The Best of New York's Lower Manhattan, New York (Self Guided)

Lower (aka Downtown) Manhattan is a cluster of attractions. Following the September 11 attacks and ensued reconstruction of the area, the skyline of Lower Manhattan has been transformed and dominated by the newly-built One World Trade Center. The site of the former World Trade Center now holds The 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Lower Manhattan contains many other historic buildings, such as the old United States Customs House, Federal Hall, not to mention Wall Street and many, many more. To find your way around this plethora of landmarks and not get lost, follow this self-guided walking tour and enjoy your time in New York!
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The Best of New York's Lower Manhattan Map

Guide Name: The Best of New York's Lower Manhattan
Guide Location: USA » New York (See other walking tours in New York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 km
Author: doris
One World Trade Center

1) One World Trade Center (must see)

One World Trade Center (also known as One WTC, 1 World Trade Center, 1 WTC, or Freedom Tower) is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, NYC. One WTC is the tallest building in the United States, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest in the world. The supertall structure has the same name as the North Tower of the original World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the attacks of September 11, 2001. The new skyscraper stands on the northwest corner of the 16-acre (6.5 ha) World Trade Center site, on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center. The building is bounded by West Street to the west, Vesey Street to the north, Fulton Street to the south, and Washington Street to the east.

The building's architect is David Childs, whose firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) also designed the Burj Khalifa and the Willis Tower. The construction of below-ground utility relocations, footings, and foundations for the new building began on April 27, 2006. One World Trade Center became the tallest structure in New York City on April 30, 2012, when it surpassed the height of the Empire State Building. The tower's steel structure was topped out on August 30, 2012. On May 10, 2013, the final component of the skyscraper's spire was installed, making the building, including its spire, reach a total height of 1,776 feet (541 m). Its height in feet is a deliberate reference to the year when the United States Declaration of Independence was signed. The building opened on November 3, 2014; the One World Observatory opened on May 29, 2015.

Why You Should Visit:
The experience of ascending 100+ floors in under a minute is impressive in itself, but the show when stepping out of the elevator really is the highlight.
You can take your time, you can buy drinks and sit down, learn more about NYC, and just enjoy the view.

Make sure you book in advance and try to coordinate your visit with the weather!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
National September 11 Memorial & Museum

2) National September 11 Memorial & Museum (must see)

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (known separately as the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum) are the principal memorial and museum, respectively. They commemorate the September 11, 2001, attacks, which killed 2,977 victims, and the World Trade Center bombing of 1993, which killed six. The memorial is located at the World Trade Center site, the former location of the Twin Towers, which were destroyed during the September 11 attacks. It is operated by a non-profit corporation whose mission is to raise funds for, program, own, and operate the memorial and museum at the World Trade Center site.

On September 11, 2011, a dedication ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attacks was held at the memorial. Three months after its opening, the memorial had been visited by over a million people. In 2012 Tuesday's Children, a non-profit family-service organization dedicated to individuals directly impacted by 9/11 and those who have lost loved ones to terrorism worldwide, joined with the 9/11 Memorial to offer private tours to family members of 9/11 victims and first responders.

Why You Should Visit:
There has been a lot of thought gone into making this tribute to all those who lost their lives.
You can go down 70 feet underground to the original bedrock and pillars the buildings were built on, or walk the grounds outside and look at the fountains.
Many personal belongings of the victims and remnants of structural portions of the buildings and city emergency vehicles are present to view, also.

Try purchasing tickets online in advance, especially during the busier months (holidays or vacation periods).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-8pm
Battery Park

3) Battery Park (must see)

Battery Park is a well known green space in New York City. Along the waterfront of the garden, ferries depart taking visitors to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The park also has many monuments and memorials within its grounds.

Battery Park gets its name from the artillery stationed by the British in the location to protect the early New York settlements. Castle Clinton, the last remnant of the fortress that protected the city, built in 1812, lies at its northern end. Pier A, a former fireboat station, Hope Gardens, a memorial to AIDS victims, and the East Coast Memorial, a monument to soldiers who died in World War II, lie within the park. In 1855, Castle Garden that forms part of Battery Park became the first immigrant depot in the world and remained so for 40 years until the venue shifted to Ellis Island. A sculpture called, “The Sphere”, that stood in front of the erstwhile World Trade Center, survived the attack and is now located in the Park.

