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20 Iconic New York City Buildings (You Should Know)

the most iconic buildings in New York City

From the soaring heights of skyscrapers to the historic walls of century-old landmarks, we’re going to cover the most famous buildings in New York City. Collectively, these buildings make up NYC’s iconic skyline, which stands as a testament to human ingenuity and creativity. How many famous NYC buildings can you name? Let’s make that 20.

Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The 10 Best Neighborhoods & 3 to Avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s MY favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.


The Most Famous Buildings in New York City

(Table of Contents)


Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

Stepping into Grand Central Terminal feels like stepping into a European train station. Opened in 1913, this Beaux-Arts transportation hub spans an impressive 48 acres and houses 44 platforms, the most of any train station in the world. The main concourse, famed for a breathtaking celestial ceiling and grand chandeliers, sees 750,000 visitors daily. There’s a few small shops in the station, along with a dinning hall in the basement, but those aren’t nearly as exciting as the Grand Central Oyster Bar and the Campbell Bar.

Website: Grand Central Terminal
Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY


30 Rockefeller Plaza Ice Skating Rink
The Rockefeller Center at Christmas

30 Rockefeller Plaza

Home to one of the most famous observation decks in New York City, 30 Rockefeller Plaza (affectionately known as ’30 Rock’) is an iconic 70-story building that reaches a height of 850 feet. A passion project of John D. Rockefeller Jr. (one of the wealthiest men of all time), Rockefeller Plaza was built during the Great Depression.

Construction started in 1930 and lasted nearly 10 years (completed in 1939). The project was a significant source of employment during the country’s most difficult economic times. At its peak, there were more than 40,000 construction workers tied to the job, when the country’s unemployment rate neared 25%.

Today, the building is famous not only for the impressive Art Deco design, but also for the role it plays in being an entertainment hub. Housing NBC Studios, it’s the birthplace of popular television broadcasts like Saturday Night Live. This historic skyscraper is visited by millions each year, making it one of the most popular buildings in New York City.

Website: 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY
Good to Know: Rockefeller Plaza has one of the best observation decks in NYC


Famous New York City buildings
New York Stock Exchange | Most Famous Buildings in New York City

The New York Stock Exchange

Standing as a symbol for capitalism (the principle our country was built upon), the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is one of the most important buildings in New York City. This historic edifice, completed in 1903, houses the world’s largest stock exchange (the listed companies have a combined value of over $30 trillion!).

The trading floor influences economies around the world, but it’s no longer open to the public (after the 9/11 terrorist attacks). Regardless, even seeing the building from the outside is worth the trek. A masterpiece of neoclassical architecture, the building features a grand façade with six Corinthian columns.

A testament to New York City’s central role in global finance, the NYSE is an iconic New York City building that can’t be missed. Try visiting at 9:30am or 4pm to hear the famous ringing of the bell (signifying the start and end of the day’s trading).

Website: The New York Stock Exchange
Address: 11 Wall St, New York, NY
Featured Guide: 15 Unforgettable Things to Do in the Financial District


The Chrysler Building, most famous buildings in NYC

The Chrysler Building

At the time of construction (early to mid 1900’s) everyone was vying for the honor of building the tallest building in the world, the architects behind the Chrysler Building were no exception.

Completed in 1930, this gleaming Art Deco skyscraper, with its distinctive terraced crown and sleek stainless steel cladding, reaches a height of 1,046 feet. It briefly held the title of the world’s tallest building before being surpassed by the Empire State Building two years later.

What makes the Chrysler Building stand out is the ornate design inspired by Chrysler cars. Topped with eagle gargoyles and radiator cap sculptures adorning its facade, the building isn’t open to the public, but it’s a marvel to behold from an observation deck.

Website: The Chrysler Building
Address: 405 Lexington Ave, New York, NY


Trinity Church

Trinity Church

Trinity Church was originally built in 1698 but was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1776. The second church was built in 1790 but was torn down after structural problems due to severe snowfall in 1838. Alas, the church you see today is actually the third building, which was completed in 1846.

