Best Views of New York City when on a Budget

By: Willa – & Jesse –
Last Updated: May 25, 2015

Forget the Empire State building! Try something that’s not overpriced and over hyped. The Big Apple has a lot of juicy views and you don’t have to pay sky high rents to see them. Here’s a list of some of the best places to see the city without breaking the bank.


The East River has a few great bridge walks including the famous Brooklyn Bridge and the lesser known Williamsburg. I took my girlfriend on a romantic sunset walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. We started on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. You can reach it by getting off at High St station (A/C lines) in Brooklyn. Walking west towards Manhattan over the bridge gives you a great view of the Manhattan skyline, at its best during a fiery sunset and in the glow of the skyscrapers lining the downtown piers. If you are going in the early afternoon, start at Brooklyn Bridge City Hall subway station on the 4, 5, or 6 lines (or other nearby stations) and walk the other direction, towards Brooklyn. As you traverse the bridge, looking down over the south side towards Brooklyn you will notice a lighthouse and a small park. This is the famous Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory - a delightful treat after a long walk. For lunch you can also stop at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria but beware of the long wait and no single slice policy.

The Williamsburg Bridge is not romantic like the Brooklyn Bridge but it does afford some great views without the heavy stream of pedestrians and tourists. It’s great for an early morning jog or an evening stroll to look at the skyline. This is really a ‘local’ spot. Start at Delancy and Clinton St in Manhattan (Essex St – Delancy F, J, M, Z subway) or Washington Plaza in Williamsburg.

Roosevelt Island Cable Car

Few know about NYC’s cheapest cable car. Operated by the MTA, it connects Manhattan to Roosevelt Island (and drops you off near Central Park). You can swipe your metro card for a ride. It is an excellent idea the colder seasons because you are protected from the elements. Who can beat a $2.25 aerial ride with views of the city?

Roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

To score high points on a first date, go to one of the best museums in the country and finish off with a stop at the Met’s lovely rooftop. Sip a cocktail while you admire 360 views of central park and the Manhattan skyline surrounding the park. Culture and romance, hand in hand. The roof is open May through late fall, weather permitting. Ask a museum attendant for directions. Be sure to bring a camera and remember that admission is voluntary. (pssst…. Give ‘em a dollar if you are on a tight budget)

Apartment roofs

Not always accessible, but if you know a friend or a friend of a friend with access to their apartment roof, don’t hesitate. Join them on the roof for some great city views. Usually free admission 😉 

Above Ground Subways

The 1, J, Z, M, D, Q and N run above ground for part of their journey. For only a subway fare you can have a ride watching the city pass you by. The 1 train heads above ground starting just south of Dyckman Street and heading all the way up north through the rest of the line ending at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. It is also above ground between 122nd street and 135th St including 125th St station. The N, Q, D express trains go over the Manhattan Bridge south of Grand/canal streets to Brooklyn. The J/Z/M trains are above ground in Brooklyn for nearly the entire ride. There are additionally elevated lines through the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, including the 4/5/B/D in the Bronx, 7/N/R/W in Queens, and A/C/F/2/3/4/5 in Brooklyn (among others).

Sunset Park

A little known gem in Brooklyn offers some spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. Take the R or N down to 36th or 45th St in Brooklyn and walk to 41st St and 5th Ave. The park is surrounded by some of the city’s best South American food at very affordable prices. We always go to Rico’s on the south side of the park to grab some Mole Tamales and Horchata and sit in the park watching the sun set over Lady Liberty. In summer the free City Parks pool is open (located at the back of the park) so make it an all day affair.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

1 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

A/C at High Street

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

19 Old Fulton St, Brooklyn NY 11201

Near Front Street


A/C High Street

Roosevelt Island Cable Car

From Second Avenue-59th Street in Manhattan to Roosevelt Island

Metropolitan Museum Roof Garden Café

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Information: 212-535-7710
TTY: 212-570-3828

Sunset Park

41-44 Streets, 5-7 Avenues


Ricos Tacos

505 51st Street

Brooklyn, NY 11220

Ph: 718-633-4816