This post covers things to do and see in Lower Manhattan, including recommendations for tours. We now have a GPS-enabled audio tour of Lower Manhattan, led by one of our tour guides, that you could take with you anytime. And for more ideas for your time in the Big Apple, check out our definitive guide “Things to Do in NYC“.
More than any other neighborhood in New York City, Lower Manhattan offers a stark contrast between the old and the new.
On this self-guided tour, you will visit attractions that date back to the time of Dutch New Amsterdam (17th Century), see buildings built when New York was still a British colony and stand on the exact spots where American history was made.
The old and the new, the triumphant and the tragic, architectural diversity and human stories – There are so many things to do in Lower Manhattan.
You’ll hear a lot about the ongoing battle to be the world’s tallest building. So, many of them are located here in Lower Manhattan.
The area also has some of the city’s smallest and curviest streets. That’s because Lower Manhattan is where New York the city began when the Dutch created dirt paths to travel from farm to farm. Later, the British paved these unaligned paths into proper roads and now they are some of the oldest streets in America.
You can take this tour on your own or use it as a primer or companion to our guided tour of Lower Manhattan or you could download our app for an audio tour of Lower Manhattan led by a Free Tours by Foot guide.
Do take a look at our other self-guided New York tours. Also, if you are planning on visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, pairing a trip to both with some time in Lower Manhattan makes sense.
Warning: You’ll spend a fair amount of time on this tour looking way up, but don’t worry, there are plenty of stops where you can give your neck a rest and look down and around at eye level!
We’ve also provided a downloadable .pdf version of the Lower Manhattan Self Guided Tour.
Click the map to enlarge.
We start the tour near City Hall Park. If you are planning on purchasing a ticket for a hop-on, hop-off bus, Open Loop, Grayline and Big Bus Tours all have stops in Lower Manhattan. Be sure to read our post comparing the different New York bus tour companies.
(Stop A) Manhattan Municipal Building (1915)
At the intersection of Centre and Chambers Streets stands one of New York City’s most enchanting buildings. Yet, what goes on inside is quite the opposite. It is the headquarters of many of the city’s administrative agencies, filing up 40 floors of the building with bureaucracy.
The building does have a romantic side. The expression “getting married at City Hall” really means coming to this building for a simple civil service and picking up your marriage certificate. It’s quite fitting that the building bears a resemblance to an elaborate wedding cake with a gilded statue of a voluptuous woman standing atop.
To witness the full scope of this building’s beauty, it is best viewed at a distance, either from the Brooklyn Bridge or from nearby City Hall Park. Visit the Brooklyn Bridge on your own or take our Brooklyn Bridge and 911 Memorial Tour.
(Stop B) City Hall (1812)
New York’s City Hall is one of the oldest continuously used city halls in America.
At the time of its completion, City Hall was one of the three tallest buildings in the city. It was so large, that it not only housed the three branches of local government—the Mayor, the City Council and the courts, but also a chapel, small jails, and a wine and beer cellar.
When the site was chosen in 1803, it was located at the northern boundary of the city and most of the population lived and worked south of what is now called Chambers Street. The architects Mangin and McComb designed the building so that its elegant Georgian and French Renaissance-style marble façade would face the city.
To lower construction costs, the back façade was built using cheaper brownstone. The architects could not foresee just how rapidly the city would grow during the 1800s, expanding north of Chambers Street, thus giving many of the city’s residents a view of the less than stately rear façade. Yet the rear façade was not updated for almost 144 years! In 1956, it was finally replaced with limestone. City Hall offers interesting tours for free.
