You've probably seen meetings at the United Nations headquarters on television – that’s where the 15 member states of the Security Council meet. But not many people know that this large building, located in New York City along the East River in Manhattan, is actually open to the public. It is possible to take a tour of the UN headquarters in New York, and it is even one of the most visited places in the city, welcoming more than a million people every year.
In this post, you will find out everything you need to know to prepare your visit to the UN headquarters in New York. This is an activity you can unhesitatingly add to your list of things to visit, especially if you don't know what to do in New York yet.
THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS
The United Nations was founded in 1945, in the aftermath of the Second World War, by the representatives of 51 countries. The purpose of this organisation is to help coordinate international operations, ensure the maintenance of peace, and improve security, economy and respect for human rights.
There are currently 193 member states of the UN, and the organisation’s headquarters are located in New York. The headquarters, however, are not U.S. territory – the territory belongs jointly to all member states.
The UN headquarters are actually composed of 4 major buildings: the General Assembly, the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, the Secretariat Building and the Conference Hall Building. In front of the entrance to the complex are the 193 flags of the UN member countries, which are arranged in alphabetical order and form a large arc. To symbolise the equality of all member states, all of these flags share the exact same distance between them.
THE ENTRANCE TO THE UN HEADQUARTERS BUILDING
You do not need a ticket to access the building's inner courtyard and main lobby – but should you want to go further, you must first go to the visitors' desk, which is located at the corner of First Avenue and 45th Street. You will be asked for your reservation and a valid ID. You will need to arrive at this desk at least 45 minutes before your visit.
Once you have passed through security, you will receive your Security Pass, after which you can cross the street to the main building. More security checks await you before the tour begins, but in the central hall you will already see many works of art that have been donated to the UN by heads of state. You can also see photo exhibits and videos that showcase the work of the UN and address issues such as children's rights and global warming.
Your guided tour will begin from this central hall.
THE GUIDED TOUR OF THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS
The visits of the UN buildings are done during the week and last about one hour. The tour begins in the lobby with a brief presentation of the United Nations, including its history, member states and missions.
You will then have the opportunity to discover the famous conference rooms that can be seen during television news. It is there that meetings and debates on often very difficult topics are held. One of the most famous of these rooms is the Trusteeship Council Room, one of the six major organs of the UN, which is responsible for making decisions regarding the territories under the UN's trusteeship.
During your visit, you will not be able to visit the rooms that are occupied by parliamentarians – but never fear: a projection screen will have been placed at the entrance of the rooms concerned, thereby allowing you to follow live the sessions in progress.
The highlight of your visit will be the United Nations General Assembly Hall, which has received many world leaders, and where important decisions are regularly taken on international security issues.
To finish your visit, you can go to the store, where you can find books and souvenirs of all kinds. This store is located in the basement, and you can also find a restaurant and the post office right next to it.
In this post office you can find UN stamps, which are only usable in the territory of the United Nations, and which can be used to send a most original postcard to your relatives.
BOOK YOUR GUIDED TOUR OF THE UN BUILDING
The tours are offered in six official languages of the UN (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). If you wish to take a guided tour in one of these foreign languages, I recommend booking your tour at least 2 months prior to your visit. You should know that for security reasons, the tours are done in small groups only, and due to the building’s popularity, you will have a hard time finding a place in a tour, if you wait too long before booking one.
Even if you want to take a tour in English, I advise you to book a few weeks before the date of your choice.
Reservations are made online on the official UN website. As you make your reservation, you will have to choose the time of your visit. The United Nations building is open to the public from Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 4:45 pm.
RATES FOR THE UN HEADQUARTERS TOUR
- For adults, the price of the visit is $22 (£17) per person
- For people over 60 years old and students (upon presentation of their student card), the visit costs $15 (£11.50)
- For children aged 5 to 12, the tour costs $12 (£9)
- Children under 5 years of age are not allowed to visit
HOW TO GET TO THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS?
The UN headquarters is located in Manhattan's Midtown neighbourhood, right on the East River. To get there, you can take the 42nd Street bus or the underground to the iconic Grand Central Station, from which you can walk down 42nd Street.