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Climbing the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the most mythical buildings of the New York Skyline. If you want to get tickets to climb the Empire State and see the city from a bird's eye view, read on!

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

11 min read

Climbing the Empire State Building

Views from the Empire State Building | ©Hellotickets

Visiting the iconic Empire State Building is an experience you have to include in your trip to New York. It is a jewel of Art Deco, inside and out, and the exhibitions it houses and its views of the city will not leave you indifferent.

My first tip is to get your tickets in advance: this will save you from waiting in line to buy tickets, although you will have to wait in line at the security checkpoint.

The best option

Empire State Building Tickets

Access to the mythical Empire State Building, at the best price

This is the most convenient option to climb to the top of the city, with a choice of times and the lowest possible price. Don't waste time at the ticket office and get it online!

The Empire State has two observation decks, one on the 86th floor and one on the 102nd floor. With this general admission ticket to the Empire State you get access to the 86th floor and my advice is not to pay the extra fee to access the top deck, it' s not worth it.

Something you should keep in mind is that the price of admission goes up in high season, and therefore, you will find a greater number of tourists in its observatory. Remember that children under 6 years old are free.

When you receive the confirmation, check to see if you have to bring your printed tickets (at least when I went up last time, they did not accept electronic tickets). If so, and for some reason you can't print them, don't worry, you can print them at the machines at the entrance, but you will have to wait in line.

Why I like this option: this is the cheapest option to go up to the Empire State and it allows you to do it at the time you want, so you can plan your visit with time (later I leave you tips on what is the best time of the day to go up).

Recommended if... you are eager to enjoy the Manhattan skyline from one of its most legendary buildings.

How much it costs to climb the Empire State Building

Empire State Observatory| @Hellotickets
Empire State Observatory| @Hellotickets

Booking your Empire State tickets online in advance you will pay around 39 Euros on Hellotickets. However, if you are traveling with children, in a group or you have access to a special rate, you may get better prices. If you are worried about your budget when organizing your visit to this mythical skyscraper, you can check my guide to Empire State tickets prices so you can see what rate you are entitled to and you can decide how to buy your tickets.

Box Office Prices

Buying tickets at the ticket office is also an option and the rate you will get will be the same, although as mentioned above, the queues can be very long (and you may run out of space to go up at the time you wanted).

Where is and how to get to the Empire State Building

Location map of the Empire State Building
Location map of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is located at 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001 and the best way to get there is either walking if you are downtown or by subway to 34 St - Herald Sq and down the street. You can't miss it! Wherever you are located, I have a plan for you. Check out this article on how to get to the Empire State where I propose different routes or itineraries depending on how much time you have, what your budget is or the desire to visit neighborhoods and other attractions around.

For example, near the iconic building, located in Midtown, you will have from Central Park and Times Square to other key points of the city as the Flatiron Building. Also nearby is the area known as Koreatown, full of bakeries, cafes, Korean barbecue restaurants and karaokes, as well as cosmetic stores with products imported directly from South Korea.

Best time to climb the Empire State Building

If you are trying to choose the best time to climb the Empire State Building to avoid lines and crowds, visit the Empire State Building in the morning. At 8:00 you'll hardly have to wait in line, and you'll enjoy an almost private experience any day of the week. Your other best option is to visit the building around 00:30, although on Saturdays and Sundays you are sure to encounter other tourists.

When buying your ticket you have to choose a day, when you can enter the Empire State Building at any time you want. I am a romantic and I think that going up first thing in the morning or at midnight is a fantasy, but you can choose the time you want, as it is open every day of the year without exception from 8 am to 2 am, and the last elevator up is at 1:15 am. Here's everything you need to know about the Empire State Building experience at night.

Alex's Traveller Tip

Did you know that the Empire State is open until 2am? Climb the Empire State late at night to be completely alone in front of the immensity of New York, it's worth it!

How long does it take to visit the Empire State Building

Empire State Building night view
Empire State Building night view

There is no time limit on your visit to the Empire State Building. Most people usually spend about an hour on the observation deck, but you can stay until closing if you feel like it.

In case you want to go up to the Empire State Building at sunset, my recommendation is to check what time the sun sets and go up to the observatory an hour before to get a good spot and enjoy the visit before it starts to fill up with tourists.

