx of tourists. Despite the cold, visiting New York City in winter often means battling crowds of people who have come to see the holiday lights and Rockefeller Tree.

Spring and summer can also be great times to visit and explore NYC architecture. Just note that these seasons can be rainy, and summer in particular can be very hot. That being said, if you’re interested in an architectural boat tour of New York City, summer is the perfect season.

Finally, while winter can be extremely cold, the plus side is you can beat the crowds. NYC’s slow tourist season is January through March.

Hotels With Iconic NYC Architecture Views

Looking to book a hotel with views of beautiful New York City buildings? Check out the:

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

Prefer self-contained stays? 

Click here to check out unique local rentals!

You can also use this map to search for unique local stays. 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 numerous properties that allow you to live in a hotel full time in NYC with extended stay offerings.

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.

Final Thoughts On Booking A New York City Architecture Tour

An architecture tour of NYC is a great way to explore the city and learn about some of the local landmarks and iconic sites from a licensed guide.

And no matter when you visit, you can enjoy these types of excursions.

Just make sure to book a tour that fits your interests and budget, and it can very well become the most memorable aspect of your trip!

Which of these best New York City architectural tours are you most excited to do?

*Featured image of the skyline featuring NYC architecture by Roberto Vivancos for Pexels

About Dale P.

Dale is a native New Yorker and an NYC-based travel writer and blogger. She loves sharing insider tips about New York City travel and other destinations with others.

Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

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