Domestic Travel

7 Stunning Central Park Instagram Spots You Can’t Miss

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Last Updated on August 1, 2020 by epapp

Central Park is one of those places that’s stunning regardless of the season. In fact, my husband and I recently had the pleasure of visiting on a (rare) 50-degree day in February. This was certainly a welcome change of pace after experiencing a winter wonderland in Woodstock, Vermont!

As we basked in the glow of sunshine and marveled at panoramic views, our list of Central Park Instagram spots grew.

From feature films to marriage proposals, this two-and-a-half-mile-long park has served as a romantic backdrop for countless occasions.

If you’re looking to photograph the most visited urban park in the U.S., here are the Central Park Instagram spots you can’t miss.

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Central Park Instagram Spots You Can’t Afford to Miss

1. Bow Bridge

Romantic Bow Bridge is one of the best photo spots in Central Park and a must for every itinerary. This famous bridge is featured in many films, from Woody Allen’s Manhattan to Sydney Pollack’s The Way We Were.

Bow Bridge in Central Park

Bow Bridge was the first cast-iron bridge in the park and is also the longest, measuring 87 feet in length. The elegant and curved design of this pedestrian bridge resembles the bow of a violinist.

The bridge wasn’t originally part of Central Park’s design when it was first constructed between 1859 and 1862. However, it was added later to create a direct connection between Cherry Hill and the Ramble.

PHOTO TIP: Getting photos here can be a challenge, as this is one of the most popular landmarks in the park. We were here on a Monday afternoon in February and still had to wait to get our shots. 

If you want to enjoy the bridge without other passersby, you’ll need to get here early, ideally around sunrise.

This bridge is photogenic from nearly every angle, so you’ll probably want to capture a bunch. I recommend showcasing it from afar to capture its elegant shape as well as up close to incorporate the skyline.

Bow bridge in Central Park

How to Get Here:

Bow Bridge is located Mid-Park at 74th Street. You can find the GPS location here.

2. The Lake Viewing Area

If you’re looking for a spectacular lakeside view, you must check out the “Lake Viewing Area.” This spot features a breathtaking view of The San Remo and the stunning Manhattan skyline.

Lake overlooking The Sam Remo in Central Park

The San Remo is a twin-towered luxury apartment building that has housed many celebrities, including Steven Spielberg and Rita Hayworth.

In the spring, visitors can rent rowboats from the Loeb Boathouse at the eastern end of the lake.

PHOTO TIP: Although this is a stunning photo location, it’s somewhat unobvious if you don’t know it’s here. In fact, if you’re lucky, you just may get this spot all to yourself. This location is particularly stunning around sunset, when the light reflects off the water.

I recommend standing on the rocks to create interesting levels in your shots.

The Lake Viewing Area in Central Park

How to Get Here:

To get here, head north over Bow Bridge and follow the path to your left. The small path leading to this spot is about 100 yards away on the left. You can find the GPS location here.

3. Bethesda Terrace (Upper Level)

Bethesda Terrace is often considered the heart of Central Park and the prime spot for people watching.

This beautiful two-story terrace was built by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead and includes a fountain created by Emma Stebbins.

Bethesda Terrace grand staircase in Central Park

PHOTO TIP: I can’t resist a good staircase and this one had plenty of ornamental designs to keep me happy. The intricate carvings showcase the four seasons and the different times of day.

While I’m typically a proponent of shooting with a wide angle lens, I recommend using a 50 mm prime here. This will enable you to capture the exquisite staircase details in all of their glory.

However, we did use our wide angle lens for a seated shot atop the staircase.

Bethesda Terrace in Central Park

How to Get Here:

Bethesda Terrace is located at 72nd Street Cross Drive. You can get here by way of “The Mall” (a tree-lined promenade that we’ll cover a bit later). You can find the GPS location for Bethesda Terrace here.

4. Bethesda Terrace Arcade (Lower Level)

While the Upper Terrace is undoubtedly remarkable, my personal favorite spot is the Bethesda Terrace Arcade in the lower level.

This interior walkway links The Mall to Bethesda Fountain and the Central Park Lake.

The Arcade was designed by Jacob Wrey Mould and features over 15,000 colorful tiles from England’s famous Minton Tile Company.

FUN FACT: Did you know that the Arcade is the only ceiling in the world that features this Minton tile suspended ceiling?

Bethesda Terrace Arcade in Central Park

PHOTO TIP: If you’ve seen Bethesda Terrace on Instagram, chances are you’ve seen the grand staircase in the back of the picture. While this is popularly “the shot,” I’d also recommend showcasing the beautiful wall designs on the interior sides.

Keep in mind that this is a busy section of the park, so you’ll need to exercise some patience. There will probably be a lot more passersby to work around if you’re going for the iconic staircase shot.

That said, if you take an alternative side view shot, you probably won’t need to wait much for people to cross. Most people walk straight through instead.

Lighting will definitely impact your shot, depending on what time of day you come. Light funnels into this area where people enter and exit (similar to a tunnel).

