One World Trade Center

All you need to know about the One World Observatory

The One World Trade Center Observatory, the highest in the Western Hemisphere!

One World Trade Center

On May 29, 2015, eleven years after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, a new milestone in the history of the United States was reached with the opening to the public of a new Observatory: The “One World Observatory”. Located on floors 100, 101 and 102 of the ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER, the highest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, this observatory is also the newest and one of the most highly recommended attractions while visiting the Big Apple.

A brief look at the ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER’s history

Before talking about the Observatory, let’s recall a few facts about the One World Trade Center itself in which the observatory is located.

The One WTC is the main building in a new complex located in Lower Manhattan, New York’s financial district. The building is part of a larger work of commemoration and of reconstruction following the destruction of the twin towers of the first World Trade Center complex following the September 11 attacks in 2001. The destruction of these two towers, emblematic symbols of American omnipotence, deeply shocked the whole world. 

'Ground Zero', New York

In 2002, a consultation process about the future of the One World Trade Center site was held and a competition was organized by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Following the total rejection of the first wave of projects, a second competition is opened.

On June 28, 2005, the chosen project, called the “Freedom Tower”, is officially unveiled. 

The developer Larry Silverstein, then holder of the lease of the “World Trade Center”, announced in 2006: “In 2012, we should have a completely rebuilt World Trade Center, more splendid and more spectacular than ever before.”

At the end of the selection process, it is architect David Child’s proposal which is retained.

An official agreement is drawn up on April 27, 2006, on the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Empire State Building in 1931. A month later, construction finally begins at the “Ground Zero” site and will continue until the project’s completion on May 2, 2013.

For the curious among you, here are some interesting facts about the famous One WTC:

– The construction cost an estimated 3.9 billion dollars.

– In 2009, the appellation “Freedom Tower” was abandoned, and “One World Trade Center” was adopted as the official name, taking the same name of the northern tower of the original World Trade Center.

– Its 124-metre-high antenna (which is also, by the way, the world’s tallest spire) allows it to reach a symbolic height of 1,776 feet (1776 being the year of the United States Declaration of Independence)

– On April 30, 2012, the One WTC became the highest structure in New York City when the building, still under construction, exceeded the Empire State Building for the first time. Its final height of 541.3 meters makes it the sixth tallest skyscraper in the world.

– Without its antenna which represents nearly a quarter of its height, it would be the second tallest skyscraper in the US measuring ‘only’ 417 meters, behind the “Willis Tower / Sears Tower” in Chicago which measures 442 meters high and has 110 floors.

– After the inauguration of the One WTC in November 2014, the tower opened for commercial business, but it would be necessary to wait until May 29, 2015 before the Observatory is finally opened to the public.

– The One WTC has 73 elevators of which five are exclusively assigned to accessing the One World Observatory.

– The building is designed in such a way as to significantly reduce the risk of collapse in the case of possible attacks and to this end the base of the building consists mainly of reinforced concrete and metal.

Did you know?

On June 14, 2012 during a visit to the site of the World Trade Center undergoing reconstruction, the then President of the United States Barack Obama accompanied by his wife Michelle signed one of the beams with the following: “We remember we rebuild we come back stronger! Barack Obama” The beam was also signed by police officers, construction workers and other people present at the time.

Plan your visit to the Observatory

If you are planning a visit to One World Observatory, it is recommended that you book your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment on the day. Think of opting for a fast-track ticket, where you can choose the time slot that suits you best and so avoid long and unnecessary hours of waiting.

You can of course buy your tickets directly on site, but be aware that availability is not guaranteed.

Please also note that your ticket is only valid for the time printed on it and no other time.  

If you want to enjoy the amazing views of the city, but you’re still not sure whether daytime or night-time is best, a good idea is to choose a time slot that is at least an hour and a half before sunset (be sure to check the time of sunset before making your reservation). By doing this you should arrive at the 100th floor half an hour before dark and get the best of both worlds.


Make sure to carry only authorized items: selfie-sticks, small compact cameras and mobile phones are all allowed. Entering with weapons is of course completely forbidden. Less dangerous but also forbidden are food, drinks and professional cameras (unless you have prior authorization).

Before arriving at the Observatory:

Once inside the building, an escalator will take you down one level where you will be asked to present your entry ticket.

One WTC entrance

You will then need to queue up to pass the security control.

At the “Global Welcome Center”, you will discover a giant screen displaying a map of the world, which updates in real time with the Observatory’s main statistics, including the number of visitors to date (you will even know what number visitor you are!) and their nationalities. You’ll be able to see the breakdown of US visitors versus foreign visitors! 

'Global Welcome Center'

You will then enter a corridor with a multitude of screens with the testimonies, called “Voices”, of the construction workers who helped build the skyscraper. The exposed rocks here will give you a more accurate idea of the foundations on which the city of New York is built.

