Empire State Building

For a long time it was the tallest building in New York and for a few years even the tallest building on earth: the Empire State Building in New York City. On a clear day you can see almost 130 kilometers from there and see five states. It owes its popularity not least to its great response in the media and its diverse portrayal in films. Every year around four million people visit the 443 meter high skyscraper in the Manhattan district. The epitome of a tourist attraction.

The Empire State Building in New York City has an enormous presence in the Manhattan skyline and enjoys international popularity. It owes this to its role in numerous internationally known films such as King Kong and the White Woman, Empire, Percy Jackson – Thieves in Olympus, James Bond, Independence Day, Sleepless in Seattle, The Day After Tomorrow and The Great Love of My Life. In 1995 the ESB was added to the list of the architectural wonders of the world of modernity.

According to acronymmonster, the popular photo motif, which has been on the list of national monuments of the USA since 1986 and even has its own zip code, owes its name to the nickname of New York State “The Empire State”. It was built in a record time of 18 months between 1930 and 1931 and opened on May 1, 1931.

The Empire State Building in numbers, data and facts

  • Total height: 381 meters (to the roof), 443 meters (to the top)
  • Floors: officially 102 (actually 103)
  • Top floor: 373 meters
  • Construction time: 1930 to 1931
  • Opening: May 1, 1931
  • Architectural style: Art Déco)
  • Architect: William F. Lamb, Shreve, Lamb and Harmon)
  • Owner: Tony Malkin
  • Usable area: 208,000 square meters
  • Elevators: 73 (shaft length: 11 kilometers)
  • Structure: steel
  • Facade: glass, limestone, granite
  • Construction cost: $ 40.9 million

The Empire State Building is hard to miss in Manhattan

If you want to visit the attraction in NYC, you don’t have to look very long. Because the Cathedral of the Skies towers over many buildings in the city and has a striking peak that can be seen from afar, especially in the evening thanks to its lighting. The entrance is located on 5th Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets, roughly in the middle of Manhattan Island in the south of Midtown Manhattan, and can easily be recognized by the employees of the skyscraper in their wine-red uniforms. Other well-known attractions of the metropolis, such as Times Square and Madison Square Garden, are just a few minutes’ walk away.

Only 410 days – the rapid construction history of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is on the site of the 1897 built Waldorf Astoria which was demolished in 1929. The first planning for a new skyscraper, which was to become the tallest in the world, was announced in late August 1929. Originally it was about a building with a size of “only” 305 meters. However, at that time there was great competition in the Big Apple as to who would be the first to build the tallest building in the world there. Therefore, the first draft of the commissioned architecture firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon was a few meters higher and came to 320 meters and 85 floors.

But then in November 1929 a spire was erected on the Chrysler Building, which made it the tallest building in the world. Accordingly, the Empire State Building had to get even higher. The final plans were announced on December 11, 1929 and stipulated that a 61-meter-high tower should be placed on top of the 320-meter-high main block, bringing it to a height of 381 meters. A height that the builders of the Crysler Building could no longer exceed. It is said that the builder John J. Raskob asked the architect in advance how high he could build without the building falling over.

The construction of the Empire State Building during the Great Depression is a masterpiece of logistics and civil engineering. Over 3,400 construction workers were employed there, working at a breathtaking pace and completing the building in a record time of just 18 months. The foundation work, which began in January 1930, was completed in March. Work on the building shell of the skyscraper began as early as March 17, 1930. On average, 4.5 floors were completed per week. Around 60,000 tons of steel were required to build the building.

The work of the Mohawk Indians involved in the construction was particularly impressive. These construction workers, who went down in the history of the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers as heavenly runners, worked as rivets and in groups of four hammered up to 800 rivets per day into the steel frame of the high-rise. They seemed to be moving up there in a sleepwalking security and tossed glowing building materials and tools at a height of more than 300 meters over 40 meters. Images of her work have been around the world and the book by photographer Lewis Hine on the construction of ESBNYC is an integral part of the history of photography.

On March 17, 1931, the external construction work was completed and after completion on May 1, 1931, the skyscraper could finally be opened by US President Herbert Hoover and the then Governor Al Smith. The landmark was also illuminated for the first time on this day. However, much of the office space in the new building was empty until the 1950s and the income from the building was mainly generated by the viewing platform and not by the offices, which earned the skyscraper the unflattering nickname “The Empty State Building”.

