Construction of One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial (photo courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
A view of the construction site of the World Trade Center (courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey)
Almost eleven years after the September 11 attacks shook the world, the new World Trade Center is well underway. The National 9/11 Memorial is now open to visitors, and the construction of the new towers is taking shape. In fact, on April 30th, One World Trade Center overcame the Empire State Building as the tallest building in New York City!

Map of the World Trade Center area and its attractions
World Trade Center map and its surrounding attractions
It seems Lower Manhattan has finally embraced its new position of being a commemorative site, cultural center, business hotspot, retail destination and residential community. It’s clear this area is definitely a must-see in New York! But where to begin?

1. Visit the National 9/11 Memorial

We suggest you start by visiting the WTC site. In 2003, a master plan was approved which incorporated both the desire to turn the site into a lasting memorial and the will to rebuild the towers even stronger and taller than they stood before. The new WTC will consist of five towers and a new transportation hub surrounding the National 9/11 Memorial [see pin 1 on the map] . The Memorial features two massive square pools that are set within the footprints of the Twin Towers, and bear the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 9/11 attacks and the 1993 bombing of the North Tower. A Memorial Museum stands in between the two fountains, but as of May 2012 it is not yet finished. The plaza surrounding the fountains and museum is filled with hundreds of oak trees. One tree, however, is different: a single pear tree stands out from the rest. This Survivor Tree was saved from the original WTC site after the attacks and nursed back to health. Now it stands proudly at the plaza once more, and has even bloomed again. Visitors gather here just to touch the bark of the “miracle tree”, which has inspired hope and stands as a vision of rebirth.

A view of the north World Trade Center pool with the 9/11 Memorial Plaza and Memorial Museum in the background
A look at New York City's 9/11 Memorial in April 2012
To visit the Memorial, you need a visitor pass which will give you access to the memorial fountains and the 9/11 memorial preview site. This preview site shows what the memorial museum [see pin 2 on the map] will come to look like. The pass is free, and you can reserve one online at the 9/11 Memorial website. Note that you will not be allowed on site without a pass! Also, if you’re planning to go with a group, be sure to make your reservations well in advance as the spots can fill up quickly. To get to the WTC site you can take several subways downtown. You can catch the E line to World Trade Center, N/R line to Cortlandt Street, or 4/5 line to Fulton Street, which are all subway stations that are just a few blocks away from the WTC. You can enter the site at the intersection of Albany Street and Greenwich Street.

2. One World Trade Center and the New Towers

When visiting the Memorial, you will inevitably also see much of the progress on the construction of the new WTC. The master architect of the site, Daniel Libeskind, proposed a plan where the new office towers would slope down in a spiral around the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. This collection of towers will consist of four skyscrapers:

  • One World Trade Center [see pin 3 on the map] is the lead building of the site, and when finished the tower will reach a symbolic 1,776 feet, after the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. It will become the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
  • 2 World Trade Center will be the second-tallest skyscraper in the city and will boast a diamond-shaped roof. The building was designed by Foster and Partners. It is positioned in such a way that the top of this tower is angled towards the two memorial fountains.
  • 3 World Trade Center will be the third-tallest building at the site. It is designed by Richard Rogers and will be the center of the various building around the memorial.
  • 4 World Trade Center is the smallest of the four towers. It is designed by Maki and Associates, and will face the Memorial Park directly from the west.

This video shows an animation of what the completed WTC and 9/11 Memorial site will look like

The new WTC will not only include office space, but also a performing arts center and 550,000 square feet of retail space. Furthermore, a spectacular transportation hub designed by Santiago Calatrava will connect the World Trade Center to PATH trains and 13 subway lines. Every year on September 11 at 10:28 am, the moment the second tower collapsed, the sun will shine symmetrically through the central skylight of the hub towards the memorial. To get the latest updates on the progress of the construction, go to the World Trade Center website.

