16 best things to do in Lower Manhattan

From the 9/11 Memorial to City Hall to the Oculus, these are the best things to do in Lower Manhattan

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Lyndsay

Lyndsay is an American expat living in Italy (and licensed NYC tour guide) who loves to get lost on her travels. She helps women transform their confidence and self-identity through local travel opportunities, both home and abroad.

Lower Manhattan—from 14th Street down to The Battery—is Manhattan’s oldest area. At its core, the Financial District, south of Chambers Street, is where the first Dutch settlement was formed in the 17th century. It became known as New Amsterdam before it was taken over by the English and renamed New York. 

With so much to do in Lower Manhattan, you will need a few days to see everything. From popular spots like the One World Observatory and the Brooklyn Bridge to lesser-known attractions like the National Museum of the American Indian, this list of the best things to do in Lower Manhattan has you covered.

Best attractions in Lower Manhattan

Visit the 9/11 Memorial

Price: From $17.20

Location: 180 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10007

Details: The museum is a must to truly put the memorial in context

Exploring the 9/11 Memorial is a must-do for anyone who visits Lower Manhattan — and is an essential activity for anyone visiting New York. The grounds mark the location of Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. Today the 9/11 memorial honors the almost 3,000 people who passed away on that fateful day. 

There’s so much symbolism within the landscape and design of the Memorial Grounds and Reflecting Pools. Reading up on the things to know before visiting the 9/11 Memorial will ensure you have a good visit.

Visit two of New York City’s most iconic landmarks — the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Price: From $30

Location: Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004

Details: A boat tour is one of the best ways to take in both. Advance booking required

When it comes to things to do in Lower Manhattan and New York, the Statue of Liberty is probably one of the most iconic. Perched on Liberty Island, the world-famous figure was a gift to the United States from France in 1885. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, the engineer behind the Eiffel Tower. During the influx of immigration in the 20th century, the Statue of Liberty welcomed people into the United States. 

Once it was established, the adjacent Ellis Island was the processing center for the immigrant wave coming into New York City from Europe. Most Americans whose ancestors immigrated from Europe in the 20th century can date back to a boat arriving here.

Note that if you want to stand on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, you can only buy tickets directly from Statue City Cruises, and these are extremely limited. If you only want to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, take the free Staten Island ferry, which will pass Lady Liberty on the way to Staten Island.

Visit City Hall, the center of New York City politics

Location: City Hall Park, New York, NY 10007

Insider tip: Only a handful of tours are available every week, and must be booked in advance

New York’s City Hall is one of the United States’ oldest city halls still in use today. Finished in 1812, City Hall is New York City’s political center and where the mayor of New York City’s offices are located. Not only is the building itself one of the most impressive architectural achievements of its time, but a visit is an amazing opportunity to get under the skin of New York’s significant political history. There’s no shortage of things to do in Lower Manhattan, but this is probably one of our favorite under-the-radar attractions. 

When they’re running tours, you can make a reservation on the New York City Hall website to take a guided tour of the historic space. They only run a few a week, and they tend to get booked up, so don’t hang about if this is on your hit list.

Learn about money at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Price: Free

Location: 33 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10045

Insider Tip: The tour explores both financial history and the heritage of the neighborhood

This Federal Reserve Bank is located right in the middle of the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. It’s responsible for maintaining the U.S. dollar and other currencies and serves as a depository institution for government securities. That’s a lot of money talk, but a guided tour of the Italian Renaissance-revival-style building makes for an extraordinary experience. Not only does this eye-catching architectural gem hold the largest depository gold reserve in the world, buried five stories below street level. Tours are hosted daily, but tickets are released on a 30-day cycle on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York website

Shop ‘til you drop at the Oculus and Brookfield Place

Price: Free

Location: 185 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10006

Insider Tip: A tunnel takes you between the two, making this great for a rainy day

Indulge in retail therapy while getting an eyeful of New York’s awesome architecture at the Oculus, a beautiful dove-shaped, Westfield-branded shopping mall and transport hub in the new World Trade Center complex. And the fun doesn’t stop there, because you can walk through a tunnel running underneath the 9/11 Memorial to Brookfield Place, another retail center that sits right next to the waters of the Hudson River

Together, these enclosed shopping malls are a brilliant way to spend a rainy day in Lower Manhattan – while still giving you the chance to see world-leading design and experience New York’s legendary shops and restaurants.

