Ah, New York City! Millions of people flock to this concrete jungle every year for its phenomenal art, architectural splendor, and world-famous vistas. If you’re looking for the best views of NYC for free, you’re in for a visual treat: no matter where you turn your gaze in this iconic city, there’s guaranteed eye candy.
From the far-reaching river views of the Brooklyn Bridge to the stunning verdant cityscapes that Central Park affords, those searching for free views in New York and doing it for the ‘gram’ will have their work cut out for them.
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Before touring New York City
A word for the wise before soaking in the sights: New York City can be a massive pain in the pocket. Notorious for being the most expensive city in the U.S. for both residents and travelers, sightseeing on a budget can be a real challenge!
Know, however, that stellar views of New York City do not require access to criminally expensive rooftop bars; several of this urban jungle’s best sights can be explored without spending a penny (or close enough).
If you’re on a budget or looking for a bargain, here’s a list of the best views in NYC for free chosen according to their popularity.
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If you’re looking for scenic viewpoints of New York City, Central Park is a great place to start. This 800-acre urban public park is located in the heart of New York City’s busy island of Manhattan.
Because of its numerous groomed pathways and hidden wonders, Central Park is a favorite among residents and visitors alike.
For majestic views of Central Park, head to Belvedere Castle. Built in 1869, this castle contains one of the Central Park tourist centers. You’ll get a magnificent view of the reservoir, various parts of Central Park, and the surrounding Midtown metropolis from the very top.
There’s also a pond nearby where, from your elevated vantage point in Central Park, you might be able to spot some turtles. If you can locate an area that isn’t crowded with other visitors, it’s a terrific site for photography!
Head to the Mall in Central Park, a pedestrian walkway dotted with elm trees and park benches that leads to the Bethesda Terrace, for a calm atmosphere. A fountain and a lake may be seen from this terrace. Try exploring north of the Metropolitan Museum where it feels less like a tourist spot!
Looking for the best night views in NYC for free? The Brooklyn Bridge tops this list of being the most visually stunning once the sun sets.
The East River span is 1,595 feet long, but the bridge is 5,989 feet long from one end to the other. It also has a 1.6-kilometer pedestrian walkway where you may traverse safely while admiring the sights. There are various opportunities to stop and take photos along the way.
You may stroll from Manhattan to Brooklyn or from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. Alternatively, to travel between the two boroughs and catch more awesome views of Brooklyn Bridge, you can cross the (somewhat less pretty) Manhattan Bridge.
Both ways are gorgeous, but if you opt to stroll from Brooklyn to Manhattan, you will be treated to a stunning New York skyline vista. The Brooklyn Bridge is open 24 hours a day and is lovely at any time, but sunsets are especially magnificent!
This way, you can enjoy panoramic views of both Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as the Statue of Liberty, while the sun is still shining, and then watch as the sites come alive with lights!
Brooklyn Bridge Park
A park with the same name may be found beneath the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and past the Brooklyn Bridge: the stunning waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park has undulating hills, riverside promenades, beautiful gardens, and stunning city vistas. Thousands of people visit each week to take in the breathtaking sights of Manhattan and the charming picnic sites along the riverfront.
The park is divided into piers, and each has its own unique qualities. Pier 1 offers a playground, as well as panoramic views of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor.
In a nutshell, Pier 2 is the sports area. Come here to play basketball, handball, or go roller skating. The park’s own sandy beach may be found at Pier 4. A tobacco storehouse and two 19th-century buildings are also included in the park.
The entrance to Brooklyn Bridge Park is free, and the bulk of the activities are also free. Fees may apply to facilities not administered by BBP, such as the Roller Rink, Jane’s Carousel, or The Cliffs.
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Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a pedestrian walkway along the East River in Brooklyn’s northeast part. It provides visitors with one of the greatest views over Lower Manhattan and its environs.
This esplanade, which is not to be confused with the promenade of the Brooklyn Bridge, is about 1800 feet long and runs over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
The views from the promenade are one of the most photographed sights in the city, attracting both visitors and residents. Lower Manhattan, featuring 40 Wall Street, the World Trade Center, and Brooklyn Bridge, is the major vista.
Visitors will also get to enjoy breathtaking views of the New York Harbor, featuring the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governor’s Island. It’s also free and has a magnificent view at night. In fact, it’s one of the best views of NYC for free!
People who work in the neighborhood can be spotted eating lunch while sitting on the benches that line the Promenade on weekdays. If you’re passing by, one of the best ways to enjoy the sights is to purchase take-out food from Montague Street and dine with a view at the Promenade!
Staten Island Ferry
There are several must-see sites in New York City, but the Staten Island Ferry is undoubtedly one of the greatest. Because the ferry is completely free and offers some of the greatest views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline, making this one of the best budget visits is a no-brainer.
The Staten Island Ferry has been transporting people between Manhattan and Staten Island for free since 1997. The trip isn’t the only thing that’s free here, though. The views from the ferry are also free and incredibly spectacular, particularly if you get a decent seat.
The opportunity to obtain a close look at the Statue of Liberty and the magnificent sights of the Lower Manhattan cityscape is without a doubt the pleasure of riding the Staten Island Ferry.
