New York City Hall Tours
New York’s City Hall, located in Lower Manhattan, is the country’s oldest city hall that is still used for its original purpose. While most of the city government offices are now housed in the big, magnificent Municipal Building, the Office of the Mayor and the City Council Chambers are still located in the City Hall building.
Tip: Take a New York City Hall Tour after or before one of our Lower Manhattan tours! (see calendar for dates/times.)
Where is City Hall?
New York’s City Hall is located in Lower Manhattan within walking distance of the Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial. You could make a day of visiting all 3. It’s location means that it’s easily accessed by most major New York City subway lines. We recommend using this Google map for directions to City Hall.
New York’s City Hall has a rich history, and they offer FREE tours to the public! They are a great supplement for any day spent in Lower Manhattan.
How To Take a New York City Hall Tour
- There is a “reservations only” tour on Thursday mornings at 10 am. Click here to make a reservation.
- There is a “first-come, first-serve” tour every Wednesday at noon. Sign up begins at 10am at the tourism kiosk at the southern end of City Hall Park (Broadway and Barclay St.) Sign up continues until 11:30am, but spots fill up quickly so the earlier you can get there, the better.
- All tours are one hour long.
- Groups for both tours are limited to 20 people (sign up early!).
- Recommended minimum age for guests is 9 years old.
- For the advance reservation tours your guide will meet you at the Nathan Hale statue in City Hall Plaza.
- For the first-come, first-serve tours the meeting point will be the tourism kiosk where you signed up.
- For both tours you will be require to go through a security checkpoint. Bring a photo ID with you.
- There are many subway lines with stops near City Hall. They are: the 4,5,and 6 train City Hall/ Brooklyn Bridge stop, the 2 and 3 train Park Place stop, the W and R trains City Hall stop and the A and C train Chambers Street stop.
The present day City Hall is actually the third one in the city’s history. In the Dutch colonial era (when the city was called New Amsterdam), the city hall was called Stadt Huys (State House, in Dutch) and was located on Pearl Street in a former tavern. The city government operations then moved to a new home on Wall Street in 1700, where they would remain for the rest of the British colonial era. The Wall Street building also served as the first United States Capitol Building for New York’s brief period as the US capitol city. It resumed functions as City Hall when the capitol was moved to Philadelphia, and continued as such until the present building was opened in 1812.
Plans for the current City Hall began in 1802, when the city had a design competition for the future building. The competition was won by the design team of Joseph Francois Mangin and John McCombs Jr. Mangin, the principal designer, was born in France and came to New York in 1795. He was the architect of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. McCombs was a native New Yorker (his father had worked on the previous City Hall) and he also designed Castle Clinton. The team was awarded $350 dollars for their design.
Though the competition was in 1802, construction did not begin until 1810. This was due in part to objections from the City Council, saying that the design was too extravagant and costly. The architects re-worked the design, making the building smaller and reducing the amount of marble used. They decided to only have the façade done in marble and to use cheaper brownstone on the back. The site for the City Hall was at the far northern edge of the present city, so they reasoned that not many people would see the back anyway. Midway through construction, in 1811, the City Commissioners unveiled the grid plan for Manhattan, which quickly moved the city northward. The mismatched back and front of the building was not remedied until 1954, when the entire building was refaced with Alabama limestone.
By Katherine Weatherford