In 1945 an airplane flew in thick fog to the 79th floor of what was then the tallest building in the world. The B-25 bomber hit the ESBNYC at a speed of 322 km / h and tore a five by six meter hole in the facade. The accident resulted in 14 deaths. 24 people suffered some serious injuries. The damage to the Empire State Building caused by the destruction was repaired within three months.

The technology of the Empire State Building was completely modernized in 2008 as part of renovation work. The heating system was renewed, the windows were replaced and the previous exterior lighting was replaced by LEDs in order to make the Empire State Building more environmentally friendly.

Today the skyscraper is mainly used as an office building. Almost all floors up to the viewing platform on the 86th floor house offices. Incidentally, the view from here is breathtaking. The top of the building has served as a transmission mast since 1931. Nineteen radio and twelve television channels are currently broadcast from the Empire State Building.

Art Deco style architecture

The Empire State Building is in the Art Deco style and was influenced in its shape by the Zoning Law (a building code) of 1916, which required that the floor plan of the building should be tapered towards the top for all skyscrapers in New York City had to. In addition, each facade was allowed to be a maximum of 37.5 meters high in order to avoid impairment of other buildings through the shadow of the respective high-rise. Accordingly, the Empire State Building consists of a single, 320-meter-high main block that tapers back and forth on the way up. This is followed by the viewing platform with an outstanding view on the 86th floor, on which a slim tower is placed again. A 62 meter long antenna sits enthroned on the roof.

The steel structure of the Empire State Building itself consists of a steel frame typical of the time, which is held together by a rivet structure. The facade is made up of limestone and granite and was inserted into the frame during construction. In addition, the building has 6,379 window elements, all of which were installed individually.

Seven different types of lame marble were installed in the interior and further natural stone elements with stones from Belgium, France, Italy and the USA were added. The lobby in particular is beautiful. It is completely lined with marble and has a very elaborate design with inlay work in the walls. The works show the Empire State Building as the eighth wonder of the world alongside the seven known. A map of North America can be seen in the background.

Visible from afar – the beautiful lighting of the Empire State Building

A particular highlight of the skyscraper in Manhattan is its top, which is illuminated in three levels; including public holidays. The lower and middle parts as well as the antenna can take on different colors. These lighting effects have been possible since the office tower opened.

In 2012, a light-controlled LED lighting system was installed that is capable of displaying 16 million colors. In front of the world-famous static lights, dazzling light shows with quick color changes, the display of ornaments and many other elements are possible. The animations are shown from dusk until two o’clock at night and change every hour on the hour.

Since 1976, the color combination of the landmark has also been used to refer to special days in the course of the year. The top shines in red, white and blue on national holidays, in blue and white at home games of the New York Yankees, in red and green on Christmas, in green on St. Patrick’s Day, in red on Valentine’s Day and in black during the Steuben Parade -Red gold. In addition, the Empire State Building is specially illuminated for special events or honors. In some cases, the targeted lighting was also used for commercial reasons, for example when Windows 95 was introduced.

By the way, one of the best vantage points in New York to photograph the Empire State Building is this one Rooftop bar 230 Fifth. From Rockefeller Center you also have a good view of the Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building for tourists

The Empire State Building is one of New York’s most popular attractions, attracting around four million visitors every year. This is of course mainly due to the fantastic view that the two viewing platforms offer. The platforms can be reached by high-speed elevators. Everything is wheelchair accessible and easily accessible with a wheelchair or with a stroller.

The lobby of the Cathedral of the Skies

The structure’s lobby is beautiful and one of the few interiors in New York that has been declared a Historic Landmark. The real highlights are the ceiling paintings in Art Deco style. On the wall above the reception is the relief of the Empire State Building, one of the most famous images of Big Apple. There are also several restaurants and snack bars on the lobby level.

The visitor center on the second floor

The ticket counters and the security check, which must be passed, are on the second floor of the ESBNYC. There are also free portable multimedia devices available for the audio tour and those who want can also visit the sustainability exhibition, which is about the renovation of the Empire State Building.

Also on the second floor is the Skyride cinema, which allows a virtual 3D flight over New York City.

Souvenirs and more on the 80th floor of ESBNYC

Before going to the Observation Deck on the 86th floor, there is still the opportunity to purchase exclusive souvenirs and mementos from the visit to the city’s landmark on the 80th floor. Empire: The Store is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

In addition to the souvenir shop, there is also the exhibition “ Dare to Dream “, Which is dedicated to the history of the creation of the Cathedral of the Skies.

