New York, New York – one of the most vibrant cities in the world, known for its iconic skyscrapers, exclusive stores, and Broadway bonanzas. It is no wonder that the Big Apple is often, if not almost always, one of the top places on most people’s bucket lists.
It is a city known for so many different reasons. Not only is it one of the most famous cities to visit across the globe, it is also the home to some of our favourite TV series including Friends, Sex and the City, and Sesame Street, often shot in some of the most historical places in New York.
When you think of New York, it is hard to put your finger on one simple outstanding aspect. There is so much to see and do, it can almost be overwhelming. The city has enough excitement and adventure awaiting not just for tourists, but locals too, to justify it having its very own NYC bucket list.
Whether you’re a history buff, an adrenaline-junkie, a shopaholic or a foodie, there is an endless array of activities to keep you making memories to last a lifetime.
19 Best Historic Places in New York
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Historic Places in New York
- 1. Times Square
- 2. Broadway Theatre
- 3. The Empire State Building
- 4. Fraunces Tavern
- 5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- 6. Grand Central Station
- 7. The Brooklyn Bridge
- 8. Trinity Church
- 9. The Tenement Museum
- 10. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum
- 11. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- 12. Central Park
- 13. The Rockefeller Centre
- 14. Radio City Music Hall
- 15. Madison Square Garden
- 16. Washington Square Park
- 17. The Chrysler Building
- 18. Wall Street Historic District
- 19. The Federal Hall National Memorial
- Visit the Historical Places in New York City
Behind all the flashing and the lights of the city we see on TV, there is a certain charm to New York City that continues to captivate the hearts and souls of both locals and travellers alike. Everywhere you look, there are people to meet, cultures to embrace, and so much history to be digested.
There are also hundreds of picture-perfect places that have stood the test of time. Many of which are instantly recognizable and famous for being featured in tons of movies and series.
To this day, the city’s historical landmarks are used as breathtaking backdrops of stories to come.
From Central Park to Times Square, and everything in between, here are 19 of the most historical places, and exciting attractions in New York City.
1. Times Square
Location: Manhattan, NY 10036, United States
Times Square is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in New York City, not only for being a major centre of the world’s entertainment industry, but also one of the world’s busiest pedestrian areas.
In fact, since 2009, it has become a largely car-free area. On a typical day, an estimated 340 000 people enter the Square, and on its busiest days, roughly 450 000 pedestrians.
Previously named Longacre Square after London’s carriage district, Times Square actually got its name when the well-known newspaper, The New York Times, took up residence in the building in 1904.
Visiting Times Square during the day is an experience on its own, but nighttime is when it really lights up and comes to life. One of the best times to visit is actually New Year’s Eve when the infamous ball drop tradition attracts thousands of tourists and locals alike. The very first ball drop was in fact held in 1907, making the beloved tradition over 100 years old.
As one of the most iconic New York City attractions, it is no wonder you can actually see Times Square from outer space. With its brightly-lit displays and signage, astronauts are able to recognize the neighbourhood easily. The area has such a prominent reputation to uphold, that new signs have to stick to a minimum of display light.
Not only does the Square feature dazzling displays and flashing lights, but there is hidden art all throughout the neighbourhood. Be sure to be on the lookout next time you visit.
2. Broadway Theatre
Location: New York, NY, USA
Moving onto the next one, because the show must go on… Broadway Theatre, simply known as Broadway, is not only a place but also a phenomenon. It is widely famous for its theatres which boast flashing lights and booming performances.
Situated in Midtown Manhattan, the Theatre District consists of 41 professional theatres, all with at least 500 seats.
The very first Broadway theatre was opened by Walter Murray and Thomas Keane in 1750, almost 300 years ago. The theatre was mostly used to perform Shakespearian plays as well as operatic theatre. Since then, the Theatre District has grown to be one of the most spectacular entertainment areas in all of New York.
Some of the most famous Broadway performances, which you can still go and watch today, include The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, West Side Story, Kinky Boots and so many more.
