Where To Shoot Photos & Get The Best Instagram Spots In New York City
There’s no denying that holiday destinations are more influenced than ever by how Instagrammable they are; you only have to look at Santorini to see the impact social media can have on a travel destination. (Read an honest feature on my own trip here!) Although I’m firmly in the camp of ‘do what you want to do and if there’s an Insta op that’s just an added bonus’, I know increasingly people want to ensure they have the best pics to share across their social media accounts and the way they plan their trips revolves around it. During our recent trip to NYC we managed to get some great photos, even if they were very much a bi-product of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, so I thought I’d give a rundown of all the best Instagram spots in New York City and some of the secrets I learned along the way.
1. Central Park
Without a doubt my favourite place to take photos because of the endless opportunities and backdrops, it’s well worth planning to spend at least a couple of hours in the park so you have a chance to wander and find places beyond the main tourist hub. If you enter from either 5th or 7th Ave you’ll find every rock, bridge and nice piece of grass covered by tourists taking selfies; but if you venture a little further and enter from the lower west or lower east side you’re much more likely to get the place to yourself. Some of my fave places to take a snap include standing on top of the iconic rocks so you can get the skyscrapers in the background, on some of the beautiful bridges, by the Bethesda Fountain (although you need to get up early!) and under the beautiful blossom trees. However, it’s best just to wander and see what you can find! There’s also Central Park Zoo (an affordable $14) if you want to watch a sea lion eat its lunch with the Upper East Side in the distance.
2. New York Transit Museum
An absolute gem of a find, we ended up in the Transit Museum when it started absolutely chucking it down and we didn’t have much choice but to find somewhere very much inside. This Brooklyn hotspot is actually rather charmingly housed in an old Subway station; it tells the story of how it was created and how it’s become so ingrained in the culture of NYC, as well as having lots of old signs / maps / pieces of trains. What’s the best thing about this as an Insta location though, is that beneath the main museum there are endless old subway cars sitting on the old platform for you to take photos on. You’ll never get an empty subway car on the A Train, so these provide a great way of recreating that without the added stress; nobody will even notice!
3. The Vessel
A new landmark that’s impossible to compare, this is hidden away close to the top of the High Line (more below) but is absolutely worth the walk to discover. It’s free to climb (although you do need to collect a ticket and await your time slot) and the views at the top are incredible; it almost doesn’t look real, looking over Manhattan from an open bronze staircase, but your photos will look amazing. Be prepared for lots of wind and hair-in-mouth pictures though, as it’s right next to the open water and isn’t very well protected from other buildings. My top tip is to take some snaps about midway up to get some perspective in the background, but also get a shot of you standing at the base (with your camera lens facing upwards) to take in the vastness of this incredible new building.
4. Top Of The Rock
In my opinion it’s best to skip the Empire State Building in favour of the Top Of The Rock, as you actually get to see the iconic landmark from the latter! Although you don’t get the iconic telescopes, you do get a far better view of Manhattan and Central Park – plus there are lots of giant windows to stand in front of if it gets too nippy to go outside. Make sure you book in advance as tickets sell out super quickly on the day (as we learned this trip!) and take advantage of their special ‘night and day’ passes that allow you to come back and experience the view with different backdrops. Cliched, yes, but without a doubt still one of the best instagram spots in New York.
5. World Trade Centre
Although I’m of the firm non-negotiable belief that posed photos at the World Trade Centre memorial is absolutely not ok (honestly, it made me feel so uncomfortable watching people take selfies where so many others died…) there are some other great locations nearby that are well worth exploring. Next to the memorial and museum there are loads of graffitied and brightly painted walls that make the best backdrops, while the new Westfield shopping mall is a sight to behold (and pose in front of.) If you can bear to pay the $40 to go to the top of One World Trade Centre there are some incredible views and photo points too.
6. Washington Square Park
Although a backyard compared to Central Park, Washington Square Park is a quaint place to wander through and take some snaps – especially as it features the iconic arches and a beautiful fountain. This can get super busy because it’s not that big, and more often than not there are crowds watching performers, but if you’re quick and clever you can get a great photo.
7. Rooftop Bars
Nothing says NYC like a great rooftop bar, and there are so many to choose from. Depending when you go you can get a great view of the city without having to climb the Empire State, or simply get a great photo of you enjoying the prettiness of some of the best rooftops in New York. Some of my faves include the Magic Hour Rooftop at The Moxy Hotel (which has mini golf!) and 230 on Fifth, but we also went to Gallow Green and the Empire Hotel. They tend to be quieter in the daytime and can get exceptionally busy after work Thursdays and Fridays, so plan your trip wisely.
8. The High Line
One of my favourite places to spend a few hours with a cup of coffee in hand, The High Line is an old service railway that has been repurposed as a public park and walkway; trees, flowers and nature now bloom over the old railways, but it’s the look-out points and gorgeous painted murals that make real photo moments. In spring there are endless blossom trees and lots of colour, but if you visit later on in the year you can make full use of the sunbeds and benches that look out over the city below.
9. Brooklyn Bridge
Yep, it’s a cliche – but for good reason. Walking the bridge is not only a great experience, but it provides ample opportunity to capture a great photo looking out onto Lady Liberty or over to lower Manhattan. It can unsurprisingly get incredibly busy and near impossible to take a photo without a hundred other tourists in it, but there are a few ways to get a great photo on Brooklyn Bridge if you’re clever about it. My top tips are to join from the Brooklyn side (which is much quieter) and either start out super early or leave it until golden hour in the evening; it’s also a good idea to have patience and try multiple spots, as well as waiting for people to pass before you quickly take your snap – and if all else fails, photoshop is your friend!
10. Greenwich Village
A completely different aesthetic and mood to Midtown, The Village has become synonymous with the likes of American sitcoms (the Friends and Sex & The City buildings are their own tourist attractions!) but is actually a very luxe and on-trend place to visit. With vegan cafes, expensive boutiques and bakeries on every corner, this is a place to visit if you like the finer things in life – but it’s the iconic brownstone buildings and stairs that Instagrammers love the most. Without a doubt it’s one of the best instagram spots in New York, but just be courteous and remember people live there!
With so many beautiful cafes, restaurants, coffee shops and bars to choose from, there’s always somewhere lovely to take a great shot (some of the most Instagrammed places in NYC are pretty eateries.) The most recogniseable get so busy that it’s not always a great idea to spend time and effort trying to get an Instagram pic with thirty others, instead try wandering around and bringing something new to your feed. After all, nobody wants to see the same thing again and again; they want to see your own take on the city that never sleeps.
Where do you think the best spots are to take a snap in NYC?
Do you have any tips of your own to get the best Instagram spots in New York City?