The Empire State Building Observation Deck

On the 86th floor, 320 meters above the streets of New York, is the highest open terrace in the city and arguably one of the most famous viewing platforms in the world. Probably everyone has already seen them in pictures, in cinema or television films, and many personal fairy tales began there. After all, the Observation Deck is a popular place for marriage proposals. Since the building opened in 1931, the observation deck has been visited by over 120 million people.

From there, especially when the view is clear, you have a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of numerous well-known New York sights such as Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Hudson and the East River. If you want, you can use a portable multimedia device to find out what can be seen in each direction or use one of the high-performance binoculars provided to allow your gaze to wander even more precisely.

The 102nd floor of the Empire State Building

Another sixteen floors above the viewing platform is the upper platform of the skyscraper on the 102nd floor. High above Central Park, you can see almost 130 kilometers from here on a clear day. However, it is not another open viewing platform, just a room that allows a distant view from the windows. The elevator ride to the top costs an extra $ 20 and, in the opinion of many visitors, is not necessarily worth a visit despite the view.

Buy tickets to the Empire State Building

Tickets for visiting the viewing platforms can be purchased on site in the building. However, long waiting times are generally to be expected here. It is better to have the admission ticket in advance to purchase online and / or invest in an express ticket. At least if you want to avoid long waiting times. The admission price is significantly higher, but queues and long queues can be avoided. The tickets are only valid for a single visit. Tickets for visiting the 102nd floor are only available on site at ESBNYC.

Save money and time in line with one of the New York Sightseeing Passes. The Empire State Building is included in every available City Pass. “The Sunrise Experience” offers a unique experience, where you can experience the sunrise over the unique backdrop of NYC from the 86th floor.

Safety precautions

Before visiting the viewing platforms, you must go through a security check at the entrance to protect against terrorist attacks. In addition, the entire structure is actively monitored around the clock by surveillance cameras and security personnel.

For security reasons and to prevent attacks, numerous objects may not be taken into the ESB. These include:

  • all weapons and dangerous items
  • all glass products such as bottles, glasses etc.
  • Cans, bottles,…
  • Professional cameras and tripods
  • Sports equipment
  • Lettering objects such as spray paint
  • Musical instruments
  • Large bags or suitcases
  • Masks and costumes

The list is not exhaustive and items confiscated at the security checkpoint may not be returned. There are also no lockers in the Empire State Building. You should therefore absolutely refrain from taking all prohibited items with you when visiting.

Further general information on visiting the Empire State Building

  • The best time to visit is early morning and late afternoon to evening. The highest number of visitors is between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The ESB also has a lot of guests an hour before and after sunset.
  • There is no time limit to visit. On average, you should plan to stay for around an hour.
  • Toilets are only available on the 86th floor.
  • Strollers can be taken upstairs, but must be folded up on the viewing platform.

Empire State Building Run-up – the famous flight of stairs

The Run of stairs of the Empire State Building has been held once a year since 1978. It is a race over a total of 1,576 steps from the entrance hall up to the viewing platform on the 86th floor, with a vertical distance of 320 meters to be overcome. The record holder in the annual flight of stairs is the German Thomas Dold with a second place and seven victories in a row. The Australian professional cyclist Paul Crake holds the speed record with 9 minutes and 33 seconds. The stairwell is only open during the run. It is closed to guests at all other times.

Get married at the Empire State Building

You can only get married on the ESB on Valentine’s Day. The “Valentine’s Day Weddings” competition is held in advance, in which couples are selected who can then say yes in the Cathedral of the Skies while the top of the skyscraper shines in the color of love.

Many people also use the viewing platform on the 86th floor to propose marriage to their beloved partner. The evenings from Thursday to Saturday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. are best. Then a saxophone player creates a romantic atmosphere and is happy to fulfill individual music requests.

The 103rd floor of the Empire State Building

Hardly anyone knows that there is another terrace on the 103rd floor above the official 102 floors. Because the antenna tip of the ESB was actually designed as an anchor mast for airships, whose passengers on the transatlantic route there should have left the airship via gangplanks. The 86th floor on which the viewing platform is located today was originally intended to handle these passengers. However, it quickly became apparent that it was too windy up there to safely moor a zeppelin.

Opening Hours

The Empire State Building is open every day from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. The last elevator goes up at 1:15 a.m. You can also visit the ESBNYC at midnight and enjoy New York from high up at night.


The best way to get to the Empire State Building is by subway. The subway lines B, F and M stop one block from the ESB at “34 St. Herald Sq” station, and the green subway line 6 at “33 St.” station on Park Avenue.


  • Empire State Building
  • 350 Fifth Avenue
  • new York
  • NY 10118

Empire State Building