It’s one of the most fascinating cities in the world, often referred to as “The Big Apple” or “The City That Never Sleeps” (thanks to Frank Sinatra).
It’s full of amazing spots for you to discover, and in this post, we’ve made a list of the top 12 historical sites in New York City that you shouldn’t miss!
Related: Check out these famous historical sites in Washington D.C.!
Most famous historical sites in New York City
1. Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is arguably one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. It’s located on Liberty Island, a small island in New York Harbor at the mouth of the Hudson River. The sculpture was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and its metal framework by the creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Gustave Eiffel.
The statue represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty, who is holding a torch above her head with her right hand. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886, and has since been a symbol of welcome for immigrants arriving in the United States.
2. Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the 4 New York City bridges that span the East River and the most famous bridge. It connects the boroughs Brooklyn and Manhattan and was the first major bridge to be constructed in the city. It was officially opened on May 24, 1883, and was originally called the “East River Bridge” until its name was changed the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1915.
The bridge has a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 meters) and its deck is located about 127 feet (38.7 meters) above mean water. Since its opening, the Brooklyn Bridge has become one of the main icons of New York City and has been designated a National Historic Landmark as well.
3. Empire State Building
The Empire State building is one of the most famous skyscrapers in the world and has dominated the New York skyline ever since it was completed in 1931 after a record construction period of just 13 months. Its planning phase was right at the end of the Roaring Twenties, a period of huge growth, which was followed by the big crash in 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The tower was designed in the Art-Deco style and is located in Midtown Manhattan. It stands 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) tall and as the tallest building in the world upon completion, a record it held until the construction of the World Trade Center in 1970.
4. Flatiron Building
The Flatiron Building is one of the most iconic buildings in the entire city because of its peculiar shape. It was built on a piece of land that resembles a flatiron which is the reason it was named the way it is. The building only has 22 stories and stands 285 feet (86.9 meters) tall, which technically doesn’t make it a skyscraper.
The building was completed in the year 1902 which made it one of the tallest buildings in the city upon completion. It’s so famous that the entire district it’s located in was named the “Flatiron District.”
5. Chrysler Building
The Chrysler Building is another famous Art-Deco skyscraper in the city of New York. It was built around the same time as the Empire State Building and held the title of world’s tallest building for about 11 months until it was surpassed by it. It’s located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood on the East Side of Manhattan.
The building stands 1,046 feet (318.9 meters) tall and remains the tallest brick skyscraper with a steel framework in the world. It was built by and entirely funded by the owner of the Chrysler Company, Walter Chrysler. It’s designed, and specifically, its crown is the most distinctive feature of this amazing building.
6. Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings located between 48th and 52nd street in Midtown Manhattan. The 14 original Art-Deco buildings were constructed between 1930 and 1939 and were one of the only large-scale construction projects completed during the Great Depression.
The center was expanded the following decades and now consists of a total of 19 large buildings covering an area of 22 acres (89,000 square meters). It’s one of the most popular places in the city during the Christmas period because of its famous Christmas tree and ice-skating rink.
7. Manhattan Bridge
The Manhattan Bridge is another suspension bridge spanning the East River and connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The bridge was constructed between 1901 and 1911 and has become another important landmark in the city.
It was designed by Leon Moisseiff and is considered to the forerunner of the modern suspension bridges and a model of other important bridges with record-breaking spans, including the Golden Gate Bridge. The Manhattan Bridge has a main span of 1,470 feet (448 meters) and a clearance below of 135 feet (41.1 meters).
8. Woolworth Building
The Woolworth Building is another iconic skyscraper in New York City built in the early 20th century between 1910 and 1912. It was built by Frank Woolworth, an American businessman who became rich with 5 and 10 cents stores to serve as the headquarters of his company.
The building was designed in the Neo-Gothic style and with a total height of 792 feet (241 meters) it became the tallest building in the world upon completion, a record it held for nearly 2 decades until it was surpassed by the Chrysler Building. It has since its completion become one of the most prominent landmarks in the New York City skyline!
9. Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal is arguably the most famous railway station in the world. It was constructed in the early 20th century between 1903 and 1913 to replace the outdated Grand Central Station. Upon completion, it would become the biggest railway station in the world at that time.
It’s located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan and is famous for its Beaux-Arts design and iconic Main Concourse. The information booth in this main area has a clock on top of it which is valued between $10 and $20 million USD!
10. Times Square
Times Square is arguably one of the most famous places in the world, and one of the best-recognized landmarks in New York City. It’s located in Midtown Manhattan and is often referred to as “the heart of the city.” It runs all the way from 42nd to 47th Street and is bounded by 7th Avenue and Broadway.
The area was originally called “Longacre Square,” referring to the fact that it used to be the center of the horse and carriage industry of the city. This industry was located in Acre Road in the city of London, which is how it got its name in New York. It was renamed in 1904 because of the fact that the New York Times moved its headquarters there. It’s now one of the most visited places in the world, with hundreds of thousands of people crossing the square every single day!
11. George Washington Bridge
The George Washington Bridge is a double-decked suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River. It connects the New York City borough of Manhattan with the New Jersey borough of Fort Lee. It’s the busiest bridge in the world as nearly 300,000 vehicles cross the bridge every single day.
With 14 lanes on its two decks, there’s also no bridge in the world that has more lanes. The bridge was completed in the year 1931 and has been expanded twice, once to widen it from 6 to 8 lanes and once to add an additional lower deck. It’s 4,760 feet (1,450 meters) long with its main span being 3,500 feet (1,100 meters), the longest in the world at the time of completion.
12. Seagram Building
The Seagram Building is one of the most iconic and influential skyscrapers in Midtown Manhattan in New York, making it one of the most important historical sites in New York City. Its modern and internationalist design set the tone for the design of countless skyscrapers in the decades following its completion in the year 1958.
With a height of just 516 feet (157 meters) and 38 floors, it’s far from being the tallest skyscraper in the city, but its unique design and structural features have resulted in it being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has also has been designated as an official city landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
This concludes our list with the top 12 historical sites in New York City. These are the landmarks that you absolutely must check out when you visit the city!