If there is an absolutely iconic activity to do in New York City, it is the visit of the Empire State building! Today we are going to discover all the information you need to know to plan your visit šŸ™‚

Opened in the early 1930s, this building quickly became a true New York icon. And today, it is simply considered as the most famous building in the world! Because the Empire State Building receives each day a VERY large number of visitors, it is important to prepare your visit in order to enjoy it as much as possible.

What is the best time to visit the Empire State building? Tickets, hours, tips… Everything is to discover just below!

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Why you should definitely visit the Empire State building?

  • A famous attraction in New York City

Is there anyone on earth who doesn’t know the Empire State building? A true icon of the city since its construction in the early 1930s, the building has attracted more than 100 million visitors since then. Unmissable, inimitable, the Empire State Building is simply a must-see when visiting New York City. And you should know it immediately: entering this emblematic monument will not leave you indifferent!

  • Art Deco style

At first sight, we are waiting to discover the panoramic view of New York but before getting there, a “detail” will surely attract your attention once inside the building: the decoration.

Built in the heart of the art deco period, the Empire State building is first a superb monument to admire: gilding, marble… the interior of the building is a real festival of luxurious materials. Even before reaching the top, you can already see some very beautiful things!

  • Observatory and view

At nearly 380 meters high (1246 feet), the Empire State building’s observatory offers one of the most beautiful views of New York City. In fact, the building even hosts two separate observatories:

āžœ The 86th floor observatory, the one we all know and that the Empire State building is famous for.

āžœ The more confidential observatory on the 102nd floor, not accessible with the classic entrance tickets and whose entry is more expensive.

The observatory that almost all of us are concerned with (the one on the 86th floor) is mostly an outdoor observatory, with a part inside (in the center). Once outside, you simply have the impression of being immersed in the heart of NYC!

The panoramic view allows us to admire other emblematic buildings of the city (One World Observatory, Chrysler building, 432 Park Avenue, and even the small and old Flatiron building!) but also other landmarks like Central Park or the Brooklyn bridge. In other words, there are a lot of things to see!

  • The tour

Although the view is the highlight of the show, the experience begins as soon as you enter the building! The access to the observatory is made along a path which mixes exhibitions, photos, videos, animations, reconstitutions…

Here is what you need to discover the fantastic history of the most famous building in the world since its construction, on the very first day of the opening, without forgetting King Kong and the celebrities who came here.

Best time to visit the Empire State building

Because of its international reputation, EVERY first time visitor to New York City will want to climb to the top of the Empire State building. So you should know that there will always be people at the observatory and unless you come on a snowstorm day in January, you will probably have to wait in line for a while.

Inside the Empire State building

Despite this, there are still a few slots to be aware of: those where the crowds are (slightly) smaller than the rest of the time. These slots are:

  • At the opening:

Don’t hesitate to arrive before the indicated opening time in order to be in the best position when the doors open. If you are among the first to arrive, you will have the chance to have the observatory almost for yourself (or at least, you will share it with those who had the same idea).

At least, you will have the possibility to enjoy the place in reduced committee which is already a huge chance! From mid-morning on, the crowds start to grow and the Empire State building will be crowded until nightfall.

  • At night:

The other tip to have good conditions to visit the Empire State building is to go up by night. Especially during the evening (after 9pm), few tourists think to plan their evening at the Empire State building, which is a pity! The views of New York at night are always very impressive with the skyline lighting up with millions of lights.

Personally, I even tend to prefer the view from the different observatories at night, rather than during the day. At night, the show is simply enchanting.

  • At sunset

Here is also a magical moment to climb to the top of the Empire State building. But be careful, this will be the time of day when there will be the most people at the observatory!

Tickets, passes and booking for the Empire State building observatory

Here are all the options available to enter the Empire State building:

  • Activity passes

The best option is of course to opt for a pass that allows you to get discounts on the price of different activities in NYC. The Empire State Building is one of New York’s major attractions, so it is included in absolutely every activity passes that exists in the city today.

