The Empire State Building in New York

The Empire State Building Observation Deck – New York’s highest open terrace (yet!)

In the middle of Manhattan, the Empire State Building is an icon of the city. One of the reasons for its fascination is the lighting. Every day the top shines in different colors. You will never get tired of this beautiful building – because the colors make it look different every day!

Every year 3.5 million visitors visit the Empire State Building with its two viewing platforms – only Times Square counts more visitors. The observation deck is on the 86th floor and is 320 meters above the city streets. There you have a really great view of New York.

The open observation deck offers some binoculars, a wheelchair-accessible promenade and an indoor area for those who find it too cold outside. In addition to this viewing platform, there is another smaller platform on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, for which you also need an additional ticket. On the 102nd floor at a height of 373 m, there is a glazed area that currently still offers the highest publicly accessible viewpoint in all of New York.

Therewith, the observation deck of the Empire State Building is one of the most popular observation platforms in New York. If the view is particularly clear, you can look up to 80 kilometers away and enjoy a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view!

Empire State Building without waiting

For those who don’t want to spend time waiting, there are also express tickets that allow you to pass the ticket counter after the security check and the queue at the elevator. Especially during peak hours, you can easily save one or two hours. Click here for the express tickets for the Empire State Building.

Saving tip: Sightseeing tickets for New York

You pay a fixed price and can use it to see several attractions and tours in New York. The ticket for the Empire State Building is already included in most passes – so the entrance is “free”! You can find out exactly how this works in our big New York passport comparison.

Are Empire State Building tickets for the 102nd floor worthwhile?

Even further up is the elevator to the 102nd floor. The extra ticket for that costs just under $20 extra.

Until the recent renovation of the 102nd floor, we have long discouraged paying this extra for the highest floor because it wasn’t worth it for us personally. This has several reasons: First of all, there is no platform there, just an area closed with windows and often these windows are mirroring. And if I am completely honest, the extra meters really do not make a big difference. At least not so big that I would have paid another 20 dollars extra for them – the view from the platform on the 86th floor is really great!

Since the new rebuilding of the 102nd floor, our opinion has actually changed a bit, but we still think that the 86th floor is sufficient. You can read more about this in our experience report about the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building with pictures.

What can you see in the Empire State Building?

The most famous part of the Empire State Building is definitely the observation deck on the 86th floor – but there is even more to see! You can do all that in the Empire State Building:

Entrance: The Art Deco style lobby

First of all, you will notice the large entrance hall in the art deco style – even gold leaf was not spared here.

2nd floor: The new visitor center with a small exhibition

It was recently completely restored and contains not only the ticket counters but also a small exhibition showing the development and expansion of the Empire State Building.

80: Floor: The “Dare to Dream” exhibition

Many do not even know that there is an exhibition about the construction of the skyscraper! We also did not stop there until our 2nd visit, finally, we wanted to get to the highlight: the observation deck. The “Dare to Dream” exhibition pays tribute to all people involved in the construction because it was a real masterpiece to build the Empire State Building. Over 3,000 workers were at work and it took only 13 months to complete the construction!

86th floor: the open viewing platform

That’s why the 3.5 million visitors per year come to the Empire State Building: to enjoy 360° views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey! The elevators will first take you to the 80th floor (where you can view the exhibition) – from here you can take the 2nd elevator, which will then take you to the 86th floor.

102nd floor: the viewing platform behind glass

Tickets for the 102nd floor cost an extra $20. We have already visited them and find that it is not really worth it. The view from the 86th floor is fantastic, the 16 floors “extra” do not make a huge difference.

My tips:

Enjoy the full package: Saxophonist + New York by night

From Thursday to Saturday a saxophonist plays jazzy pieces on the 86th floor from 21:00 – 1:00 in the main season (from 21:00 – 0:00 in the low season from September to May). This is as romantic and kitschy as it sounds! But in a very very positive way. You will love it!

This is how you avoid the queues

The Empire State Building is one of the most visited attractions of the city, especially on Friday and Saturday there is a lot going on. If you’re flexible with visiting hours and waiting times, just go to the Observation Deck during off-peak hours:

  • on weekdays in the morning and from 10 p.m.
  • At the weekend very early or very late
  • The best day of the weekend is Sunday!