(Stop C) City Hall Park (1871)
This may be the most relaxing thing to do in Lower Manhattan. This cozy park is a wonderful location to relax on a bench and have lunch or just people-watch. The site of the park has a colorful and contrasting past, having been used as a pasture, a prison, a parade ground, a public execution site, an almshouse, an art museum, and a post office. The park has also played host to three different fountains. The current Mould fountain was the park’s first, built in 1871. In 1920 it was dissembled and moved to Crotona Park in the Bronx to make way for a new fountain named “Civic Virtue” which in turn was relocated to Queens in 1941 and replaced by yet a third fountain, the Delacorte fountain. The Delacorte stood in the park from 1972 until the park was renovated in 1999 and it was moved to Bronx Borough Hall Park. The Mould fountain was returned to its original home and the city installed replicas of the turn of the century street lamps throughout the park. Sitting by the fountain at night, on the wood and wrought-iron benches facing an illuminated City Hall, one may feel as if they have traveled back in time.
(Stop D) Woolworth Building (1913)
At more than 790 feet (240m) tall, with 57 floors, this building held the title of the world’s tallest building until the completion of 40 Wall Street in 1930. F.W. Woolworth, who had amassed a fortune through his “five-and-dime” chain stores, paid for the land and the building construction in cash– a cool $13.5 million. He commissioned one of the most talented architects of the 20th century, Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Alexander Hamilton Custom House which you will see later in the tour. The building is a modified neo-gothic style, a modern skyscraper decked out with gargoyles, spires and flying buttresses like those found in a church. With thriving businesses on every floor, it became known as the “Cathedral of Commerce.” In 2014, a property developer purchased the top 30 floors and is converting them into private luxury apartments. The cheapest apartment will cost $3.875 million. If you have a spare $110 million, the penthouse apartment with seven levels and an incredible view can be yours. The building is no longer open to the public but there are short paid tours of the lavish lobby. For an in-depth history and tours of the lobby, check out our post on the Woolworth Building. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Lower Manhattan. TIP: Goldstar often offers discount tickets up to 50% off.
(Stop E) “Newspaper Row”
Running south of City Hall and diagonally to Broadway is Park Row. Only two blocks long, this short street was a hub of power from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Here the major newspapers of the day built their headquarters including The New York Times, The New York Tribune, The New York Journal and The New York World. Sitting in their offices along Park Row, publishing moguls such as Joseph Pulitzer, Horace Greely, and Randolph Hearst influenced millions of readers daily and the buildings they commissioned to house their newspapers reflected their power. One such building was The New York World Building (1890) which was the world’s tallest building from 1890 to 1894. But just as these newspapers have disappeared, so did their buildings, razed to make room for modern buildings and structures. The sole survivor is the original New York Times building located at 41 Park Row, now part of Pace University. At the intersection of Broadway and Park Row is the Park Row Building which was built when Newspaper Row was still in full force. When it was constructed in 1899, this 391-foot tall building with its graceful double cupolas stole the title of world’s tallest building from The New York World Building and held it for a decade.
(Stop F) St. Paul’s Chapel (1766)
This is the only ccolonial–erahouse of worship still standing in New York City and it is also the oldest public building that has been in continuous use since it was built. It served as an extension of Trinity Church located a few blocks south and included in this tour. St. Paul’s has a sacred and inspirational place in history. George Washington prayed here after his presidential inauguration at nearby Federal Hall in 1789. St. Paul’s also served as a place of comfort and solace for the rescue workers at the World Trade Center in the days following 9/11. Despite being located directly across the street from the Twin Towers, St. Paul’s survived the tragic events of 9/11 without even a broken window. The back of the chapel that faced the Towers was shielded by a huge sycamore tree the stood between the chapel and the collapsing buildings. The tree caught large amounts of falling debris and was uprooted. The tree’s heroic roots have been memorialized by a two-ton bronze sculpture that stands in the courtyard of Trinity Church. Spend some time inside, as they have small displays commemorating the heroes of September 11th. St. Paul’s Chapel is also a part of our 911 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge Tour as well as our World Trade Center and 911 Memorial Tour. We will be coming back and ending at the 911 Memorial.