The Statue of Liberty will be viewable from the right side of the boat when sailing to Staten Island. It’s also worth mentioning that, while the monument can be seen from both ways, it’s significantly closer to the path followed by Staten Island ferries.
The boat runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a travel time of roughly 25 minutes. During peak hours, ferries run every 15 to 20 minutes, and other services run every 30 minutes.
Gantry Plaza State Park
If scenic views of New York City and midtown Manhattan are what you’re looking for, Gantry Plaza State Park should be included in your itinerary.
The Empire State Building and the United Nations can be seen from Gantry Plaza State Park, a 12-acre riverbank sanctuary with breathtaking vistas of the midtown Manhattan cityscape. Meander along the park’s four piers or through the groomed gardens and distinctive mist fountain.
Gantry Plaza State Park is an excellent site to enjoy concerts with the New York City skyline as a background. This is also a great spot for the physically active thanks to its variety of recreation facilities including playgrounds, basketball courts, handball courts, and a fishing pier.
The Pepsi-Cola sign located on the north side of the park can be seen from the entirety of Manhattan’s east side and is one of the most enduring symbols of Long Island City.
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Governors Island was a former military stronghold that saw action during two wars: the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. It was also utilized by the Coast Guard until the mid-1990s. Today, however, 172-acre island has now grown into a recreational haven just off the coast of Lower Manhattan.
Those looking to unwind may enjoy a free seven-minute boat journey to an excellent location where they can cycle with rented bikes or their own, picnic incredible views, or take part in free programs such as concerts, art exhibitions, and athletic activities.
The Hills, a popular topographic project located in the spot, is made up of four mounds, each of which provides breathtaking views of New York City’s skyline, Statue of Liberty, and Lower Manhattan.
Kids and kids-at-heart will want to visit The Hills not just to enjoy the breathtaking vistas, but also to slide down Slide Hill’s 57-foot slide, which is the longest in New York City.
There are public art pieces all across the island specifically on Discovery Hill and the walls of Our Lady Star of the Sea church, both outside and inside.
Roosevelt Island, which was once restricted to the public, now houses a residential neighborhood as well as a variety of parks and landmarks. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, built by Louis Kahn, is located on the island’s southern tip and offers public programs and family-oriented events.
Visitors will find a variety of historical sights in Roosevelt Island, including the Renwick Ruin, once a smallpox hospital, the Octagon tower, once a mental hospital; and a 19th-century lighthouse from where visitors can get breathtaking, Instagram-worthy free views of the breathtaking NYC skyline.
Visitors may board the Roosevelt Island Tram at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue for the price of a metro ticket and traverse the East River in as little as three minutes.
As you ride 3100 feet above the Roosevelt Island Tram, you can enjoy stunning sights of the New York City skyline and get exceptional views of the East River. Take a seat near the window for incredible views!
Southpoint Park offers plenty of open areas and greenery if you want to get away from the crowds. It is a terrific area to sit and enjoy the spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline!
Liberty State Park
While Liberty State Park in New Jersey is outside of New York City, the views of the city from there are spectacular. Liberty State Park is one of the most stunning parks in the state, with a breathtaking background of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.
Not only does Liberty State Park have one of the nicest views of New York City, but it also has one of the most affecting memorials in the city, the Empty Sky Memorial. This memorial honors the victims of 9/11 in New Jersey.
Liberty Walk is a two-mile promenade that connects two picnic and playground areas, the Nature Center, and the CRRNJ Terminal while providing visitors with a panoramic view of the Hudson River and Lady Liberty.
It’s a welcoming setting for all sorts of activities in wide-open fields, kilometers of paths, and an outdoor performance space. For spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty, just continue walking down the promenade!
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Tudor Bridge and Tudor City
Head to Tudor City for the best views of NYC for free! Tudor City provides a variety of entertainment alternatives for the price of, well, nothing.
Two attractions offer a superb opportunity to wander around the enclave for free: you can stare in amazement at the gigantic Tudor City sign on top of Prospect Tower or tour the Church of Covenant which was completed in 1871.
The sights along 42nd Street from the Tudor City Bridge, on the other hand, is without a doubt the location’s most Instagrammable feature. Visit this spot during sunset to see the streets and buildings bathed with golden light.
Once you’ve had your fill of views from the bridge, make your way to Tudor’s city’s secret gardens. The Tudor City Greens, a privately held region that has been conserved since Tudor City was founded in the 1920s, is a great place for peaceful meditation.
The verdant gardens are divided by 42nd Street and feature Japanese maple, magnolias, lavender, and azaleas for both visitors and residents.
On Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line is an elevated freight train line that has been converted into a public park. The City of New York owns it, and Friends of the High Line maintains and operates it.
Spring and summer are the best times to visit the High Line since the flowers are in full bloom.
Admire the one-of-a-kind artwork, stunning murals, and revolving sculptures, or simply go people-watching! One of the greatest views of New York City can also be seen from this vantage point!
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Joshua Lagandaon is a writer from the Philippines. He has been writing professionally for more than a decade after taking a Creative Writing degree at the Philippines’ prestigious Ateneo de Manila University. He writes for local travel, fashion, and lifestyle magazines while dabbling in theater and the arts.