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New York film locations: A Manhattan walking tour

New York film locations: A self-guided Manhattan walking tour

It was my first trip to New York and everything should’ve felt new and different. But I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’d been here before. Walking along Fifth Avenue, craning my neck to look up at the skyscrapers as yellow cabs rushed by and the smell of frying onions drifted past, it hit me. I might not have actually been to the Big Apple before, but I’d walked these streets and seen these views in so many New York film locations it almost felt like I had.

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Autumn in Central Park, New York
Autumn in Central Park

The neon lights of Times Square’s lights, the view from the top of the Empire State Building, steam rising from subway vents – they were all part of the films I grew up with. Although I’ve been back to New York a fair few times since, I still haven’t shaken off that feeling of excitement I get from seeing these places translated from the screen into real life.

Whether you’re a rom-com or thriller fan, love black and white films or modern blockbusters, chances are New York will feature in your film history too. I added one of my favourite spots to Travel Republic’s guide to famous movie locations around the world, but there are so many in Manhattan that they make for a great New York film locations walk too.

So grab your camera and comfy shoes and in just over six miles (with a subway short cut if you don’t want to walk that far) you can go all the way from King Kong to Sex and the City.

A New York film locations walking tour

The exterior of the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library

The Met

Start your New York film locations walking tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met), at 1000 Fifth Avenue at the edge of Central Park (nearest subway: 86th Street). It’s one of the world’s largest art galleries, with a collection of over two million items and a main building which stretches for a quarter of a mile along Fifth Avenue.

On screen, the Met is where Pierce Brosnan steals a Monet painting in the 1990s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. Well the exterior scenes are at least, as the Met didn’t want to be associated with a robbery – even if it was a fictional one. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan also take a wander through the Met’s Egyptian Room in When Harry Met Sally.

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, a New York film location
The Met, inside and out

The Plaza Hotel

From the Met, follow Fifth Avenue south to the bottom of Central Park (1.2 miles), where you’ll find the Plaza Hotel*. The hotel opened in 1907 and gets its name from the Grand Army Plaza which it’s located on. It’s always been one of the city’s most luxurious – and expensive hotels.

A night in one of its 282 rooms will set you back anywhere from $1000 for a standard guest room to an eye-watering $30,000 to spend the night in the lavish Royal Plaza Suite.

Over the years the Plaza has featured in plenty of films, including in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Macaulay Culkin’s uses his dad’s credit card to stay there when he gets on the wrong plane and ends up in New York instead of Florida – can you imagine the bill? It’s also been a location for North By Northwest, Crocodile Dundee, The Great Gatsby and Bride Wars.

The Plaza Hotel, New York, where Home Alone 2 was filmed
The Plaza Hotel (source: Alan Light on Flickr)

Tiffany’s

Leave the Plaza and carry on walking down Fifth Avenue for a few minutes until you reach Tiffany & Co’s flagship store on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. With its polished marble exterior and sparkling window displays, it’s one of the world’s best-known jewellery stores (who hasn’t coveted one of their signature turquoise boxes?).

Tiffany’s became part of movie history in 1961 when Audrey Hepburn stepped out of a cab and stood looking through the shop window in the opening scenes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Tiffany’s is also where Patrick Dempsey asks Reese Witherspoon to marry him in Sweet Home Alabama, which has prompted a flurry of proposals in the store since. And if you want a turquoise box for yourself and don’t quite have a diamond-sized budget, you can get a more budget-friendly silver Tiffany chain for around $50.

Breakfast at Tiffany's film location, New York
Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Grand Central Station

Keep walking south down Fifth Avenue until 42nd Street and then take a left and walk the two blocks to Grand Central Station (0.8 miles). The station was built in 1913 and is a US National Historic Landmark, as well as still being one of the city’s busiest transport hubs.

The main concourse was the site of the flash mob scene at the end of the Justin Timberlake film Friends With Benefits. Don’t forget to look up at the beautifully detailed astronomical ceiling – though keen astronomers might notice the star map’s not totally accurate.