Watching New York wake up

There is still a really great tour that we have already done: A VIP sunrise tour, limited to 20 people. You are almost alone on the observation deck and experience how the city comes to life. Goosebumps are guaranteed (I get goosebumps while writing!!!) and not only for photographers a real highlight.

Facts & figures about the Empire State Building

Opening hours of the Empire State Building

The opening hours of the viewing platform are very easy to remember. Regardless of whether it rains, snows or the sun shines, the opening hours are always the same. The Empire State Building opens at 8:00 in the morning and closes at 2:00 at night.


Location of the Empire State Building

In general, you can’t miss the Empire State Building – it towers above many buildings and its prominent peak makes it easy to find. Especially at night and in the evening: just look for an illuminated – mostly colored – top. 

The exact address of the Empire State Building is 5th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Street in the Midtown district. It is very central in Manhattan and only a few minutes walk from many other famous spots: Herald Square, where the world-famous department store Macy’s has its largest store, is only a little more blocks away (5 minutes walk), Times Square is 14 minutes away, Madison Square Garden and the Flatiron Building are 11 minutes walk away.

How to get to the Empire State Building

The subway lines B F M stop one block away at the station “34 St. Herald Sq”. Or you can take the green Line 6 subway, which stops two blocks away at 33 St. on Park Avenue. Once you arrive at the Empire State Building, there is often a long queue in front of it. This does not necessarily mean that the observation deck is crowded. The reason is security restrictions for the lobby. Only a limited number of people are allowed to be here at the same time.

History of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building was erected in only 18 months (the Hamburg Elb-Philarmonie or the Berlin airport can take a leaf out of their book!) The official opening of the Empire State Building took place on May 1, 1931. The architectural style is Art-déco – I also find the Empire State Building particularly beautiful from the inside: the lobby, which is completely lined with marble. The architect of the Empire State Building is William F. Lamb from Brooklyn.

Height of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is 443 meters high in total and was even the tallest building in the world for over 40 years from its opening until 1972. The height of the Empire State Building is measured from the ground to the top of the lightning conductor. The building itself – i.e. without the antenna – is 381 meters high. The Empire State Building was the tallest building in New York until the opening of the old One World Trade Center. After the tragic attacks, it was the defining building on the New York skyline and is now again topped by the new One World Trade Center. The Empire State Building is also very well known for its staircase run-up, which has been held annually since 1978 – the Empire State Building Run-Up. Here, the viewing platform on the 86th floor is climbed – but not via the comfortable elevators but through the staircase. The participants have to climb a total of 1,576 steps for this. Crazy!

The lighting of the Empire State Building

What makes the Empire State Building really special is its top. It shines in different colors every day: mostly at three different levels. At the very bottom, the middle part and the antenna can have different colors. You will love to see the Empire State Building every evening to be surprised in which colors it shines this time.

By the way, the colors are often adapted to special events and functions. When Germany became the football world champion in 2014, the Empire State Building shone in black, red and gold!

More popular colors of the Empire State Building

  • Red on Valentine’s Day (February)
  • Green for St. Patrick’s Day (March)
  • Red / White / Blue on national holidays like the 4th of July – Pink on Christopher Street Day
  • Blue / white at home games of the New York Yankees (baseball)
  • Red / Green for Christmas
  • Black / Red / Gold for the Steuben Parade
  • Celebrate special occasions and events on the Empire State Building

Valentine’s Day at the Empire State Building

Valentine’s Day in New York is a particularly romantic day when the top of the Empire State Building shines all in red – the color of love. The observation deck is a great place to let your mind wander as a couple and an experience you will remember for a long time to come!

Wedding proposal on the Empire State Building

Do you want to ask the question of all questions? Then there is no better place in New York for your marriage proposal than the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building! My tip: Try to put your marriage proposal on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Because there a saxophonist will provide a super-romantic atmosphere (from 21:00 to 01:00)! And if you want a little more privacy, avoid the rush hours and come to the Empire State Building late at night. Good luck!

The Empire State Building on Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Eve

There are no special events for these holidays on the Empire State Building today.