The One World Trade Center (or Freedom Tower) is one of the main symbols of New York! It is the tallest building in New York, and the tallest skyscraper in the West. Every year, thousands of tourists climb to its 102nd floor to admire an incredible view of New York from its panoramic balcony.
But visitors also visit the site where 2,977 victims perished on 11 September 2001 as a result of the attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists. A visit to this site is essential to better understand the magnitude of this event, and is a must during your stay in New York.
So to optimise your visit, read the article below: it will give you a lot of information to make the most of your visit (opening hours, buying tickets, prices, tips...).
A bit of history: the World Trade Center
On 11 September 2001, two airliners crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. A fire then caused them to collapse and in their fall, towers 6 and 7 were also destroyed. On that day, al-Qaeda terrorists killed 2,977 innocent people.
After the attacks, President George Bush decided to rebuild a new World Trade Center on the same site.
It took almost 18 months to clean up the site. A competition was organised and the project of American architect Daniel Libeskind was chosen. He wanted to construct six buildings (One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Seven World Trade Centers) around a memorial dedicated to the victims, the 9/11 Memorial, on the same site where the Twin Towers (1WTC and 2WTC) had stood.
The memorial was the first building to emerge. It consists of two square overflow pools (square like the Twin Towers’ foundations, upon which the overflow pools were constructed). The names of each victim of the attacks are engraved on a stele. The site, which is surrounded by trees and water, opened in September 2011.
In 2003, architect David Childs (from the Skidmore, Owings & Merril architect firm) joined the project and designed the main skyscraper and largest building in the complex: the Freedom Tower. Construction began in November 2006 on the site of the former World Trade Center Tower 6 (6WTC). The inauguration took place on 3 November 2014. In the meantime, the antenna was installed in May 2013.
The observatory opened later, on 29 May 2015.
The tower was originally called "Freedom Tower" but the Port Authority decided to change its name to "One World Trade Center" (or 1WTC) so that there would be no negative economic impact. Indeed, the name "Freedom Tower" seemed to be too closely linked to the attacks.
- The roof of the Freedom Tower is 417 metres high (same height as the Twin Towers).
- With its antenna, the tower reaches 541.30 metres high.
- In fact, the official height of the tower is 1,776 feet high – a symbolic figure in reference to the date of the signing of the US Declaration of Independence, in 1776.
- The building has 110 floors. Among those, 70 floors, or 270,000 square metres, are for rental and sale of office space.
- There are 73 lifts in total, including 54 high-speed lifts. Only 5 elevators provide access to the observation platform.
- The construction required: 200,000 tonnes of concrete, 48,000 tonnes of steel and 305,000 m² of glass for the outdoor surface. The whole structure was reinforced to resist explosions and collapses.
- The construction is estimated to have cost over $3.9 billion.
Why visit the One World Trade Center – the Freedom Tower?
Although the 6.5 hectare complex in Lower Manhattan is the city's main business centre and the 9/11 Memorial is a must-see memorial area, it is the One World Trade Center that attracts the attention of tourists.
Indeed, the monument does not go unnoticed! First of all, with its 541 metres height, it is the highest building in New York! Then, the exterior beauty of the skyscraper is undeniable. It is impossible to miss this long building with its octagonal top, its reflective glass facade and its huge antenna!
And how could you stay in New York without visiting the observation deck of the Freedom Tower at least once? The One World Observatory has become a must-see attraction, just like a visit to the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center.
Be sure to check availability and get your tickets early so you can enjoy your stay. It would be a pity if, once there, it turns out that there are too many people or that the maximum capacity of the observatory has been reached, and you cannot get in. This happens very often during busy periods!
How is the One World Trade Center Building built?
The tower has a total of 110 floors, including:
- four underground floors, in which the car park and underground access are located,
- the ground floor, which houses the entrance hall,
- unoccupied floors (1st to 19th floors),
- business floors (from the 20th to the 63rd, then from the 65th to the 88th floors) housing notably the publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and GQ magazines: the "Conde Nast" group, which occupies a large part of the floors – but also advertising agencies, investment consulting firms, etc,
- a sky lobby on the 64th floor (a tiered lobby where you can switch from an express lift that stops only at the top, to a lift that stops on every floor),
- five floors dedicated to housing technical and security equipment (from the 103rd to the 108th),
- two floors for transmission accessories, as the skyscraper serves as a transmitter (89th and 90th floors),
- technical floors (91st and 99th),
- an observation platform (100th to 102nd floors).
