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Where to find the best photo spots in NYC

Where to find the best free photo spots in NYC

This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2016. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.

New York City is just so damn photogenic.

Every season gives it a different aesthetic, and every neighbourhood has something new to offer. It seems that wherever you look, there’s something worthy of a photo. And the best part is that you don’t have to pay a dime to access most of New York’s best photo spots.

Sure, you can pay to go up to Top of the Rock for the classic skyline pic or book a cruise out to Liberty Island to see the iconic statue, but you can also get some incredible photos just by wandering the streets of New York and knowing where to point your camera.

When I lived in Manhattan and showed visitors around, I would always find myself pointing out all the best photo spots in NYC. I’ve taken so many pics of this city that I know exactly where to stand to get the perfect shot of the buildings, parks, architecture, and views.

If you’re heading to New York City anytime soon and want to know where to get awesome shots, here are all my favourite photo locations in NYC!

The best photo free spots in New York City:

Manhattan Bridge, DUMBO, NYC


My number one place to go for photos of the NYC skyline is DUMBO. Go to Brooklyn Bridge Park along the East River, and you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of Manhattan (especially if you head over just before sunset on a clear day).

You can find the most famous DUMBO photo spot by walking along Washington Street and standing somewhere in between Front Street and Water Street. Look back – you’ll get an amazing shot of the Manhattan Bridge lined up between the buildings. Just be very careful of cars while you’re standing on the road!

Brooklyn Bridge photo spot, NYC
Brooklyn Bridge in winter, New York City

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge may be one of the more touristy activities in NYC, but it’s worth it for the views and the interesting patterns and shapes that can be found along the pedestrian walkway.

Head here at sunrise (or very early morning) if you want to photograph the bridge without the hoards of tourists because it can get packed during the day. Also note that the Brooklyn side is usually much less busy than the Manhattan side as many tourists just walk on to the bridge from Manhattan for a photo.

Get creative with your shots here. Looking up through the wires that lead up to the pylons or looking at the Manhattan skyline with the bridge in the foreground are popular Brooklyn Bridge photos.

Central Park photo spot, NYC

Central Park

There are so many classic photo locations in Central Park, which you can visit on a photography tour or on your own. Start at Bethesda Fountain. The fountain itself is kinda nice, but the best photos around here are looking out over the lake with the paddle boats and the Boathouse in the background.

From here, walk along the lake to Bow Bridge. This is probably the most photographed bridge in Central Park, but it has a secret photo spot that not many people know about. If you’re walking from the south, there will be a little unmarked dirt path on your right just before you get to the bridge, which leads to a rock where you can get the above shot.

Head back to Bethesda and walk through the beautiful terrace (stopping for some shots of the inside if it’s not overly busy), and then up to The Mall which has plenty of photo ops along the walkway lined with trees.

From here, go to Sheep’s Meadow where you can get a great shot of the grassy area juxtaposed with the tall buildings lining the park behind it.

Chrysler Building, NYC
Main Concourse, Grand Central Station, New York City

Midtown Manhattan

If you’re looking for classic NYC street scenes, Midtown is the place to go. You can also do this area on a photography tour or walk the streets on your own. Anywhere between 34th Street and 50th Street will give you plenty of opportunities to aim your camera straight down the Avenues between the skyscrapers.

Some other great photo spots in Midtown are Grand Central Station (head up the staircases at either end of the Main Concourse for the best shots) and the New York Public Library on 42nd Street (which is absolutely gorgeous both inside and out).

Around this area you can also get some great shots looking up at the Empire State Building (34th Street) and the Chrysler Building (42nd Street).

Flatiron Building, Manhattan, New York City

Flatiron Building

The Flatiron Building gets left out of a lot of NYC itineraries, but it’s actually one of my favourite buildings in New York. This narrow triangular building can be a challenge to photograph because of its size and shape, but if you stand on Broadway or 5th Ave near Madison Square Park, you should able to get a good shot.

It’s also worth wandering through Madison Square Park for some photos. From here, you can sometimes see the top of the Empire State Building poking out above the trees.

SoHo photo spot, NYC

NoLita & SoHo

If you want those classic narrow streets, brick buildings with fire escapes, and adorable little shop fronts, the neighbourhoods of NoLita and SoHo are where you want to be. These are hotspots for fashion photography and are the best places to capture that iconic NYC street look.

If you’re not sure where to go, hop on a SoHo walking tour and snap some pics along the way. Some of my favourite spots are Elizabeth St (between Prince Street and Houston), the area round Petrosino Square, or basically any of the side streets between Lafayette, Canal Street, Greene Street, and Houston.

Street Art, Lower East Side NYC

Bonus: NYC street art & murals

New York City is one of the best cities for street art. When you hang out in the right neighbourhoods, it seems that every corner you turn has some weird and wonderful art plastered all over the walls. Here are a few of my faves:

The Lower East Side (LES) is a current hotspot for NYC street art. You’ll find most of it in the blocks between Essex Street, Houston Street, Allen Street, and East Broadway. Also check out Essex Street Market, which has a huge wall painted with a massive mural.

East Village has the First Street Garden (1st Street between 1st and 2nd Ave) which has been updated with art lining the walls along the north side. If you head up to Avenue C & 6th Street, you can also see the huge Alphabet City mural curving around the building on the corner.

Bushwick has become somewhat of a tourism hot spot for street art with The Bushwick Collective project being one of the most well known area for murals in NYC. To find The Bushwick Collective, get off the L train at Jefferson St Station and walk 5 minutes north to Randolph St.

Williamsburg is one of the top places to get your street art fix. Instead of the large-scale murals that can be seen in other areas of New York, Williamsburg has more stencils, stickers, and political art. The art is scattered throughout the entire neighbourhood, so take an afternoon to walk around and explore.

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