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10 best New York City Tours

The best way to tour the city without missing anything is with a professional guide who will accompany you during the ride. Here are the top 10 experiences to discover New York!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

15 min read

10 best New York City Tours

Listening to the guide's indications | ©Hellotickets

New York is much more than Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. It is its squares, avenues, and neighborhoods. Get to know the history of the Big Apple and the New York lifestyle in the most authentic way with a selection of the best tours of New York!

1. The quintessential favorite: the New York contrasts tour

Crossing from Manhattan to Brooklyn | ©Hellotickets
Crossing from Manhattan to Brooklyn | ©Hellotickets

With this Contrasts Tour you will avoid making the mistake that many first-time travelers make: not leaving Manhattan. To get a complete idea of New York City, I recommend this tour that will take you to discover the five major boroughs of the city (Manhattan, Harlem, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn) along with a local guide.

Details of this tour

As the name suggests, you'll be reviewing the diverse cultural identity of New York's neighborhoods, where the contrasts in the facades of the houses, the stores, the streets, and the people are amazing within a few blocks of each neighborhood.

Although there are hundreds of activities of this type in New York, what I would highlight of this Contrasts Tour compared to others is the professionalism of the local guides, always ready to answer questions and tell interesting anecdotes. At the end of the day, by taking this tour you will visit areas that you might miss if you did it on your own, and the personalized treatment of the guides is what makes a tour an entertaining and interesting experience.

The Contrasts Tour starts at 8 AM with the group meeting at the tour operator's pick-up hotels: Millenium Broadway, Pennsylvania or The Manhattan at Times Square. If yours is not one of them, then you will have to wait for them at the one closest to your accommodation. Once in the minivan, you will travel through all of New York's boroughs to explore every corner of its most iconic neighborhoods in just 5 hours.

Itinerary

  • Harlem: First stop is this Manhattan neighborhood to learn a bit of its history and stop to take a picture of its famous brownstones. You will also see the Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club, two institutions of New York jazz music in the 1920s, a time of great cultural effervescence in Harlem.
  • The Bronx: This stop will take you on a tour of iconic Bronx landmarks such as Yankees Stadium including movie locations and New York's most famous street art. In fact, you will visit an entire outdoor art gallery, known as the Graffiti Universe.
  • Queens: New York's largest and most multicultural borough. In this part of the tour, you will visit the luxurious neighborhood of Malba to continue to Flushing Meadows Park where you can see the stadium of the Mets, the rival team of the Yankees. You will also see the venue of the US OPEN and the globe from the movie Men In Black. Among other points of interest, you will also explore the Little India neighborhood.
  • Brooklyn: The district with the most identity in New York. You can explore the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg, the industrial charm of DUMBO under the Brooklyn Bridge and discover the flavors of Chinatown and Little Italy with its rich gastronomy.

Why I like it

Doing this Contrasts Tour will take you just one morning to see very diverse places in New York that would take you a day or two to see on your own so you will save time.

This doesn't mean that, at another time during your trip, you can't revisit the main neighborhoods of each borough at your leisure after taking the Contrasts Tour. On the contrary, this way, you will discover the true essence of each district and you will get a more complete view of the city thanks to the comments and anecdotes of the local guide.

In addition, it is suitable for anyone as part of the tour is done by transport, to move between the different districts you will visit and another walking. In this Tour of Contrasts you can choose where to finish: in Chinatown or under the Brooklyn Bridge, in DUMBO, to continue with your next plan in your travel schedule.

Book the Contrasts Tour

2. Tour the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn by bus

Touring New York | ©Hellotickets
Touring New York | ©Hellotickets

Like the previous one, this Contrasts Tour of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn lets you get to know other boroughs and neighborhoods beyond touristy Manhattan in Midtown, where many of us travelers are tempted to stay.

Again, in this tour, you will delve into the multiculturalism and contrasts of the city, the different architecture of its neighborhoods, its people... In short, a complete tour that in my point of view is perfect to kick off your trip.

Details of this tour

What I would highlight about this Bus tour of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn is that it takes you away from the center of the city to show you scenes of daily life in other "boroughs" of New York such as Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx in a comfortable 4-hour sightseeing tour aboard a bus. You will explore the areas less visited by tourists and get to know the authentic side of New York.

Itinerary

  • The Bronx: At this stop, you'll walk around the Bronx to see the outside of the world's most famous baseball stadium, Yankees Stadium. You will also pass through Little Italy where you can soak up New York's Italian heritage and grab a coffee.
  • Queens: New York's most multicultural and sprawling borough. In this part of the tour, the group heads to Flushing Meadows Park where the stadium of the Yankees' rival team, the New York Mets, is located. It is also the site of the US OPEN and here is the popular Men In Black's Unisphere.
  • Brooklyn: The borough with the most identity in New York. You can walk into the Jewish neighborhood of Williamsburg and admire the panoramic view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge in the charming bohemian neighborhood of DUMBO.