When construction was completed, Trinity Church was the tallest building in the country (holding the title for 23 years, until 1869). The church played a big role in the history of New York City. The British relied on it for prayers and services during the American Revolutionary War and George Washington came here to pray after his inauguration as the first President of the United States.

Website: Trinity Church Wall Street
Address: 89 Broadway, New York, NY
Featured Guide: 12 Most Beautiful Churches in NYC

Any Hamilton fans out there? If so, Trinity Church may ring a bell. The church’s graveyard is where Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Eliza, are buried. It’s definitely worth a quick stop if you’re a fan of this Founding Father.


The One World Trade Center in the Financial District

One World Trade Center

The One World Trade Center (also known as the “Freedom Tower”), soars to a symbolic height of 1,776 feet (the year America declared its independence). Not only is this the tallest building in the country (and 6th tallest building in the world), but it serves as a stark reminder of the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

Completed in 2014, the building has 104 floors and is topped with a 408-foot spire that adds to its iconic stature of this famous New York City building. You can gawk at the building from the ground level. However to truly appreciate its size, I suggest visiting the observation deck for panoramic views of NYC.

Representing the resilience of the American people, the One World Trade Center is arguably the most important building in New York City.

Website: One World Observatory
Address: 17 West St, New York


Empire State Building Views from Top of the Rock NYC
The Empire State building seen from Top of the Rock

The Empire State Building

Reaching dizzying heights of 1,454 feet, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for 40 years (from 1931–1971). More impressively, the construction of this iconic New York City building took a mere 20 months from start to finish.

With 102 floors, this Art Deco masterpiece was an engineering marvel of its time and remains one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The building’s observation decks, on the 86th and 102nd floors, offer awe-inspiring views of the city, drawing over 4 million visitors each year.

Website: The Empire State Building
Address: 20 W 34th St., New York, NY


The New York Public Library
Most beautiful buildings in New York City

The New York Public Library

Guarded by two majestic lion statues, the New York Public Library is housed in one of the most iconic buildings in New York City. Designed in a Beaux-Arts style, this building stands in stark contrast to the glass and iron it surrounds.

It houses over 53 million items, making it the second largest public library in the United States and one of the most significant in the world. When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country.

No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this monolithic structure, but the wait was worth it, more than 50,000 people showed up on opening day. I’m a firm believer that everyone needs to see the New York Public Library at least once in their life.

Website: The New York Public Library
Address: 476 5th Ave, New York, NY
Featured in: You can see Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence for free at the New York Public Library. Read: 10 FREE New York City Museums (That Don’t Suck)


Saint Patrick's Cathedral most iconic buildings in NYC

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

Blending the beauty of architectural with religious significance, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in NYC. Completed in 1878, this Neo-Gothic marvel stretches skyward with spires reaching 330 feet. It feels like a slice of medieval Europe in the heart of Midtown!

With a seating capacity of 2,000+, this is one of the largest cathedrals in NYC. Touring the interior is a no-brainer and completely free, so swing by if the doors are open. Boasting stunning features like stained glass windows, a grand organ, and soaring ceilings, the cathedral was recently renovated to the tune of $177 million. Any way you slice it, touring this iconic building in New York City is a must for first time visitors.

Website: Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY (5th Avenue & East 50th Street)


Cool facts about NYC

The Plaza Hotel

When most folks think of New York City, they romanticize a stroll through Central Park while the striking Plaza Hotel looms in the background. Opened in 1907, The Plaza is the epitome of luxury and prestige. Today is serves as both a hotel and condos, but as you can imagine, the price tag is steep.

If you’d like to tour the interior (and budget isn’t a concern), make reservations for afternoon tea at the Plaza. You’ll get to experience one of the most elaborate dining halls in NYC.

