Some of the world’s most iconic buildings are located in New York. Even though the world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago, New York has surpassed the Windy City in terms of height, fame and world importance.
Here is a list of ten famous buildings in New York that are worth putting on your sightseeing trip of the Big Apple. All of the below buildings, apart from the UN HQ, are US National Historic Landmarks.
FAMOUS BUILDINGS IN NEW YORK
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING:
Located at the junction of West 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building is the tallest building on this list. Construction on this Art Deco skyscraper began during the Great Depression, opening in 1931. Stunning views of Manhattan can be had from the Main Deck on the 86th floor. On a clear day, views beyond New York City can be seen from the Top Deck on 102nd floor. The spire at the top is lit a different colour for different celebrations.
Another Art Deco construct from the Great Depression era, the Chrysler Building is located at the junction of Lexington Avenue with East 42nd and East 43rd streets. Its tiered stainless steel crown is instantly recognisable.
The Rockefeller Center is a complex of multi-purpose buildings dating back to the 1930s. The centre is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues between 48th and 51st Streets. The original buildings are in an Art Deco style.
The flagship building is the skyscraper at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, nicknamed 30 Rock, home to NBC studios and the Top of the Rock observation deck. The famous Lunch atop a Skyscraper photo was taken during the construction of 30 Rock. The centre’s skating rink is one of the most photographed in the US.
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL:
Opened in 1879, St. Patrick’s is the largest Catholic cathedral in New York. Located on Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets (across the road from the Rockefeller Center), the Gothic-style cathedral is dwarfed by the neighbouring skyscrapers and is named after Ireland’s Patron Saint. The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) usually attends mass at the cathedral prior to the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Opened in 1902, the Flatiron building is one of New York’s most unique. Located between Broadway and 23rd Street overlooking Madison Square Park, its mesmerising shape resembles a clothes iron.
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY:
The main headquarters of the New York Public Library is a stunning Beaux-Arts construct located on Fifth Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets. Also known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman building, the library opened in 1911 and hosts regular exhibitions.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL:
Grand Central Terminal is one of the most visited sites in the city along with being a functioning transit hub. It has the largest number of platforms of any train station in the world (44) and is the second-busiest train station in the US. Its Beaux-Arts design is striking and the main concourse is the perfect people-watching location. The station has featured in a number of films.
SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM:
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, this art museum has a unique cylindrical beehive shape. It is located at the junction of Fifth Avenue and East 89th Street. It has a large collection of Impressionist paintings and hosts regular exhibitions. This is the only building on my list that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS:
While it’s not New York’s prettiest building, it is one of New York’s most important buildings. Co-funded by JD Rockefeller, it overlooks the East River between East 42nd and East 48th Streets. The UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council meet here. The site is governed by the UN (i.e. not US soil) but an agreement is in place with the US government for local services and currency use.
WALL STREET STOCK EXCHANGE:
Opened in 1903, this building is the location for the US Stock Exchange and, by default, the centre of world commerce. Built in a Neo-Classical style, it is located at 11 Wall Street. It’s not possible to visit the Stock Exchange building but the museum and gold vault at the nearby Federal Reserve Bank of New York (Liberty Street) is open for guided tours.
You’re wondering why the Statue of Liberty is not on this list of famous buildings in New York. The city’s most iconic landmark has been omitted as it’s considered a sculpture.
In compiling this list, I’ve included a variety of structures that represent the cultural, economic and social aspect of New York. I’ve also balanced the number of skyscrapers with low-rise historic buildings. In doing so, I hope I’ve done this wonderful city justice.
Have you visited New York? Are you a native New Yorker? What other buildings would you put on this list? I would love to hear your thoughts below.
For essential travel information on the US have a look at my Things to know before visiting America post.