(Stop G) 9/11 Memorial Plaza
The designers of the plaza created a public space and memorial worthy of those who lost their lives on 9/11. The plaza is large and airy and even during its busiest hours, there are places where one can find a quiet spot to contemplate. The memorial consists of two enormous reflecting pools with cascading water set within the footprints of the twin towers. The pools are bordered by 76 bronze panels attached to the parapet walls that form the edges of the pools. The panels are inscribed with the names of 2,983 people. This includes the names of 2,977 victims who were killed in the 11 attacks in New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, as well as the names of six victims who were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing
Unlike other memorials, the names are not listed alphabetically but rather grouped by affiliation- employees of companies listed together, rescue workers by the fire station or precinct and so on. This atypical design leaves one feeling the sense of family and community shared among those who died together that day. The “Survivor Tree” (image to the right with Tour Guide Renee standing in front) is a pear tree that survived the devastation and was preserved and re-planted. It is marked with a plaque, and you can locate it by the map included in the official memorial handout available when you enter the plaza. The plaza is open to the public from 7:30 am-9:00 pm daily.
Liberty Park and The Sphere
Across the southern boundary of the Memorial Plaza is the elevated Liberty Park. This 25-foot-high elevated park with a simple design was inspired by the High Line Park in Chelsea. Liberty Park overlooks Liberty Street and is intended to give one a panoramic view of the plaza. Most of the year when trees are in bloom, the view of the Memorial is mostly obstructed. However the park serves a much more significant purpose: it is the new permanent home to The Sphere, the iconic, massive bronze sculpture created by Fritz Koenig. The Sphere was installed in the early 1970s in the open plaza between the Twin Towers. For three decades this 25-foot (8m) tall bronze sculpture stood in the middle of the World Trade Center Plaza. It was salvaged from the wreckage of the WTC after 9/11, pulled from under mountains of rubble, but amazingly sustained only minimal damage. The Sphere was moved to the northern edge of Battery Park because of its proximity to the site. It was placed in Liberty Park in mid-August of 2017 where it looks perfectly matched for the setting. You can also get stunning pictures of The Sphere with the new World Trade Center building in the background.
Also in Liberty Park is the “Living Wall,” a newly planted vertical garden that includes a sapling grown from the horse chestnut tree outside Anne Frank’s home in Amsterdam. The park also contains the America’s Response Monument which honors the Americans in the military who fought overseas in the wake of 9/11.
(Stop H ) One World Trade Center a.k.a. the Freedom Tower
(click here for information on One World Trade Center Observatory – now open) Vesey St (north side of the 9/11 memorial) – Not including its spire, the tower is 1,368 feet (468) tall, the same height as the North Tower of the original World Trade Center. With the spire the tower’s height 1,776 feet (538m) tall, symbolizing the year that America declared its independence. It is the tallest building in North America. While not officially named The Freedom Tower, the building is already commonly known by that nickname. The 104-story building will feature an observation deck with unparalleled views, due to open in 2015. As of November 2014, the building is 55% leased to tenants. Despite assurances of impenetrable security, the tower has already been illegally scaled. In March 2014, a 16-year-old New Jersey resident entered the site through a hole in a fence. Allegedly dressed like a construction worker, he snuck into the building and convinced an elevator operator to take him up to the 88th floor. Taking the stairs to the 104th floor, he walked past a sleeping security guard and climbed up a ladder to get to the antenna where he spent two hours taking pictures, including selfies.
(Stop I) National September 11 Memorial & Museum
180 Greenwich Street (enter at the intersection of Greenwich St and Liberty, West Street and Liberty, or Fulton and West) Built below the memorial and opened in May 2014, the museum holds various artifacts from the original World Trade Center buildings. As of November 2014, admission was $24, but you can check on current prices and hours at www.911memorial.org. You could also check out our post on the 911 Memorial and Museum.
