Centered at Wall and Broad Streets, The Financial District is lower Manhattan's original neighborhood and it encapsulates the full range of American history, from its nascent stages to its imminent future. The area around the former World Trade Center commemorates the 9/11 attacks at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, while just south of the Battery stands the patron saint of the city: the Statue of Liberty.
Largely defined by the intensive industry after which it is named, The Financial District (or FiDi) accommodates white-collar workers with high-end restaurants and bars around Wall Street, which you'll find jam-packed at happy hour. Financial District, which starts at Chambers Street to the north and continues to the tip of Manhattan, is the density of destinations perfect for first-time visitors.
Among its attractions are Trinity Church, the New York Stock Exchange and the Charging Bull sculpture, as well as Federal Hall, the first capitol of the United States of America and also where George Washington took his oath as the nation's first president.
Here are a few places that need to be seen in the FiDI area:
Address 54 Pearl St. Date 1719 Where it gets its name Named for Samuel Fraunces, who owned and operated the place as the Queen’s Head Tavern during the 18th century and who was later President Washington’s chief steward. What it was before Throughout most of the 19th century, the main building was used as a boardinghouse; it was rescued from demolition in the early 1900s and largely reconstructed in 1907. Why it’s notable In one of the tavern’s rooms, George Washington bade a postwar farewell to his fellow officers; it also served as a meeting place for Revolutionaries before and during the war. What it is now Part museum and part drinking establishment, Fraunces Tavern has numerous places to sit for a pint and a pot pie. Though little of the original structure remains, the reconstructed corner building celebrates its history through portraits of Washington, early American flags and other mementos. Fast fact A tavern menu from 1914 shows an order of broiled lamb chops to cost 75 cents, a slice of huckleberry pie 15 cents and a glass of Ruppert’s Knickerbocker beer—a popular quaff of the times—10 cents.
Address Whitehall Street and Broadway Date 1733, reconstructed 1978 Where it gets its name The park originally had a “bowling green,” or green space where the game “bowls” or “squares” would be played. What it was before Parade ground, marketplace and supposedly the site where Peter Minuit purchased the land of Manhattan from Native Americans. Why it’s notable Part of its iron fence, which dates back to 1771 and once served to protect an equestrian statue of King George, remains intact. The statue, on the other hand, was toppled at beginning of the Revolution; find a painting of that rebellious event at the New-York Historical Society. What it is now A public park—the oldest in the City—with a fountain at its center. Fast fact The bronze Charging Bull statue was originally dropped off underneath a downtown Christmas tree Mission Impossible–style, before finding its permanent Bowling Green home.
Date c. mid-to-late 1700s Where it gets its name From the wall that was erected here by the Dutch in the mid-1600s to mark the northern boundary of their settlement. Walk along the center of the cobblestone block of Wall Street between Broad and William Streets to see wooden inlays indicating where posts of the original wall used to stand. What it was before The area once held a slave market. As the street developed, early buildings included Alexander Hamilton’s home and the City’s first bank. Why it’s notable You might have heard the moniker before: it’s synonymous with the US, and global, financial industry. What it is now A narrow street lined by high-rise buildings that once held numerous banking headquarters; in actuality, few still call the place home. Some notable addresses include no. 40, a 70-story tower with a green pyramidal roof like that of the Woolworth Building, and no. 55, a squat, Greek Revival fortress that originally held the Merchants Exchange. Fast fact During the great Wall Street Crash of 1929, the stock market lost roughly a quarter of its value over just a few days.
Address The Battery Date 1811 Where it gets its name From DeWitt Clinton, the early 19th-century mayor of New York City (as well as New York governor and failed Federalist presidential candidate). What it was before A fort called Southwest Battery, which had successive stints as an immigration holding center, the New York City Aquarium, a restaurant and opera house. Why it’s notable During the War of 1812, the fort—along with three others in the harbor—was heavily armed to protect against British naval advances. What it is now The curved, sandstone building down in the Battery is the place to depart for ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island; the National Parks Service which operates Castle Clinton, runs brief guided tours of the building and its grounds. Fast fact Despite its active presence during wartime, no shots were ever fired from, or on, Castle Clinton.
Date 1811–1849 Where it gets its name From businessman Peter Schermerhorn, a merchant and shipowner who built the the multiuse houses to facilitate the shipping trade. What it was before Warehouses, hotels, saloons. Why it’s notable The 14 red-brick warehouses on Front, Fulton, John and South Streets preserve Georgian-Federal architectural details increasingly rare in the redeveloped neighborhood. What it is now It was remade as South Street Seaport Museum in the early 1990s, with a museum and spaces for events. Fast fact Sweet’s Restaurant, at 2 and 4 Fulton, was the oldest seafood spot in the City until it closed in 1992, having been established by Abraham Sweet in 1842.
Address 26 Wall St. Date 1842 Where it gets its name It was on this spot on Wall Street that the original Federal Hall, built in 1700 as a city hall and later serving as the nation’s initial capitol building, stood. What is was before The same building once served as the US Customs House and US Sub-Treasury Building Why it’s notable The site—though not this building—is where George Washington was sworn in as the first president of the United States. The current Greek revival temple, lined by Corinthian columns, bears some resemblance to its predecessor. What it is now A National Parks Service–operated museum with artifacts like the bible Washington swore his oath on and memorabilia from the trial of John Peter Zenger, who dared to criticize the British royal governor of New York. Tours are available on weekdays. Fast fact The bronze statue of Washington that fronts the building is 12 feet tall; a 2-foot cast of John Quincy Adams Ward’s sculpture can be found at the Met Fifth Avenue.
Address 75 Broadway Date 1846 Where it gets its name It’s a common name for churches the world over. What it was before Two other Trinity Churches have stood here. One burned down during the Revolutionary War; the other was demolished in 1839 after weathering storm damage. Why it’s notable The brownstone church was built with a spire whose cross topped out at 281 feet, a towering presence in the skyline in the mid-1800s—and much of the rest of that century. The churchyard cemetery, which predates the current church, holds the graves of Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton’s wife Elizabeth Schuyler, Declaration of Independence signer Francis Lewis and early publisher William Bradford. What it is now It remains an active Episcopal parish with daily services, though many come here for afternoon guided tours that point out architectural and historical elements of the church. Fast fact Thanks to a land grant from Queen Anne in 1705, Trinity Church is one of NYC’s biggest landowners—its holdings were valued a couple of years back at $2 billion.
Address One Hanover Square Date 1853 Where it gets its name To give the social club that took over in 1914 an air of exoticism and to recall colonial trade times. What it was before The building has been home to Hanover Bank, the New York Cotton Exchange and the Haitian Consulate. Why it’s notable Its brownstone-like facade, which looks like a classic New York City row house, and its collection of antiques. What it is now A social club and maritime museum, but also the (basement) home to Harry’s Café & Steak. Fast fact Willard Straight, who helped found the club, purchased the property and donated much of the Asian art that was once on display, was one of the founders of left-leaning magazine New Republic.