The Easiest Way to Visit New York City's Chrysler Building

Strict Visit Policies for This Iconic NYC Landmark

Chrysler Building and New York City cityscape
••• Matt Mawson/Getty Images

The Chrysler Building in New York City has been listed among the top 10 on a list of America's favorite architecture by the American Institute of Architects. The 77-story Chrysler Building is an iconic New York City image, easily recognizable in New York City's sprawling skyline because of its shiny peak. If you want to see this art deco masterpiece up close, there are some strict policies regarding visiting the building.

Viewing the Chrysler Building

Visitors can see the building from the outside, and for free, you can visit the lobby to examine the art deco details and an ornate ceiling mural by Edward Trumbull. The Chrysler Building lobby is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday (excluding federal holidays). You do not need tickets to enter the lobby.

The rest of the building is leased to businesses and not accessible to visitors. There are no tours through the building. There is absolutely no access beyond the lobby for tourists.  

Building History

The building was constructed by Walter Chrysler, the head of the Chrysler Corporation, and served as the automobile giant's headquarters from when it opened in 1930 until the 1950s. It took two years to build. Architect William Van Alen added decorative features inspired by Chrysler's automobile designs, including stainless-steel eagle head hood ornaments, Chrysler radiator caps, racing cars on the 31st floor, and even the notable shiny vertex.

Former Observation Deck

From when the building opened until 1945 there was a 3,900 square-foot observation deck on the 71st floor called "Celestial" that offered views up to 100 miles away on a clear day. For 50 cents per person, visitors could walk around the entire circumference through a corridor with vaulted ceilings painted with celestial motifs and small hanging glass planets. The center of the observatory contained the toolbox that Walter P. Chrysler used at the beginning of his career as a mechanic.

Eleven months after the opening of the Chrysler Building, the tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building eclipsed it. After the opening of the Empire State Building, the number of Chrysler Building visitors waned.

Walter Chrysler used to have an apartment and office on the top floor. Famous Life magazine photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, well-known for her images of skyscrapers in the 1920s and 30s also had another apartment on the top floor. The magazine leased it in their name, because, despite Bourke-White's fame and fortune, the leasing company did not rent to women.

After the observatory closed, it was used to house radio and television broadcasting equipment. In 1986, the old observatory was renovated by architects Harvey/Morse and Cowperwood Interests and became an office for eight people.

Private Social Club

The Cloud Club, a private dining club, was once housed inside the 66th to the 68th floors. The Cloud Club included a group of mile-high power lunch spots in New York City atop the city’s most distinctive skyscrapers. The private dining club was initially designed for Texaco, which occupied 14 floors of the Chrysler Building and used the space a restaurant for executives. It had amenities like a barber shop and locker rooms that were reportedly used to hide alcohol during Prohibition. The club closed in the late 1970s.

The space was gutted and renovated for office tenants.

Current Owners

The building was purchased by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council for $800 million in 2008 from Tishman Speyer real estate investment company for 90 percent majority ownership. Tishman Speyer retains 10 percent. Cooper Union, owns the land lease, which the school has turned into an endowment for the college.