(Stop J) – Zuccotti Park – Occupy Wall Street
Zuccotti Park has become synonymous with the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose stated mission is to achieve social and economic equality. On September 17, 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement organized a mass protest and chose Zuccotti Park due to its location in the heart of the Financial District. Interestingly, the site the park is built on has a history of protest. It was the location of colonial New York’s first coffeehouse (and no, it was not a Starbucks). On November 5, 1773, a huge crowd assembled outside the coffeehouse to denounce the oppressive Tea Act imposing taxes on the colonies for imported tea. The Occupy Wall Street protest went on for two months around the clock. During the day the protest crowds were large and loud, but even after dark hundreds of dedicated Occupy Wall Streeters stayed and soon the park resembled a campsite. Tents and tarps were assembled, power generators for light and laptops were brought in and there was a lively conversation among the community. The band Crosby, Stills and Nash performed and celebrities like Russell Simmons and Alec Baldwin showed up to lend their support. There was even a comedy night organized.
New Yorkers were surprised that the police didn’t oust the protestors after the first night. But a little known city-wide zoning law protected the protestors’ right to assemble day and night. In the 1960s, building developers wanted to erect super tall, extra-large structures for corporations needing New York headquarters. But zoning laws, including the “set-back” law of 1916 (explained below under the Equitable Building) imposed inconvenient restrictions on building height and design. Developers negotiated with city officials who decided to offer zoning concessions to developers who were willing to pay for and maintain a public plaza. Zuccotti Park is such a plaza — privately owned but accessible to the public 24/7 by law. The police and city officials had no say about the protests in the park. Only the property owners can establish rules (except limited access). Eventually, the park owner posted new rules against camping, lying on the ground or benches, and using sleeping bags. Slowly the protestors were gently forced out, the cold, wet October weather didn’t encourage overnight stays and the movement seemed to die of its own attrition. But not before drawing world-wide attention and turning this lesser-known park into a tourist destination.
(Stop K) Federal Reserve Bank 33 Liberty Street at Nassau Street (1924)
Here you will find the largest depository for monetary gold in the United States. As of 2012, the vault, located five stories below street level and sealed with a closed with an immense steel door weighing 90 tons, holds approximately 530,000 gold bars that in total weigh approximately 6,700 tons. That’s more than one-quarter of the world’s monetary gold. The building is modeled on an Italian Palace and designed by the venerable architectural firm of York & Sawyer whose buildings can be found around the U.S. But none are as valuable as this one. Find out about taking a tour of the Federal Reserve.
(Stop L) Equitable Building 120 Broadway (1915)
At the time of its completion, this was the largest office building in the world, standing 538 feet (164m) tall and spanning a full city block, with 1.8 million square feet of space. Although the Equitable was hailed by some as an architectural wonder, the public was outraged because the building cast a 7-acre shadow across Lower Manhattan. In response, New York City passed the 1916 Zoning Resolution, often referred to as the “set-back” law. This law, still in effect today, requires that buildings of a certain height and bulk have set-backs so as to not constrict sunlight or the flow of air to surrounding smaller buildings. The set-backs give buildings the appearance of a staircase or some say even a tiered wedding cake. The Empire State Building is a perfect example of a set-back building and demonstrates how a law meant to restrict the development of skyscrapers actually created a new and unique architectural style that has made so many of New York City’s buildings easily recognizable.
“Canyon of Heroes“
As you walk down Broadway you’ll notice granite strips inlaid on the sidewalk bearing the names of heads of state, politicians, accomplished athletes, pioneers of air and space travel, soldiers, sailors, and naturally, all the New York City sports teams who’ve won championship games. This stretch of Broadway that runs from City Hall to Battery Park is known as the “Canyon of Heroes.” It is along this stretch that ticker-tape parades were born. In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled, paraded down Broadway and showered with ticker-tape (a slip of paper that was used to relay stock market prices). Many buildings that formed the ‘canyon’ along Broadway housed finance companies and it was common to have huge amounts of ticker-tape around to toss out the windows during a parade. The ticker-tape machine has long since been replaced with modern methods and now office workers along the Canyon toss confetti and even rolls of toilet paper from their windows to create that magical and festive snowfall effect. To learn more, visit the Downtown Alliance website.