Why I like it

It is a good opportunity to get to know the city if you want to enjoy it as one more New Yorker, with the advantage of being accompanied by a professional guide who will tell you the curiosities of each neighborhood, which is especially great if this is your first time in the city. And with a bonus: he will show you parts of New York that many tourists never explore.

Again, if this is the first time you visit the Big Apple, it is the best experience for a first contact. While listening to the guide's explanations you can contemplate the city through the coach window, get off at the stops and walk around each neighborhood a little to discover some of the places that have built the history of New York. All in a matter of a few hours.

Book the New York City Tour

3. Discover the soul of New York with a tour of Harlem and a gospel mass

Streets of Harlem | ©Philippe Delberghe
Streets of Harlem | ©Philippe Delberghe

The best way to experience New York's cultural diversity and discover the roots of the African-American community is to immerse yourself in the culture of Harlem through a nearly 4-hour neighborhood tour with a professional guide.

On a tour of Harlem you will discover emblematic sites of the neighborhood as the Morris-Jumel mansion (the oldest house in Manhattan dating from the eighteenth century), Sylvan Terrace (a peculiar cobblestone street of identical houses) the Cotton Club (a famous nightclub opened during Prohibition) and the legendary Apollo Theater (where music stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Diana Ross and The Jackson 5 started their careers), among others.

If you also complete the visit with a Gospel Mass, you will stop being a tourist for a moment to be a neighbor of the neighborhood. I recommend this tour of Harlem with Gospel Mass, which will transport you to the heart of an authentic Gospel congregation where you can experience the gospel life and this beautiful spiritual music so popular.

The tour of Harlem ends at the Malcolm X Mosque and the eye-catching graffiti in the area celebrating African-American culture - you won't stop taking pictures!

Book Harlem Tour with Gospel Mass

4. Discover movie locations on a cinematic tour

The Friends apartment in Manhattan | ©Wikimedia
The Friends apartment in Manhattan | ©Wikimedia

If you are looking for a fun excursion during your stay in New York you can't miss the Movie and TV Tour around the city. How many times have you seen the Big Apple as a big set on TV? Now you can step on its streets and feel like you've slipped into a movie during the almost 3 hours of this tour through the locations that have appeared in shows like 'Friends', 'Seinfeld', 'Girls' or 'Glee', among many others.

If you are a movie buff you will enjoy it a lot because the guide knows a good deal about the entertainment industry and tells great anecdotes about 'Ghostbusters', 'I Am Legend', 'How I Met Your Mother' or 'Spiderman' to name a few titles.

The tour is short but the experience is very entertaining. At the end you will see New York with different eyes and you will learn many unique facts about movies and series, which is what it's all about.

Itinerary

  • Central Park
  • Wollman Rink
  • Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
  • Fifth Avenue
  • GhostBusters Firestation
  • Macy's Herald Square
  • Friends Building

Book the Movie Locations Tour

5. Bike around Central Park

Walking through Central Park by bike | ©Hellotickets
Walking through Central Park by bike | ©Hellotickets

If there is a famous park par excellence in New York is Central Park, the most visited urban park in the world and the green heart of the city.

Given its size, walking through Central Park will take you several visits because there is a lot to see and the park is huge. It was created in 1857 in the center of Manhattan for the New York elite to enjoy nature in an ever-expanding city. Its designers were inspired by the great European parks of the 19th century and adorned it with lakes, fountains, statues, bridges, and even a zoo. The result? Spectacular.

Renting a bike or touring the park on wheels on your own, you will discover the area in a fun way and see some movie locations that have been filmed here, as well as several of the houses of celebrities.

Why I like it

During the fall in New York, biking through Central Park is one of the best plans to do when the sun is still warm in the morning. The landscape is tinged with shades of ochre, reddish, browns, oranges... It's an explosion of color worth admiring! Grab your camera and get ready to take the most beautiful pictures of your trip.

Book activities in Central Park

6. Say hello to the Statue of Liberty and visit Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty, at sunset | ©Hellotickets
The Statue of Liberty, at sunset | ©Hellotickets

There are many ways to get to know New York: on foot walking among its skyscrapers, flying over the city in a helicopter, or aboard a ferry contemplating the skyline of Manhattan and heading to Liberty and Ellis Island.

With a tour that takes you to the Statue of Liberty, you can learn the history behind America's great icon, the Statue of Liberty, along with the Liberty Island Museum and a guided tour of the grounds of Liberty Island.