Something that distinguishes the Empire State from the rest of the skyscrapers in New York is that it is open until 2 am, allowing you to go almost any time you want. I'll let you in on a secret: climbing to the top of the building after a party and a night walk around New York is at the top of my plans.

Climbing the Empire State with the New York Pass and other tourist cards

The entrance to the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets
The entrance to the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets

The Empire State Building is, without a doubt, one of the most demanded points of interest in the Big Apple and therefore, its entrance is included in most of the tourist passes that exist to visit the city. Do you still don't know what a tourist card is or how it works?

In a nutshell, it is a card that you book in advance for a "flat rate" and will give you access to various attractions in the city, allowing you to save time (skipping the lines at the ticket office) and money.

As I mentioned, most of these cards offer admission to the Empire State Building. Here is a list of these cards and the links to my practical guide for each one. But if you are thinking about buying a card, I recommend you to read this article about the comparison of New York tourist passes.

List of passes that include the Empire State

  • New York CityPASSThe New York CityPASS gives you the option of climbing the Empire State Building on up to two different occasions, so you can enjoy the views both day and night.
  • New York PassNew York CityPASS: The New York City Pass is bookable by the day and gives you access to over 100 attractions, including the Empire State Building.
  • New York Sightseeing PassThe Sightseeing Pass is also bookable on a daily basis (and is the only one that also includes the One World Observatory).
  • New York Explorer PassThe price of this pass depends on the number of attractions you want to book, the Empire State being one of them.

My personal advice

If you can't decide on a time to go up the iconic skyscraper, I recommend buying the New York CityPASS and going up in the morning for a hustle-free , uncrowded experience and returning at sunset to enjoy the views.

To visit the Empire State Building with your New York CityPASS, simply go to the building and enter through the specially designated door for visitors with a New York City Pass.

What the observatory looks like

Times Square from the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets
Times Square from the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets

From the Empire State Observatory, you can look through the famous binoculars and watch life go by in New York, with views of Bryant Park, the Flatiron Building, Fifth Avenue, One World Trade Center and of course admire the majesty of Manhattan's buildings as a whole.

What you will see from the Empire State

Views from the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets
Views from the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets

From the moment of its inauguration in 1931, the Empire State Building became the star of the New York skyline, and an attraction for tourists who climbed to its observation deck. This is what you can see from the top of the Empire State Building:

  • Bryant Park
  • Flatiron Building
  • Fifth Avenue
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Chrysler Building
  • One World Trade Center
  • Times Square
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Brooklyn Bridge

Where to eat around the Empire State Building

Strolling around the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets
Strolling around the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets

If heights make you hungry and you like to know in advance where to eat, near the Empire State there are a few restaurants you'll want to try. You can, for example, head over to Koreatown and try Turntable Chicken Jazz or BCD Tofu House where you'll find vegetarian options.

My personal recommendation is to walk a bit in the direction of the Chrysler Building and go to Urbanspace Vanderbilt, a warehouse-turned-market with stalls of all kinds of food. Still, if you feel like organizing your gastronomic journey, take a look at this list of where to eat near the Empire State Building.

Visit the Empire State with kids

Exhibits inside the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets
Exhibits inside the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets

If you are visiting the Empire State with children, it is best to go as early as possible in the morning. They will let you in with backpacks, as long as they are the size of a typical backpack with handles, and if you have a stroller they will most likely make you fold it up to go up to the observation deck.

When you get to the Empire State you can have your picture taken and then buy it as a souvenir. It costs about 20 dollars and I think it is not worth it, but if you know that your children will be excited make sure not to wear any green clothing, as it will spoil the photo (they will take it in front of a chroma).

Practical information for climbing the Empire State Building

Views from the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets
Views from the Empire State Building| @Hellotickets

Many people wonder how many floors the Empire State Building has. Well; the exact number is 102 although the observation deck is on the 86th floor and not the last one. You can use any of the 73 elevators that the building has in total to visit them, so that uncomfortable moment of waiting for the elevator should be reduced to a minimum but not the trip in it. There are restrooms on the 2nd and 86th floors of the Empire State Building, so don't worry, if you get caught in an emergency you won't have to run down to the ground.

Camera tripods and oversized suitcases or backpacks are not allowed in the Empire State Building, and the building does not have lockers where you can leave your belongings. If you need to, LuggageHero is quite close to the skyscraper and is the cheapest option to leave your belongings while you climb the Empire State.

