Strolling through the fascinating corridors of international diplomacy at Manhattan's United Nations Headquarters is an educational journey not to be missed. Interestingly, while set on the east side of Midtown Manhattan, fronting the East River, the U.N.'s 18-acre parcel of land is considered "international territory" that belongs to members of the United Nations and is, therefore, not technically part of the United States. An hour-long tour here offers enriching insight into the important work of the United Nations organization.
What Will I See?
The best (and only) way to see the inner workings of the United Nations Headquarters is via guided tour. Approximately hour-long guided tours are offered Monday through Friday from 9:30 am to 4:45 pm. Tours start in the General Assembly building and afford a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the organization, including a visit to the General Assembly Hall. The General Assembly Hall is the largest room in the United Nations, with seating capacity for more than 1,800 people. In this room, representatives of all 193 Member States gather to discuss pressing issues that require international cooperation.
Tours also take in the Security Council Chamber, as well as the Trusteeship Council Chamber and the Economic and Social Council Chamber (note that access may be limited to rooms if meetings are in progress). En route, tour participants will learn more about the history and structure of the organization, including the scope of issues that the United Nations regularly deals with, including human rights, peace and security, disarmament, and more.
Note that a kid-friendly Children's Tour, geared towards children ages 5 to 12, is also available for booking with advance online purchase; all participating kids must be accompanied by an adult or chaperone.
What Is the History?
The United Nations Headquarters complex was completed in New York City in 1952 on land donated to the city by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The buildings contain chambers for the Security Council and General Assembly, as well as offices for the Secretary-General and other international civil servants. The complex received an extensive overhaul in celebration of the United Nations' 70th anniversary in 2015.
Where Is It Located?
Fronting the East River, the United Nations Headquarters is located on 1st Avenue between East 42nd and East 48th Streets; the main visitors' entrance is at 46th Street and 1st Avenue. Note that all visitors need to first get a security pass to visit the complex; passes are issued at the check-in office at 801 1st Avenue (at the corner of 45th Street).
Guided tours are available on weekdays only; the UN Visitors Lobby with exhibits and UN Visitor Center remains open on weekends (though not in January and February). It's highly recommended to book your tickets for guided tours online in advance; a limited number of tickets may be available for purchase at the United Nations on the day of your visit. Note that children under 5 years of age are not permitted on the tours. (Tip: Plan to arrive at least an hour in advance of your scheduled tour to allow for time to go through the security screening.) There is a Visitors Café serving food and beverages (including coffee) on-site.