Below the station is a dining concourse with the Oyster Bar where George Clooney has lunch with its daughter in One Fine Day. And Will Smith’s been back to Grand Central twice, filming exterior shots for I Am Legend and discovering aliens in the locker room for Men in Black.

Inside Grand Central Station, New York
Grand Central Station’s main concourse

New York Public Library

Outside the station, head west along 42nd Street for two blocks to the New York Public Library’s Schwarzman Building (0.3 miles). It’s one of my favourite New York buildings, with its marble walls, grand staircases, chandeliers and ceiling fescoes. The beautiful Rose Reading Room is two blocks longs long and 15 metres high, with a gilded ceiling painted with clouds.

On screen the library has been passed off as all sorts of different buildings – including the foyer of The Met for The Thomas Crown Affair. But it’s probably best known as the place where the Ghostbusters hunted down the ghost of librarian Eleanor Twitty.

It was also another location for Breakfast at Tiffany’s as well as featuring in The Day After Tomorrow. And Carrie Bradshaw chose the library as the location for her wedding to Mr Big in Sex and the City: The Movie because it was “the classic New York landmark that housed all the great love stories” (though it didn’t quite work out for her in the end).

The Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library
The Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library

Empire State Building

Exit the Library onto Fifth Avenue and walk south for seven blocks until you reach the Empire State Building (0.4 miles). This 103-storey Art Deco skyscaper has to be one of New York’s most iconic buildings. And the first time many of us ever saw it was with a giant gorilla swinging around the top of it in the original 1930s monster film King Kong.

Since then it’s been used in over 250 films and TV shows, including romantic favourite An Affair to Remember. Cary Grant asks Deborah Kay to meet him on the Empire State Building’s 88th floor, but she’s hit by a car on the way there so never makes it. An Affair to Remember is Meg Ryan’s character Annie’s favourite film in Sleepless in Seattle, so the Empire State’s observation deck is where she finally meets Tom Hanks at the end of the film.

The Empire State Building at night in New York
The Empire State Building

Katz’s Deli

The next hop is a bit of a bigger one, so you can also catch the subway if you don’t want to walk (take lines B/D/F/M from 34th Street to 2nd Avenue). Otherwise head down Fifth Avenue then take Broadway south through Union Square before going left on East Houston Street to Katz’s Deli, on the southwest corner of Houston and Ludlow Streets (2.2 miles).

The deli was founded in 1888 and is famous for its huge pastrami on rye sandwiches. It got its big screen break in When Harry Met Sally, as where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm over lunch with Billy Crystal. You can sit in her spot under a sign saying “Where Harry met Sally… hope you have what she had!” The deli also appears in Enchanted and Donnie Brasco.

Scene from Where Harry Met Sally at Katz's Deli, New York
Where Harry Met Sally (source: Wikimedia Commons)

FDNY Ladder 8

Head back along Houston Street as far as West Broadway and then follow that south to North Moore Street (1.4 miles) until you reach a familiar-looking fire station. FDNY’s Hook and Ladder 8 has been a working firehouse for more than a century, but it was also the base for the Ghostbusters in both the 1984 original and 2016 remake, and also appeared in Hitch.

Well the outside of the building was at least – a lot of the interiors were shot in the studio in LA. But the Ghostbusters logo from the film still hangs on the wall inside the station, and there was even a Lego version of the firehouse produced to tie in with the film.

Hook and Ladder 8, the Ghostbusters fire station in New York
Hook and Ladder 8

The fire station is the last stop on your New York film locations tour, and it’s only a few minutes from Varick Street to Franklin Street subway if you’re heading off around the city. Or you’re surrounded by Tribeca’s bars and restaurants if you fancy a post-tour drink.

New York film locations walking tour map

New York film locations: Manhattan walking tour map
New York film locations walk map

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A New York film locations self-guided city walking tour around Manhattan, featuring locations from iconic films such as Ghostbusters, When Harry Met Sally and Breakfast at Tiffany's | New York film locations | New York movie locations | New York walking tour | Manhattan walking tourFollow in the footsteps of movie legends on this self-guided walking tour around some of the most iconic New York film locations in Manhattan, from Grand Central Station to the Met  | New York film locations | New York movie locations | New York walking tour | Manhattan walking tour

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Darlene
    January 25, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    That would be a fun tour! I´ve been to many of the locations including Central Park which is in a few movies as well.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 25, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      I was going to add Central park too but it’s so big and has been in so many films that I might have to make that a whole separate walk sometime!

