By Charlotte Dow & Jessie Festa. This article originally appeared on Jessie on a Journey.
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.
We’ve scoped out some of the best viewpoints in NYC that will save your wallet and liven up your Insta grid.
Read on for more!
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. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.
The Best Views In Manhattan
1. Take in a royal view of Central Park at Belvedere Castle
If you’re looking for free and cheap things to do in NYC, Central Park is full of complimentary attractions and experiences.
For instance, the recently-restored Gothic/Romanesque-style Belvedere Castle — just a short walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art —features a visitor’s center and observation deck with incredible views of the Ramble and Turtle Pond.
Alternatively, you can picnic near Turtle Pond, one of the most romantic spots in Central Park, to enjoy an amazing view looking back up at the castle!Did you know there is a castle in #CentralPark? It offers some incredible #NYC views, along with these 20 other attractions! Click To Tweet
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.
East River Park on the Brooklyn side of the East River also boasts incredible views, as you can see here on Instagram.
3. Pair Central Park views with luxury shopping at the Shops at Columbus Circle
Visiting Manhattan in the winter and want a great view of Central Park without having to step outside?
Head to the Shops at Columbus Circle 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.
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.
The park’s location makes it the perfect spot for sunset photos.Here are some great spots in #NYC to take sunset photos + Instagram pictures! #VisitNYC Click To Tweet
5. Visit New York’s favorite angel at Bethesda Terrace
This iconic New York landmark is located in the heart of Central Park, near the 72nd Street entrances.
Here you’ll find great views of the historic Bethesda Fountain, Central Park Lake (and its many rowboats), and the famous Boathouse Restaurant.
Get here early in the day for the best photos, as this popular meeting spot attracts big crowds in the warmer months.
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!
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.
It is just one reason the entire building is a playground for history buffs and fans of the Beaux-Arts architecture style.Did you know you can stargaze in #GrandCentral Terminal? It's one of the many gorgeous places in #NYC! In fact, here are 21 photo-worthy suggestions. Click To Tweet
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.
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.
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.
9. Take the tram over to Roosevelt Island for amazing aerial views of the East River & Manhattan
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.
10. See the best views in NYC for free from a distance on 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.
Best Views In Brooklyn
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 features a pedestrian walkway so you can safely cross while taking in the sights.
There are several points along the way to rest and get the perfect shots for Instagram.Check out this must-visit photo spot along #NYC's #BrooklynBridge -- plus 20 other beautiful viewpoints! Click To Tweet
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.This new waterfront park in #Brooklyn is a must-visit if you're looking for #NYCViews! Click To Tweet
Along with exploring other nearby waterfront parks, there are many quirky things to do in Williamsburg that can enhance a visit.
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.
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.
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.
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. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.
Best Views In Queens
17. Check out the best view of Manhattan from Queens in Long Island City
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.Here are the best views in #NYC -- for free -- in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens & Jersey City! #VisitNYC Click To Tweet
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.
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.
Best NYC Views From The Water
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.
This gives passengers an opportunity to get amazing shots of this symbol of freedom — without having to spend a dime!
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. Or step your game up even further with an NYC Influencer Shoot. Email [email protected] with inquiries.
Best NYC Views From Jersey City
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.One reason #JerseyCity rocks? The views of #NYC! Check out these photos for proof. Click To Tweet
You can use your Metrocard to swipe in on the PATH, too!
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.
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:
- Private NYC Photo Journey
- NYC Influencer Shoot
- Bushwick Beers, Bites & Art #InstaWalk
- New York City Scenic Helicopter Flight
- New York City Harbor Lights Cruise
- Alive After Five Happy Hour Cruise
- Circle Line: Bear Mountain Full-Day Cruise
- Long Island Wine Tour from Manhattan
What are some of your favorite views in New York City for free?
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