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Midtown Architecture: Look Up!

Midtown is the heart of the city during the workday. From every direction, people pour into the city to give it a jolt of energy. That vibrancy is intense, but is also an unmissable aspect of city life worth exploring for the average visitor. Midtown is home to many beautiful architectural sights, so don't be embarrassed to look at them.

The East Side: From the United Nations to Grand Central

Start near the river, at New York City's first glass-curtain skyscraper, the UN Building (760 United Nations Plaza), completed in 1949 and designed by Le Corbusier. (Technically, it's not on New York's land, but we still count it.) The iconic structure is a monument to diplomacy, though being the city's first skyscraper isn't all glory: the air-conditioning is famously persnickety in the summer months. Continuing west, you'll pass the murals of the Daily News Building (220 E. 42nd St.) on the south side of the street. The lobby is home to a giant globe (from the era when the News had international correspondents) and murals are in the WPA-style, as the art-deco building was finished in 1929. Also a can't-miss: the Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Ave.), which out-art decos any other structure in New York. (Dig the wheels with wings in place of gargoyles on the exterior.) Continue walking and you'll see Grand Central Terminal (1 E. 42nd St.), the largest train station in the world. This Beaux-Arts structure was saved from the wrecking ball by concerned citizens in the '70s, a fate that similarly styled Penn Station didn't escape. Peek inside for a look at the constellations painted on the soaring ceiling, for a nibble at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, or a cocktail at the swanky Campbell Apartment.

Midtown: Bryant Park and the New York Public Library

By the time you hit 5th Avenue, you'll be staring at the lions that guard the New York Public Library (455 5th Ave.). Built in 1911, the structure is a hub of learning and hosts many lecture series throughout the year. It's abutted by Bryant Park, which offers free Wi-Fi, ice-skating in the winter, and films in the summer. The library, too, was brought back from the dead during New York's darkest days. There's also the renovated Nat Sherman store (12 E. 42nd St.), which even has a room for smokers to sample their wares.

The West Side: The Heart of Times Square

Keep walking west and you'll hit the razzle and dazzle of Times Square. It's better than it's ever been. No, not from Guiliani's cleanup—those seedy days are long since past, and Disney predominates—but thanks to a series of pedestrian-friendly improvements, including the closure of some seats to traffic and the addition of lawn chairs, making it easier to navigate. Be sure to note the futuristic-looking 4 Times Square, where Anna Wintour of Vogue dictates the world of style from on high, and the kid-friendly confines of Madame Tussaud's (234 W. 42nd St.). Finish off by seeing the lights of Broadway from the many theaters on this stretch between 8th and 9th avenues.

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