Visit the Empire State Building in New York: tickets, prices, opening hours

Empire State Building

Visiting New York? Don’t miss a visit to New York’s Empire State Building: the city’s most iconic skyscraper!

It’s impossible to talk about New York without mentioning the Empire State Building – New York City’s third tallest building – just as it’s impossible to visit the Big Apple without passing by this famous American landmark. As well as being historic, the site offers an exceptional panorama that’s well worth seeing.

To help you organize your visit, we’ve listed all the important information you need to know: from timetables and prices to the history of this New York must-see, you’ll be ready to visit the Empire State Building with your eyes shut!

History of the Empire State Building

The story of the Empire State Building began long before 1930, the year of its construction: in 1799, New York City sold a piece of virgin land to John Thompson for the modest sum of $2,600, with the aim of turning it into a farm! The land was sold several times to different people, until it finally fell into the hands of John Jakob Raskob. Raskob then competed with Walter Chrystler to build New York’s tallest skyscraper.

Construction of the Empire State Building began on March 17, 1930, under the direction of architects Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, and was completed just 410 days later, at a rate of 4.5 storeys per week: a feat in those days! At 381 m (443.2 m with the antenna) and 102 storeys, the race to become the world’s tallest building was won by John Jakob Raskob’s Empire State Building. It took 57,000 tons of steel, 3,400 workers and $24.7 million to build this giant tower… and that’s not all!

It was the city’s tallest skyscraper until the construction of the famous Twins Towers. Since the destruction of the Twins Towers, it has regained its status as the tallest building for some time, although today the construction of the One World Trade Center in place of the Twins Towers has relegated it once again to second place. The tower remained the world’s tallest until the construction of the 537-metre Ostankino Tower in Moscow in 1957.

Today, the Empire State Building boasts 6,514 windows, 73 elevators, 1,872 steps and some 2.5 million visitors a year! Many films have featured the building, including the famous 1933 film King Kong, in which the giant gorilla is seen climbing it, Superman and Independence Day, and numerous TV series such as How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Sex and the City and Gossip Girl.

What to see and do at the Empire State Building?

Inside the empire state building

Photo credit: Flickr – Dennis

A true symbol of the 20th century, the Empire State Building is also a powerful symbol of New York City in the same way as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and is sometimes cited as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. It all begins on the outside, with the tower’s Art Deco style, its four stone facades – all visible from the street – and its large windows.

You can then head to the building’s 5th Avenue entrance and enter the lobby, also Art Deco-inspired, which features three floors of polychrome marble and granite, and a ceiling decorated with aluminum, gold leaf and platinum. This same lobby serves as a showroom for works of art from New York’s many museums. In fact, since 1963, it has been home to eight massive paintings by Roy Sparkia and his wife Renee Nemerov.

Then take the elevator up to the 86th floor, some 320m above sea level. From here, you can see Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty or the MET from the panoramic view in front of you. You can also go to the second observation platform on the 102nd floor. This will cost you more, but if the weather is perfectly clear, you’ll be able to see 130km in all directions and attempt to observe 4 of the 50 American states, with New York State right in front of your eyes: New Jersey on the other side of the Hudson River, with Pennsylvania to the south, Connecticut to the north and Massachusetts beyond. Not bad, eh?

Good to know: If you like music, a saxophonist plays at the 86th floor Observatory from Thursday to Saturday, from 10pm to 1am. And if you’re in the mood for romance, you can even ask him to play a special piece of music!

How to visit the Empire State Building

Empire State Building

Photo credit: Unsplash – Ali Morshedlou

To visit the Empire State Building, you need to prepare for your visit, in particular by finding out all you need to know about the site. From visiting time to site accessibility, we’ve selected the most frequently asked questions:

When is the best time to visit the Empire State Building?

If you want to visit the Empire State Building without getting too crowded, it’s best to come between 8 and 11 a.m., or between midnight and 1 a.m., although peak times can vary depending on the season.

Is it possible to climb the stairs to the top of the Empire State Building?

The stairs are closed to the public. You can still use them if you take part in the annual race.

How long does a visit usually last? Is there a time limit?

Please allow at least an hour for your visit, or a little more if you visit both observation posts. Please note that there is no time limit and no fixed visiting hours.

During peak times, especially in summer, waiting times at the ticket office and elevators can be longer. You can save time if you decide tobuy your ticket online, which will give you priority at all waiting points and save you time!

Good to know: a free multimedia tour is included with every ticket for the Empire State Building.

Can we eat at the top of the Empire State Building?

There are no restaurants or stores at the observation posts, but you can eat in the main hall.

What items are prohibited?

– All weapons, including scissors

– Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

– Professional cameras, equipment and camera supports: monopods, bipods and tripods

– Skateboards, roller skates, balls and other sports equipment

– Suitcases, hand luggage, packages…

– If you come with a stroller, you’ll need to fold it before entering the elevator.

Good to know: The Empire State Building has no storage facilities for personal belongings.

Are pets allowed?

No, unfortunately you can’t bring your pet to the Empire State Building.

Accessibility

The site is fully accessible: Disabled toilets are available at the 86th-floor Observatory of the Empire State Building, which is also equipped with lowered observation walls, ramps and binoculars. Service dogs are allowed in the building. Motorized and non-motorized wheelchairs are permitted. However, the 102nd floor currently has only one high wall, and is therefore not accessible to all visitors.

How do I get to the Empire State Building?

The best way to get to the Empire State Building (5th Avenue, between 33rd and 24th Street) is to look up to the sky and let yourself be guided! You can also get there by :

  • By subway: 34th Street/Penn Station (lines 1, 2, 3, A, C and E) or 34th St – Avenue of the Americas (lines B, D, F, N, Q and R)
  • By bus: lines M2, M3, M4 M5, M16 and M34
  • By car: The nearest parking lot is on 33rd Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

If you’re apprehensive about taking transportation in New York, be sure to read our article  » Transportation in New York: how to get around in New York? « 

Empire State Building opening hours and prices

SCHEDULES

Open 365 days a year, regardless of weather, from 8am to 2am. Last elevator at 1:15 a.m.

RATES

  • Main terrace – 86th floor

Standard pass: ADULT $38 / CHILD $32 / SENIOR $36

VIP express pass: $65

  • 86th and 102nd floors

Standard pass: ADULT $58 / CHILD $52 / SENIOR $56

VIP express pass: $85

You can find more information and offers on the official website.

If you want to avoid the long queues and benefit from discounts to visit New York’s must-see sites, including the Empire State Building, then opt for the Pass New-York!