You want that perfect NYC backdrop for your Instagram? Look no further, we got you covered.
My destination number one outside of Norway has always been New York. As a kid, I covered my room with photographs and posters of the city, and at 17 I got to travel there for the first time. I went back the following year, and in 2010 I made it my (temporary) home. Since then I visit the city every chance I get. I can’t explain why, but New York feels like home to me.
Because of my many trips ‘across the pond’ I get a lot of questions from friends and family about NYC whenever any of them are headed in that direction. And as I’ve already written about my favorite spots in Central Park, I thought the next guide should be a collection of the most iconic and picturesque spots in NYC. This is the perfect guide for first timers in New York, or for those of you who simply wants to know how they can get those gorgeous Instaworthy backdrops.
Let’s start with the obvious choice. Brooklyn Bridge is nothing less than iconic and deserves all the attention it can get. Whenever I visit the city I have to cross the bridge by foot at least once – even if it’s freezing cold or incredibly hot. Just make sure you bring water, wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately (weather wise, of course). The best timing to avoid the worst crowds and the harsh sun is early morning or at night.
The Parks of Dumbo
Between Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge in the borough of Brooklyn, you will find the most adorable park with the most amazing view. Here you can check out Jane’s Carousel and Pebble beach for the coolest pics, or simply hang out by the shore. Love love love this area.
Right up the street from the mentioned park you’ll find Washington Street, supposedly the most “instagrammed” street in New York. And for a good reason – it really is a lovely spot with the view of Manhattan Bridge in the background. For my fellow Gossip Girl fans: you’ll probably recognize the Humphrey’s loft behind in me in this pic. (And yes, I know, I should really learn to close my goddamn purse..)
South Street Seaport
South street Seaport is a historic district and features some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan. This is the most charming little neighborhood by the East River, and it’s tiny old buildings and cobblestone streets makes it the perfect place for a stroll or a photoshoot. Start out by the Titanic Memorial and take a walk down Fulton Street and you’ll see what I mean. I especially love the vibe here during spring and summer, when you can have a coffee outside, check out the cute little shops and visit the Fulton Street Market before heading to Pier 17.
Any Rooftop, Really
Who says you have to pay $20 to get a nice rooftop view? Skip Top of The Rock and the Empire State Building and check out a rooftop bar or restaurant instead. I personally recommend Refinery, Gallow Green or Pod 39. Or even better – if you’re staying in an apartment in the city, chances are your building might have a rooftop like ours did. Nothing feels better than drinking a cold Stella on a rooftop in the New York City heat.
Greenwich Village // West Village
In addition to Soho, this is my favorite neighborhood in Manhattan. You’ll find no skyscrapers and few chain stores in this part of town – instead you’ll see loads of cute low rise buildings, cozy cafés and restaurants, cool bars, record stores and exclusive boutiques among these narrow streets. The area is frequently used in TV and movie productions and played a major part in the music industry and hippie movement of the 60s and 70s.
Highlights you should check out:
- Washington Square Park: This landmark of a park is the icon of Greenwich Village. Lovely place you cannot miss.
- MacDougal Street: Not far from the mentioned park you’ll find this charming street. It has a hippie vibe and is a definite must-see. Head to Caffe Reggio for delicious coffee and Café Wha for a beer and a live performance.
- Bleecker St: One of the most popular streets in the area. It has a perfect mix of great restaurants, adorable gift shops and boutiques, vintage record stores and high end stores like Michael Kors and Burberry. Definitely buy a delicious cupcake Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleecker St)
- Friends Apartment: If you love the iconic 90s sitcom as much as I do, you HAVE to check out Monica’s apartment at 90 Bedford Street. The first time I went here in 2007 I got so excited I thought I would throw up in my mouth a little.
- Carrie’s Apartment: Big fan of Sex and The City? At 66 Perry Street in the Village you can pretend to be Carrie for a little while as this is where the exterior shots of the famous series were taken. I don’t recommend you sit on the staircase however, as the residents of the building have put up a «no trespassing» sign. And even if you’re not a huge fan, Perry street is still a beautiful sight.
The High Line
Fun fact: 8 times out of 10, I’ve seen completely naked people while walking The High Line. You see, this former-abandoned-train-rail-turned-park has the perfect view of the Standard Hotel, and a few of the visitors apparently seem to enjoy showing off in the huge windows of their hotel room. Regardless of if my fun fact made you want to visit The High Line more or less, I still recommend you pay this unique and creative park a visit. After all, The High Line is so much more than a park. It’s a community where you can eat delicious food, enjoy art by local artists, watch a performance or sunbathe – all while taking a stroll through the gardens of the park. For the perfect backdrop I recommend you check out these three spots:
- The garden right below The Standard Hotel
- 14th street view: Where The High Line crosses 14th St, there is a great view of the West Village street.
