Not sure what to do in the Financial District? This NYC neighborhood guide covers the best things to do in the Financial District, plus where to eat and shop!
This post was originally published February 2019 and was updated April 2021.
After moving to New York City in 2016, the Financial District quickly became one of my favorite areas in the city. Kind of a strange choice, I know, considering that FiDi is known as a business hub rather than a “fun” neighborhood. There’s just something that feels so exciting about exploring it! FiDi is simultaneously one of the most historic neighborhoods in NYC, yet also one of the most modern. While walking down Wall Street, you’re as likely to see businessmen in suits as you are fashion bloggers and school groups.
Deep down, I think the reason I’m so drawn to FiDi is because it’s steeped in US history. Alexander Hamilton is buried here, the Statue of Liberty can be seen nearby, and it’s also the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A lot of visitors to the city want to visit FiDi just to see the site of the World Trade Center or grab a photo in front of the Charging Bull, but there’s so much more going on in this area.
In this post, I’m sharing my all-time favorite things to do in the Financial District in NYC, plus my favorite eateries and places to shop. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are places I actively return to again and again because I think they’re just that great.
A Brief History of NYC’s Financial District
Manhattan’s Financial District is located on the very southern tip of the island and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The area that’s now FiDi was originally called New Amsterdam. Founded in 1624, it was a Dutch colony that was taken over by the British in 1664. Under British rule, the area was renamed New York City.
FiDi has historically been an important hub of trade and commerce. By the early 1900’s, trade was booming thanks to the likes of J.P. Morgan and similar businessmen. However, the neighborhood was a prime example of the disparity of wealth in the area. The buildings near Bowling Green (a small park near the iconic Charging Bull statue) were thought to have the worst housing conditions in the city. Ironic, given that some of the wealthiest people in NYC worked just a few blocks away.
FiDi has known its fair share of horrors over the years. Multiple fires in the 18th and 19th centuries left their mark on the neighborhood, with the Great Fire of New York in 1835 being the most well known. In 1920, a bomb was set off at the corner of Wall and Broad Street, killing 38 people. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happened on September 11, 2001.
With a history dating further back than the first official European settlement in 1624, it’s impossible for me to squeeze FiDi’s entire fascinating history into a single blog post. If you’re curious to learn more about the history of this neighborhood, I recommend giving Travel + Leisure’s article on the topic a read.
The Best Things to Do in the Financial District
Here are just 11 of my favorite things to do in NYC’s Financial District. There are other great attractions in the area, of course, but these are my top picks. Leave me a comment below if you think I should add something to this list!
1. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
I’ve walked the Brooklyn Bridge a handful of times since moving to the city, and it never fails to amaze me. I suggest walking the Brooklyn Bridge first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds so you can take it at your own pace.
2. See the Charging Bull
It’s impossible to miss the swarm of people around the iconic Charging Bull statue. Elbow your way through the crowd and snag a photo in front of it. (Alas, the Fearless Girl statue is no longer in front of the bull).
3. Visit Trinity Church
One of NYC’s oldest churches, Trinity Church was granted a charter by the king of England in 1697. The original church building no longer stands, but the current church on Wall Street is still incredibly impressive. If you’re in the city around the Easter holidays, I highly recommend visiting the church then while it’s decked out with flours. Trinity Church is also the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton.
4. Visit the National Museum of the American Indian
One of NYC’s most underrated museums, the National Museum of the American Indian is a Smithsonian museum that’s free to enter. The museum is housed within the historic Alexander Hamilton US Customs House, which is worth checking out in and of itself. The museum is fairly small, but it’s a great way to spend 2 to 3 hours if you’re in the area and are looking for an indoor activity.
5. Visit the 9/11 Museum
The 9/11 museum is incredibly intense, but it should be at the top of your New York City bucket list. The museum walks you through the terrorist attacks that occurred on that very site on September 11, 2001, as well as the aftermath of that fateful day. Visitors have access to recordings from passengers in the planes that were flown into the Two Towers, as well as video footage from the attacks. Personally, I don’t think this museum is suited for children (some images shown are very graphic), but obviously it’s your call.
