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Recently my daughter and I were in New York City for a long weekend. One of the things on my list was to visit United Nations headquarters in NYC. One of the main reasons for visiting the UN headquarters building was that because technically the 18 acre site of the UN headquarters is considered “international” territory, the travel tracking site MostTraveledPeople.com counts UN headquarters as a separate “jurisdiction”, so I figured I’d check that off my list! 🙂
(READ MORE: Most Traveled People – tracking places you’ve been)
Where is the United Nations headquarters in NYC?
United Nations Headquarters is in Manhattan (New York City), on the east side of the island. The UN headquarters building is located off of 1st Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets
While the skyscraper that you THINK is the United Nations headquarters (technically the “United Nations Secretariat Building” is between 42nd and 43rd street, the actual visitor’s entrance into United Nations headquarters building is opposite 45th street.
There is no parking at the UN headquarters building – the UN website recommends walking or taking public transportation. We were staying at the Sheraton Times Square New York, so we walked over. One advantage of walking is that on your way to visit the United Nations Headquarters, you’ll pass by many countries’ diplomatic missions, so it makes a good game of “spot the flags”
You will see an entrance building on the east side of 1st Avenue opposite 45th street. It looks like this
If you look closely in the picture, you can see 2 armed guards in front of the UN building who will not let you in… unless…. you get a visitor’s badge.
Getting a (free) visitor’s pass to visit United Nations headquarters
Unless you work there, you will need a Visitor Pass to visit the UN Headquarters building. The Visitor’s Check-In office for the United Nations headquarters building is (conveniently) right across the street from United Nations Headquarters, on the northwest corner of 45th Street and 1st Avenue (801 First Avenue is the address)
The UN website suggests arriving to check-in at least one hour before any scheduled tours you might have to go through the security process. The security check in building opens at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 10 a.m. on weekends. Every visitor 18 and older needs to show government ID (original; no photocopies) in order to get a visitor pass. The UN website does not mention this, but there is a sign in the building stating that your identification must be in English
My daughter (10 years old at the time) did not need to show ID but also got a visitor’s pass / bracelet. Children under 5 years of age are not permitted to visit the United Nations headquarters building (supposedly for “security” but I’m not sure I understand that)
You’ll get a badge that looks something like this
and then you can cross back over 1st Avenue to visit the UN headquarters building
When to visit the United Nations Headquarters building in New York
The United Nations headquarters building is open most days from 9 a.m. (weekdays) or 10 a.m. (weekends) to 5 p.m. Although the UN building itself closes at 5 p.m. they stop letting people inside at 4:30
- Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
- Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm.
- All visitors must exit the building by 5:30pm
Visiting the UN headquarters building is not allowed on certain holidays – check the UN website for more information. Another thing to note is that guided tours are only offered on weekdays, while the United Nations headquarters building lobby, shops and Post Office are open on weekends (except January and February)
How to visit United Nations headquarters for free
There are United Nations tours that are guided tours (but only on weekdays; see above). The current price for United Nations tours is $22 for adults, $15 for “Students” (ages 13+) and Seniors (60+) and $13 for children ages 5-12 (Children under 5 are not permitted on UN tours or in the UN headquarters building at all).
That’s well and good, but we want to visit United Nations headquarters for FREE!
When my daughter and I were at the United Nations headquarters building, we decided not to pay for a UN tour and instead just visit the building. The good news is that the lobby, shops, Post Office and atrium are open for free and even on weekends (when there are no UN guided tours)
We were there on a Sunday morning – it was super empty and I felt that it was a good time for general reflection. The atrium in the United Nations headquarters building in NYC is very large and has lots of information about the United Nations itself, UNICEF, and other
I enjoyed this picture of former UN secretary general Boutrous Boutrous Ghali (thank you Animaniacs!)
The shops were closed because we were there pretty early in the morning, but we spent an hour or so looking at the different displays both inside
and the sculptures outside the United Nations headquarters building
Definitely worth a trip to United Nations headquarters if you’re visiting NYC.
Have you been to the United Nations headquarters building in New York City? If you took the UN Tour, was it worth it? Or would you recommend just visiting the lobby and atrium for free?