Empire State Building

Top choice historic building in Midtown

Image by Giorgio Fochesato 500px Images

This limestone classic was built in just 410 days – using seven million hours of labor during the Great Depression – and the views from its 86th-floor outdoor deck and 102nd-floor indoor deck are heavenly. Alas, the queues to the top are notorious. Getting here very early or very late will help you avoid delays – as will buying your tickets ahead of time online, where the extra $2 convenience fee is well worth the hassle it will save.

As one would expect, the views from both decks are especially spectacular at sunset. For a little of that 'Arthur's Theme' magic, head to the 86th floor between 9pm and 1am Thursday to Saturday, when the twinkling sea of lights is accompanied by a soundtrack of live saxophone (requests are welcome).

Located on the site of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the 1454ft-high (to the top of the antenna) behemoth opened in 1931 after the laying of 10 million bricks, installation of 6400 windows and setting of 328,000 sq ft of marble. The construction of the building is now expertly explained in the mezzanine 'Dare to Dream' exhibition above the W 34th St entrance. The famous antenna was originally meant to be a mooring mast for zeppelins, but the Hindenberg disaster slammed the brakes on that plan. Later an aircraft did (accidentally) meet up with the building: a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor on a foggy day in 1945, killing 14 people.

Since 1976, the building’s top 30 floors have been floodlit in a spectrum of colors each night, reflecting seasonal and holiday hues. Famous combos include orange, white and green for St Patrick’s Day; blue and white for Chanukah; white, red and green for Christmas; and the rainbow colors for Gay Pride weekend in June. For a full rundown of the color schemes, check the website.

A tour app is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean.