The Empire State Building, New York

Everyone knows what the Empire State Building is. You neither need nor want me to spout a Wikipedia article at you. So let’s cut to the chase here: Yes, it’s super touristy. And for years that put me off. But you know what? It’s actually surprisingly awesome.


Well, from up the top, you can see just how neatly Manhattan is laid out. For us Europeans that’s somewhat intriguing. While the island’s original settlers started building windy cobbled alleys just like mum used to make, they soon turned to long, straight lines and some more solid ideas about civic engineering, and as a result everything north of that little mess down by Battery Park is super easy to navigate.

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All those neat lines!

As is somewhat typical for my photography, it was a filthy weather day! Actually all my trips to New York have managed to be smack in the centre of blizzards so thick that aircraft have had serious issues, but this trip was particularly special: I picked up a stinking cold! It’s like two for the price of one!

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The Flatiron building.

Of course, I actually love snow. I love snow a lot. It reminds me of childhoods crossing the Italian Alps or travelling through Switzerland. But it can make for terrible pictures full of miserable overcast skies!

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The observation platform has markers at the cardinal compass points, although most people are looking outward rather than up.

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The Chrysler Building.

The Empire State Building was the world’s tallest until 1972, and it remains an enduring icon of New York City, with its gorgeous art deco styling and unbeatable views. It’ll always be windy up on the deck, because of the updrafts from the sheer height of it, but in the middle of January, with all this snow? My nose nearly froze off.

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I see you down there, tiny ant taxis!

The best way to get a sense of scale is to look directly down to the cars below. Even when the city is grey, the taxis are that world-famous bright yellow, making your elevation suddenly all the more real.

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Well, that’s attractive.

Over to the east are Stuyvesant Town and the Lower East Side. They’re quite attractive at ground level, with parks and trees between the apartment blocks, but from up here they look awful.

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Run, tiny people, run!

I may have done a King Kong impression at this point. Rawr!

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This is, in fact, a city of tiny people!

It’s theoretically possible to take masses of amazing photos from up here. If you’re a far better photographer than me. Of if you have even a modicum of sunshine.

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Now imagine this on a NICE day!

What I find mind-boggling, though, with my tremendous acrophobia, is that some bright spark initially designed this platform for docking dirigibles to. Who does that? Who on Earth thinks to themselves “What we need is for passengers to be able to embark and disembark these floating deathtraps a quarter of a mile above the ground. Yeah!”

Americans. That’s who. Crazy buggers.

Visiting the Empire State Building:

The nearest Subway is 34th Street. The Empire State Building is on the intersection of West 34th and Fifth Avenue.

Admission: Basic admission to the Observation Deck is $25. For the Observation Deck and the Top Deck, it’s $42. If you plan on doing most of NYC’s attractions, pick up a City Pass for $106 instead.


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