As one of the world’s most famous metropolises, New York City has long beguiled filmmakers, authors and photographers who strive to capture its beautiful architecture and indomitable spirit. While you might not be creating the next great cinematic ode to NYC, there’s a good chance you’ll be inspired to at least document your trip on social media.
Here’s our guide to 10 of the most iconic Instagram spots in the Big Apple, with a local's tips on how to get images that will impress your followers and boost those likes.
1. Top of the Rock
Sure, you can go up to the top of the Empire State Building to get a sweeping shot of Manhattan in all directions, but there’ll be one key thing missing from your photo: the Empire State Building. For a far superior view, stroll 16 blocks north (about a 20-minute walk) to Rockefeller Plaza and get your ticket for Top of the Rock. Once you’ve reached the 67th floor, climb the stairs to the third-level observatory for a stunning vista overlooking Central Park in one direction and Lower Manhattan (including the Empire State Building) in the other.
2. The Oculus
Though the exterior of NYC's newest PATH station and shopping hub is a bit contentious (not everyone loves its abstract shape resembling a winged dove), the Oculus by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava makes for an undeniably striking image. But it’s the interior that has become beloved by Instagrammers, who head to the upper level of the mall to capture the futuristic rib-like skylight that makes up the ceiling.
3. Brooklyn Bridge
For a classic capture of the Brooklyn Bridge, head to Pebble Beach in the riverside Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo, which gives you an uninterrupted view of the length of the bridge with the Manhattan skyline as its backdrop. Sunset is the best time to snap your photo, with the glow of twilight behind the city, but be warned that you’ll likely be competing with a wedding party or two. If your style is more artistic, walk up onto the bridge itself for a picture of its magnificent cabled arches (just stick to the left-hand side of the walkway, otherwise you might get plowed over by a cyclist).
4. Manhattan Bridge from Dumbo
There’s a good chance this famous view has popped up in your Instagram feed at least once. Stand at the intersection of Water Street and Washington Street in Dumbo, and you’ll see the Manhattan Bridge perfectly framed by two red-brick warehouses. For the real money shot, try to line it up so that the Empire State Building is in the far distance between the legs of the bridge.
5. Flatiron Building
One of the city’s more unusual pieces of architecture, the Flatiron Building can be hard to shoot because its perspective changes dramatically depending on where you’re standing. For a view that captures its triangular shape, stand a little further back on the traffic island where Fifth Avenue veers off into 24th Street. Or to snap the building’s eastern flank, position yourself on the edge of Madison Square Park (you can also include some foliage in your frame from this vantage point). Avoid taking your photo early in the morning unless you want the shadows of other buildings cast across the Flatiron’s facade. And while you’re in Madison Square Park, stop for a bite (if you’re willing to brave the queue) at the original Shake Shack location. Or, for a more classic side of New York, head to the vintage 1929 luncheonette, Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, on Fifth Avenue.
6. Times Square
Love it or hate it, Times Square is part of New York City’s identity. But unless you want hordes of tourists in your frame, it can be hard to get a good photo of the neon heart of the Theater District. So instead, slip into the lobby of the New York Marriott Marquis and take the elevator up to the 8th-floor Broadway Lounge, where you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of Times Square. For an even better vantage point (albeit on the fancier side), book a table at The View revolving restaurant on the hotel’s 48th floor.
7. Chrysler Building
You can get a great photo of the Chrysler Building, with a typical NYC streetscape in front of it, by walking north along the left side of Lexington Avenue from about 37th Street. But for an almost unobstructed full-length pic of the elegant Art Deco skyscraper, walk all the way up to the northeast corner of 44th Street and Third Ave. The best thing? Most tourists don’t know about this spot, so you won’t be competing for elbow room while trying to get your perfect Instagram angle.
8. Grand Central Station
When you’re done reliving your favorite movie scenes in the main concourse of Grand Central Station, take a few moments to marvel at the glorious Beaux Arts architecture of the building. For an all-encompassing shot of the hustle and bustle, walk up to either the east or west balcony to capture the scene below (tip: the constant stream of people coming and going makes a great Boomerang). Or if the finer details are more your thing, snap one of the several splendid chandeliers or the opal-faced clock (rumored to be worth more than $10 million) atop the information booth. Try to take your photos during the day to make the most of the natural light filtering through the enormous arched windows.
9. The Brownstone Stoop
Few vignettes are as quintessentially New York City as the brownstone stoop, and the great thing about this photo is that it’s the easiest to get – because your options are endless. While you can head to the West Village to take your picture, you’ll find yourself alongside a lot of other tourists. Instead, choose one of the many Brooklyn neighborhoods known for their brownstones, like Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene or Clinton Hill. You’ll not only see the locals socializing on their stoops during the warmer months, but you’ll probably also snag a book or two – people leave their unwanted tomes on the stairs for anybody who might want them.
10. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir
Really, you could spend a whole day Instagramming in Central Park, but for an especially picturesque view, take stroll along the eastern bank of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. From there you’ll be able to capture the classic skyline of the Upper West Side, with the expansive body of water in the foreground. And on your way back to the subway, stop outside Frank Lloyd Wright’s mesmerizing Guggenheim museum for a bonus shot for your feed.
Looking for something original? Let the Lonely Planet locals introduce you to up-and-coming neighbourhoods around the world with unique culinary and artistic subcultures.