(Stop M) Trinity Church (1846)
An Anglican parish and church was first established on this site in 1697 under charter by King William III. There have been three incarnations of the church on this site. The first Trinity Church was built in 1697 and was the tallest structure in colonial New York. It was destroyed a mere 9 years later in the Great Fire of 1776 that leveled much of the city. The second church was built in 1788 but was torn down just a few decades later when the heavy snowstorms of 1838 caused the building to become structurally unsound and hazardous. The current church was built in 1846 and designed by the father of the neo-gothic movement in America, Richard Upjohn. As extraordinary as the exterior of the church is, the interior is every bit as awe-inspiring. Enter the church through three massive, elaborately carved bronze doors – a gift from the Astors, one of New York’s wealthiest families. Inside you’ll find some of America’s oldest and most beautiful stained glass. The serene and a little spooky cemetery, with tombstones dating from the early 1700s, is the eternal home of many notables, including Alexander Hamilton (first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury) and Robert Fulton (inventor of commercial steam ferries).
(Stop N) Wall Street
There really was a wall here, built here in 1652 by the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam as a buffer between them and the Native Americans who were the first inhabitants of what they called Manna-hata. The wall served its purpose well — until the British arrived, forced the Dutch out and renamed the city, New York. By the late 1700s, New York had become a prosperous city with lively commercial activity. Speculators would meet under a buttonwood tree at the foot of Wall Street to trade, thus planting the seed of modern day Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange was formalized with the signing of the “Buttonwood Agreement” in 1792, though the building it is now operated out of was not built for another century. Read our self-guided walking tour of Wall St.
(Stop O) New York Stock Exchange (1903)
Every day, billions of dollars in stock are traded here. With massive Corinthian columns, the building designed by the esteemed George C. Post has an aura of strength and stability. However, in October of 1929, the activity inside the Exchange was anything but stable. On October 29th, within a few short hours, the stock market lost all of its gains of the entire year! Phones were ringing off the hook, pandemonium spread on the Stock Exchange floor with traders yelling “Sell! Sell!” Rumors of investors jumping to their deaths spread throughout Wall Street spreading fear and panic. The Stock Exchange’s board considered closing the market early, but decided against it, fearing that it would only increase the panic. When the market closed at 3 p.m., more than 16.4 million shares had changed hands, using 15,000 miles of ticker tape. This date, known as Black Tuesday, signaled the beginning of America’s Great Depression. Usually, the building columns are draped with a massive American flag. This flag hanging tradition actually started before 9/11, in the mid-late 1990s, when the Exchange hung “full façade” banners to celebrate listings and special events at the Exchange. Companies like Ford, McDonald’s, Coke, IBM, Kraft and much more had their banners hung from the Exchange. The day after 9/11, traders working at the stock exchange came up with the idea of hanging a large American flag along the façade. The idea became a reality in late 2001 and today, the flag on the Exchange is one of New York City’s most iconic images. (Image was taken on our Lower Manhattan Walking Tour). Be sure to check out the Museum of American Finance on the other end of Wall Street, which is free on Saturdays.
(Stop P) Federal Hall National Memorial (1842)
This impressive Greek Revival style building was preceded by a smaller and less formidable one and served as colonial New York’s city hall. History was made on the balcony of that first building when George Washington was sworn in as president on April 30, 1789. Washington’s larger than life statue depicts the scene. All that is missing is the bible upon which he laid his hand while being sworn in. You can see that bible inside the building which contains artifacts and information of the role Lower Manhattan played in the nation’s early history.
