The South Street Seaport, located in downtown Manhattan is one of the most historical areas in all of New York City. Not only does it have its history, but it also offers so much more for visitors.
Whether it is restaurants, museums, cobble stoned streets, or some of the best river & bridge views in NYC, the Seaport offers it all and more. The area also includes several piers including the famous Piers 17, 16, & 15 – some of my favorite in the city.
This guide will talk through everything you need to know about a visit to the area including things to do, attractions to see, and how to best spend your time there.
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1) A Brief History
Before diving into this guide about the South Street Seaport and things to do around the area, I thought it may be beneficial to give you a brief history lesson of the district. Below are some interesting facts about the area:
Founding: While there are several piers to visit today, the first pier was set up all the way back in 1625 by the Dutch West India Company.
Center of Trade: For a couple hundred of years, the seaport area was a center of trade for New York (and the United States). Whether it was intra US trade, trans-Atlantic, or even trade with China, the South Street Seaport was the center of it all.
Slow Down: Although it flourished for many years, by the 1880s things started to slow down. There were fewer resources, newer larger ships couldn’t dock there anymore, and most ships headed to the Hudson River side of Manhattan. By the early to mid 1900’s, the main three piers (15, 16 & 17) were vacant.
Museum: In 1967, the first tourist attraction was built to revitalize the area – the South Street Seaport Museum (which you can visit today). Here you can learn all about the South Street Seaport history in one of the original buildings in the area.
Pier 17: The main Pier 17 area was built in 2018, when they demolished the old structure and created a beautiful retail and restaurant area. Now you can go enjoy some drinks and food with some of the best views in NYC. Pier 16 & Pier 15 are right next door as well, and include great areas to enjoy some time outside.
Ships: Beyond the Piers themselves you can also find different historic ships docked at the South Street Seaport. These include the 1885 Schooner Pioneer, 1930 Tugboat W.O. Decker, 1885 Tall Ship Wavertree, and 1908 Lightship Ambrose. You can visit a couple of them with a ticket to the museum.
The Seaport: The rest of the South Street Seaport District (also called The Seaport) is just beautiful to walk around. You will find cobble stoned streets with local shops and restaurants lining the historic buildings. Strolling around the area will have you feeling like you aren’t even in NYC.
NYC Itinerary: Visit the South Street Seaport as part of a longer 4 days in NYC itinerary that takes you throughout the city
2) Getting There & Map
The historic South Street Seaport district is a 4-acre area that hugs the East River just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, and east of the Financial District.
Be sure to also check out some of the other top things to do in New York City during a visit!
Below is a map of the Seaport area to give you a better sense of location. I have also pinpointed a few of the highlights that you should be sure to visit (and will talk more about in this guide):
There are several ways to get yourself to this historic district depending on where you are coming from and your overall preference.
The most convenient and cost-efficient way to get around the city is by the NYC subway system. A single ride costs just $2.90 no matter how far the journey.
I also highlighted on the map above all of the nearest subway stations. As you can see there are a lot of them (and I didn’t even highlight them all). The closest subway stations would include:
- Fulton Street: 4 & 5 line; 2 & 3 line, J & Z line
- Wall Street: 4 & 5 line; 2 & 3 line, J & Z line
- Rector or Cordlandt Street: R & W line
If you want to get some exercise in for the day, why not opt for the NYC Citi Bike system. For just $4.49 per ride you can rent a bike for up to 30 minutes.
There are docking stations all over the city with at least 4 stations within a couple block radius of the Seaport.
The most convenient of options will probably just be hopping in a taxi or Uber to get yourself to the Seaport. This is not a cheap option though depending on where you are coming from.
If you do opt for this, you can ask to be dropped off at the corner of Pearl Street and Fulton Street.
Even as a New Yorker myself, I still try and walk everywhere I can as I explore more of the city. Depending on how far you are from the Seaport, walking could be a great option.
The Freedom Tower, Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty, and the 9/11 Museum are all nearby, so you can certainly make the walk over from there.
If coming from Brooklyn around the Dumbo or Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, you could also opt to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan.
Once off the bridge you wont be too far away from the South Street Seaport. The Seaport is one of the best things to do near the Brooklyn Bridge!
Can You Take a Ferry to South Street Seaport -> Yes, you can take a ferry right near the South Street Seaport at the Wall Street Pier 11. There are several main lines that head to Pier 11.
- East River line that stops at Dumbo, South Williamsburg, North Williamsburg, 34th Street, and Hunters Point South.
- South Brooklyn line that stops at Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Red Hook, Atlantic Avenue, Dumbo & Corlears Hook.
- Rockaway line that goes between Pier 11 and Rockaway
- Astoria line that stops at Brooklyn Navy Yard, 34th Street, Long Island City, Roosevelt Island, Astoria, & 90th Street.
- Soundview line that stops at Stuyvesant Cove, 34th Street, 90th Street, Soundview and Throgs Neck
- Coney Island line that goes between Wall Street and Coney Island
3) South Street Seaport Things To Do
Now that you know how to get to the South Street Seaport, let’s talk about some of the best things to do in the area.
The main pier at the South Street Seaport is Pier 17. Here you will find the recently constructed building that nearly makes up the entirety of the pier. Within the building and outside of the building you will find plenty to see and do. Below are just some of the highlights:
Within the Pier 17 building you will find several restaurants & bars all throughout. These include:
- Carne Mare
- The Fulton
- The Greens
- Heineken Riverdeck
- Malibu Farm
- Mister Dips
- Ssam Bar
- Pearl Alley
There is indoor and outdoor seating here depending on the season & restaurant, so you can certainly get a meal with a view.
On the rooftop of Pier 17 you will find a massive area full of dining areas and viewpoints. If you would like to rent a table, you can do so through The Greens.