Website: The Plaza Hotel
Address: 768 5th Ave, New York, NY
Featured Guide: 30 Iconic Movie Locations in New York City


Manhattan Municipal Building

Completed in 1914, the The David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building is one of the largest government buildings in the world. It’s impossible to visit NYC without noticing this impressive towering structure, especially if you plan to cross the Brooklyn Bridge at one point during your visit (which you absolutely must do).

Renamed in 2015 in honor of former NYC Mayor David N. Dinkins for his decades of public service, the building was originally built to accommodate an increased need for office space. Today, it stands as an architectural feat that seems to defy gravity. The beautiful NYC building incorporates Italian Renaissance, Roman Imperial and French Renaissance styes of architecture. Also, it was the first building in NYC to incorporate subway stations at its base, which is pretty cool.

Website: Manhattan Municipal Building
Address: 1 Centre St, New York, NY


New York Life Building  from the top

New York Life Building

One of the most common questions I get asked is, “what’s the name of the gold capped building in New York City?” That, my friends, is the New York Life Building. Built in the Gothic Revival style, it was completed in 1928 and topped with a gold pyramid roof to ensure it would become one of the most famous buildings in New York City.

The original roof was made from real gold (yes, really), but it eroded over time and was replaced with painted tiles. Reaching heights of 615 feet, the New York Life Building is a striking sight to behold, especially from afar, where it becomes clear that the epic NYC skyline wouldn’t be the same without it.

The headquarters of the New York Life Insurance Company, beyond its architectural beauty, the New York Life Building is a symbol of the city’s economic history. It reflects the growth and development of both the insurance industry and New York City as a financial powerhouse.

Website: New York Life Building
Address: 51 Madison Ave, New York, NY


General Grant’s Tomb

Ulysses S. Grant was a decorated General and the 18th President of the United States. Grant’s wish was to be buried next to his wife when he passed. The request seems simple enough, but it wasn’t. His options for a final resting place were limited because women were not allowed to be buried in military cemeteries at the time.

When Grant died from throat cancer in 1885, the mayor of New York offered to have him buried in NYC. His wife, Julia Grant, supported the offer and a large fundraising initiative took place to build what would become the largest tomb in North America.

Grant’s Tomb is undoubtedly one of the most famous buildings in New York City due to its significance, especially with history buffs. You can get free tours of the mausoleum through the National Park Service.

Website: General Grant’s Tomb
Address: W 122nd Street & Riverside Drive
Featured Guide: 25 Thought-Provoking Facts About NYC


The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET)

Founded in 1870, The Met’s iconic Beaux-Arts façade lays home to one of the most impressive museums in the world. With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world.

In fact, the MET is the most visited museum in New York City (receiving more than 6 million visitors per year). But the glorious facade you see today is not original to the museum, it’s an extension! Thankfully, the portions of the original building can be seen from inside the museum, head to Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court to see the red-brick splendor.

Website: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Address: 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY
Featured Guide: 15 Exciting Museums in New York City


Ellis island Museum NYC

Ellis Island National Immigration Museum

Opened in 1892 (and operation until 1954), Ellis Island was the country’s main immigration station. It processed more than 12 million immigrants in the span of 60 years, and the main building was recently restored after 30 years of neglect.

The Ellis Island National Immigration Museum was opened to the public in 1990 and is a must-visit for any history buff. Often considered one of the most important buildings in New York City, it’s designed in a French Renaissance style and is a beauty to behold.

Website: Ellis Island National Immigration Museum
Address: Ellis Island Bridge, Jersey City, NJ


Woolworth Building NYC

The Woolworth Building

Soaring an impressive 792 feet, the Woolworth Building’s claim to fame is that it was the tallest building in the world from 1913 to 1930. Not only was it the tallest building in the world at that time, but it was also the second-tallest structure in the world (after the Eiffel Tower).

