New York City truly has something for everyone and is a fascinating place to visit. Every time I go, I see something new. Here are some of my favorite historical places to visit in New York City.
1. Trinity Church Wall Street And St. Paul’s Chapel
Trinity Church is one of the most famous historical churches in the country. Known as the resting place of Alexander Hamilton and others, the grand Gothic Revival steeple of the church can be seen for miles. Trinity Church Wall Street Episcopal Parish was founded over 300 years ago and today has over 1,500 members. The original Trinity Church was destroyed by a fire in 1776 and was rebuilt on the site in 1790.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, built in 1766, is part of the Trinity Church Wall Street Parish and is located a few blocks from Trinity, on Broadway and Fulton. Many Revolutionary War heroes and historical figures are buried in the churchyard. It’s said that George Washington himself worshiped here. When the fire broke out in 1776 that destroyed the neighboring original Trinity Church, St. Paul’s Cathedral was saved by a bucket brigade.
In more recent history, the church suffered no damage during the 9/11 attacks, even though it sits directly across from the World Trade Center Site. Many of the 9/11 relief workers came here to rest, pray and get a meal as they worked through the aftermath of the attacks.
2. Fraunces Tavern
54 Pearl Street
If you’re into history, food, and drink, then Fraunces Tavern is the perfect place for you to go in New York City. The oldest tavern in NYC, Fraunces Tavern is housed in a building that was built in 1719 and has been a tavern since 1762. This is the place George Washington and his troops gathered at the end of the Revolutionary War for Washington’s farewell speech. This old building oozes charm, and you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The tavern offers dining and a full bar downstairs, so grab a cocktail while enjoying your historic surroundings in NYC’s oldest operating tavern.
3. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
5th Avenue between 50th & 51st Streets
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is something any history lover will want to see. Located on 5th Avenue directly across from Rockefeller Center, the largest Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States is in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. As you walk up the steps to the entrance, the magnificent neo-Gothic architecture style is on full display.
Construction of the cathedral was started in 1858 and the first mass was held in 1879. Featured in movies like The Godfather Part III and the site of celebrity weddings including multiple Kennedy family weddings, the church was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is open to the public so you can attend mass. Or sign up for a tour of the church.
4. The Strand Book Store
If you’re a book lover, New York City is the place for you. One of the most iconic bookstores in the city, The Strand, opened back in 1927. At one time, there were many other bookstores near The Strand in an area known as “Book Row.” Book Row covered six city blocks and contained almost 50 bookstores. Located in the East Village, The Strand claims to have over 2.5 million books!
5. Grand Central Terminal
89 East 42nd Street
Located at 42nd Street and Park Ave in Midtown Manhattan, Grand Central Terminal is another world-famous landmark in New York City. In 1976, Jackie Kennedy and other prominent New Yorkers saved this NYC icon from demolition. Today, it’s one of the grandest public structures in New York City and is a National Historic Landmark. Grand Central is truly something to behold.
We were true tourists and started our visit by snapping photos at the clock in the main concourse. You have to check out the incredible ceiling in the main concourse. It’s gorgeous, but not “astronomically correct.” Whether done on purpose this way or by accident, it doesn’t matter, because it’s iconic and there’s nothing like it anywhere else! You can spend hours here just wandering through the terminal. We had lunch downstairs at Prova Pizza Bar, where we split a piping hot, gooey Margherita pizza and did some serious people-watching.
6. The Dakota And Strawberry Fields
1 West 72nd Street
John Lennon was shot outside of his residence at The Dakota Building in 1980. The Dakota was built in 1884 and designed by architect Henry J. Hardenbergh, who also designed the Plaza Hotel. The building is still one of New York City’s most exclusive addresses, and many notable people have been turned down by the board when applying to live at this National Historic Landmark address. Central Park’s Strawberry Fields section, dedicated to John Lennon’s memory in 1985, is a short walk from the Dakota. This quiet area of the park is a moving tribute to Lennon and worth a visit.
7. New York Public Library Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
476 5th Avenue
You’ve surely seen pictures of the main New York Public Library. The majestic building with the lions out front has been featured in many movies and television shows through the years. Dedicated in 1911, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is known worldwide for its diverse collections.
The Historic Rose Main Reading Room draws a crowd with its magnificent ceiling. The celestial scene with puffy clouds floating against a baby blue background surrounded by gilded panels is awe-inspiring. The Rose Main Reading Room is massive in size — as large as a football field. And this is just one room in the ornate, landmark building. The library, designed by Carrere & Hastings, is said to be one the greatest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the U.S.A.
The iconic lions, named Patience and Fortitude, flank the main steps into the library on 5th Avenue and are so loved and well-known that they have been trademarked by the library. The lions were most recently named by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the 1930s when times were tough during the Great Depression. You can learn more about the lions and the entire NYC Public Library by joining one of the daily tours offered.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss the library’s gift shop. This is the place to go for not-your-run-of-the-mill souvenirs. We spent hours shopping here, browsing through books, leather notebooks, purses, blankets, and more. You can find so many cool things including your own Patience and Fortitude lions.
8. Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard
The Brooklyn Bridge, which crosses the East River connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan, is a must-see in New York City. Whether you’re a history lover or not, you must walk the bridge. This magnificent suspension bridge designed by John A. Roebling took over 10 years to build, and at least 20 workers died in the building of the bridge.
At the time it was completed in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The best way to walk the bridge is to walk over to Brooklyn, then walk back into Manhattan at dusk as the city lights up. The views are unbelievable. Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of my fondest memories of the Big Apple and it’s on our list every time we visit.
9. Radio City Music Hall
1260 6th Avenue
Radio City Music Hall is something I wanted to see for a long time. Like many NYC landmarks, I’ve seen pictures of it my whole life, and I wanted to see it for myself. It seems I’m not alone, as more than 300 million people have come to the Music Hall since its opening in 1932 when billionaire John D. Rockefeller decided to incorporate the theater into the Rockefeller Center complex he was creating. The Art-Deco building is incredible to see, and the sheer size is almost unreal. The marquee is a city block long. Inside, the theater can seat almost 6,000 people, but it’s cozy and doesn’t feel like a vast arena. The artists that have performed here are legendary: Elvis, Michael Jackson, The Grateful Dead, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Bruce Springsteen, and the list goes on! We saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The legendary Rockette’s performance is as good as everyone says.
Pro Tip: You can buy tickets online for guided tours of Radio City Music Hall to go behind the scenes at this venue.
10. Federal Hall
26 Wall Street
The Greek-Revival style building with massive columns stands as an icon in New York City’s Financial District. According to the National Park Service, this is the site where the very first Congress of the United States met and wrote the Bill of Rights. In addition, George Washington was inaugurated here as the country’s first President on April 30, 1789. When the capital moved to Philadelphia in 1790, the original Federal building was demolished and replaced by the current building. The current Federal Hall building is a National Memorial and today serves as a museum.