Empire State Building architecture and design

Empire State Building interior exhibition| @Hellotickets
Empire State Building interior exhibition| @Hellotickets

Inside, you can also see the 'Dare to Dream' exhibition dedicated to the construction of the Empire State Building and tell the stories of its builders, through architectural plans, drawings, and photographs. You will also find an exhibition dedicated to explaining the sustainable energy use of the building.

A bit of its history

Something that not many people know is that in the same year of its opening, the spire located at its highest point served as an anchor point for a zeppelin, since according to the architects of the building this would be the mode of transportation of the future. Good thing they designed one of the greatest architectural jewels in the world, because as soothsayers they were not good for much...

Symbol of Art Deco

What makes the Empire State Building a must-see on your New York adventures is not only the breathtaking views from its observatory, but also its stunning Art Deco interior, which is a marvel. It's a complete experience that you're sure to look back on with nostalgia many years after your trip.

Other popular observatories, skyscrapers and buildings in New York City

Views from the One World Observatory| @Hellotickets
Views from the One World Observatory| @Hellotickets

New York is a city made to be admired from below but also from above and, to that end, you have a multitude of skyscrapers from which the views of New York are breathtaking.

One World Observatory

One World may not come to mind so quickly because of its relatively young age, but it will offer you a breathtaking view of the financial district, with stores, a fancy restaurant, and interactive activities where the kids will have a blast. If you're up for a visit, you can check out all the details in my handy guide: NYC One World Observatory Tickets: how to buy, prices and discounts.

Rockefeller Center, the Top of the Rock

And among all the skyscrapers in New York, my personal recommendation is the Rockefeller Center. Its observation deck known as the Top of the Rock will offer you the best views of the city including a spectacular close-up of the Empire State Building. In fact, many visitors face a dilemma when deciding between climbing one of the two. If it helps, here is a comparison: climbing the Top of the Rock vs. climbing the Empire State Building.

Other emblematic buildings

Also, if you are one of those people who run away from the established tourist circuits, there are many more buildings in New York that you can visit, even if they don't have an observatory. Woolworth Building, Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building and many others will delight anyone passionate about architecture.

Comparative table of the best skyscrapers in New York City

  • Empire State Building
  • From $ 49
  • Observatory: open-air
  • Floor: 86
  • Views: Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, 5th Avenue and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Midtown Manhattan
  • Reservation
  • Top of the Rock
  • From $ 44
  • Observatory: open air
  • Floor: 70
  • Views: Empire State, Central Park and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Midtown Manhattan
  • Book now
  • One World Observatory
  • From $ 49
  • Observatory: Indoor
  • Floor: 102
  • Views: Wall Street, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and from afar Empire State Building
  • Location: South Manhattan
  • Book now
  • The Edge
  • From $ 49
  • Observatory: open air and glass floor
  • Floor: 110
  • Views: Empire State, Midtown and from afar One World Building
  • Location: Manhattan West
  • Book now

Other interesting activities in New York

Alternatively, if climbing a skyscraper doesn't really appeal to you but you want to enjoy the views of New York from above, you have other options such as taking a helicopter tour of Manhattan or visiting one of the many rooftop bars in the city. But in my opinion, climbing a skyscraper is a mind-blowing experience you can't miss, especially on your first time in New York!

Now all you have to do is choose a skyscraper and get ready to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world as it deserves to be seen. Bon voyage to the heights!

Frequently asked questions

  • Which is better, Top of the Rock or Empire State Building?

    The Empire State Building Observatory is higher and offers better views of the Financial District and One World Trade Center, while Top of the Rock is the choice for viewing Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building from above.

  • How long does it take to get to the top of the Empire State Building?

    Between 20-45 min. To avoid queues, it is best to visit early in the morning or in the evening (around 22:00).

  • Can I enter the Empire State Building with a backpack?

    Yes, you can enter with suitcases, backpacks, purses and almost any type of luggage. Cameras are also allowed inside the Empire State Building.

  • What can you see from the Empire State Building?

    Among others, you will be able to see all the highlights of Midtown: Times Square, the mythical Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building and Madison Square Park, Union Square. You can also see, in the distance, the Financial District and the Hudson River surrounding Manhattan, spectacular!