Today, Battery Park is a beautifully landscaped and flower bed laden place to take a relaxing stroll with breathtaking views. Its location has made the park the starting point of walking tours around the city. All through the summer, there are concerts playing on the grounds.

Why You Should Visit:
This lovely park has a great view either of the lower Manhattan skyline or of the sea with the Statue of Liberty.
A quiet place to rest (especially down on the water) or to enjoy all the restaurant options in the area.

Easy to combine this with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry (free) or a walk along other parts of lower Manhattan.
If going aboard one of the sightseeing boats, be at the park at least an hour and a half early for your voyage as the lines are usually very long.
Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

4) Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House

The Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House is an imposing building constructed to handle the increasing duty collection requirements for the prospering port of New York City. In 1990, the United States Congress passed a legislation to name the building in honor of Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the U.S. treasury.

The present Custom House stands in the location of an earlier customs office that burned down in 1814. The building was designed in Beaux Arts style by Minnesota architect, Cass Gilbert, and the plan was selected by the then supervising architect of the treasury, James Knox Taylor. It was constructed between 1900 and 1907 under the supervision of John Pierce. The structure has a Roman dome under which public transactions once took place. There are also many ornate sculptures, paintings and decorations by American artists like Daniel Chester French and Albert Jaegers. The building was saved from demolition in 1979 by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who lobbied for its preservation and restoration.

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House is on the National Register for Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Today, the building houses the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian and the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bowling Green Park

5) Bowling Green Park

Located near the financial district of New York City, Bowling Green Park is a fenced in garden that was once used for bowling. It is the place where the Dutch Governor, Peter Minuit, bought Manhattan for $24 worth of merchandise and is regarded as the birthplace of New York City. The crescent shaped Bowling Green Park, enclosed by its original 18th century fence, has benches and tables making it a favorite lunchtime destination for financial district employees. The charging bull statue of the New York Stock Exchange, a symbol of financial hope, is located within the park.

Bowling Green Park stands besides the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. It is the oldest public park in New York City. At first it was a cattle market. Later, it became a parade ground with a large statue of King George III made of lead in its midst. During the war of independence, the statue was torn down and the lead used to make patriot bullets. After the revolution, elegant houses were built around the park and it became the promenade of wealthy residents. In 1850, it was thrown open to the general public. In 1939, the park was improved for the World’s Fair. After years of neglect, it was restored in 1970 and improved further in 1990.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Church of the Holy Trinity

6) Church of the Holy Trinity

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity serves the residents of the Upper East Side of New York City. It is a functioning parish church that opens its doors to worshipers from all walks of life.

The Episcopal Church of Holy Trinity was consecrated in 1899. The structure was designed by J. Smith Barney of the New York firm of Barney and Chapman. The inspiration of the interior plan was the Litchfield Cathedral in England. It has an octagonal apse and an open timbered ceiling. There are 17 stained glass windows made by Henry Holiday. The exterior walls are clad in dark terra cotta wainscoting to give the impression of a brownstone building like other landmark buildings in New York City. The exterior has a 13th century French Gothic architectural style. The tower that rises from the middle of the church is 150 feet high. Ten bells of varying weight cast by the New York firm Meneeley and Co, chime using a manual chime-stand stationed in the middle of the tower.

The church provides shelter for about 15 people every night and is home to the Triangle Theater that produces works of established and new playwrights.
Federal Hall

7) Federal Hall

This building, regarded as the finest example of classical architecture bears witness to momentous events in the history of New York City and the entire nation. Today, the building houses a museum dedicated to the history of the city after independence.

Federal Hall stands on the location of the former city hall built by the British in 1700. The first congress met in the building after the revolutions and it was here that George Washington was declared President. In 1789, architect Charles Pierre L’Enfant was given the task of building the city of Washington DC and enlarging Federal Hall. The result was the first federal style building in the US. In 1790, New York City ceased to be the capital of the U.S. and the original building was torn down. Ithiel Down and Alexander Jackson Davis designed the present building with a classical design. Doric columns and a domed ceiling by John Frazee added to the classical appearance of the structure. The intent of the architects was to make the structure a symbol of democracy like the Parthenon in ancient Greece.

