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Empire State Building or Top Of The Rock

No trip to the Big Apple is complete without getting a bird’s eye view of the city. Two of the more popular buildings to do this from are the Empire State and the Rockefellar Centre. They both boast incredible city views but you might be wondering which one is more worthy of your time and money, and which one is better the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock? Fortunately we managed to visit both to provide you with the ultimate showdown of the Empire State vs Top of the Rock.

Empire State Building vs top of the rock

The Empire State or Top of the Rock

The Empire State Building

Looking out at the view from the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is probably one of the most well recognised buildings in the city. Located on 5th Avenue the Empire State is a 102 story art deco style building. Construction began in 1930 and doors finally opened in 1931, a mere 13 and a half months after the first beam was laid. Apparently the building didn’t actually turn a profit until the 1950’s which is strange to think since these days it is probably the biggest New York City icon, along with the Statue of Liberty.


Standard admission to the building is $37. For this though you will gain access to the 80th and 86th floor. You are looking at paying around $57 per person if you want to include admission to the 102nd floor as well. We thought about this but when we booked our tickets with our hotel concierge he explained that the view from the 102nd floor is closed in with glass and not worth the money. We were also advised that the views weren’t that much better than from the 80th or 86th floor.  Needless to say we decided against it.

Wait times

We waited quite a while to get up the tower. When you purchase your tickets you are able to visit at any time in the day. We visited around 11am and we did have to wait for around 30 minutes before being whisked away in one of the impressive elevators. Depending on what time of day you visit or even what time of the year, you could be looking at an average wait time of 45 minutes to 1 hour. While it is frustrating having to wait the good thing about this ticketing system is that if you just show up without having pre purchased your tickets you will get access without having to come back at a certain time.

Getting to the top

So one thing that we didn’t realise was that the lift only takes you to the 80th floor. There is a nice view but you are looking through glass which isn’t ideal for photos. You then have to wait to get another elevator up to the 86th floor where you arrive at the observation deck. Once you arrive at the observation deck the views really are incredible, although sometimes you have to wait to get an uninterrupted view. It just does get super crowded so you will find yourself jostling for prime viewing positions. It can also feel really overcrowded at times and you get pushed around quite a bit. You do have to remember you aren’t the only one there and try to be considerate of others.


  • Try to visit early in the morning to avoid the heavy crowds. We arrived around 11am and found it really crowded.

Rockefeller Centre

The Rockefeller centre was created by J.D. Rockefeller Jr, and was designed to be a city within a city. Building was completed in 1933 and since then the building has become an almost cultural hub.


Admission starts at around $37 and you can purchase tickets online, which is recommended or at the building itself. For an extra $15 per person you can purchase the Sun and Stars package which allows you to visit during the day and the evening in a 24 hour period. When you purchase your ticket you need to select a date and time, and you have to be here at this time to gain entry. When you arrive just look for the signs for “Top of the Rock“. The timed ticketing system can be frustrating especially if you have decided to visit at the last minute, but one the plus side it means it is not as crowded at the top.

Wait times

Wait times to get to the top aren’t actually too bad. Especially compared with the Empire State Building. Because it is a timed visit there are only a certain number of people waiting at that time so you will be at the observation deck before you know it.

Getting to the top

You will have access to the 67th, 69th and 70th floors when you get out of the lift. It is generally not too crowded on the observation decks and there is more space then the Empire State Building. The 70th floor has no glass or metal obstructing your view either so it makes for an amazing picture. Plus the cool thing is you can get a picture of the iconic Empire State Building as well.


  • Do book your tickets in advance. Because visits are timed you cannot expect to show up and go straight up. We tried to do this but the next available time was 4 hours away!

Empire State Building or Top of the Rock- which one is better?

I know that the Empire State is an iconic building, but for us we found it so overcrowded. Of course the view is amazing but from Top of the Rock you actually get a picture with the Empire State in it. The timed visits at Top of the Rock really worked better as it wasn’t completely overcrowded when trying to admire the view. Also the cool thing is there are multiple viewing platforms and a whole lot more space. So in the battle of the Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock we say if you can only do one go for Top of the Rock! But if you can do both then do. Trust us you can never get tired of those sky high views of New York City.

Empire State Building vs top of the rock

Empire State or Top of the Rock


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  • Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    January 21, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    I think I preferred Top Of The Rock too! Although I went up the Empire State just as it was getting dark, and NYC at night was just phenomenal. This is really interesting because I visited 10 years ago and I think I had to wait a while to go up the Empire State, but I walked straight in for Top Of The Rock – they were also $18 each I’m pretty sure, so they’ve doubled in price in 10 years! And clearly got a lot more busy. I think if I went back now, I’d only do one and it would be Top Of The Rock.

    • [email protected]
      January 21, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      Oh good I’m glad you agree! Isn’t it crazy how the price has doubled in 10 years. X