World Trade Center Walking Tour
Exploring Wall Street by Land and Water
Let this walking tour of Ground Zero and the Wall Street Financial District help you to experience the aftermath of 9/11 as well as the human spirit and sublime location that make New York City a joy to visit.
At your own pace, starting in Midtown Manhattan, you’ll
This itinerary may become wretchedly emotional at times, but you’ll also experience New York City at its most exhilarating. Be sure to bring a camera to capture what will probably be the best photo opportunities of your New York stay.
The walk works best on weekdays, because that’s when you can approach the Financial District by water, the best way. If you must visit on a weekend, please see the bottom of page.
Plan on a half-day, unless you need more time for photo stops and side trips. From Battery Park, you have options to take the Staten Island ferry, to visit Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, to go on to Chinatown, or to return directly to your hotel. These options can expand to a full day of sightseeing.
Start with NY Waterway Ferry
On weekdays, start by taking a NY Waterway ferry from the West 39th Street Pier in Midtown Manhattan to the Paulus Hook Terminal in Jersey City.
This $6 cruise on the Hudson River gives wonderful views of Midtown, the Financial District, Empire State Building, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, and the entrance to New York Harbor.
With free NY Waterway bus service from throughout Midtown Manhattan, it’s easy to reach the West 39th Street Pier terminal. For bus routes, see the NY Waterway website.
The swift response of NY Waterway ferries like yours (some boats arriving within several minutes) saved lives after the January 2009 crash of US Airways flight 1549 into the frigid Hudson River.
Views from Jersey City
The area around the Paulus Hook dock, where you’ll land in Jersey City, offers outstanding views of the Financial District in Manhattan. Here television crews captured some of the most poignant scenes on 9/11.
During recent years, many companies moved at least part of their operations to the Jersey City waterfront to avoid higher real estate prices and taxes in New York state and city. For example, the Goldman Sachs tower adjacent to the Paulus Hook pier became the tallest building in New Jersey.
Just north of where you landed at Paulus Hook, there’s a pleasant urban park on a pier, which offers fine views, as well as tables where you can enjoy a snack.
As an alternative, dine or have a drink on the 3rd floor lobby level of the Hyatt Hotel on the pier just north of the park for even better views. At the Hyatt if you wish, enjoy a reasonably inexpensive continental breakfast buffet or a more expensive warm one while looking out toward Manhattan and the Hudson River.
PATH Subway to World Trade Center
From the cubed one-story, one room above ground building nearly in front of the Hyatt entrance, a block north of the Paulus Hook dock, take the PATH subway (Port Authority Trans-Hudson service) to the World Trade Center, the lone stop in that direction. As of this writing, PATH costs $1.75 and takes credit cards.
As your train glides into the PATH World Trade Center terminal, you’ll pass construction within the Ground Zero site.
The PATH World Trade Center terminal has become the only part of the Ground Zero construction site open to the public—not known to most tourists.
Tracks and platforms are in place, but eventually the PATH entrance will be moved just north to a new World Trade Center transportation hub designed by Santiago Calatrava. Along with PATH trains, as many as 13 NYC subway lines, various bus services, and a walkway to a water taxi and ferry dock are planned here. See the amazingly uplifting design on www.calatrava.com by clicking the link for current projects.
World Trade Center
As you exit the temporary entrance to the PATH terminal, you are facing north. Turn right onto Vesey Street and walk one block east to Church Street.
If Vesey is closed because of construction, walk north from PATH one block and then turn right onto Barclay to reach Church. (Note: Do not depend on online maps in this area. Because of so much construction, changes happen frequently.)
As you walk along Vesey, you’ll glimpse new construction on the Ground Zero site through a gap in one of the gates that lets construction equipment and personnel in. In this area are to be the transportation hub and new towers 2 and 3.
Cross Church Street and immediately turn right.
Including on his first Inauguration Day, April 30, 1789, George Washington worshiped at the now Episcopalian (then Church of England) St. Paul’s Chapel on Church Street between Vesey and Fulton streets across from the WTC site.
This historic church served as a place of rest and reflection for the thousands who participated in the recovery effort (finding and identifying human remains) at Ground Zero for some nine months after 9/11.
On your left immediately past St. Paul’s as you walk south on Church, stands the Millenium (yes, that’s the spelling it uses) Hilton.
This hotel like many buildings near the original World Trade Center was damaged during the 2001 attacks and did not reopen until May 2003.
If you win a room here by bidding on a Priceline 4-star hotel in the Financial District, ask for the west side, as these rooms look down onto the Ground Zero site. Rooms facing other directions also have interesting views, such as out toward the Brooklyn Bridge and East River.
WTC Tribute Center & Walking Tours
When you reach the end of the Ground Zero along Church Street, turn right onto Liberty Street and walk to the Tribute WTC Visitors Center at 120 Liberty facing the south side of Ground Zero (admission $10, $5 seniors).
Although I’ve seen outstanding films and programs about the 9/11 attacks, such as “inside 911” on the National Geographic Channel, nothing has moved me more than the often simple exhibits in this small temporary museum and visitors center.
Be sure to see WTC Tribute Center’s website for timings of its 75-minute walking tours. These guided walks take you to, among other places, observation points in the World Financial Center on the west side of Ground Zero, where you look down upon the site. You won't get these intimate views by just walking along the perimeter of the site, as most people do.
