Empire State Building

The Empire State Building in New York City is one of the most famous landmarks in the USA. We provide you with all the facts about the legendary skyscraper and give you helpful tips for visiting the Empire State Building during your vacation in the USA!

Empire State Building facts

Location: New York City
Height: 380 m (or 443 m with the antenna)
Visitors: about 4 million a year

What is the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is a 102-story commercial and office building in the Manhattan borough of New York City. The mega skyscraper was the tallest building in the world before being replaced by the World Trade Center in the 1970s. Today, it is still in the top 50 tallest buildings in the world.

The history of the Empire State Building

After the company Empire State Inc. bought the site with the address 20 W 34th St in 1929, it had the Empire State Building built at breathtaking speed: between 1930 and 1931, the 102-story building was raised in just one year and 45 days.

When it opened on May 1st, 1931, the Empire State Building became a historic landmark, as it was the tallest building in the world. President Herbert Hoover ceremoniously switched on the lights from Washington, D.C., at the push of a button.

Construction of the Empire State Building in New York

Unfortunately, the fame of the legendary skyscraper did not protect its owners from the Second World War and the economic crisis. In 1945, the Empire State Building took damage from a twin-engine bomber, and even after the end of the war, it was not profitable until the early 1950s.

In 1951, there was finally some good news: the Empire State Building was sold for $34 million and leased to the Prudential Insurance Company of America. This was followed by further sales in 1954 and 1961 for $51.5 and $65 million, respectively.

With the construction of the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building lost its title as the tallest building in the world in 1973. A few years later, it gained another title: landmark designation in 1981 and recognition as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

In 2002, investor Peter L. Malkin purchased the Empire State Building and filed an initial public offering for a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) for the building. The Empire State Building is now estimated to be worth $2.5 billion.

View from the Empire State Building in New York

How to get to the Empire State Building

The address of the Empire State Building is 20 W 34th St in New York City. It is located in Midtown Manhattan on the border with Koreatown. If you want to visit the famous skyscraper, you have several options:

Public Transportation

The subway station near the Empire State Building is called Herald Sq. You can easily get here with the B, D, F, and M (Avenue) or N, Q, R, W (Broadway) lines.

Even a short walk from Penn Station at 34th Street to the Empire State Building is no problem. The A, C, and E (Avenue) lines go here. The M34-SBS bus will even take you right to the door of the Empire State Building.

Arriving by car

There are several parking garages near the Empire State Building, but they are very expensive. If you don't want to pay at least $30 per hour for parking, the best way to get there is by subway. Other than that, driving in New York City is really no fun.

Remember
If you are not a US citizen or Green Card holder, you will need a US visa or ESTA to enter the US.

How to visit the Empire State Building

If you're in New York City, the Empire State Building is a must-see! The view from the observatories over the city is a sensational experience by day and night. Plus, there's a lot to learn.

There are several ticket options for your visit to the Empire State Building:

  • Standard ticket (up to the 86th floor)
  • "Main Deck + Top Deck" ticket (up to the 102nd floor)
  • Sunrise ticket
  • Day and Night Ticket
  • Skip-the-line ticket
  • Admission with New York Pass
  • VIP tour

Observation platforms

Even with a standard ticket, you can get to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building for about $40 and enjoy the sensational panoramic view over six US states. From here, you can also see Central Park and the Statue of Liberty!

If you want to get even higher, you can go to the 102nd floor and look over New York City from the fully glassed-in top platform. With the "Main Deck + Top Deck" ticket, you can use all observation decks of the Empire State Building, including the renovated 80th floor, for $75.

Best time to visit the Empire State Building

The view from the Empire State Building is simply gigantic on a bright sunny day as well as on a sparkling city night! That's why you can buy a day and night ticket that allows you to go up at two different times on the same day.

Special events and tours

The Empire State Building leaves nothing to be desired. If the standard tickets are not enough for your very extraordinary New York experience, you can book various specials. These include sunrise tours with fresh coffee, guided VIP tours for marriage proposals on Valentine's Day, or even the high-priced All Access tours, where you get a behind-the-scenes look at the Empire State Building.

Skip waiting times at the Empire State Building

Upgrading to the VIP Express ticket allows you to bypass the queues at security checkpoints, ticket counters, and elevators. This "travel hack" is recommended if you come on particularly busy days such as Valentine's Day or "round" dates, typical engagement, and wedding days.

Get your Express ticket here!

The Empire State Building in detail

From the observation decks of the Empire State Building, you can see as far as 130 km to New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. But the imposing skyscraper has even more to offer:

The lobby

From 5th Avenue, you enter the old main lobby of the Empire State Building. Majestic double doors and ornate bronze and aluminum reliefs greet you here between magnificent marble walls and terrazzo panels. Here in the lobby of the Empire State Building, you almost feel like you're in a chapel - except for the storefronts and security checkpoint.

The visitor center and exhibition

If you have a ticket for one of the observation decks, you also get access to the exhibitions on the 2nd and 80th floors of the Empire State Building. On the way up, you'll already be introduced to the history of the Empire State Building with an interactive show.

