There’s a strange joy that comes with going to Rome and stepping, for an instant, into a whole new country with a simple visit to the Vatican. Travelers to New York City can do the same, but they often don’t think of it, at United Nations Headquarters. Located technically not in NYC but in international territory that’s governed by all of its 193 member nations, the UN gives visitors a glimpse at the world’s farthest-reaching peacekeeping body in action — and a look at its gleaming mid-century modern headquarters. If you’re planning to stop by in 2015 — the 70th Anniversary of the UN’s inception — you’ll see lots that’s new, or recently refreshed. Here are a few things to look out for:
1. A fully renovated UN General Assembly Hall… and beyond: With updates completed a year ago, the General Assembly Hall shines a little bit brighter thanks to a redo of its video and sound systems and expansion of its seating. The redo also erased an unfortunate relic of decades’ past — years of built up cigarette tar and nicotine on the iconic UN logo. Other recent renovations include the Security Council Chamber, the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and the Economic and Social Council Chamber. In order to enter these spaces, note that you must book a guided tour, which costs $18 for adults. Discounts are offered for children, students, and seniors.
2. The slavery memorial, The Ark of Return: Stark and unflinching, this memorial — unveiled in June — pays tribute to all victims of slavery, and in particular to those in the Transatlantic slave trade. You can walk around and through the memorial, which is carved in white marble. Because it’s located on the Visitors Plaza outside of the General Assembly Building, it’s free to view. Every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., guests may join a free briefing by the memorial given by a representative from the Remember Slavery Programme.
3. The refurbished War and Peace murals: A gift from Brazil by painter Candido Portinari — who worked throughout his life with UN architect Oscar Niemeyer — the War and Peace murals, located in the General Assembly Building, have been on a bit of a world tour during, and immediately following, their restoration. Following exhibits in Brazil and in London, the murals were re-unveiled in New York amidst much fanfare — and with a multimedia presentation that utilized some of the General Assembly Hall’s fancy new lighting and sound capabilities — in an event on September 8 that was sponsored by Brazil’s TAM Airlines.