How to get to the One World Trade Center (WTC)?
The One World Trade Center is located in Lower Manhattan. The exact address of the tower is 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10007.
The main entrance is at the corner of West Street and Vesey Street. The best way to get there is by public transportation.
If you wish to take the New York City underground, take the:
- A or C lines and get off at Chambers Street station,
- E line to the World Trade Center station,
- Line 1 to Rector Street Station,
- Lines 2, 3, 4 or 5 to Fulton Street Station,
- R or W lines and get off at Cortland Street station.
By bus, take the:
- M20 to Vesey St./North End Ave.
- M55 to Broadway St./Cortland St.
Please note that if you have a car, the One World Observatory does not have a car park but you can book valet parking through the One World Observatory's official valet service, "Brookfield Place", which is located at 225 Liberty Street.
What are the opening hours?
The One World Observatory is open every day of the year:
- from 2 January to 5 January: from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.,
- from 6 January to 7 January: from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.,
- from 8 January to 28 January: from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.,
- from 29 January to 13 February: from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,
- from 14 February to 15 February: from 9 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.,
- from 16 February to 4 May: from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,
- from 5 May to 7 September: from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.,
- from 8 September to 17 December: from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.,
- from 18 December to 3 January: from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Opening hours are adjusted on public holidays:
- 1 January: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.,
- 4th July (Independence Day): 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.,
- 11 September: 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.,
- Thanksgiving: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.,
- Black Friday: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.,
- 24 December: 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.,
- 25 December: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.,
- 31 December: 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Please note that when the doors close at 9 p.m., it is possible to enter the observatory until 8:45 p.m. And when the doors close at 10 p.m., you have until 9:15 p.m. to buy an entrance ticket.
How does the visit to the Freedom Tower work?
The observation deck/One World Observatory is located on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors of the One World Trade Center. It is not an outdoor platform, like the Empire State Building's, but a panoramic balcony with glass all around.
Before you get to this terrace, there will be a rather interesting route to follow. Upon entering the building, take the escalator down to level -1. You will then find yourself at the Global Welcome Center, where you will present your ticket and queue to go through the security check. Don't worry, you won't get bored because this vast room is equipped with a giant interactive screen that will welcome you in 10 languages and give you a lot of information about the observatory: number of visitors since the opening, their nationality, city of origin...
That done, head to the Voices room where you can watch, on a multitude of screens, the testimonies of those who contributed to the construction of the skyscraper. You will learn many interesting facts. In the next gallery, called Foundations, you will see rocks on display: the rocks on which New York City was built.
After this, you will take one of the high-speed lifts (the Sky Pods Elevators) and will reach the 102nd floor in one minute (in 47 seconds precisely)! During the ride up, you'll see a time-lapse of New York's urban evolution from 1525 to 2016 on the lift walls. Note that on the way back down, you'll get a completely different perspective: you'll feel like you're flying all around the skyscraper!
Upon exiting the lift (on the 102nd floor), you will find yourself in the See Forever Theater where you will be treated to another two-minute video on New York (aerial views, accelerated urbanisation). At the end of the video, the screen will fade to reveal the famous skyline and the city's tallest skyscrapers!
You will then descend to the 101st floor where you can have your photo taken (for an additional fee when you buy your ticket) with the One World Observatory's See Forever Imaging technology.
Following that, head to the 100th floor – the observatory floor. At a height of almost 380 metres, you will be treated to a magnificent panorama of New York: a 360° view stretching for almost 80 km, if the weather is clear. You will be able to see: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Financial District, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the bay with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Staten Island and Governors Island, and many other monuments such as the Dakota Building, the Flatiron Building...
You will see that between the monuments, the ferries in the distance, and the helicopters, there are a lot of things to see. So take the time to admire everything and enjoy the moment!
Having said all that, if you feel like experiencing what I just finished detailing above, book your tickets right now 🙂
Note that on the Observatory floor, you will find the Sky Portal: a giant round screen that projects, under your feet, images of the area just below you in real time. Avoid this particular attraction if you suffer from vertigo!
There are also two interactive rooms and two spaces (one to the north and one to the south) in which a lecturer will explain what can be seen in front of you, thanks to a high-tech television system.