Details of this tour

The tour is accompanied by a professional guide with whom you board a ferry at Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan to avoid the crowds. Since the Statue of Liberty is one of the main tourist attractions in New York, it is usually crowded so my advice is that, if you want to avoid them, take the first ferry in the morning as for the following ones the waiting time is usually much longer and can be up to an hour.

During the trip, the guide tells the story of Lady Liberty and how she came to the United States from France to become the symbol of freedom she is today. While the group can enjoy the views of the Manhattan skyline and take some pictures either sitting inside or outside the boat. From the water, you will see that the panoramic view of the city is wonderful.

Itinerary

Once at Liberty Island, the guide will spend 2 to 4 hours showing you around the site and previewing what you will see in the museum, which expands with more detailed information on the history of the construction of the monument and the original torch.

Once the visit to Liberty Island is over, return to the pier to take the ferry that will take you to Ellis Island, a small island that was the gateway to the United States for millions of immigrants who between 1892 and 1954 sought to achieve the American dream.

It's exciting to see this place in person and explore with your guide a part of the country's history. Many Americans can trace their origins here as about 12 million people landed on this island.

Ellis Island is home to the Immigration Museum, where photographs, letters, and personal items from the era are on display. Reading the true stories of those immigrants in search of a better life is awe-inspiring.

Since the tour ends with a visit to Ellis Island, before returning to the ferry that will take you back to Battery Park, if you enjoy history take advantage of the free time to recreate as much as you like at the museum, to stroll around the island grounds or to take as many pictures of the tour as you wish.

Views from Ellis Island

Look closely because both from the north side of Liberty Island and from the Statue of Liberty Museum there are gorgeous views of New Jersey, Ellis Island, and Manhattan:

  • One World Observatory
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Manhattan Bridge
  • Empire State Building
  • Hudson Yards skyscrapers

Practical tour information

  • The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour lasts approximately 3 to 5 hours
  • The ferry departs on time so it is recommended to be at the port 15 minutes before the start of the activity so as not to be late
  • There is a security check before entering the ferry, similar to an airport security check
  • There is a cafeteria on the ferry that sells snacks although the food is a bit expensive so it is better if you bring your own lunch.
  • The guided part of this tour is about 2 to 4 hours. The remaining time is free time for the group to explore Ellis Island at their own pace and return at their leisure to Battery Park.

Book a tour to the Statue of Liberty

7. New York from a bird's eye view: the helicopter tour

City views from the helicopter | ©Hellotickets
City views from the helicopter | ©Hellotickets

Taking a helicopter ride over New York is the experience you can't do without on your trip, especially on a sunny day. Seeing the city from a bird's eye view is very impressive and you will have an unforgettable memory to tell when you return home.

From the heights, you will enjoy the best views of Manhattan's most iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the One World Observatory, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge, or the immense natural expanse of Central Park, among others.

Get ready to admire the imposing skyscrapers from their very height and fly over the Big Apple in a thrilling helicopter tour of about 15 minutes.

What you will see

  • Downtown Heliport
  • Ellis Island
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Governors Island
  • Ground Zero and One World Observatory
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Empire State Building
  • Madison Square Garden
  • Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Building
  • Times Square and MetLife Building
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • Central Park
  • Washington Bridge

Practical information

  • This tour is narrated by an audio guide that you can listen to in a bunch of different languages.
  • The price quoted does not include the heliport fee of $ 40.00 per person, which must be paid upon check-in for the tour. This surcharge is a requirement of the local helicopter tour provider.

Book a helicopter tour

8. The most comfortable: the city tour by tourist bus

The sightseeing bus passing Times Square | ©Hellotickets
The sightseeing bus passing Times Square | ©Hellotickets

As usual in this kind of tours, you will have the opportunity to explore the Big Apple in total comfort and freedom. With this one to five-day sightseeing bus pass with free stops around New York, you will cross the city aboard a double-decker bus with a live guide who will tell you all its secrets and anecdotes. It also includes the option to add tickets to some attractions.

For any traveler, this pass is a must, especially if you are visiting New York for the first time. With it, you can hop on and off at any of the more than 40 stops and tour the city at your leisure. If you choose the top option of this pass you can make the circuit throughout New York that includes the Downtown, Uptown, and Brooklyn neighborhoods. This pass will also give you access to a Night Tour of the city and a Free Stopover Cruise.

What this pass includes

  • Night tour by double-decker bus.
  • Live guide (on board buses and cruise ships).
  • Uptown and Downtown Loop double-decker sightseeing bus (if upgrade option is selected).
  • Cruise with free stops (if upgrade option is selected).