'Voices' One World Observatory

Following this, five elevators await!

One of these “SkyPods” will whisk you up to the 102nd floor in only 47 seconds, but 47 seconds full of emotion! During the ride up, you will be treated to an amazing audio-visual presentation on large digital screens covering 3 sides of the elevator, that outline the historical evolution of the landscape of the City of New York, from 1525 up to 2016. If you are observant, you will notice that the Trinity Church is one of the few unchanging elements in the cityscape.

We’re sure you’ll be impressed with just how smooth these elevators operate. Not only are they smooth but they are also the fastest in the world (in both directions!)

What is to be found on the 101st and 102nd floors?

Arriving at the highest level of the Observatory, on the 102nd floor, a short film, only a few minutes long, is waiting for you on a big screen.

Then you will be invited to go down to the 101st floor, where you can get your photo taken (available for purchase) with the “One World Observatory’s See Forever Imaging”. 

On the 101st floor you will find both the “One Café” and the “One Mix”, two places to relax while having a drink or a snack. For those of you who prefer to take the time to enjoy a good meal, please note that a prior reservation is required to get a table at the chic One Dine restaurant.

Restaurant 'One Dine'

What exactly can be seen from the Observatory located on the 100th floor?

The 100th floor is the only place in the tower that allows visitors to move freely once you have exited the elevators. On a clear day, a breath-taking panorama, extending as far as 80 km in all directions, opens out before your eyes.

The 100th floor, which is entirely devoted to the Observatory,provides an exceptional 360-degree experience. Even if the timeslot for accessing the Observatory is quite strict, once there you can spend as much time as you like. You will be able to contemplate the splendour of the city and take photos of these unforgettable moments. At nearly 380 meters high, a spectacular landscape awaits you.

The easiest landmarks to spot are:

– The Empire State Building / New Jersey

– Lower Manhattan / Brooklyn

– Brooklyn Bridge / Manhattan Bridge

– Staten Island / Governors Island

– The Statue of Liberty

– The Hudson River

One-World Observatory panorama

If you are unlucky enough to visit the Observatory on a foggy day with near-zero visibility (which is quite rare), the One World Observatory and its “See Forever” programme undertakes to provide you with a new entrance ticket (subject to availability and valid for 14 days).

The Observatory also has the One World Explorer, an enhanced audio / visual experience that replaces the traditional audio guide. This is a unique iPad application with three different activities:


“Explorer iPad Guide to the City” identifies the horizon. The interactive application moves with you and labels the forty most emblematic of New York City’s landmarks. It will also take you on a virtual helicopter flight over these sites. Simple to operate, you scan the horizon with the iPad, and choose the landmarks you would like to explore with a simple tap of your finger. This application will take you on a virtual trip over the city and take you to your chosen landmark. Each featured landmark is accompanied by explanatory videos and fascinating anecdotes.


The application “Restaurant Channel” helps you learn more about ten restaurants that have been carefully chosen by David Rosengarten, the famous host of the “TV Food Network” channel. He will introduce you to these ten surprising restaurants, which are not known by everybody! After, it only remains for you to choose whichever one tempts you the most!


After your visit, download the “Explorer guide to New York” application and you will be able to watch videos and photos on your laptop, iPad or computer, and share them with family and friends!

Most visitors find that it is quite difficult to take good quality pictures because of the Observatory’s circular shape and lack of angles. The thickness of the windows also causes undesirable reflections. 

Tip: Apparently, the best place to take good pictures of Manhattan and of the Empire State Building are from the right-hand corner of the north side of the Observatory, just behind the “City Pulse” animation screen.

If you take care to keep your lens as close to the glass as possible, you should be able to eliminate unwanted reflections in your photos. At night, try and place your camera as close as possible to the floor to get the best shots.

It is also on this floor where you can challenge your fear of heights with the Skyportal. This circular area on the floor is none other than a large screen rebroadcasting images of the city below captured in real time from a camera located at the top of the building. By placing yourself within this circle, you will really have the impression that the only thing separating you from falling hundreds of metres to the street below is a simple plate of glass. A truly amazing experience! 


Before leaving this fabulous place, make sure to visit the Gallery at One World shop. You will find a varied collection of souvenirs suitable for all ages. Choose from a wide range of uniquely designed products all made exclusively by and for the One World Observatory.

The descent in the SkyPod is also an exciting mix of real and virtual sensations! You’ll feel like the elevator is flying down and around the exterior of the skyscraper before re-entering the building again at the bottom just in time to let you off.

Summing up, the “One World Observatory” is more than just an Observatory, it’s a veritable journey to discover the history of New York. You will learn lots of interesting things about its iconic landmarks and the construction of the city down through the ages while contemplating its spectacular landscape