- The High Line Observation Deck: I normally love this spot for photoshoots, but the plastic windows have been sooo messed up the last couple of times I’ve been there. Still worth a stop when you pass it though! Located where The High Line crosses 10th avenue, at approximately W17th street.
Although visiting the 9/11 memorial is a definite must-do while in New York City, posing for pictures next to the memorial feels a bit .. morbid to me. If you feel the same way and still want those “downtown NYC” vibes for your travel photos, The Oculus is a great alternative location.
The Oculus is a controversial and interesting train station that was built to replace the PATH station that was destroyed during 9/11 back in 2001. It cost $4 billion to build and also houses a mall. I enjoyed it as a discrete landmark backdrop for these photos on my last NYC trip.
Location: Fulton Street, close to the intersection with Church Street
Tired of those skyscrapers already? Get your butt on the next subway to Coney Island. This peninsula has everything you need for a perfect day – a white beach, a beautiful boardwalk, an amusement park and delicious food. Oh, and cold beer. Lots and lots of cold beer.
If the weather allows it and you have the time, it truly is a place I recommend for all visitors of NYC, especially for those of you who bring your children along. From Midtown Manhattan the trip usually takes about 50 minutes on the Subway.
Flat Iron Building
Flat Iron building is one of those iconic New York landmarks everyone has seen. Growing up this used to be my ultimate favorite building in NYC and I still adore it, there is simply something unique about it. You should pop by whenever you’re in the area or combine a visit there with adorable Madison Square Park which is located right next to the building.
Location: W23rd Street & 5th Avenue
A beautiful green lung in the concrete jungle that is New York City, Central Park offers a lot of wonderful nature and fun activities for you to enjoy in the middle of the city. As the park is huge (seriously huge) walking around the park looking for your dream landmarks can be confusing and may take a toll on your schedule, so if you’re looking for anywhere specific I advice you to research the location before going. I’ve made a super easy guide to the best highlights of Central Park in this guide, so make sure to check it out. A few of my favorite locations are:
- Umpire Rock
- The Pond
- Bethesda Terrace & Fountain
- Bow Bridge
This popular Manhattan neighborhood is one my personal favorites. It is known as the go-to place for shopping in the city and has a nice variety of upscale boutiques and chain stores. The streets are filled with beautiful and picturesque cast-iron buildings, which makes it ideal for photoshoots, and you can often find newly painted street art in the eastern part of Soho.
«Instaworthy» locations in Soho include:
- Broadway: This main street through Soho is great for shopping and makes the perfect backdrop for your photos. Yellow taxis in the background are always included.
- The Corner Deli: I can almost guarantee you’ve seen this deli on Instagram. Located at 106 Kenmare street.
- The Butchers Daughter: A very popular restaurant known for great breakfast and brunch, as well as it’s Instagrammable features. I would recommend the avocado toast, it is to die for. Located at 19 Kenmare st.
New York has a lot of gorgeous staircases. Take advantage! Okay okay, make sure you respect people’s homes of course, but I’m sure nobody minds it if you sit on their staircase for 3 minutes while someone takes your picture. Unless it’s 66 Perry Street, those residents get super annoyed.. My cousin Marlene and I did a short photo shoot in a staircase in Washington Heights, and I seized the opportunity to show the world my underwear. You’re welcome.
The Steps of the MET
Any Gossip Girl fans out there? This one’s for you. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the United States and is also my favorite museum in NYC with the exception of American Museum of Natural History. The Met is worth your time if you’re even the slightest interested in art and if not, well, let your inner Gossip Girl have a seat on the famous steps. Perfect to combine with a trip to Central Park or a stroll on the Upper East Side. Location: 5th Avenue & E82nd Street
A Busy Intersection
My favorite photoshoot location in New York? ANYWHERE. Okay maybe not anywhere, but what could be more New York than a random, hectic New York street like this one? My cousin Marlene took this one of me while we were crossing a street in Washington Heights and I really love how it’s very New York without showing any iconic landmarks in the background.
These kind of looks-super-random-but-is-actually-as-posed-as-it-gets photos seem to be the norm on social media these days, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m a complete sucker for them. I find it so awkward to smile in travel photos so I like these “candid” types of poses a lot better, even though they are as far from candid as possible. Oh and did I mention I had to cross this street like four times to get this photo?? Hahaha life in the 21st century..
More To Read About New York City
- Read my guide to the best Central Park highlights here + get a free printable guide & map!