Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial are awe-inspiring, but give you a context to New York's more recent history that will change your view of the event that shocked the world. The 9/11 Museum also explores in more depth its social and political consequences.
In memory of the 9/11 attacks, today you can visit the Museum, the Memorial, Ground Zero and the World Trade Center. Here's how to visit the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum.
Skip the queues when entering the 9/11 Museum
The most convenient and economical way to access the 9/11 Museum is to purchase these tickets online and in advance.
One thing you should know before going to Ground Zero is that the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum are different things. The Memorial is a monument located on the foundations that used to occupy the Twin Towers, and the 9/11 Museum is a subway facility below Ground Zero that houses an exhibit about the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath.
To visit the 9/11 Museum, you only need to purchase this ticket. When booking your tickets, you will need to select a time slot in which to visit the Museum, which is usually about two and a half hours from opening time.
With the Museum's APP, in addition to accessing interactive parts of the exhibition that you will not be able to see otherwise, you will be able to listen to a complete audio guide in Spanish so you won't miss anything. Once you reserve your ticket, you will receive it in your email and you will only need to present it on your cell phone at the entrance and go through the security checkpoint to access the Museum.
What to See at the 9/11 Memorial
The World Trade Center is now a park of oak trees at the center of which are the twin fountains that make up the 9/11 Memorial, where water cascades down in a waterfall. In tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the names of those who lost their lives that day are engraved on the outer edges of the fountains.
The fountains and the names of the victims are illuminated at night, giving the place a special atmosphere. If you book your tickets for the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, you can get an in-depth look at the details of what happened on that day.
If you prefer to complete your tour with an expert guide to help you contextualize everything you see, I recommend this 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero Tour, which also includes optional admission to the National 9/11 Museum.
Where the 9/11 Memorial and Museum are and how to get there
To get to Ground Zero, located at 180 Greenwich Street, I recommend taking the subway to the World Trade Center train station, or going to the Chambers Street station.
How to get to the 9/11 Museum with the New York Pass and other passes
Remember that admission to the 9/11 Museum is included in the main tourist passes in the city: New York CityPass, New York Explorer Pass, The New York Pass, Sightseeing Pass. If you purchase any of these passes, you will be able to access the museum, although you will not have the depth that a local guide's commentary will add to your visit.
You can also purchase this combo pass to the National Museum and 9/11 Memorial with admission to One World Observatory, which will allow you to go up to the best observatory in the area for the most breathtaking views of the Financial District and lower Manhattan.
What a visit to the 9/11 Museum is like
You will enter the 9/11 Museum through a pavilion located in the Memorial. You will descend into the subway facility where the first thing you will see is Virgil's quote, "No day shall erase you from the memory of time" in the room known as Memorial Hall.
As you proceed through the space beneath the World Trade Center, you will pass into Foundation Hall, the Museum's main hall, whose most prominent feature is the 'Last Column'. This was the last piece of the building to be removed in the World Trade Center rubble removal effort, and is covered with inscriptions and signatures of those who participated in the recovery effort at Ground Zero.
What the museum exhibits are like
The museum's two main exhibitions are In Memoriam, which pays tribute to the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and those of the 1993 attack that also took place at the World Trade Center, and September 11, 2001, a minute-by-minute chronology of what happened that day and a reflection on how the world we live in today has been shaped by the attacks on the Twin Towers.
Throughout the museum, you will find a collection of 60,000 objects salvaged from the rubble of the Twin Towers that tell the story of September 11 through various perspectives, including first-person accounts, documents, and belongings.
9/11 Memorial and Museum opening hours
Both the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum are open every day of the week (except on September 11, when they are closed to the public for a memorial service for the victims). The 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Museum hours on Fridays and Saturdays are 9:00 am to 9:00 pm (last admission at 7:00 pm), while Thursday through Sunday they are open from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm (last admission at 6:00 pm).
When to go
I recommend that you visit the Museum at opening time to experience the solemnity and intimacy of the exhibition. If there is something to criticize about the museum, it is that its minimalism and the atmosphere it tries to create are not entirely compatible with the tourist crowds.
Practical information for your visit
- Try to get to Ground Zero as early as possible, to avoid the crowds and have a more personal and peaceful experience. The place deserves it. Alternatively, you can visit the Memorial at night to experience a more secluded atmosphere.
- Visiting the Memorial is always free, but you can also enter the Museum for free on Thursdays from 17:00.
- You can take photos both at the Memorial and at the Museum.
Alex's Traveller Tip
You can delve deeper into your visit to the 9/11 Museum with the augmented reality app 'Explore 9/11'.
A bit of history: September 11, 2011
I will hardly ever forget that Tuesday in September when, having returned home from school with my brother, we turned on the television as usual to play the video game console, but never got around to changing the channel: we were absorbed in watching the images of the Twin Towers collapsing in a cloud of black smoke, which the news repeated over and over again.
We had not long returned to Madrid after living in New York for nearly seven years, so those images came from the place we still considered home.
Chances are, if you're reading this, you also have a story to tell about 9/11. If you weren't in New York, you were most likely caught at home, watching the news in complete shock like me. If you lived in New York, your story will be very different, and it is precisely this story that is told at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.
Where to eat in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum area
Being in the middle of the Financial District, there aren't too many restaurants in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum area, but there are a couple of worthwhile places:
- Delmonico's - A relatively expensive steakhouse but has a pretty high rating on TripAdvisor.
- Leo's Bagels - A place where you'll find the typical New York Bagel that I recommend to everyone I know who travels to New York.
- If you are looking for something quick, in The Oculus you will find a lot of restaurants and fast food chains (like in any mall in the United States): Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Eataly, Shake Shack....
Speaking of The Oculus, I recommend that you stop by during your visit to the World Observatory. It is a building with a very particular design, which houses the World Trade Center train station and a shopping mall where you will find stores, restaurants and cafes.
If you love photography or are looking for the best photos for your Instagram, it's the perfect place to add to your list of New York must-sees. The Oculus is open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 11:00 am to 7:00 pm on Sundays.
Other interesting tours in New York
If you want to expand your knowledge about the history, culture and most interesting places in New York, I recommend you to take three of its most outstanding tours: the Harlem tour, the contrasts tour and the Upper and Lower Manhattan tour.
I leave here the practical guides I have written for each of them in case you are interested in taking a look at them before organizing your visit: New York Contrasts Tour, Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour y How to go to a Gospel Mass in Harlem, New York City.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best time to visit the 9/11 Memorial?
Due to the level of detail that most tour guides go into, we recommend that you choose a time that also gives you a chance to see the rest of the area, including the museum, before it closes. The average tour of the Memorial usually lasts 2 hours.
Do I need a ticket to visit the 9/11 Memorial?
The 9/11 Memorial is open to the public, so you do not need a ticket. Most tours refer to "9/11 Memorial tickets" as a reservation for a guided tour or tickets to the 9/11 Museum.
What is the difference between the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum?
The 9/11 Memorial is open to the public, and is a memorial consisting of two pools located in the foundations of the Twin Towers, while the 9/11 Museum houses an exhibit on the events of 9/11 for which you need a ticket.
What other locations are related to the 9/11 Memorial?
Each tour is unique, so depending on the day you will visit St. Paul's Cathedral, the Firemen's Memorial, Brooks Brothers, the Survivor Tree, the Oculus, or Millennium Hotel, all places with their own history in the events of 9/11.