Your Destination Guide to New York City

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Financial District

Financial District
Financial District

© Daniel Bonatto

In the South of Manhattan, the word on the street is Wall Street. Headquarters to many major financial institutions including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Financial District is always bustling with business men and women as well as tourists. When you come face to face with these towering, monolithic building blocks, you'll know your feet are treading on ground of worldly importance.

Even if you're not well versed on finance and monetary policy, a trip to the Fed is well worth your time. Visitors will be tantalized to see the Fed's Gold Vault, which contains billions of dollars in gold, resting 50 feet below sea level on a piece of Manhattan bedrock. The exhibit is free, but you'll have to make a reservation to snag a glimpse of these precious nuggets.

But the Financial District is not only worth a visit for its role in the world of business. New Amsterdam, where the Financial District now stands, was actually the birthplace of New York City. Right across from the New York Stock Exchange is Federal Hall, the nation's first capital, where George Washington was inaugurated as the nation's first president, and the Bill of Rights was adopted into the Constitution.

If you don't already feel the intensity of capitalist ambition emanating from the façade of Wall Street's buildings, walk two blocks down from Wall Street to Bowling Green on Broadway. There stands the unofficial symbol of the Financial District, the Charging Bull. A 7,000 pound bronze statue and one of the most iconic images of New York, it's a symbol of capitalist zeal and financial ambition.

In the past few years, the Financial District has experienced tumult. Following the worldwide financial crisis, and perhaps even due to it , the area is of increasing interest to Manhattan visitors. Walking the neighborhood provides a front-row view of the headquarters of highly-publicized names such as Goldman Sachs and the fallen AIG -- an occasion to puzzle over and witness first-hand the place where it all came tumbling down.

But the recent upheavals in the district have been charted by more than the ups and downs of the stock market. The neighborhood housed the former World Trade Center. The height of the towers above the city were a sign of New York City's prominence and success, shaken on the date September 11th when the towers were destroyed. The nearby St. Paul's chapel, worth a visit as the oldest surviving church and public building in use, became a resting place for firemen and refuge site for rescue efforts at Ground Zero.

As always though, the city is a place of constant motion and change. Plans for building a new center and memorial are underway, and the neighbourhood's old office space has been increasingly converted into residential buildings.

Other sites of interest in the neighborhood include the New York City Police Museum and the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Also popular is Battery Park, which gets its name from the Battery, a canon created when the British still occupied New York in 1693. From there, you can take a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, through which millions of immigrants have passed to reach America. Finally, if you're looking for a lively night out in town, head east in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge, where South Street Seaport is full of food and entertainment. A historic area with some of the oldest architecture in Manhattan, the seaport is bustling with food, shopping, and night life, as well as special entertainment events including music festivals and the Fulton Market.

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