(Stop Q) Morgan Guaranty Trust Building (1913)
J. Pierpont Morgan, one of the richest men in the world at the turn of the 20th century, had this building constructed as his headquarters. Unfortunately, he died that same year. You won’t see any name plaque on this short, squat neo-classical limestone building. The Morgan Company was so famous that everyone on Wall Street knew whose building it was and the company deemed it unnecessary to inscribe its name on the building, which became known as “The House of Morgan.” There is a different kind of marking on the Wall Street side of the building. If you look closely at the building’s walls at approximately eye level, you’ll see pockmarks in the limestone façade. These are holes caused by shrapnel from the Wall Street Bombing of 1920. On September 16th a horse-drawn buggy loaded with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of cast-iron slugs exploded across the street from the House of Morgan, killing 39 people and injuring hundreds more. The culprits would never found but there is some suggestion that they were communist sympathizers who chose Wall Street because it was the personification of all that they stood against. The Morgan Company chose not to repair the façade of the building and in defiance of the criminals left the marks for all to see. The bombing is considered to be the first act of domestic terrorism.
(Stop R) 40 Wall St – the Manhattan Company Building/Trump Building (1930)
Designed by preeminent skyscraper architect H. Craig Severence and his associate Yasuo Matsui, 40 Wall Street was completed in just 11 months. There was no time to spare as the builders were in a race to construct the tallest building in the world. The rivalry between 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler building was so great that the architects of both buildings continually (and secretly) altered their design plans in order to steal the coveted title of tallest building in the world from the Woolworth building. When 40 Wall Street was completed in April of 1930, it was 927 feet tall, surpassing the Woolworth Building and the Chrysler building…so they thought. The victory was short-lived when, less than a month later, the Chrysler Building, in an unexpected move, assembled a 125-foot tall stainless steel spire and hoisted it to the top of the building, thus becoming the tallest building in the world. A year later none of this mattered when the Empire State Building was finished and dwarfed every other building around. In 1995, 40 Wall Street was purchased by Donald Trump, hence its current name. Considering the value of Wall Street property, he paid an incredibly small amount — just $8 million.
(Stop S) Charging Bull (1989)
This is one of the most photographed sculptures in New York City, both the fierce nostril-flaring head and the anatomically accurate rear. This 7,000-pound bronze sculpture was a gift from Italian sculptor Arturo Di Modica who created the bull in response to the 1987 stock market crash. He said that the bull represented “the strength, power, and hope of the American people for the future.” He delivered his gift in the middle of the night of December 15, 1989, and placed it under a 60-foot Christmas tree in front of the New York Stock Exchange. City officials were not so happy about the bull since Di Modica placed it there without the city’s knowledge nor permission. But the Wall Street workers who arrived the next morning fell in love with the bull immediately and crowds same to see it. The police carted away the bull but the demand for its return to Wall Street was so great that a week later the city brought the bull back but placed it in a less obtrusive location. For more info, read our post on the Charging Bull.
(Stop T) – Cunard Building 25 Broadway (1919)
At the turn of the 20th century, New York’s economy was booming, partially due to the fact that it was the largest and busiest port in the world. Logically, the Cunard shipping line chose to locate its shipping and ticket offices near the port. The architect Benjamin Wistar Morris was assisted with consultations with the highly-regarded firm of Carrere and Hastings, who designed some of the grandest buildings in New York City including the Public Library at 42nd Street and the next building on this tour. The friezes along the exterior of this Renaissance-inspired limestone building are playful as they incorporate symbols of the ocean, such as Nautilus shells, Titans, and compasses.
(Stop U) 26 Broadway – Standard Oil Building (1922)
In 1885, John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company moved from Cleveland to New York and commissioned their first New York headquarters building, a ten-story, 86 foot wide style office building. It was remarkable at that time and allowed Standard Oil to take its place in the ever-changing New York skyline. As Rockefeller grew richer, the building grew taller and in 1985 an additional six floors and 27-foot wide extension were added onto its base. By the 1920s, through purchases and long-term leases of surrounding buildings, Standard Oil put together one of the largest parcels in Lower Manhattan and commissioned Carrere & Hastings to expand the building even more. The updated 26 Broadway expanded the length of the 1895 base with a unique design that broke with the architectural norms of the day. The building curves, following Broadway, which started out as a dirt path that predated Rockefeller and his riches by 250 years. The finishing touch was a 480-foot pyramidal tower topped with a metal brazier surrounded by torches resembling a giant oil lamp, symbolic of Standard Oil’s power. As the southernmost spire on Manhattan at that time, it offered a dramatic welcome to travelers arriving through the harbor.