Take a tour of both Broadway and Times Square with an actual Broadway actor to embrace the full theatre experience.
3. The Empire State Building
Location: 20 W 34th Street, New York, NY 10001, United States
A symbol of skyscrapers, the Empire State Building is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. After being completed in 1931, it was the world’s tallest building until the World Trade Centre opened in 1970.
With 102 stories and two very popular observation decks, the tower attracts millions of tourists each year to visit and take in 360-degree views of New York City.
The art deco skyscraper is so exquisite, it is no wonder that it has been featured in many different films including King Kong and Sleepless in Seattle, as well as series such as Gossip Girl and How I Met Your Mother.
4. Fraunces Tavern
Location: 54 Pearl St, New York, NY 10004, United States
Fraunces Tavern, built in New York’s Financial District in 1719, was known to be one of the most popular meeting spots of the American Founding Fathers. Since being built, it has served as a private residence, hotel and tavern, and is today one of the city’s most historic bars and museums.
Built by the De Lancey family, Fraunces Tavern is not only the oldest tavern in New York City but also the oldest standing structure in Manhattan.
In 1900, 54 Pearl Street was actually meant to be demolished. But the Daughters of the American Revolution with help from Andrew H. Green tried to purchase and preserve the plot. Unfortunately, they were refused, until the city came together to save 54 Pearl Street.
Thanks to them, today you can visit the tavern, restored to its full glory. While you’re there, have a drink at the bar and embrace the rich history behind Fraunces Tavern.
5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Location: 1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028, United States
Located on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a symbol of history and art that was founded in 1870. It is one of the world’s largest and most exquisite museums, and houses over 2 million pieces of art sectioned among 17 curatorial departments.
Experience all that the Met has to offer on a private guided tour and benefit from skipping the line.
For over 150 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has displayed hundreds of exhibitions, both historic and contemporary, and everything from surrealism to Native American heritage.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, nicknamed The Met, is also popular for being the host location of the annual Met Gala organised by Vogue. The Gala was established in 1948 by fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert and has been hosted annually since.
Attendees typically include celebrities as well as members of New York’s high society and the city’s fashion industry.
6. Grand Central Station
Location: 89 E 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017, United States
Yet another cinematic setting captured in hundreds of movies, Grand Central Station, also referred to as Grand Central Terminal, has been the primary transportation hub of Midtown Manhattan since the 1800s. Today it is a world-famous landmark.
Since its opening, this breathtaking building of grand stature is not only about trains, but also fine dining, entertainment, shopping, luxury and so much more.
It is not only one of the busiest terminals but also boasts over 20 stunning restaurants, cocktail lounges, and casual eateries as well as over 50 luxury stores.
For astrology fans, you can find the 12 zodiac constellations on the stunning centerpiece of the Grand Central Station, its celestial ceiling. Composed of thousands of gold leaf stars and twinkling lights, and one dark brick located next to Cancer. This brick is said to be a nostalgic representation of the old station’s ceiling before restoration.
7. The Brooklyn Bridge
Location: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038, United States
Built in 1883, Brooklyn Bridge was the very first roadway crossing the East River, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. Before this, Brooklyn was considered a separate city entirety and not classified as part of New York City.
The hybrid cable-stayed suspension bridge had a central span of 486 metres (1595 feet), making it the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time. It was also the first suspension bridge ever to make use of steel instead of iron for the cables.
Although the bridge makes way for thousands of cars, bikes and pedestrians today, it was not always like that. From 1883 to 1908, cable cars were used to cross the bridge, then elevated trains until 1944, and finally trolleys until 1954.
The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge has now become one of New York’s most iconic and Instagrammable landmarks, and one of the most striking American bridges around.
8. Trinity Church
Location: 89 Broadway, New York, NY 10006, United States
Situated at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, Trinity Church was founded in the 17th century. It is one of the very first Gothic Revival buildings in New York City, with the surrounding cemetery being the burial place of many historical Americans, including Alexander Hamilton and Francis Lewis.