6. Meander Through Battery Park
The Battery is a 25-acre park that runs along the southernmost tip of Manhattan. From here, you can see the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island, and there are plenty of places to put up your feet and relax. Battery Park is known for its SeaGlass carousel, which is a stunning aquarium-themed carousel in the middle of the park.
7. Explore the South Street Seaport
Nothing beats a trip to the Seaport on warm summer days. This area is packed with shops and restaurants, and it has a cute museum all about the area. This is one of the most historic areas of the city and has rows of beautifully refurbished 19-century commercial buildings.
8. Relax at the Elevated Acre
The Elevated Acre is a 1-acre oasis that’s hidden above street level. Not many people know to come here, so it’s usually quiet and really relaxing.
9. Admire NYC From Above at the One World Observatory
I won’t lie, a trip up to the One World Observatory is expensive ($43, yikes!). However, if it’s within your budget I highly recommend going up because the views of NYC — and far beyond! — are incredible. The observatory is located at the top of the One World Trade Center building, which is the tallest in the US and the sixth tallest in the world. You can stay at the top as long as you’d like, but expect a wait for the elevator going back down.
10. See the NY Stock Exchange
You can’t “do” anything at the stock exchange, but if you’ve made the trek all the way down to FiDi it’s worth swinging past and snapping a photo.
11. Visit the Irish Hunger Memorial
According to Google Maps, the Irish Hunger Memorial technically isn’t part of NYC’s FiDi but I wanted to include it on this list since it’s right by the One World Observatory. The Irish Hunger Memorial was built to represent a rural Irish landscape. It features an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, and a fallow potato field. It contains stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties and looks as much like an art installation as a memorial.
The Best Restaurants in the Financial District
There are so many great Financial District food options. Here are some of my personal top picks for the best restaurants in FiDi, mostly for grabbing a quick bite to eat in an informal setting.
Stone Street — Stone Street is an adorable old street in the heart of the Financial District. It’s lined with pubs and restaurants, and in the summer it’s nearly impossible to walk down this street because of all the communal dining tables filled with happy eaters.
The Dead Rabbit — One of NYC’s best known Irish bars. You’ll find lots of drink options here, but the food is also good.
Eataly — Eataly is the mecca for all things Italian. It’s a massive space that’s divided into sections: a shop section (with cookware, Italian ingredients, etc), a grocery section (filled with fresh fruits and veggies), a gelataria (that’s where you’ll find me), and a restaurant area in the back. The menu here is a tad pricey, but the pizzas and pastas are amazing!
Joe’s Pizza — Serves up some of the best pizza in the city. It’s a great place to grab a slice (or two!) to go.
Le District — Francophiles, this is the eatery for you. Le District has a little of everything: a market section, a grocery store, a sandwich station, a bakery case, and more. Think of it as the French version of Eataly, if you will.
Luke’s Lobster — Seriously tasty lobster rolls. They’re not the cheapest thing you’ll ever eat, but hey, it’s lobster.
Dig Inn — Digg Inn is a fast-casual chain that focuses on seasonal, local produce. Don’t be fooled by the veg-heavy options at this place, I’ve never been able to finish an entire meal here — they’re so filling!
Where to Shop in the Financial District
Brookfield Place — If you have cash to burn (like, lots of it), hit up Brookfield Place for a spot of window shopping. The stores here are incredibly upscale (think: Burberry and Michael Kors), and the food court has some surprisingly good options as well.
Oculus — The Oculus (pictured above) is part transportation hub, part swanky shopping mall. On either end of the Oculus are entrances to the subway and PATH trains, but the majority of the space is taken up by stores like Kate Spade, Kiehl’s, and M.A.C. Cosmetics (Eataly is also located at one end of the building). This is a really amazing space to explore, so definitely pop inside and check it out.
Ready to Visit NYC’s FiDi?
Now that you know the best things to do in NYC’s Financial District, you’re ready to actually visit! Whether you’re into history, food, good views, or just want to see Wall Street for yourself, there’s a little of everything in this historic neighborhood. FiDi is busiest just after working hours and during lunchtime, but explore the area whenever you have time. You won’t regret it!
Tell me: What are you most excited to do in the Financial District?
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