Heading for the Big Apple? Take in the incredible views – whether from Mandarin Oriental, New York’s 35th-floor Lobby Lounge or on a helicopter tour – and you will literally feel on top of the world

'The skyline of New York,' wrote the American playwright and novelist Ayn Rand, 'is a monument of splendour that no pyramids or palaces will ever equal or approach.'

An aerial view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan

An aerial view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan

More than half a century on from those lines being penned, that tangled, electric forest of concrete and glass, dreams and hopes, hedonism and Herculean effort still stands as a symbol for the magnetic pull of the Big Apple – a byword for everything, both maleficent and magnificent, that we demand, expect, cherish and desire from a city.

For to gaze upon New York from on high is to imbue oneself with the feeling – no matter how fleeting – that somehow, despite the odds, you've made it. You're here. You deserve to be here. No other city view can give you such effortless wish-fulfilment. And, in the spirit of this hard-living, hard-partying city, it seems only apt to imbibe while at such giddy heights.

The Lobby Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, New York

The Lobby Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, New York

The floor-to-ceiling windows of the Lobby Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, New York have cinematic views across the urban lung of Central Park. Located between floors 35 and 54 of the Time Warner Tower, the entire hotel is an oasis of calm. Its Asian accents of orchids, warm gold and purple tones and Art Deco chairs put one in mind of the kind of dream literary space F Scott Fitzgerald might have created, had he taken a few more trips beyond the Hudson River.

The Chrysler Building and NYC skyline

The Chrysler Building and NYC skyline

Decorated in a similar manner of atavistic and elegant restraint, the rooms and suites allow guests to wake up to that Central Park view, or perhaps a soaring skyline in the other direction – towards the throbbing heart of Midtown, where the city seems to twinkle like a jewellery box as the sun sinks down into that gargantuan fantasia.

As is the case with the greatest works of art, however, the NY skyline continues to release its charms from all manner of different standpoints.

Brooklyn Bridge, with its iconic steel-cable suspension grid, offers a 360-degree view of the city. And this gets even better when you arrive at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where Lower Manhattan, framed by the bridge, unravels and reveals itself in the manner of the most dramatic orchestral crescendo.

Brooklyn Bridge, with views to Manhattan

Brooklyn Bridge, with views to Manhattan

For the ultimate experience, though, there are a number of helicopter tours (ask the concierge at Mandarin Oriental, New York for details) that will give you, weather permitting, a bird's-eye view of the city. The Big Apple Tour, run by Liberty Helicopters, takes in the city as it flies you above its greatest landmarks: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, George Washington Bridge and the USS Intrepid.

Soaring above the skyline of the world's most bombastic, electrifying and dynamic city is the ultimate antidote to any urban fatigue. As Ayn Rand also said, 'I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline.'

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Rob Crossan

London-based Rob Crossan is a travel writer and broadcaster who writes for publications including The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, GQ and Tatler. He also presents the BBC disability talk show Ouch! and is a regular contributor to From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4 as well as the World Service.

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Mandarin Oriental, New York

80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street,
New York, New York 10023, USA


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