Before you leave, head to the Gallery at One World gift shop. Here you'll find a whole host of items made exclusively for the skyscraper. But beware, the prices are not cheap!
It takes a good 30 minutes from the time you enter the building to the 100th floor!
Take your time for the rest, but visitors usually stay for an hour.
When is the best time to go up to the Observatory?
The best photos can be taken at midday. You will not be bothered by the sun, which will be at its zenith.
If you go in the morning, the sun will be on the east side of the building, so there will be some glare and backlighting, which will spoil the photos of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. On the other hand, you will be able to take great pictures of the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey.
If you're not sure whether to visit during the day or at night, get a ticket that gets you there at least an hour and a half before sunset. That way you can enjoy both the daytime view and the spectacle of New York City at night, with all the lights playing on the city. So you get two visits for the price of one. But be warned: you won't be the only one to have thought of this!
If visibility is poor on the day of your visit, the observatory's See Forever programme allows you to obtain another ticket valid for 14 days after your first visit.
Where and how to buy tickets for the One World Observatory?
To access the observation deck (102nd floor), you must purchase a ticket. You can do this online or at the One World Trade Center ticket office, located in the main entrance of the building. You can pay by credit card, cash or travellers cheques.
Please note that you are buying timed tickets, so you will only be able to enter the observatory at the time and date you choose. It is therefore useless to come an hour early: you will not be able to get in!
Remember to book your tickets in advance! This will give you a better chance of visiting the One World Observatory at the time you want. It would be a shame to go there and be told to come back later because there are no more seats available. So don't waste time queuing and book online: your time in New York is limited!
To avoid any further waiting, arrive on time too!
You can book your tickets directly by clicking on the button below:
What are the ticket prices?
Priority access – Combo Package
All Inclusive Flex Package
Guided Tour Ground Zero + One World Observatory
Admission is free for children under 5 years old.
- The standard ticket gives access to the observatory.
- The ticket with priority access includes the following benefits: access to the observatory, priority access for the security check and for the lifts (both up and down), access to the digital Skyline guide.
- In addition to all of this, the flexible ticket entitles you to a flexible arrival time on the selected day (morning, afternoon or evening) and a $15 discount to be used at the café, bar, restaurant or gift shop.
- The Ground Zero + One World Observatory tour is a combo ticket that gives you access to both sites while enjoying a guide. There are other combo tickets between One World Observatory and various monuments in the area (9/11 Museum, Statue of Liberty, ...).
There are also offers reserved for Mastercard holders, but also the possibility to buy a combined ticket: a visit to One World + a guided tour of the 9/11 Memorial.
If you are planning to visit several of the city's most important monuments, you can buy a New York pass.
Admission to the One World Observatory is included in the "New York City FreeStyle Pass" and the "New York Sightseeing Flex Pass". You'll save a lot of money on the price of admission to the attractions and you'll also be able to get in without queuing. A good deal, isn’t it?
Taking nice pictures from the One World Observatory
The best time to visit the One World Observatory and take nice pictures is at noon and in the evening. In the morning, you may be bothered by the sun.
To take nice pictures through the glass and not be bothered by any reflections, keep your camera as close to the glass as possible. At night, place your camera on the ground.
To get a nice shot of Manhattan and the Empire State Building, go to the north side of the observatory (behind the City Pulse screen), where you will find a small bay window: this is a perfect spot because you will be facing the skyscraper.
- The site is accessible to people with reduced mobility. You can also bring small children in pushchairs. Prams must be folded up when using the escalators and lifts.
- Pets are not allowed, except for service animals.
- You can rent an iPad for $15. It will give you access to an app that will give you a lot of information about 1WTC. It will tell you which monuments are around you.
- Professional cameras and video cameras are not allowed. Selfie poles are allowed as long as you don't disturb anyone.
- You will not be allowed to take food or drink with you. But be aware that on the 101st floor there are two cafés: 'One Café' and 'One Mix' (open daily from 11.30am to 10pm), where you can relax with a drink and a snack (make sure you have your ticket for the observatory). There is also a smart restaurant, the "One Dine" (reservations are required to eat there).
- Minors under the age of 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
To conclude this article, I usually walk around Manhattan after the tour to see the Flatiron Building, one of the most impressive buildings in New York. It's not far away and well worth a visit!