Today’s adventure will take us to the very bottom of Lower Manhattan. This is the oldest part of the city, it is where the original New Amsterdam was established in the 1600s when the Dutch first arrived. Today, it is the heart of the financial district. This is where you will find financial heavy hitters like Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Federal Reserve. Further south from here is the Battery, one of the original defensive structures and now a park. From here you can see the Statue of Liberty or catch the ferry to Staten Island. The ferry trip to Staten Island is one of the best attractions in New York, and the views of the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline from the water are legendary. It’s also free. And they serve beer.
Historically, Lower Manhattan was where the old walled settlement and fortress of New Amsterdam was located, which eventually traded hands from the Dutch to the British when it was re-named, New York. Today, this is the heart of the financial district. While the original walled city is buried underneath massive skyscrapers, some of the old features are memorialized – such as Canal, Bridge, Water, or Wall Streets – built along where the old fortress once stood. These refer to landmarks long gone, but not forgotten. Lower Manhattan is home to many older heritage buildings here and several other well-known destinations.
You can easily spend a few hours wandering around the southern shores of Manhattan. There are some fantastic photo opportunities, especially looking out over the water towards New Jersey, Staten Island, and the Statue of Liberty. This is the perfect place to begin your exploration of the city.
What makes Battery Park & the Staten Island Ferry so amazing?
There are several places worth visiting in Lower Manhattan, many of which we featured in another post.
One of our favourite things to do in Lower Manhattan is to take the Staten Island Ferry, and this was the next stop for the day. From the ferry – which takes about 15 minutes each way – you get incredible views of the Upper Bay, the Manhattan Skyline, and most importantly, a close-up view of the Statue of Liberty. Oh, and the best part, it’s free! The ferry to Staten Island travels close to the Statue of Liberty as it crosses the New York Harbour; we found a great outdoor spot on the boat and snapped some pictures of the statue. They also serve beer on the ferry. On the way back, crack a beer and enjoy the ride as you returned to Manhattan.
We walked through Battery Park after leaving the ferry, but daylight was beginning to fade and we had one last stop to make. The Battery has always been the defensive position for the island, with known fortifications dating back to the 17th century. In the park, you can find Castle Clinton, which was built just before the war of 1812. Today it is a park, filled with many different monuments and walking paths along the waterfront. Especially with the madness of Wall Street and the financial district nearby, this is a nice change of pace.
Where is Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry located and how do you get there?
Much like everywhere else in New York, the first thing you need to do is try to understand the subway a little bit. With the help of the underground railways that criss cross the city, you can pretty much get anywhere. In Manhattan, it is really the only way to travel. Once you’ve stared at the map long enough, get on the train and head to the bottom of Manhattan.
On my first trip to New York in 2006, Lower Manhattan was the first stop I visited as a tourist. As a newcomer to the city, this is an easy place to orientate yourself on the long skinny island of Manhattan. It’s easy to get to via the subway, and if you’re lucky enough to have good weather you can start at the bottom and just walk north towards the rest of the city. Even without much planning, it’s difficult to not run into a recognizable landmark on your walk uptown.
You could spend several hours just zig-zagging your way up and down the island looking for views or memorable monuments. From the bottom its easy to move towards your next destination, maybe with a walk to Chinatown & Little Italy or even toward the Brooklyn Bridge.
New York is one of our favourite cities in the world, and we can’t wait to go back for another round! We hope our series of photography from Lower Manhattan, Battery Park, and the Staten Island Ferry will help to inspire your next trip to the Big Apple.