However, the church you see today is not the first built in its place. During the American Revolution, the very first Trinity Church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1776.
Then in 1838, the second building collapsed and was demolished before being rebuilt for the third and final time later in the 19th century.
Fast forward more than 300 years to today, Trinity Church is an active Episcopal Parish church with a growing and steadfast community of over 1200 members.
9. The Tenement Museum
Location: 103 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002, United States
As an insight into the lives of many immigrants, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is a National Historic Site, telling one of the most important American stories. Once upon a time, before becoming a museum, the Tenement Housing was one of the most common settling grounds for many immigrants new to America.
The popularity of the area for immigrants was mostly due to low rent. The area featured many low-rise buildings with multiple narrow-structured, typically 3-bedroom apartments. In fact, it was not uncommon for a family of 10 or more to squeeze into one of these flats.
Today, you can visit the Tenement Museum and explore the Lower East Side of Manhattan, learning more about the neighbourhood’s rich history.
10. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum
Location: New York, NY 10007, USA
As with most historic landmarks, this one has a deep history behind it, with an incredibly sad story to tell.
September 11th, 2001 has gone down in history as one of the darkest days, not only for America but for the world. The infamous 9/11 tragedy consisted of four coordinated terrorist attacks, on the Twin Towers. The damage left almost 3000 dead, over 6000 injured and millions devastated.
Located at the World Trade Centre in New York City, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum has since been a place of massive tribute to the lives lost that day. It tells the story of 11th September 2001 through a series of narratives and artifacts.
Take a tour of the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum and pay tribute to the lives both lost and affected forever.
11. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Location: Statue of Liberty, New York, NY 10004, United States
The Statue of Liberty, one of America’s most famous landmarks, is located on Liberty Island in Manhattan, NYC. What most people do not know is that it was actually designed by the same architect of the Eiffel Tower and was a gift to the United States of America from France in 1886.
Not only is the Statue of Liberty a major tourist attraction and must-see bucket list item, but it is also a symbol of American freedom and pride.
Just a short distance from Liberty Island is Ellis Island – another historical landmark in New York City. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, millions of immigrants were processed and welcomed to the USA at this very port – yet another symbol of the American dream.
12. Central Park
Location: New York, NY, United States
New York’s famous urban green space, Central Park, is located between the Upper West and Upper East Sides of Manhattan. The park alone is bigger than the country of Monaco.
However, despite that fact and what you may think, it is only the fifth-largest park in the city, coming after Pelham Bay Park, Greenbelt, Van Cortlandt Park and Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
This city centrepiece oasis takes New Yorkers away from the hustle and bustle. Little known fact, there is only one single straight path that runs through the park. Also, some of North America’s largest and last remaining American Elm Trees can be found here.
As with many of these NYC historical landmarks, Central Park is another picturesque place used in movies and television. In fact, it is the most filmed location in the whole world.
There is even an American musical adult animated television series named after Central Park. Oh, and not to mention the infamous coffee shop, Central Perk, in the TV series, Friends.
13. The Rockefeller Centre
Location: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111, United States
Another one of New York City’s most recognisable cultural landmarks, the modern art deco Rockefeller Centre has come to have it all. Built between 1930 and 1939, John D. Rockefeller Jr. designed it with the idea of creating a “city within a city”
It is specifically known, far and wide for its famous Christmas Tree lighting, the very first of which was held in December of 1931, making a long-lasting tradition and treat for both locals and tourists.
Today, the Rockefeller Centre is home to the infamous Radio City Music Hall, the Rainbow Room, and The Rink – one of New York’s most popular winter activities.
14. Radio City Music Hall
Location: 1260 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10020, United States
The famous Radio City Music Hall was built during the Great Depression, and finally opened its doors in December 1932. It formed part of the iconic Rockefeller Centre and became one of New York’s biggest tourist attractions.
This art deco building, which features a dazzling design, is the largest indoor theatre in the world. The unique architecture and interior design are perhaps the most outstanding aspects of the building.