(Stop V) Bowling Green Park
The history of this small space goes all the way back to the 1630s when the Dutch declared it the site of the annual cattle and grain market. In 1733, three colonists leased it from the English Crown for the nominal fee of one peppercorn a year and it became New York’s first park. The British installed 4,000-pound gilded lead statue of King George III in 1770 and a year later erected a cast iron fence that encircles the park to this day. That fence, however, failed to protect King George III on July 9, 1776 when, after the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, a riled up mob of anti-British colonists toppled the statue, dragged it up Broadway and sent it to Connecticut where it was melted down and recast as ammunition used by patriot troops against the King’s own soldiers.
(Stop W) National Museum of the American Indian – Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House (1907)
Across from Bowling Green Park is a stunning Beaux-Arts building designed by Cass Gilbert (designer of the Woolworth Building). It currently houses the museum but it was built as New York City’s customs house where importers declared their goods. In 1971, the Customs Service moved to the newly opened World Trade Center. The four monumental sculptures that flank the building symbolize international commerce with each of the four female figures representing a continent: Asia America Europe and Africa. The highly-detailed statues include symbolic references to the culture of each of those continents and it’s worth taking a few moments to admire each one close-up. More information is on our blog National Museum of the American Indian. For more information, read our post on the Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
(Stop X) Battery Park
In Dutch times, the southern shoreline of Manhattan Island was just slightly below Bowling Green but over the decades, Manhattan was expanded by the placement of landfill around its shores. Thus, Battery Park is located on almost entirely all landfill. The park is named for the battery of artillery installed here, first by the Dutch, then the British and finally the Americans. The park contains many monuments and historic sites, a few of which are listed below. *Note that as of 2014, the northern section of the park is undergoing extensive renovations and not all areas and memorials may be accessible. https://freetoursbyfoot.com/things-to-do-in-battery-park/
(Stop Y) Netherlands Memorial (1926)
Located near the northern border of the park, across the street from the National Museum of the American Indian, is a monument to the Netherlands, the first European colony to settle in New York City. The monument is a flagpole with an inscription in both English and Dutch commemorating the official date of that the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam was founded in 1625. There is also a large carving depicting Dutch provincial Director-General Peter Minuit and a Native American in formal headgear finalizing the “sale” of Manhattan. The myth persists that the Dutch paid the equivalent of $24 in trinkets and beads for Manhattan. It is more realistic that Minuit negotiated the “purchase” of Manhattan from a band of the Lenape tribe for 60 Dutch guilders worth of trade goods. The deed itself did not survive, so specific details are unknown. However, the value of 60 guilders in 1626 amounts to about $1,100 in 2012 dollars. It might not have been beds and baubles, but the Dutch did get a pretty good deal. This memorial flagpole was dedicated to New York City by the Netherlands in 1926 to mark the 300th anniversary of the settlement of the Dutch in America.
(Stop a) Castle Clinton (1812)
Open 7 days a week 7:45 am – 5 pm. In 1811, with the mounting fear that Britain was coming to take back her colony, the American Government built a fort called the West Battery, erected to protect the most accessible point of Manhattan, located in open waters with a direct line from the ocean into the harbor. But America’s victory in the War of 1812 ensured that foreign invasion was unlikely to occur again so the fort was converted into an entertainment center. It was renamed Castle Clinton in honor of Dewitt Clinton, Mayor and later Governor of New York.