Tip: the Oculus is also a train station, so avoid commuting hours. 

Head inside One World Trade Center for the view from One World Observatory

Price: From $46.82

Location: 117 West Street, New York, NY 10006

After you’ve explored the 9/11 Memorial, you can visit the One World Observatory at the top of One World Trade Center. Also known as the Freedom Tower, it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and like the 9/11 Memorial, it is designed with a lot of symbolism. 

The tallest observation deck in New York City offers stunning views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Governors Island, and New Jersey. It’s one of the best viewpoints in New York City, and an anchor point for exploring Lower Manhattan.

Best things to see in Lower Manhattan

Enjoy the view at The Battery

`Price: Free

Location: State Street and Battery Place, New York, NY 10004

Insider Tip: There’s more here than the ferry, so leave enough time to explore

Formerly and still commonly called Battery Park, The Battery occupies the southern tip of the island — the lowest part of Lower Manhattan. Within the park, you can see the Statue of Liberty from far, the Seaglass Carousel, which pays homage to the former home of the New York Aquarium, and Castle Clinton (where the Aquarium was first established.) 

Castle Clinton was never used in battle, and it served as the processing center for immigrants coming into Manhattan before an immigration center was established on Ellis Island. Nowadays, it serves as an outdoor museum with a small exhibit room inside the fort with historic documents and maps. The Battery is also where you catch the boat to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Not only does this spot offer incredible views over the harbor, but it’s also home to perennial gardens and an urban farm maintained by students from local schools to teach them about sustainable farming.

See the African Burial Ground National Monument

Price: Free

Location: 290 Broadway, New York, NY 10007

Insider tip: Book a tour on the website to make the most of it

Just two blocks north of City Hall Park, you can find a memorial dedicated to the more than 15,000 freed and enslaved Africans buried on this ground. The African Burial Ground National Monument was an active graveyard from the mid-1630s up until 1795. It’s the oldest and largest archeological excavation of its kind rediscovered in the United States and was established as a National Historic Landmark in 1993, paying tribute to the role slavery played in building modern New York. You don’t need to book a tour to explore, but they’re available (and recommended) — head to the dedicated website to enlist the knowledge of a ranger and pay tribute to this powerful space. 

Explore the graveyard at Trinity Church

Price: Free

Location: 89 Broadway, New York, NY 10006, New York, NY 10282

Insider tip: This is where Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is buried (yes, the one from Hamilton the musical)

Trinity Church was where wealthy early New Yorkers would come for worship in Lower Manhattan until the Revolutionary War when it was destroyed in the Great New York City Fire of 1776. The current church — the third incarnation — was designed in the Neo-Gothic style, characterized by pointed arches, steep gables, and a 281-foot high spire. Completed in 1846, it was the tallest building in the US for 23 years. 

Trinity Church’s cemetery is the final resting place for several famous colonial New Yorkers, but none as famous as Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

Tip: The Story of Hamilton walking tour to learn more about where he lived, passed away, and his contributions to early New York City. 

Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

Price: Free

Location: Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard, New York, NY 10038

Insider Tip: Bring your camera — these are views you won’t want to forget

Of all the bridges that pass from Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge is the most famous. When it opened, businessman PT Barnum led a troop of 21 elephants across the bridge to prove to the public that it was safe and stable. 

If you want to follow in the footpaths of the elephants, stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. Take a tour to learn about how the bridge was built, the incredible female engineer that took over the project after her husband’s death, and a little bit more about DUMBO, the neighborhood across the river from Lower Manhattan. 

Tip: the Brooklyn Bridge gets crowded, especially during the day. The best time to go is right after sunrise or at dusk.

Step back into the 19th century at South Street Seaport

Price: Free to explore

Location: Fulton and Water Streets New York, NY, 10038

Insider Tip: This is far more than a historic site: it’s been turned into a dynamic destination for food and shopping

South Street Seaport is located on the east side of Lower Manhattan. This is where most ships docked during the prime years of the New York City shipping industry when the city was home to the most significant maritime trading enterprise in the country. Today, it’s home to the largest concentration of preserved 19th-century commercial buildings in the city and a clutch of shops, restaurants, and other entertainment. The Tin Building by Jean-Georges is a ‘culinary destination’ well worth the trip, with a selection of places to eat, bars, and marketplaces that’ll keep your fridge stocked for months to come. 