A large bronze statue of George Washington taking oath by John Quincy Adams Ward marks the spot where the first president of the United States was sworn in. Exhibits at the museum in Federal Hall include displays depicting the inauguration and meeting of the first congress and the arrest of newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger for exposing the corruption of the British government that led to major changes in the freedom of the press.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Wall Street

8) Wall Street (must see)

The best-known location in the United States, Wall Street symbolizes the financial markets of the country. It is the principal financial center of the world. The street consists of eight blocks and runs from Broadway to South Street in the East River, Manhattan.

Wall Street was originally De Waal Straat after a wall built by the Dutch to protect their settlements from the British and Native Americans. A small group of traders met under a buttonwood tree after the war of independence and called themselves the Buttonwood Association. This group started what later became the New York Stock Exchange. In the 19th and 20th centuries, all major financial institutions had their headquarters or offices in the street. The New York Stock Exchange, the New York Mercantile Exchange, the New York Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve with a Gold vault 80 feet beneath the surface are located here. Wall Street was the scene of the September 11th destruction of the World Trade Center that caused a temporary loss of business in the area with firms relocating to other places in the city or to other States.

Some beautiful historic buildings located here include the classic Federal Hall, the neoclassic New York Stock Exchange and the elaborately decorated former home of the Bank of Manhattan at 40, Wall Street.

Why You Should Visit:
The area is easily accessible through the subway system and is an easy walk.
It can be a good stop prior to or after a trip to the Statue of Liberty as you embark/disembark through Battery Park.

Consider going first thing in the morning if getting a clear photo with the Charging Bull is important to you.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Brooklyn Bridge

9) Brooklyn Bridge (must see)

When the Brooklyn Bridge was dedicated in 1883, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world and regarded at the time as the 8th wonder of the world. The bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn over the East River.

The design of the Brooklyn Bridge was drawn up by John Augustus Roebling who had previously planned other smaller suspension bridges. Construction began under the supervision of his son Washington Roebling and later his daughter in law Emily Roebling oversaw the building of the bridge. It was completed in 1883. The opening was a grand ceremony attended by prominent statesmen like President Chester A. Arthur and the New York Mayor, Franklin Edson. Emily Roebling was the first person to cross the bridge and on the first day, 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people went across from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Bridge has carried a range of vehicles from horse-drawn carriages to modern automobiles in its lifetime. Earlier trolleys and elevated trains crossed the bridge. Today there are six lanes for automobile traffic. Commercial vehicles and buses are prohibited from using the bridge because of the height and weight restrictions. Visitors can take a stroll on the separate walkway in the center lane of the bridge for breathtaking views and to admire the brilliant skills that went into making this amazing engineering feat.

Why You Should Visit:
A great walk to view the Manhattan skyline and soak up the atmosphere of New York.

Stay to the one pedestrian side while walking, or if you're biking, to the one biker side. The lanes get really narrow at certain points (it is an old bridge), so if you're walking, you don't wanna get hit by a bike!
That aside, do a little research about the Brooklyn side before you go because there are some excellent and modestly priced restaurants there that don't get much press.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in New York, New York

Create Your Own Walk in New York

Create Your Own Walk in New York

Creating your own self-guided walk in New York is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Brooklyn New York Walking Tour

Brooklyn New York Walking Tour

Brooklyn, one of New York City’s 5 boroughs, occupies the western tip of Long Island and is connected to neighboring Manhattan via the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The area is known primarily these days for its ethnic diversity; it also abounds in a variety of recreational, cultural and historic attractions. The most notable landmarks include Park Slope, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanic Garden,...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 km
New York's Central Park Walking Tour

New York's Central Park Walking Tour

It is the first public park built in America, and the most famous park in the world today. Enjoy a great relaxing time, surrounded by natural beauty, gazing upon numerous man-made wonders - fountains, monuments, sculptures, bridges and arches. Central Park offers over 50 delightful attractions. Take this walking tour to explore the beauties of the Central Park.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.3 km
New York's Top Museums Walking Tour

New York's Top Museums Walking Tour

New York is an amazing city, that offers something for everyone. It is home to top-notch museums of art, architecture, photography, natural history, television, radio and technology. Take this tour to explore the most visited museums in New York City.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.4 km
Downtown NYC Nightlife