So depending on the activities you plan to do, you will have to choose the pass that will be the most interesting for you (and of course, the one that will make you save the most money!). You can choose between:

āžœ The New York City Pass, the most advantageous pass for visiting the ESB since it allows you to enjoy 2 entries on the same day: a first entry by day and then, a night entry to fully enjoy the show.

āžœ The New York C3, the tiny 3 activity pass to choose among the city’s greatest attractions.

āžœ The Explorer Pass, the customizable pass that lets you choose how many activities you want to do.

āžœ The New York Pass, the unlimited pass that allows you to visit nearly 100 attractions in New York City.

āžœ The Sightseeing Passes, which come in 2 versions: a version with a customizable number of activities and an unlimited version with over 150 attractions.

All passes currently allow you to reserve a specific time slot to visit the Empire State building (see details below).

  • Tickets

The other great option to get Empire State building tickets is to book them from a platform. Personally, I always book my tickets on Get Your Guide. On the one hand, you can pay for tickets in many currencies and you can take advantage of a free cancellation option up to 24 hours before the activity date. Perfect if you have an emergency!

I regularly use this platform for my activity bookings (in NYC and elsewhere) and I am very satisfied with it šŸ™‚

Book tickets for the Empire State building

  • Do I have to reserve a slot?

āš ļø Since 2021, the Empire State building is subject to an advance reservation system.

āžœ If you visit the ESB with classic entrance tickets (booked on the official website or on a  platform), you will normally have defined a day and time of visit when you book. Then, you just have to come when the time comes to go up to the observatory. WARNING: depending on the website where you buy your tickets, it is not necessarily possible to change the date once the selection is made!

āžœ If you enter the Empire State building with a pass, you will also be able to reserve your time slot through the reservation links provided on all pass sites. The reservation links are usually on the attraction’s description page.

The Chrysler building from the Empire State building.

Empire State building or another observatory in NYC?

Over the years, there are more and more observatories in New York! In the past, you could simply choose between the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, the other great  observatory in downtown NYC. Today, there are also:

āžœ The One World Observatory: The new World Trade Center Observatory, right next to the 9/11 memorial.

āžœ Edge: The Hudson Yards observatory with its large outdoor terrace.

āžœ Summit: The thrill-seeking observatory with its reflections and perspective effects as far as the eye can see!

So today, there are indeed 5 observatories in NYC, all with their own qualities and characteristics. All of them offer magnificent panoramic views of the city and all of them are unique in their own way.

ESB view from the street.

To help you make your choice, here’s how they might be described:

āžœ The most iconic: the Empire State building

āžœ The most famous view: the Top of the Rock

āžœ The most extensive view of Manhattan: the One World Observatory

āžœ The largest outdoor space: Edge

āžœ The most surprising: Summit

Some practical information about the Empire State building

  • Where to find it?

Easy to spot, the Empire State building is probably the most recognizable building in NYC! It is located in the heart of Midtown, the central district of Manhattan. More precisely, the Empire State building is located at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 34th Street, one of the most vibrant (and busiest!) corners of the city.

On the day of your visit, take the opportunity to discover the 5th Avenue with its luxury stores (but not only) and its emblematic monuments (NY Public Library, Trump Tower…). On the 34th Street, you can also plan a nice shopping session because some of the biggest stores of the city are located there (Macy’s, Sephora, H&M etc…).

View form ESB.
  • Opening hours and days

It is possible to go up to the Empire State building all day long, day and night. Hours may vary depending on the season and events, so it is better to check them on the official website before going up. It is open 7 days a week and 365 days a year. It is therefore an excellent activity to plan during public holidays (Christmas, 4th of July…)


That’s it! You now have all the information you need to plan your visit to the Empire State building! If you still have questions, please ask them in the comments šŸ™‚

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Iā€™m a french travel blogger, crazy about New York City! Since I discovered NYC in 2014, each trip is an opportunity to learn more about the secrets of this fantastic city. I wish you a pleasant visit on my blog, with I hope, a lot of beautiful discoveries!