See the center of the Financial District on the corner of Broad Street and Wall Street

Location: Lower Manhattan, New York

Insider Tip: Celebrate the fearless females making their mark in the US financial system with a visit to the Fearless Girl statue

Wall Street was established by Dutch settlers who first landed in Manhattan. It takes its name from the double wall at the outskirts of their settlement, erected to protect it from attack. Today, you can find a few significant landmarks on Wall Street and its neighboring Broad Street, home to the New York Stock Exchange

The ‘Fearless Girl’ sculpture stands looking up at the New York Stock Exchange — moved from her original location facing the famous ‘Charging Bull’ on nearby Broadway — symbolizing the determination and progress of women to become a critical part of the United States financial system. 

On Wall Street, you can find Federal Hall, the first federal building in the United States, and the US Customs House, now the free-to-visit National Museum of the American Indian.

If you’re interested in learning more about this area of New York City and its history, including what happens when finances go sideways, take a Wall Street Insider tour. You’ll walk around the Financial District with a real Wall Street insider to learn the ins and outs of the New York Stock Exchange and more.

Observe the Irish Hunger Memorial

Price: Free

Location: North End Ave &, Vesey St, New York, NY 10280

Insider tip: Add this on to an afternoon shopping at Brookfield Place

Next to Brookfield Place along the Hudson River, the Irish Hunger Memorial honors over one million lives impacted by the Great Irish Hunger. Known as An Gorta Mór in Irish, the years between 1845 and 1852 were devastating due to a type of water mold found on infected potato crops, leading to famine and massive migration of people leaving Ireland for better opportunities elsewhere. 

The Irish Hunger Memorial shows an authentic 19th-century cottage from the Irish countryside, and features stones, soil, and plants from all over Ireland.

Best museums in Lower Manhattan

Eat like in the late 1700s at Fraunces Tavern and Museum

Price: $7

Location: 54 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10004

Insider Tip: You can’t buy tickets in advance

Take a literal bite of history at the Fraunces Tavern Museum. The tavern opened in 1762, was significant during the American War of Independence — not least because it played host to George Washington and his officers (not to mention several bottles of port), and was the site of Washington’s famed speech about the Revolutionary War. The tavern went on to partially become office space for the Confederation Congress some 250 years later, and the Fraunces Tavern is still a restaurant and bar serving Lower Manhattan a wide selection of craft beer, raw oysters, banging burgers and sandwiches, and perennial pub classics like lobster mac and cheese.

Visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

Price: From $18

Location: 36 Battery Pl, New York, NY 10280

Insider tip: Don’t rush through this carefully thought-out museum

On one end of Battery Park, you’ll find the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. The museum aims to commemorate the lives of Jewish individuals who were killed during the Holocaust by displaying permanent and temporary exhibits about their lives before, during, and afterward the tragic events.

It’s the third largest Holocaust museum in the world, with more than 30,000 artifacts, photographs, films, testimonies, and more devoted to promoting the understanding of Jewish heritage. It's a valuable stop during a day exploring Lower Manhattan. The museum is open on Sundays and Wednesdays through Fridays and offers free entry for everyone on Thursdays after 4 PM.

Learn at the National Museum of the American Indian

Price: Free

Location: 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004

Insider tip: With links to Washington DC’s Smithsonian, you know it’s going to be good

Built in 1907, the former Alexander Hamilton US Custom House now houses the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s associated with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C

Here you’ll find a permanent collection of Native American artifacts and art dedicated to history from tribes all over the region and temporary exhibitions, some of which date back more than 12,000 years. The New York branch of the National Archives is also located on the top floor of the building. There are plenty of rotating temporary exhibitions, too, focusing on contemporary subjects like the history of Native American photography and the Native history of New York. 

There are so many things to do in Lower Manhattan, from museums to historical landmarks and parks. Whether you want to go shopping, see gorgeous views, or do cultural activities, set a few days aside to properly enjoy this area of New York City.