I recommend taking advantage of early morning or afternoon light, provided it’s a sunny day. We shot this in the afternoon and were fortunate enough to capture that mid-afternoon “glow.” As a heads up, afternoons will be busier, as more people pass through.

5. Belvedere Castle

Blogger Confession: I had no idea there was a castle in Central Park until I started researching! Frankly, I’m not entirely sure why almost no one talks about it…

Sure, it’s not gigantic or monumental compared to others around the world, but it’s a pretty castle just the same!

Belvedere Castle in Central Park

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who was in the dark about this…many of my Instagram followers had also never heard of it!

Belvedere Castle Instagram comment
Belvedere Castle Instagram comment
Belvedere Castle Instagram comment
Belvedere Castle Instagram comment
Belvedere Castle Instagram comment
Belvedere Castle Instagram comment
Belvedere Castle Instagram comment
Belvedere Castle Instagram comment

Miniature Belvedere Castle sits atop Vista Rock and overlooks the Great Lawn (north) and the Ramble (south). Visitors can enjoy the views from the outdoor pavilion lookout point or at the top of the winding staircase inside.

During the fall, winter, and spring, Belvedere Castle is open every day from 10 AM to 5 PM. Summertime offers extended hours of 9 AM to 7 PM daily. The castle is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

PHOTO TIP: If you’re planning to capture these Central Park Instagram spots in winter, be advised that the lawns are roped off. In other words, you won’t be able to take pictures on the grass as you normally would in warmer seasons.

Although this made it a bit tricky to get the obvious castle shot, I love a good creative challenge!

My suggestion is to capture a side view of the castle with the pathway leading up to it as we did.

This is a great way to take advantage of leading lines. Plus, the side view tends to be a lot less crowded than the main castle platform and the sprawling lawn area.

Belvedere Castle in Central Park

How to Get Here:

Belvedere Castle is located Mid-Park at 79th Street. You can find the GPS location here.

6. Wood Chip Vantage Point

Wood Chip Vantage Point is a gem of a photo spot that we happened upon completely by accident.

Here you’ll find a cozy alcove with large rocks that overlook the romantic Bow Bridge and the Manhattan skyline.

Wood Chip Vantage Point in Central Park

PHOTO TIP: I recommend taking advantage of the many rocks in this area. You can stand on them to create interesting levels, sit for a portrait, or use them to create leading lines.

How to Get Here:

Wood Chip Vantage Point is located just off of the Bow Bridge. Bear right after exiting the bridge. You can find the GPS location here.

7. The Mall

The Mall, a.k.a. the “Promenade” or “Literary Walk,” is a tree-lined promenade that runs through the center of Central Park. The largest remaining group of elm trees in North America runs the length of the pathway.

The Mall in Central Park

The Mall’s expansive walkway is impressively wide, as it was originally designed to accommodate carriages carrying wealthy inhabitants.

Visitors will find Terrace Bridge to the north and statues honoring literary icons William Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Fitz-Greene Halleck to the south. There’s also a (somewhat ill-fitting) statue portraying Christopher Columbus.

PHOTO TIP: While this spot is much more impressive when the trees are filled in, it was still beautiful to see.

I recommend standing in the middle of the pathway for a symmetrical shot or taking an angled shot from one of the benches.

How to Get Here:

The Mall runs through the park from 66th to 72nd Street. You can find the GPS location here.

GENERAL NOTE: While it’s not glamorous, I thought it was important to note the park’s bathroom situation, as we initially had a bit of trouble finding an open one for an outfit change.

There are actually a total of 20 public restrooms throughout the park, but a bunch are closed in winter. Head here to view the various bathroom locations and availabilities in case you need one.

Bonus Spot: Brownstones on West 71st Street

The final spot I recommend checking out isn’t actually within the park itself, but on the outskirts.

The quaint brownstones located on West 71st Street across from the park can make for some beautiful photos. Here, you can capture the quintessential charm of New York City.

Brownstones on West 71st Street

PHOTO TIP: I recommend photographing a row of homes to get a feel for the whole block. Just be respectful of residents, as these are private homes.

How to Get Here:

This charming row of brownstones is located on 71st Street across from La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham. You can find the GPS location here.

As you can see, Central Park Instagram spots await you around every turn. Plus, given the park’s immense size and all it has to offer, you can easily dedicate an entire day to exploring. In fact, I plan to return in spring to capture the flowers in bloom, so stay tuned!

Looking for additional photography inspiration on the East Coast? Then be sure to check out my other Instagram guides for Newport, Rhode Island, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach, Florida.

Have you ever visited Central Park? What were some of your favorite spots?

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16 thoughts on “7 Stunning Central Park Instagram Spots You Can’t Miss

  1. Love this!! I think nobody heard of Belvedere until last year when they renovated it. Thanks for the bathroom link, too, I will use all of your great tips. 😉

  2. I have never heard of the Belvedere Castle but it looks incredibly beautiful! Thank you for sharing these! I can’t wait to go back to NYC sometime and go to all these spots!

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