3. St. Paul’s Chapel

The tower of St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan, New York
St. Paul’s Chapel was built in 1766 in downtown New York and features an octagonal tower
Right across from the WTC site on Church Street you will find the oldest standing church building in Manhattan: St. Paul’s Chapel [see pin 4 on the map]. Following 9/11, the miraculously unharmed Chapel served as a refuge for recovery workers, and the fence surrounding the grounds became covered in flowers, photos, cards and other memorials. These memorial banners are now exhibited within the church. The Chapel also hosts concerts, recitals and Sunday services. You can visit the Chapel from 10 am to 6 pm on weekdays, from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, and from 7 am to 4 pm on Sunday.

4. Century 21 & the Renewal of the Neighborhood

Two blocks south of the Chapel on Cortlandt Street stands the iconic Century 21 department store [see pin 5 on the map]. The building was heavily damaged in the 2001 attacks, but opened its renovated doors five months later to the applause of loyal customers. The reopening was hailed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a sign of the rebirth of Lower Manhattan. The always evolving store offers heavily discounted high fashion to shoppers from all over the world. Together with the upcoming retail space at the WTC, Century 21 helps to create a reputation for the neighborhood as a top shopping destination.

The renewal of the area can also be felt on the real estate market. New buildings are simply popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm! They complement the already existing historic buildings, and meet the demand for more apartments in this area. Indeed, after a shopping spree at Century 21, a nearby apartment where you can put away your purchases does sound good! Take for example this furnished studio apartment on Wall Street just 2000 feet away from Century 21. It is located smack-dab in the middle of the Financial District in a renovated building dating from 1836 that features a rooftop terrace!

5. World Financial Center, the Hudson River & Battery Park City

To take a breather and reflect on all the poignant impressions of the WTC and surroundings, make your way west to the World Financial Center [see pin 6 on the map]. This complex consists of four towers and the glass pavilion Winter Garden, and is situated right on the Hudson River waterfront. Have a drink at one of the terraces overlooking the serene marina, where the Manhattan Sailing School is based. Also be sure not to miss the gorgeous glass atrium of the Winter Garden, which boasts real palm trees. There are many shops and restaurants to be found here, but don’t stick around too long because there is much more to see!

The glass atrium of the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center boasts real palm trees
The spectacular glass atrium of the Winter Garden - World Financial Center - Manhattan
When you walk south you will get a look at One World Trade Center rising above the WFC to the east. If you stick west by the Hudson River, you will come across the Esplanade [see pin 7 on the map]: a stone walkaway which offers amazing views of the New Jersey skyline across the Hudson. A great time to take a walk here is at dusk, when you’ll be treated to a truly amazing sunset over the water with a view of the Statue of Liberty in the background.

To end your day in Battery Park City, we recommend dinner at the Italian restaurant Gigino, which you will find right near the end of the Esplanade next to Battery Park [see pin 8 on the map]. The restaurant offers fresh daily specials, has a fantastic wine selection and most important: an amazing view of the New York Harbor. You can dine out on the terrace with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the background!

6. What We Haven’t Seen Yet

Isn’t it amazing how much you can see in one day in New York City? And we haven’t even mentioned the other landmarks in the neighborhood, such as Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange [see pin 9 on the map], Trinity Church [see pin 10 on the map], Zuccoti Park (the site of the original Occupy Wall Street protest in September 2011) [see pin 11 on the map], the Charging Bull sculpture [see pin 12 on the map], the piers, the museums, and the Staten Island Ferry [see pin 13 on the map]. Check out this video tour of Broadway in the Financial District for a nice overview of the sites to see. All sounds a bit overwhelming? We wouldn’t recommend trying to cram all this into one day of sightseeing! If you want to explore the neighborhood at your own leisure and really take the time to soak it all in, consider renting an apartment in this vibrant neighborhood. To get an idea of the type of apartments we offer at this location, take a look at these New York furnished apartments in Lower Manhattan.

A simulated image of the finished new WTC and the Lower Manhattan skyline at night (courtesy of Silverstein Properties)
A picture of the finished WTC & Lower Manhattan skyline (courtesy of Silverstein Properties)
It has taken many years, but the World Trade Center is finally returning to its former glory.  In a few years, New York’s Lower Manhattan will have a magnificent new skyline! What do you think of the new WTC? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.