Can you imagine walking by this monolithic skyscraper in those days? It dwarfs everything around it! The building was commissioned by Frank W. Woolworth, to be designed in the Beaux-Arts style with elaborate Gothic detail. When it was completed in 1913, this iconic NYC building set a record for fastest build of a skyscraper.

Effectively setting the stage for future skyscrapers in New York City, like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. During the grand opening ceremony, President Woodrow Wilson pushed a button from the White House to light up the interior floors and exterior floodlights. To the shock and delight of the crowd, it worked!

Website: The Woolworth Building
Address: 233 Broadway, New York, NY


famous buildings Manhattan
The Guggenheim Museum | Famous Buildings NYC

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The iconic architectural feat that houses the Guggenheim Museum in NYC was Frank Lloyd Wright’s most notable achievement. Unfortunately, Wright passed away six months before the museum opened to the public in 1959.

This monolithic distinctive concrete structure is considered a work of art itself and attracts more than 1 million visitors per year. Once inside, visitors slowly make their way up a 1/4 mile spiral ramp to observe world-famous modern art. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that this epic structure is one of the most famous buildings in New York City.

Website: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Address: 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY


Flatiron Building Manhattan
Image courtesy Shutterstock

The Flatiron Building

Let’s get real: the Flatiron Building needs no introduction. The intriguing triangular shape makes this one of the most beloved and famous buildings in New York City! Built in 1902 at the bustling intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, this is one of the most photographed spots in the city today.

Boasting French and Italian Renaissance influences, this iconic NYC building was first met with hesitation from New Yorkers. They were convinced that between the odd triangular shape and building height, it would fall down. Heck, even the New York Times originally called it a monstrosity.

But alas, the Flatiron Building has not only withstood the test of time, but the test of adoration as well. This has become one of the most beloved buildings in NYC and most New Yorkers can’t imagine the Big Apple without it.

Address: 175 5th Ave, New York, NY


Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden

This world-famous arena, with a seating capacity of over 20,000, is the oldest major sporting facility in the New York. Having served as host to some of the biggest icons in music, comedy and even two popes, the place where MSG truly shines is sports.

Having hosted historic sporting events such as the “Fight of the Century” between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier, MSG is the pinnacle of competition. It is not without reason that it’s affectionately known as the Mecca of Basketball.

A truly iconic New York City building for generations to come! If interested, they offer guided tours here. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll run into Spike Lee before a New York Knicks game.

Website: Madison Square Garden
Address: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY


List of Famous NYC Buildings

  1. The Empire State Building
  2. One World Trade Center
  3. Trinity Church
  4. The Chrysler Building
  5. The Flatiron Building
  6. The New York Public Library
  7. Grand Central Terminal
  8. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  9. Ellis Island National Immigration Museum
  10. The Woolworth Building
  11. 30 Rockefeller Plaza
  12. Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET)
  13. The American Museum of Natural History
  14. New York Life Building
  15. Manhattan Municipal Building
  16. The Plaza
  17. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
  18. New York Stock Exchange
  19. General Grant’s Tomb
  20. Madison Square Garden

Most Famous NYC Buildings (FAQ)

(NYC Buildings FAQ)
What is the most important building in New York City?

It’s hard to narrow down this list of famous NYC buildings to one most important building in NYC. The reason? It’s kind of subjective. For me personally, I’d argue that the most important building in NYC is the symbolic One World Trade Center because its a living tribute to the resilience of our great country as a whole.

What is the most famous landmark in NYC

The most famous landmark in New York City is arguably the Statue of Liberty. Gifted by France to the United States in 1886 as a symbol of freedom and democracy, it stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

What famous building is a prominent part of the cityscape of New York City?

The award for the most famous building in NYC goes to the Empire State Building. They don’t call NYC the Empire State for nothing!


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Map of the Most Iconic Buildings in NYC


Ryan

Thursday 28th of December 2023

The history of Rockefeller Center is interesting, had no idea.