From 1855 to 1890 the building was used as the federal immigration center for the east coast since Ellis Island was not opened until 1892. It was Castle Clinton and not Ellis Island, that welcomed approximately eight million immigrants to America. In 1890 Castle Clinton again changed hands and was acquired by the New York City Department of Public Parks, which operated the New York Aquarium there from 1896 to 1941. In 1946, Castle Clinton National Monument was authorized and the National Park Service restored the fort to its original appearance complete with replica cannons. There is also a very small but quite interesting exhibit room with documents, maps, and photographs that show the development of the fort and the park.
The ticket office for the ferries to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is located at Castle Clinton. You can find out more information by reading our post Guide to visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Nearby is the departure point for the Staten Island Ferry. Click on the link for more information on riding this free ferry.
(Stop b) The Immigrants (1983)
This is a highly moving monument, representing immigrants arriving at Castle Clinton. You can sense both their plight and hope as they take their first steps towards building a new life in America. You can learn more about this monument on our Battery Park Self-Guided tour.
(Stop c) East Coast Memorial (1961)
This commanding memorial commemorates 4,609 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen who died in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean during World War II. You can learn more about this monument on our Battery Park Self-Guided tour.
(Stop d) Fraunces Tavern and Museum
The first building on the site was constructed in 1671 by Colonial New York’s Mayor van Cortlandt. When he retired in 1700 he gave the property to his son-in-law, Etienne DeLancey, who built the current building in 1719. His heirs sold the building in 1762 to Samuel Fraunces who converted the residential building into a tavern named the Queen’s Head. Before the Revolution, the Sons of Liberty met secretly here to plan their independence from British rule. In 1783, General George Washington hosted a dinner in the third-floor Long Room where he bid farewell to his officers. The building fell into disrepair and the New York State branch of the Sons of the Revolution stepped in and saved Fraunces Tavern from destruction in 1904. The restoration was completed in 1907 and the Museum opened the 124th anniversary of Washington’s farewell. Get more information from out blog post on Fraunces Tavern.
(Stop e) Stone Street
In the 1650s, when New York was still Dutch New Amsterdam this street was ‘Brouwer Sraet‘, one of the earliest streets to be paved with cobblestone, hence its renaming to Stone Street. Stores and lofts of merchants and importers sprung up along the street. Unfortunately, the Great Fire of 1835 destroyed most remnants of New Amsterdam. After decades of neglect the Landmarks Commission, the Alliance for Downtown New York and Stone Street owners joined forces to restore the eastern portion of the street. The street was transformed into a charming pedestrian mall with several restaurants and bars and outdoor dining in good weather.
South Street Seaport
This complex of restored 19th-century buildings located next to the East River consists of two blocks of short brick buildings and cobblestone streets. While the streets harken to the 19th century when “tall ships” and sailboats filled the river, the shopping is chic and trendy. The streets around the intersection of Front and Fulton Streets you will still find stores such as Guess and Abercrombie and Fitch as well as small boutiques carrying clothes and goods made by local artists. There’s also their FOOD/HAUL, a series of rotating food vendors serving up cuisine ranging from pizza to hotdogs, Italian food, Ice Cream and more. Check out the list of shops and food vendor schedule. There is also a seasonal ice skating rink and a TKTS discount theater ticket booth with the same discounted tickets as its Times Square counterpart but fewer crowds. Read our self-guided tour of South Street Seaport.
We hope that you enjoyed your walk around Lower Manhattan and got plenty of selfies! Remember that Free Tours by Foot offers the following tours around Lower Manhattan as well as other free tours of New York City.
CENTURY 21DEPARTMENT STORE – 22 Cortlandt Street
One of the most popular shopping destinations for tourists and locals alike. This large department store offers deep discounts and sale prices on designer clothes and everyday brands. It also carries housewares, watches and jewelry, linens, luggage, handbags and a fantastic shoe department for both men and women. It’s the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs for your friends and family back home. The store is very crowded during prime hours, but surprisingly quiet in the evening hours, especially during the midweek. If you like to shop, you will LOVE Century 21. Information and hours.