Downtown NYC Nightlife

No matter what nightlife style you have, New York City has them all. Nightlife in this city is much more a state of mind than anything else, and there are bars and restaurants open at any hour of the day. Here you can find swanky lounges, high octane dance clubs, sophisticated piano bars, old-fashioned Irish pubs and much more. Take this walking tour to experience the amazing New York's Lower...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 km
Chelsea Nightlife

Chelsea Nightlife

No matter what nightlife style you have, New York City has them all. Nightlife in this city is much more a state of mind than anything else, and there are bars and restaurants open at any hour of the day. Here you can find swanky lounges, high octane dance clubs, sophisticated piano bars, old-fashioned Irish pubs and much more. Take this walking tour to experience the amazing New York's Lower...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 km
Shopping Tour in New York City

Shopping Tour in New York City

New York is considered to be a shopper's paradise. It features some of the best shopping centers in the world. Each of these places, like Manhattan Mall, Brook Shopping Center or Rockefeller Center offers a unique style with one-of-a-kind shops. Take this tour to explore the most famous shopping centers in New York City.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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NYC Beer Tour

NYC Beer Tour

There are many great places to drink in New York City. Still, discerning connoisseurs are likely to find themselves awash in a sea of mediocre beer without first gaining a proper lay of the beer land. For those whose curiosity and taste buds urge them to venture beyond ubiquitious draft staples like...
9 Best Drinking Places in Upper West Side, NY

9 Best Drinking Places in Upper West Side, NY

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Bar Tour of Lower East Side, New York City

Bar Tour of Lower East Side, New York City

The Lower East Side has been described the most livable neighborhood in NYC. Unique and dynamic, LES has boutique shops, cafes and restaurants alongside great bars and museums.In this historic neighborhood, residents strive to preserve its roots. Here, you can find young professionals who challenge...
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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in New York for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best New York has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting New York's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the New York CityPASS, New York Pass, NY Sightseeing Pass, or New York City Explorer Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple NYC's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip lines at major attractions, thus saving your precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of New York hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: JW Marriott Essex House New York, Moderne Hotel, The Manhattan Club.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as New York, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of New York typically costs somewhere between US$30 and US$125 per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of New York City in comfort listening in the headsets to prerecorded commentary in a variety of foreign languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the three interconnecting routes as often as you like. The tickets are valid for one, two, three, four or five days and can be upgraded to include a night tour as well.

- Hop a ferry from Manhattan to visit two of New York's most iconic sights - the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This 4-hour journey is an absolute must for those in the city for the first time as it allows visitors to follow in the footsteps of millions of migrants who reached this way the U.S shore up until the mid 1950s in pursuit of the American dream.

- Take the Wall Street tour created by a former investment banker and walk behind the scenes of something as quintessentially American as NYC financial district to see where billions of dollars change hands every day, making America what it is.

- Explore the home base of two of New York City’s most colorful ethnic communities that gave this fascinating metropolis much of its flavor. Embark on a guided tour of Little Italy and Chinatown to explore the popular restaurants and shops, discover the hidden gems and learn the stories surrounding these and other locations retold by an expert local guide.

- Spare a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon to pedal your way through the beautiful Central Park in NYC on a fun and educational bike tour to observe the park's most famous attractions, watching the surroundings, and learning interesting facts about the landmarks en route from a knowledgeable group leader.

- Take a big bite out of the Big Apple on a half-day food tour of Brooklyn, the newly-emerged culinary center of New York and the national food epicenter. Come and see where the dining trends of today's America are born out of the old ethnic traditions and dispersed further afield. Quench your appetite for a diverse and cutting edge food scene while touring one of New York City's coolest and tastiest boroughs.

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in New York City, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Niagara Falls, Philadelphia and Lancaster County, or Hamptons on Long Island. For as little as circa US$170 to US$530 per person you will get a chance to discover the beauty and the awesome might of the roaring waterfall, take a daring boat ride behind its curtain, or drive through the beautiful countryside to the home of the Amish people known for their plain living and resistance to modern technologies, or enjoy a day away from the hustle and bustle of a big city in a quaint 300-year-old seaside village, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in New York City and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle (or even boat, whenever applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.