The United Nations

Somewhere I’ve often intended to see is the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The Rough Guide almost advises against going but, having really enjoyed the tour of their Geneva offices last summer, I thought I’d investigate. With the hotel being just a few moments walk away it seemed like a good choice for someone with a couple of hours to spare. Plus, North By Northwest is one of my favourite films…


To enter you have to negotiate the usual security checks but, once inside, you’re relatively free to wander around. A photograph exhibition on the ground floor distracted me for a few minutes before booking the (English) tour.

Standard tour guide-y stuff follows: overview of the organisation, past and present secretary generals and some trick questions (“how many flags are hoisted outside the buildling?”; the number of countries in the UN + 1).

The building isn’t at all remarkable architecturally; bizarrely, the Geneva offices are much much prettier and, well, “New York”-y. With their 1930s Art Deco touches they could easily stand alongside The Chrysler Building or the Empire State. In contrast, the New York headquarters seem to have suffered from the standard 1950s ugly building syndrome.

However, you come to see the “big rooms – chief amongst these being the security council and the general assembly. The former deals only with matters of war, the latter with everything else; guess which one is more important!


And…that’s it.

Unfortunately for me the gardens were closed – I’d been hoping for nice views of the East River but a “Japanese Tea Ceremony” stood in the way. Must be something to do with the cherry blossom.


So, it’s good to say I’ve been there but I have to side with the guidebook and advise that’s it definitely not an essential New York trip. Only if you’ve the time and have done everything else.