Survivors, loved ones, and others who intimately experienced 9/11 guide the walks and staff the Tribute Center, an experience not to be missed. Everyone I met was extraordinarily helpful and kind.
The Tribute Center temporary museum seems suitable for small children, but please note the Center's caution about the serious content of the walks: “ . . . [these] can be frightening for children under 10 years old. Please use your own discretion as to the appropriateness of this tour for your child.”
After all, nearly 3,000 people were murdered here in horrific conditions and thousands more were sadly forever scarred by 9/11. That’s always on the mind.
Return to the corner of Church and Liberty and turn right.
At this point, Church Street changes its name to Trinity Place in honor of one of the most famous churches in NYC.
Walk along Trinity Place, past the church grounds, until you come to Rector Street, just south of the Trinity Church. On the way on the right as you walk along the church grounds, stands the rather unimpressive building of the no longer independent American Stock Exchange.
From Trinity Place, turn left onto Rector and continue one block to Broadway.
Then turn left onto Broadway towards the north.
You can now clearly see Episcopalian Trinity Church, which looks out at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street. The cemetery here includes graves for Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton. See the website for more details about this famous church that George Washington also attended. Services are still held here and at affiliated St. Paul’s chapel.
One block north of Rector, turn right onto Wall Street. You are now walking toward the east.
Wall Street runs along the site of a wall that was supposed to protect the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam from attack from the north. The wall failed, however (don’t feel bad Dutch wall, as a similar flawed defensive strategy later failed the French), because of instead of attacking from the north, British forces used a captured Dutch ferry to enter directly into New Amsterdam from Brooklyn on the east.
After a short block on Wall Street, you are now walking along the north side of the New York Stock Exchange, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
As you continue along Wall Street, two blocks east of Broadway, you’ll see Federal Hall on your left. On the site of Federal Hall was the first United States capitol building, at least the first once the Constitution was in place.
The website of this national historic site states, “Here on Wall Street, George Washington took the oath of office as our first President, and this site was home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices. The current structure, a Customs House, later served as part of the US Sub-Treasury. Now, the building serves as a museum and memorial to our first President and the beginnings of the United States of America.”
In other words, taxpayers originally had only to support just one structure to house nearly all of the U.S. government other than the military!
At Federal Hall, turn right (south) from the way you were walking on Wall Street onto Broad Street.
Immediately on your right, you’ll see the impressive front entrance to the New York Stock Exchange with its huge American flag.
Unfortunately, apparently due to security concerns, public tours of the exchange are not available as of this writing, but check its website to see if this has changed. Currently, a large security force intimidates one from approaching the door, but you can easily see the entrance to the exchange from a few feet away.
Vehicles are banned on streets in this area also probably because of security concerns. This makes these narrow streets great for walking.
Your heart has to go out to people who have worked in this area since 9/11, with such vivid memories of that day, including perhaps friends and loved ones lost in the attack, and the still daily reminders that their workplaces remain prime targets for international terrorism.
Wall Street Bull
On a happier note, let’s visit the Wall Street Bull. I love this animal!
Continue south on Broad Street.
Just past the New York Stock Exchange, turn right onto Exchange Place.
Walk west two blocks to Broadway.
Turn left onto Broadway and walk south.
Soon, you’ll see one of the fun sights of New York, the Wall Street Bull (officially Charging Bull) as you reach Bowling Green Park. This sculpture always attracts a gaggle of photographers and happy tourists.
Battery Park, the Tip of Manhattan
Although Broadway ends at Bowling Green Park, continue in the same direction into Battery Park at the southernmost point on Manhattan for fine views of New York Harbor.
As you face the tip of Manhattan, just to the right (toward the west), you can take boats to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. However, I do not recommend the Statue of Liberty tour due to overcrowding.
To the left (toward the east) as you face south, frequent ferries run to Staten Island, a part of New York City that once voted that it would rather be in New Jersey. (Looking at a map, it’s strange that it isn’t already.)
Staten Island public ferries provide awesome views, are an outstanding bargain, and are highly recommended.
Returning to Midtown Manhattan
At the Staten Island ferry terminal in Battery Park, you’ll find the South Ferry subway entrance. MTA subway line 1 takes you from here to various stops in Midtown Manhattan, as well as to Greenwich Village.
If your hotel is near Grand Central or the UN, transfer to the Grand Central subway shuttle line or to line 7 at line 1’s 42nd Street Times Square stop. Get off at Grand Central. Or, from Times Square, walk along 42nd Street to this area.
If hungry, exit line 1 at Canal Street and walk east along Canal (one long street bazaar) to Chinatown and Little Italy. This very busy area should be reasonably safe for walking day or early evening, but as always when visiting urban areas, do not attract attention by displaying easy to grab expensive items. You’ll notice subway entrances nearer Chinatown, in order to continue your trip northbound after dining. (Grab a free subway map at any staffed station.)
I do not recommend accessing Wall Street or the World Trade Center site by car. Parking is extremely limited and expensive, and, as mentioned, you can’t even drive on some streets.
Accessing this Walking Tour on Weekends
NY Waterway ferries do not operate to Paulus Hook in Jersey City on weekends.Instead from various stops in Midtown Manhattan, take MTA subway line E to its southernmost stop across from the World Trade Center on Church Street. From there, follow the signs to the PATH World Trade Center terminal a block away. Then take PATH to the Exchange Place stop (the first stop) in Jersey City to join the walking tour. The views from Jersey City are worth this detour.