How to climb the Empire State Building is one of the most common questions asked by travellers who want to visit what is possibly the best known skyscraper in Manhattan and, without a doubt, one of the must-see places in New York.
What was the tallest building in the world for 40 years, from its inauguration in 1931 until 1971, is a New York landmark and it would be almost a sin to leave the city without visiting it. In addition to its height and, of course, its observation decks that offer brutal views, the Empire State Building stands out for its beautiful art deco style, which can be admired during the tour.
Based on the experiences of our two trips to this brutal American city, the first an 11-day trip to New York and the second living in a flat for a month and a half, thanks to which we put together this guide to New York, here you will find everything you need to know about how to climb the Empire State Building, tickets, prices, opening hours and tips on how to get the most out of it. Let’s get started!
Let’s start with the basics: because it’s the most iconic building in the New York skyline, a classic among classics. It is pure Big Apple history and getting to know its insides is a basic part of any route through New York.
You probably already know the second reason, but another reason to go up there is to enjoy the views. Visiting the Empire State Building means seeing the centre of Manhattan and the rest of New York from up close. In our opinion, it is 100% worth it and, for this reason, we are going to tell you everything you need to know so you can plan your tour.
To get to the Empire State Building observation deck, you’ll have to go to the entrance of the skyscraper, located on 34th Street. It’s rare that you don’t see the queue that usually forms, so it’s easy to identify where to go.
As we recommend in this post, the best way to avoid one of the two long lines that always form is to book your ticket in advance. Otherwise, you will have to queue to get it from the machines. With it and an ID (ID card or passport), head to the security checkpoint and discover the exhibition located on the first floor. There you will see what New York was like at the time the skyscraper was built, its history and some interesting objects, as well as the iconic and cinematic King Kong.
It’s normal that people don’t spend a lot of time in the exhibition because they’re nervous about going up to the Empire State Building, but it’s not a bad idea to take a few minutes to enjoy it before waiting in line to get in the lift to the 80th floor. Since tickets are now time-slotted, the line is usually not very long.
On the 80th floor you’ll find a glassed-in observation deck that already has great views and another exhibit on the building, but the next lift will take you to the 86th floor, which is the main reason to go up to the Empire State Building: its observation deck. Once at the top, you have a glassed-in area and the legendary terrace that you’ve surely seen in hundreds of photos and films, with the photogenic binoculars for an even closer look.
It doesn’t stop there. There is another observatory in the Empire State Building on the 102nd floor, accessible by another lift from the 86th floor. Consider that you have to pay a supplement which, from our perspective, is perhaps a little high compared to the cost of general admission. The viewing platform, in this case, is completely glazed, is smaller and the difference in views is not really that great.
When you’re ready to spend as much time as you like, head to the lift and start your descent to continue your tour of the city.