Downtown Tour

The downtown tour is 3 hours long and operates between 8 AM and 6 PM every 15 - 20 minutes. This guided tour of downtown New York can start at any of the 18 stops along this route.
Sightseeing attractions on the downtown tour are:

  • Statue of Liberty
  • Flatiron Building
  • Empire State Building
  • Ellis Island
  • Rockefeller Center
  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • Seaport District NYC
  • Fifth Avenue
  • Times Square
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
  • SoHo
  • Greenwich Village
  • Little Italy
  • Chinatown
  • Madame Tussauds New York
  • Madison Square Garden
  • Top of the Rock Observatory
  • Lower Manhattan
  • Ripley's Believe It or Not! Times Square
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • 42nd Street
  • One World Observatory

Uptown Tour

This Uptown New York tour operates between 9 AM and 4 PM every 20-30 minutes. It lasts 2 hours and the route can be started at any of its 20 stops. Sightseeing attractions that are part of the Uptown tour are:

  • Strawberry Fields, John Lennon Memorial
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • New-York Historical Society Museum & Library
  • Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
  • Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market
  • Museum of the City of New York
  • The Jewish Museum
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Central Park
  • Central Park Zoo
  • Frick Collection
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Radio City Music Hall

Night Tour

The night tour is 2 hours long and operates from 6 PM to 9 PM every 30 minutes. This night tour is non hop-on hop-off, meaning you do not have the option to get off and get back on at any part of the tour. It has 2 stops and this tour can only be taken once.

The live tour guide speaks only English although headsets with pre-recorded narration are available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin, Russian, Japanese, Korean, or Hebrew. Sightseeing attractions that can be seen on the night tour are:

  • Times Square
  • Empire State Building
  • Flatiron Building
  • Greenwich Village
  • SoHo
  • TriBeCa
  • Chinatown
  • Little Italy
  • Manhattan Bridge
  • DUMBO
  • Brooklyn Heights Promenade
  • Lower East Side

Book the sightseeing bus

9. Hudson River Cruises: the best tour of New York, by boat

Night falls and you feel like relaxing, but you don't want to miss anything in New York City. the solution? Continue to enjoy its illuminated skyline while taking a relaxing boat ride on the Hudson River around the island of Manhattan. Can you imagine dining aboard a luxury yacht? Or would you prefer to watch the last rays of the sunset from a romantic sailboat?

New York offers several options for all tastes and (most importantly) for all budgets, so whatever time you have available or budget you want to invest in this tour, it is worth taking a look at the options and choose yours. You'll find them ranging from one hour long to multi-hour tours that circle Manhattan or take you to the State of Liberty.

If you want to cross the Brooklyn Bridge from the water in full daylight and see the city skyline in bright sunshine, there are also cruise options that sail at all hours of the day. You could even buy a ticket that gives you free access all day to use the boat as a means of transportation to get around the city. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Book a Hudson River cruise

10. The fondest memory of your trip: Brooklyn Christmas tour

If Christmas is your favorite time of year, and you've always dreamed of traveling to New York, the neighborhood of Dyker Heights is probably familiar to you: it's made a name for itself as one of the city's biggest holiday attractions, which is no wonder when you visit and see decorations and illuminations so over-the-top that go beyond anything you've ever seen before.

On the Brooklyn Christmas tour, where you'll stroll down the Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge neighborhoods, where you'll see all kinds of Christmas decorations, Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas elves, toy soldiers, and other classic icons of Christmas. It is truly a movie experience.

Of course, this is a night tour to enjoy the lights in all their splendor, and you will be accompanied by a local guide who will tell you the amazing stories behind the decorations of each house, and there are some that, honestly, will melt your heart. If you are traveling to New York with children, this will be the tour they will definitely remember forever, as it will be like being transported to a fairytale world. A very nice way to discover Brooklyn at this special time of the year.

Book a Brooklyn Christmas Tour

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the best tour to do in New York?

    While there isn't really a "best" tour, the New York in One Day Guided Sightseeing Tour comes close standing as one of the most popular and highest rated tours. Taking you to see sights including the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street and Central Park.

  • How long does a city tour usually last?

    The length of the average city tour lasts between 4 to 5 hours, with some tours lasting up to 7 hours. There are also many short tours that last between 1 to 2 hours, and usually focus on one specific aspect of New York.

  • Where can I see a different side of New York?

    The High Line and Chelsea Walking Tour sees you walk an elevated rail-line that has been converted into a park. While standing as a pleasant walk, you're treated to views overlooking much of the city, followed by a walk through the Chelsea neighborhood, well known for its affluence and cinematic ties.