Accompanied by the free audio tour, you will get an even deeper insight into the history of the skyscraper through exhibits: the construction site, the life of the construction workers, the opening, and the modernizations. The encounter with King Kong, who wants to grab a piece of the building right before your eyes, is especially funny. However, you'll have to see it with your own eyes.

The lights of the Empire State Building

Originally, the Empire State Building was equipped with white floodlights that illuminated the top of the building and gave a signal at ceremonious occasions.

Later, four so-called "Freedom Lights" were installed to make the Empire State Building visible to people visiting the World's Fair in New York. Since the 1970s, the Empire State Building has been lit up in very different colors depending on the season, event, or holiday.

Art Deco Tower

The top floors below the highest observatory on the 102nd floor are part of the Empire State Building's stylish tower, which is used primarily for mechanical purposes and is off-limits to visitors.

Commercial and office space

The Empire State Building's more than 2.8 million square feet of leasable space houses companies such as LinkedIn, Shutterstock, Citizen, HNTB, and Global Brands Group. The Empire State Building is so gigantic that it even has its own zip code, 10118.

Observatory on the 86th floor

The observatory on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building has an indoor and outdoor area and can therefore be used regardless of the weather. On the open observation deck, which has been featured in many Hollywood movies, you can walk around the entire building and enjoy a 360-degree view of New York and the neighboring US states.

Upper observatory on the 102nd floor

A glass elevator takes you from the 86th to the 102nd floor, from where you can see far beyond New York City on the all-glass observation deck.

Tip
Since the 102nd-floor observatory is completely glassed-in and the platform is much smaller than the 86th-floor observatory, we wouldn't necessarily call the trip to the 102nd floor a must. Actually, you can save an extra $20.

Observatory on the 80th floor

Before you can go to the observation platforms on floors 86 and 102, the elevator stops on the 80th floor. Here, you will find an exhibition and a large souvenir store. Also, you will have a gigantic view over the city through the large windows.

86th floor of the Empire State Building

The top of the Empire State Building

Above the 102nd floor, there is an additional floor and the 61.9 m high spire of the Empire State Building. This was originally intended to serve as an anchor mast for zeppelins but was never put into operation as such.

Thus, the top of the Empire State Building with its antenna system serves exclusively as a transmission tower. Until the construction of the World Trade Center, the largest American TV and radio stations were also located in the Empire State Building. Today, a handful of newer stations are based here.

Take a photo of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the most popular photo subjects in the world! To get a really good shot of the ESB, you should position yourself wisely in good weather. Here are the best places to photograph the Empire State Building:

  • Washington Street
  • Sky Lark Rooftop Bar
  • Madison Square Park
  • Rockefeller Center
  • 5th Avenue, crossing to 18th street

Get your ticket here

Photograph Empire State Building

Empire State Building fun facts

You probably haven't heard these exciting facts about the Empire State Building:

  • The Empire State Building's lights are turned off in the spring and fall when it's foggy so as not to endanger passing birds.
  • Each year, a handful of select couples are allowed to get married in the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day. The ceremonies take place on the 80th floor and make the newlyweds members of the Empire State Building Wedding Club. As a result, they have free admission every Valentine's Day.
  • The Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU) is an annual race up the stairs of the Empire State Building to the 86th floor. The fastest runners make the 1,576 steps in about 10 minutes.
  • There was a plan to raise the Empire State Building 11 stories shortly after the construction of the World Trade Center to regain the distinction of being the tallest building in the world.
  • In 1983, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the legendary King Kong movie, an inflatable King Kong was attached to the Empire State Building. The whole city was in an uproar.
Empire State Building FAQ

Do you feel like you still don't know enough about the Empire State Building? Then you will surely find all the answers to your questions in our FAQ:

You can get all kinds of tickets for the Empire State Building on the Internet, for example at viator.com, getyourguide.com or sightseeingpass.com. Also, you can also buy tickets on the official website of the ESB.

The trip to the observation deck on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building costs $42 per person. Children pay $36, and seniors pay $40. If you want to go up to the 102nd floor, you'll pay about $20 more. Special tours are available from $115.

You should reserve tickets to enter the Empire State Building in advance.

The Empire State Building is open 365 days a year regardless of the weather. However, the elevators to the observation decks do not operate 24/7. For the safety of guests, an updated schedule has been developed, after which the last elevators run at 9:15 pm, 10:15 pm, or 11:15 pm, depending on the day of the week. Before your visit, it's best to check the official ESB website for the latest lift times.

You can visit the Empire State Building at any time of the day or night. However, the elevators to the observation decks only run until a certain time. Depending on the season and the day of the week, it is best to get to the building before 9 pm to enjoy the view from the top.

If you want to avoid the biggest rush of visitors, it's best to come from Monday to Wednesday from 8 am to 10 am.

Other sights in New York City

If you're in New York City, don't miss the top sights in the Big Apple. The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial, Times Square, and many other places are waiting for you! Learn more in our sightseeing guide for New York City!

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!