To this day, Radio City Music Hall is an entertainment venue phenomenon. Nicknamed the Showplace of the Nation, it hosts many events and performances including the annual Christmas Spectacular and Rockettes concerts.
You can even explore the history and culture a bit more in-depth on the Radio City Stage Door Tour.
15. Madison Square Garden
Location: 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10001, United States
Madison Square Garden, also referred to as The Garden or MSG, is one of the world’s most iconic arenas. Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, it has hosted almost everything from concerts and performances to sports events since the 1960s. However, it is not the first of its name.
The very first Madison Square Garden was built in 1874 by outstanding showman P.T. Barnum. Since then, Madison Square Garden has been demolished and rebuilt four times in three different locations.
16. Washington Square Park
Location: Washington Square, New York, NY 10012, United States
Washington Square Park is one of New York’s most popular public parks, located in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan.
Named after George Washington, the park features the breathtaking marble Washington Arch, which was built between 1890 and 1892.
Although a major feature full of history and beauty, the Arch is not the only factor attracting tourists and locals alike. A large fountain in the centre has become another main attraction of Washington Square Park, welcoming thousands of visitors every day.
Although it is known for being a parade ground of cultural activity, Washington Square Park has so much more to offer. As the symbolic heart of Greenwich Village, the park is a place for all: students, musicians, pedestrians, sunbathers, dogs and more.
Whether you are looking for peace and quiet, or some relaxing entertainment on a Sunday afternoon, Washington Square Park has it all.
17. The Chrysler Building
Location: 405 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10174, United States
Yet another one of New York City’s iconic art deco skyscrapers, the Chrysler Building is located in the Turtle Bay neighbourhood on the East Side of Manhattan. Construction of the building started in 1928, and only a short two years later, it finally opened its doors in 1930.
Why is the Chrysler Building such a famous historical landmark in New York? Simply because it was and continues to be one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the unmissable Manhattan skyline. In fact, it is regarded as the greatest building in New York City by many established architects.
Today, the Chrysler Building is still one of New York’s tallest buildings coming in at 11th, after the likes of One World Trade Centre and the Empire State Building. It is used as an office building but remains a dominant characteristic of New York City’s iconic skyline, keeping tourists intrigued by its stature.
18. Wall Street Historic District
Location: New York, NY 10005, United States
Think Great Gatsby, think Wolf of Wall Street, think Inside Job. The iconic Wall Street, located in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City, consists of eight blocks running from Broadway to the East River.
As the trading hub of the world’s biggest economy, it is mostly famous for being the historic headquarters of many of the largest American investment bankers, financial firms, and brokerages, as well as the New York Stock Exchange.
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The Wall Street Historic District consists not only of Wall Street but also other parts of nearby streets. However, it is ultimately known for Wall Street and its rich history, including the devastating Wall Street Crash on 24 October 1929.
19. The Federal Hall National Memorial
Location: 26 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005, United States
Located on the infamous Wall Street of Manhattan is the Federal Hall National Memorial. The hall features two structures of which it is partly named after: one Federal-style building completed in 1703 and another Greek Revival-style building completed in 1842.
Built in the 18th century as a City Hall, this is the exact place where George Washington took his oath of office as America’s very first president, changing history forever. The hall was also home to the first Supreme Court as well as the first Congress.
Here you can also visit the Washington Inaugural Gallery Museum, which houses the exact Bible that was used by Washington when he swore himself in as president. You can also find a stone slab from the exact balcony he stood on that very day in April 1789.
Visit the Historical Places in New York City
Well, there you have it. The best of the Big Apple and some of the most historical places to visit in the city. From the more historical landmarks like the Federal Hall National Memorial to the more exciting attractions like Times Square and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City has it all.
Whether it is your first time visiting NYC or you are a local through and through, there is always something to see, something to do, and something to learn in the breathtaking city of New York.
I covered all of the costs associated with writing this article. However, this historical places in New York City post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.