During the summer you will also find a concert series starting from May until August/September. You can check out the latest Pier 17 line up to take a look at what is up next.
You do not necessarily need to book a table with The Greens or attend a concert to go to the rooftop. If you want to take in some views from above, then anyone is able to during visiting hours.
There are viewpoints over the South Street Seaport on one side and the Brooklyn, Manhattan, & Williamsburg Bridges on the other.
Learn More: Check out some other viewpoints around the area in the guide to the top free views in New York City
On the northern side of Pier 17 you will find the perfect place to take in some views of the East river and the two bridges.
The riverdeck boasts plenty of seating areas to sit down and take in the surrounding landscape.
During the summertime, there is also a Heineken bar set up outside, where you can grab some drinks and hang out.
You will also find some interesting art pieces here throughout the year including the famous fall pumpkin arch.
Right next door to Pier 17 you will find the more subdued Pier 16. The pier is pretty simple here as it is just one long dock that overlooks Pier 17 and the East River.
Also at Pier 16 though you can find a few of the main Seaport ships – the 1885 Wavertree, 1908 Lightship Ambrose, 1893 Lettie G Howard, and 1930 W.O. Decker.
You can actually head up onto the dock of some of these ships with a ticket to the museum.
The last main pier of the South Street Seaport is Pier 15. This pier is a very interesting one to visit and I highly recommend taking some time to head there yourself.
Not only will you find the riverside Watermark restaurant here, but you will also find a beautiful roof deck with some fantastic views. There are benches lined all around with open grass areas as well on the roof here. It is a peaceful place to grab a spot and enjoy an afternoon.
If you are heading here during October, be on the lookout for a big Oktoberfest party happening at the outdoor first floor deck. In the winter, it is transformed into one of the best Christmas themed restaurants in NYC.
Located at the base of Pier 17 is the newest part of The Seaport area – the Tin Building. What used to be part of the Fulton Fish Market has now turned into a whole new type of market.
Within this historic landmark is a massive multi level food hall created by Jean Georges.
You will find all types of quick eats, markets, and restaurants within the Tin Building. So, no matter what time of day or what cuisine you are looking for, the Tin Building will have something for you.
Just some of the top spots to consider here include:
- Crepes & Dosas
- Double Yolk
- The Frenchman’s Dough
- Fulton Fish Co
- House of the Red Pearl
- T. Brasserie
Fulton Market Building & Stall Market
Located in the heart of the Seaport district you will find the Fulton Market Building. The market itself has much history as it has been in place since 1822 (with some renovations throughout the years). It even used to house the Fulton Fish Market.
Today you can find an indoor and outdoor farmers market at 91 South Street with all types of local produce. The indoor market is open from Monday to Saturday (11:30AM – 5:00PM) year round. The outdoor market is open on Saturdays 11:30AM – 5:00PM from May until November.
The main Fulton Market building is currently undergoing renovation.
South Street Seaport Museum
A visit to the Seaport is not complete without visiting the South Street Seaport museum. There are three main places to visit within the Seaport that make up the museum.
You can head to the Visitor Center that has various exhibitions throughout the year, Bowne & Co. which has a letterpress print shop, and Pier 16 which houses the Ambrose and Wavertree ships.
Right nearby is also the McNally Jackson bookstore, one of the top bookstores in Manhattan!
Titanic Memorial Park
At the entrance of the Seaport area at the intersection of Pearl Street and Fulton Street you will find the Titanic Memorial Park. Here you will find a lighthouse that has been there since 1976.
A woman named Molly Brown (a Titanic survivor) wanted to bring a Titanic memorial to NYC after its sinking. This lighthouse was first housed at the Seamen’s Church Institute in 1913 before being moved to its current location in 1976.
4) South Street Seaport Views
While the buildings, piers, boats and history make the South Street Seaport a special place to visit, my favorite part of it are the views!
Whether it is from the rooftop or riverdeck at Pier 17, walking the cobblestone streets, or just wandering all around this historic district, you are bound to come by some great views.
Learn More: Be sure to check out some of the other best photo spots in NYC during a visit to the city
Below are some of my favorite shots I took along the way:
5) The East River Greenway
For those that did not know, the South Street Seaport area is right along the East River Greenway that runs from 125th Street in the north all the way down to Battery Park in the south.
So, if you happen to be walking along the southern end of the greenway here, you will pass by the South Street Seaport on the way down.
For those that were not aware of the greenway, I would highly recommend a walk along the southern end of it (34th Street to Battery Park). That way you will get to visit the Seaport as well as take in the rest of the East River views along the way.
There are plenty of bridges, parks, promenades, and greenery to explore along the way, so be sure to check out this East River Greenway guide to learn more.
6) Where to Stay in Manhattan
There are so many different neighborhoods to choose from when visiting NYC. Below are some articles to help you make the best choice for your trip.
Looking for the top hotels & neighborhoods in NYC? Check out some helpful accommodation resources when it comes to picking the best spot for you!
Neighborhood Overview: Best Places to Stay in NYC
Best Skyline Views: NYC Hotels with a View
Times Square: Top Times Square Hotels with a View
Theater District: Hotels in Broadway Theater District
Central Park: Best Hotels with Central Park Views
Tribeca: Best Tribeca Hotels
SoHo: Where to Stay in SoHo
Greenwich Village: Top Greenwich Village Hotels
Brooklyn Bridge: Hotels with Brooklyn Bridge Views
Best Panoramas: Hotels in NYC with Floor to Ceiling Windows
Hope you have enjoyed this guide to the South Street Seaport. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them in below.
Also don’t forget to check out the rest of the New York itineraries and guides up on the site such as:
Have fun out there and safe travels!