Landmarks in NYC: 10 Places All First-Time Visitors Need to See

The city is filled with historical buildings and iconic sights. When visiting NYC for the first time, be sure these landmarks are part of your itinerary.

Navigate the Big Apple’s must-visit landmarks with ease using our essential guide.

As a first-timer visiting the Big Apple, deciding what landmarks to visit can be overwhelming. The city is brimming with iconic sites, each clamoring for your attention. With limited time, you might feel like you’re missing out, unable to differentiate between the must-sees and the nice-to-sees.

But fear not! We’re here to streamline your adventure. Dive into our guide tailored specially for newcomers like you, ensuring you hit all the essential spots without the fuss. By the time you’ve walked through our list, you’ll have created a few days’ worth of sightseeing in New York City.

10 Must-See Landmarks in NYC for First-Time Visitors

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty stands tall not just as one of the iconic NYC landmarks, but also as a beacon of freedom and hope in the United States. Recognized globally, out of the many landmarks in NYC, Lady Liberty often takes the crown in popularity.

For first-timers in the city, it’s almost a rite of passage to witness the majestic statue up close and delve into the rich history of Ellis Island. There are numerous day tours available, ready to enrich your experience with the tales and sights of these iconic places.

Check out some of the best Lady Liberty + Ellis Island Day Tours that won’t break the bank:

daytime view of the statue of liberty with the nyc skyline in the background

Times Square

First-timers, get ready to be dazzled by arguably the most vibrant of all NYC landmarks! As the beating heart of NYC, Times Square is always alive, always shining. Bathed in neon lights and bursting with life, from mammoth billboards to street-side spectacles, it’s sensory overload in the best way. Dive into a shopper’s paradise, dine in eclectic eateries, or watch live tapings at TV studios. Times Square truly encapsulates the city that never sleeps. You could spend days here and still crave more!

The Empire State Building

Among the many landmarks of NYC, the Empire State Building stands tall (quite literally!) as an iconic must-visit. As a symbol of architectural prowess and the ambition of the early 20th century, it encapsulates the very spirit of New York City.

Not a history enthusiast? No worries! The Empire State Building offers more than just a lesson in the past. Its observatory decks provide an unrivaled panoramic view of the cityscape, making this landmark building NYC a highlight of your Big Apple adventures.

The Empire State Building and city skyline with a pink sunset in Manhattan in NYC, New York, USA
photo credit: Kit Suman via Unsplash

Grand Central Terminal

If you’re making a list of landmarks NYC spots to hit, don’t skip Grand Central Terminal. Once you get inside, look at the details! From the ceiling right down to the floor, you’re surrounded by amazing artwork and architecture. Thanks to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, it’s been kept in its classic, timeless glory.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a somber reminder and an important piece of both U.S. and world history. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, profoundly shaped the country’s narrative, making this place essential for anyone trying to understand America’s heart and resilience.

For a first-timer, visiting here offers a deep dive into the events of that fateful day. Many spend the day wandering through the museum’s exhibits, attending talks, or simply sitting by the pools, reflecting. It’s a place of contemplation, learning, and homage, ensuring that the stories of those lost, and the lessons learned, are never forgotten.

Close up photo of the Last Column with a concrete wall behind it at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC, New York, USA
photo credit:
National September 11 Memorial & Museum via Facebook

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building’s distinctive triangular shape is an iconic architectural marvel. Designed in the beaux arts style, it once held the title of the tallest building in NYC. Its unique design and historical significance make it a magnet for tourists.

If you’re looking to snap the perfect photo, aim for the golden hour when the sun accentuates its features. And if you’re up for a bonus, the reflection off nearby windows offers a creative twist! Or, take a Flatiron Food, History & Architecture Tour to fill your day with sightseeing and eats!

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge is one of the Landmarks NYC that is both functional and visually appealing. While this architectural marvel connects Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East River, our Instagram lovers out there love its iconic design and grand stature. It’s the perfect backdrop for all your New York City snapshots.

Afterward, take a leisurely walk to the Brooklyn Heights historic district nearby. You can bask in the charm of age-old homes that have withstood the test of time. And if you’re looking to delve deeper into the bridge’s tale, consider hopping on a guided tour or even biking across for a unique perspective:

ground view of river and Brooklyn Bridge with skyline in background in NYC, New York, USA

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Oh, art lovers, New York has quite the treat for you! Nestled in the city is the behemoth of art museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or as most folks call it, “The Met. As the largest museum in the United States, it’s impossible to see all the exhibits within a day.

Check out the website to see what’s on so you can plan ahead on what to see. But if you don’t fancy anything in particular, we recommend being face-to-face with masterpieces from legends like Van Gogh, Pollock, and Renoir. You could see the highlights with a Met Express: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art tour.

Central Park

While there are plenty of parks scattered around, none come close to the fame or significance of Central Park. Want to live like a New Yorker for a day? Just stroll through its paths, join locals on their daily commute, or find a cozy spot to unwind.

You see, this isn’t just a tourist destination. It’s where the city breathes, jogs, picnics, and plays.

Fancy a bit more activity? Hop on a bike or join a guided tour, and immerse yourself in its beautifully preserved landscapes. It’s NYC’s natural oasis amidst the urban jungle. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy an hour or two at Central Park:

sun shining through trees over central park in nyc, New York, USAFraunces Tavern

When it comes to historic spots in the city, the Fraunces Tavern is a top contender. This once-residential home earned its reputation as a landmark restaurant NYC when it became an emblem of the American Revolution. Its walls echo with the words of George Washington himself as he bid farewell to his officers in 1783.

Though fires and changes have altered it over time, the landmark tavern NYC remains a portal to a pivotal part of U.S. history. While you’re grabbing a bite here, remember that you’re dining with history.

Explore NYC’s Landmarks with a Vacation Package

Thinking of exploring NYC’s iconic spots without the headache of planning every single detail? With NYC Vacation Packages on Tripster, you can curate your very own Big Apple adventure. It’s a lifesaver, especially for first-timers wanting to hit those must-see landmarks without the hassle of individual bookings.

Additionally, these packages let you bundle up attraction and tour tickets with cozy lodging options right in the city’s vibrant heart. Essentially, it’s like having a travel organizer, but tailored perfectly to your tastes. Dive into your very first NYC adventure the smart way!

What Did We Miss?

Do you have a landmark to add to our list? Leave us a comment below!

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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...

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