The Oculus Center is one of New York City’s most architecturally stunning buildings and is worth a visit, if only for the great photo-op!
As local tour guides who lead tours every day through the Oculus Center and Lower Manhattan, we see first-hand the amazement on our guests' faces.
And, in the video below, Katie, a tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot, takes you on a virtual walk of the Oculus Center.
The Oculus, completed in 2016, is one of NYC's most exciting architectural landmarks. It houses the World Trade Center Transportation Hub and the Westfield Shops Mall.
It was designed to rival both Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station in terms of the number of passengers served.
Twelve subway lines as well as Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) commuter trains to New Jersey can be accessed via the Oculus.
Over 250,000 commuters pass through the Oculus each day.
This post covers where the Oculus is located, how to get there, and what you can do at this space-age-looking wonder!
Where Is The Oculus Located?
The Oculus is in the Lower Manhattan neighborhood of New York City and is part of the World Trade Center Transport Hub.
Its official address is 50 Church Street. But you won't need to know the street address to find the Oculus! You cannot miss it!
It's located just across the road from World Trade Tower 1, also known as the Freedom Tower.
You can enter the Oculus from either Church or Greenwich Streets.
The Oculus serves multiple subway lines including all the lines that go to the World Trade Center Station, including from New Jersey.
Subways and PATH commuter trains
- 2/3/4/5/A/C/J/Z lines to Fulton Street
- 1 to WTC/Cortlandt Street
- E to World Trade Center
- R/W to Cortlandt Street
- PATH train to Newark and Hoboken
All in all, the station has 5 tracks and 4 platforms. Additionally, the terminal connects to the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal.
Use this Google Map to get exact directions from your departure point.
Although it doesn't serve as many passengers as Grand Central Terminal (750,000 per day) or Penn Station (650,000), the WTC transportation hub is the third largest transportation center in NYC.
The Oculus is also a shopping mall with dozens of shops and several very good places to eat in a grand plaza roughly 30ft. (10 meters) below street level.
There are ample stairs, escalators, and elevators to access the different levels to enter the subway, the PATH Hall entrance, and the shops.
Tour Guide TIP: Tourists whose phone batteries are running low during their day of sightseeing can pop into the Apple Store and recharge!
The Oculus Design and Symbolism
The Oculus was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava in collaboration with Daniel Libeskind, the architect of the new World Trade Center.
The structure is situated at along the southern edge of Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Wedge of Light’ plaza within the World Trade Center.
The futuristic Oculus comprises steel ribs and glass arranged in a large elliptical shape. The ribs extend, creating two canopies over the north and south portions of the plaza.
Every September 11, for two hours, the retractable glass skylight in the ceiling is opened.
A wedge of natural light floods into the main transit hall and One World Trade Center is visible. It's a spectacular and moving scene to behold.
In the nighttime, the illuminated building is like a lantern that guides you from afar to the 9/11 Memorial.
Though The Oculus symbolically recognizes the events of 9/11, it is not part of the 9/11 Memorial.
There are motifs from history, such as the wings of cherubim above the Ark of the Covenant or the sheltering wings on Egyptian canopic urns.
However, Calatrava has said that this structural element was meant to resemble the image of a bird released from a child's hands.
Why is it named The Oculus? Oculus is the Latin word for “eye” which, in architectural terms refers to a round or eye-like opening with a view of the sky.
Things To Do At The Oculus
Officially, the Oculus is the name of the building in which the Westfield Shops and Dining are located.
Westfield Shops and Dining at the Oculus is open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Since it’s easier to use one word instead of four, we’ll stick with the Oculus for this article!
The Oculus is great for shopping, with stores on the main, upper, and lower levels.
While it isn't the biggest shopping mall in New York, there are plenty of stores like Kate Spade, H&M, Cole Haan, and more to keep you busy.
See the store directory.
You can walk by underground pedestrian walkways to Brookfield Place, which has even more shops and wonderful views of the Hudson River.
Shoppers and those passing through the transportation hub have several small eateries to choose from, including Eataly, a large food hall with counters selling Italian specialties.
There are also a few full-service restaurants. See the list of dining options.
Events at the Oculus
From April to October, you can grab food and drinks at the Beer Garden.
Every Friday from May to October, Smorgasburg, an NY iconic food market, sets up 20 food stalls outside along the Oculus’s North Plaza.
Also on the North Plaza, every Tuesday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm from June to October is a green market selling locally produced goods from the regional area.
You’ll find foods like strawberries, cider, vegetables, baked goods, and even handcrafted potato vodka!
The North Plaza has a nice open space so there are from time to time live performances of music or dancing. There are even yoga classes in the warm months!
From late November through December to early January, a pop-up holiday market fills up the atrium of the Oculus which is decked out in Christmas decorations.
In addition to the 20 or so Christmas shopping stalls, you can shop at all the stores in the Oculus which itself will be decked out for the holiday season!
- Dates: 2023 dates to be determined (2022 dates were November 25 - January 2)
- Hours: 10 am to 8 pm Mon-Sat and 11 am to 7 pm on Sundays
- Location: 185 Greenwich Street at the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center
Things To Do Near The Oculus
There are so many attractions within walking distance of the Oculus. Just outside the Oculus is the September 11 Memorial and Museum.
One World Observatory (Freedom Tower) is a four-minute walk across the WTC plaza.