  • Reply
    Charlie - Reaching 30 before 30
    January 25, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Great post! Makes me miss New York so much. Will definitely be doing this when I next return.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 25, 2018 at 10:18 pm

      It’s such an amazing city! Hope you enjoy the walk when you’re out there next.

  • Reply
    Tanja
    January 26, 2018 at 8:41 am

    what a great tour!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 2, 2018 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks, it’s such a great city!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    January 26, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    What a great way to see the city, I love this idea. There was a pop-up Central Perk from Friends for a while – I’d have loved to have had a coffee on that orange sofa!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 2, 2018 at 8:26 pm

      I would’ve loved that! Will have to go back if they do it again.

  • Reply
    Kathryn @TravelWithKat
    February 5, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Oh gosh, I’d love it do this tour! It brings back so many memories from so many films. I’ve never been to New York or even the USA but I do hope I make it there one day and New York is very high on my wishlist.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 5, 2018 at 10:21 am

      It’s such a strange feeling to walk past all these places you recognise! Hope you get to visit sometime soon.

  • Reply
    Alastair Majury
    February 5, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Great post I have been to New York twice before but have yet to see FDNY LADDER 8 so I will need to add that to the list for my next visit.
    Thanks for sharing, Alastair Majury

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 5, 2018 at 10:21 am

      Thanks Alastair, hope you get to see it sometime soon!

  • Reply
    Sharon Wagner
    February 14, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks for the highlights! Someday, I hope to make it to big old NYC.

  • Reply
    Zoe
    March 4, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Will be checking these sites out very soon on our first New York Visit! Thanks for the info
    Also, I’m sorry for being that person but Friends with Benefits is Justin Timberlake not Ashton Kutcher. AK is in the very similar movie “No Strings Attached”, which will be where the confusion comes from.
    Sorry. I hate myself sometimes

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 5, 2018 at 11:32 am

      I totally bow to your superior knowledge 😉 Seriously though thanks – always better to get things right so will update it (and clearly need to revise my 2010s films!).

  • Reply
    Ziki Dekel
    July 15, 2018 at 5:08 am

    All these locations are very familiar and New York is a place filled with so many film-worthy places so it’s no shock that you were able to list so many good movies! Breakfast at Tiffany’s was truly iconic and probably one that would be easily noticeable or easily recalled by people who visit Tiffany’s.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 17, 2018 at 11:57 am

      It certainly is!

  • Reply
    Ashley
    March 1, 2019 at 11:49 am

    What a wonderful guide, Lucy! I’m visiting New Your in a week and these locations will be perfect for one of my filming projects. Exactly what I was lookig for, thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      March 5, 2019 at 9:40 pm

      Hope you have a fab time – it’s such a great city!

  • Reply
    darekandgosia.com
    July 4, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Nice list Lucy! So many iconic locations 🙂 Which one is your favorite one? 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 8, 2019 at 5:46 pm

      Ooh that’s a tough one – I do love Grand Central Station, such a beautiful place and I’m a big train travel fan too.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    July 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Lucy, Thanks for sharing such a wonderful experience. It has created a huge excitements in me. I was looking to somewhere for long holidays. Your blog has helped me to decide my destination.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      July 21, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      You’re welcome!

  • Reply
    Raj Gaurav Debnath
    March 25, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Wow. This is an amazing blog post. If I ever go to New York then I would definitely follow your guidelines…

  • Reply
    Doug Rubin
    February 10, 2021 at 4:11 am

    Grand Central Terminal
    https://www.grandcentralterminal.com/
    … because it’s a terminus, i.e. the end or beginning of a train trip. As opposed to say Penn Station that is along the way between Newark, NJ and Stamford CT.

    On the subway lines, it is a “station” as the 4-5-6 go to/through and from the stops below-ground.

    And yes, it’s a great movie film location.

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