New York — By Jessica Colley on March 1, 2011 at 9:43 am
Filed under: architecture, Attractions, government, history, politics, top-feature

The United Nations Headquarters in NYC

You don’t have to go to Washington DC to learn about politics and the latest efforts for social justice. In New York City, the best place for this type of educational day is the United Nations. Every year over 1 million visitors take the time to visit the headquarters of the United Nations, located on 1st Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets in Midtown East. When I first saw all of the international flags waving outside of the iconic building, my curiosity was piqued about what goes on inside. Visitors are welcome to take a behind-the-scenes tour and find out for themselves.

The United Nations Building from the East River

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Under normal circumstances, the United Nations is open to visitors 7 days per week. However, if you’re planning on visiting during winter, the UN has special winter hours. During January and February the building is only open for tours Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am – 5:30 pm. Beginning March 1, 2011 tours will once again be available seven days per week. What might you see during a trip to the United Nations? Depending on your level of interest and time commitment, you can experience tours, exhibits, lectures, shops, and more.

The most popular way to explore the United Nations is by guided tour. This exploration of the headquarters building features a recorded video message from the UN General Secretary, a visit to the General Assembly Hall, and an exploration of exhibits grouped under the title, “United Nations:  From War to Development.”  This option allows visitors to ask questions to a knowledgeable guide who is passionate about the work of the United Nations. The price for guided tours is $16 for adults and $9 for children under 12. All tours begin in the visitors lobby after passing through airport-style security.

The second choice for visitors is an audio tour. In an effort to welcome visitors from around the world, audio tours are available in the six official languages of the UN: English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and French. The price for audio tours is the same as the guided tours and are available in two forms: one specifically for adults, and another designed for children and their families. This 45-minute audio tour not only provides an overview of the history and current work of the United Nations, but also has a special message from both Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

Tickets can be be purchased online in advance for either type of tour, there is a $2 service fee is applied to each ticket. Instead of paying this extra money, it pays to arrive at the UN early. This way, there will be no chance that tickets for the day will be sold out and you can enjoy your tour without any obstacles.

Budget travelers who want to avoid paying the ticket price can still have a satisfying UN experience. The visitors lobby of the UN headquarters is known for its exhibitions of art and photography. You never know what you’re going to see in one of these exhibitions; topics are as wide ranging as human rights, climate change, and children in armed conflict.

Another affordable option is to visit the UN Post Office. Here stamp collectors can purchase official United Nations Stamps, or you can mail letters or postcards. There are also a number of shops available in the headquarters building as well. If you’re planning on making a day of your UN visit, the coffee shop is a good place to break up the day. Visitors can refuel at the coffee shop with soups, sandwiches, and pastries. For souvenirs, check out the UN Bookshop and the UN Gift Shop. If one of your questions about the UN still isn’t answered after your tour, check in with the Inquiries desk. The knowledgeable staff here can provide you with free brochures and posters or answer any final questions you have about the building and its history.

While learning about the work of the United Nations is fascinating, many people are just as drawn by the architecturally impressive building overlooking the East River. It is interesting to note that once you step into the visitors center, you are no longer considered to be on US Property. The UN headquarters is said to be owned by all 192 participating nations.

After your tour and viewing of the exhibitions, some international food might fit right into the day’s theme. Luckily, because of a significant amount of offices in the area, there are many affordable restaurants spread throughout Midtown East. Two of my favorites are Alcala, a Spanish restaurant and Dawat, an Indian Restaurant. At Alcala, don’t miss out on the chance to try wines from the Basque region of Spain. Dawat can be a bit more formal, some might even say stuffy, but the curries are so heavenly you won’t be thinking about the atmosphere.

A trip to the United Nations headquarters – much like a trip to New York City – will be full of surprises. Exhibitions can include gifts from various member of the UN, such as an ivory carving from China. Other interesting artifacts include coins and other remnants from the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are many tourist attractions in New York City that are worth a day of your time – and the UN headquarters is certainly one of them.

The Details:

  • United Nations, 1st Avenue, between 45th and 46th Streets, New York. (map)
  • Opening Hours: Doors open from 9:00 am to 4:45 pm. Tours start at 9:45 am.
  • Ticket Prices: $16 for adults, $9 for kids under 12.
  • Alcala, 342 East 46th Street, New York. (map)
  • Dawat, 210 East 58th Street, New York. (map)

Photo Credit: United Nations 1 by thenails on Flickr, UN 2 by plusgood on Flickr, UN 3 by USAID_IMAGES on Flickr.

Related places:
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    United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY 10017
    United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY 10017, New York, , US
  2. B
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    Dawat Haute Indian Cuisine
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Tags: architecture, Attractions, government, history, politics, top-feature

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